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Laura Daniels Headshot

The Joy (Or Not) Of Working In Retail At Christmas?

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Walking through the high street I have a feeling of festivity as the shop windows are decked out with snowflakes, baubles and fake snow drifting across the window. This merchandising is enough to fool many humbugs into the jolly atmosphere. Even retail staff can be swayed throughout December into feeling merry as your heart is buoyed by the Christmas music, the festive decorations and even the joyous demeanour of customers and even fellow employees.

The thought of Christmas puts a spring in everyone's step as everyone looks forward to the occasion. As the countdown begins, the smile that once braced many retail staffs face fizzles into one of panic as they prepare for war. This isn't any normal war, oh no. This one features determined savvy shoppers on a quest to bag a bargain. This experience is not just limited to the Boxing Day sales, this happens as soon as the last pair of summer sandals have been sold and the first promotion begins.

For many, Christmas time is one of joy where they simply arrive in the store on Boxing Day to find all the stock discounted and arranged perfectly. It's amazing what the little fairies do on Christmas Day ready for the Boxing Day rush. Needless to say, Christmas is always there, no matter what time of the year - it is constantly at the back of our minds. Retail workers often have to hold back from hoping Santa got stuck up the chimney and Christmas will be cancelled for eternity.

There is one moment that is the topic of conversation days before it is due to happen - the reveal of the Christmas rota. While I pity my manager who is isolated in their office for two weeks continuously re-arranging the rota in the hope that they can please everybody, it is not surprising someone will be left reeling from the proposed hours. As soon as the rota hits the staff notice board, the discussion, moans and whinging begins. Despite management's best efforts, ears will be burning and dropping off! As the complaining dies down, the chaos reaches its high point.

Christmas is one of the most boring parts of year, not only do you have to listen to the continuous Christmas soundtrack (did you know Rudolph had a red nose?), but you are also faced with the pricing of over 50,000 items. Hidden behind the festive decorated walls is a nightmare, stockrooms brimming full waiting to be emptied. While customers are hunting down Christmas presents we are behind the scenes for weeks on end, for us Christmas is definitely not just one day!

While many will be getting merry on Christmas Eve retail staff are descended into a frantic chaos. Our day will be spent pricing more items until late evening; it is fair to say some of us have no problems sleeping on Christmas Eve due to the exhaustion of our long, tiresome shift. Despite my 400 words of moaning, Christmas Eve can be a good experience as it's a time when all members of staff are together and in an exceptionally good mood. It's a relaxed and happy environment where the conversation flows, with the blessing of management. As the evening draws to a close, we are tired but all in good spirit.

As dawn breaks on Boxing Day, you will find retail staff dragging their feet in work with bleary eyes. The madness begins early, for staff it is a day of crowds, noise, increased workload and potentially stressed customers. I'm often left puzzled as to why people want to spend their day fighting the crowds looking for a bargain, what is wrong with lying on the sofa watching the Christmas films? It must beat the occasional rude, angry and abrupt customers - Christmas isn't all about joy. It's worth remembering, customers are not the enemy, even if the constant barging past leaves you wanting to rip down the Christmas decorations. It is these customers who are paying my wage, with this in mind, I smile and sympathise. After all, this shopping experience can't be one of therapy.

Now, it may appear that I am a Scrooge, but please do not be fooled. Working in retail during the Christmas period is one of happy memories, for me it is where the best experiences and moments are to be had. There is no better feeling that knowing you are going to have an appealing wage packet the next month, get to interact with some cheery customers and are able to spend time with your colleagues in a relaxed environment. Merry Christmas retail employees, it isn't all bad!