Temporary Opportunities in Retail

Grocery store checkout.

Take a look at these retail stats:

  • The national annual staff turnover for retail companies ranges from 60 to more than 200 percent of their payroll.
  • Selling merchandise is highly seasonal and is readily influenced by weather, tourism and holidays.
  • The current retail job market is tight. Malls often post job openings for all their store tenants at a central bulletin board. Many retail chains set up booths at job fairs and take out ads online, in the classifieds, on billboards and on the radio. Gift certificates and cash bounties are among the incentives offered to employees who bring in qualified friends or relatives to work.

This all adds up to the fact that the retail job market is ripe with temp opportunities. Whether you're a student, a mother or need a change of pace, this is a viable and lucrative option, especially during the back-to-school season and the holidays.

What Kind of Jobs Are Available?

Temporary retail openings are available in more areas than cashiering and sales. During busy seasons, large retail stores also need people for stocking, pricing, tagging, driving and cleaning.

If you have experience in more technical or professional areas, there are temporary positions in marketing, advertising, management, administration, information technology, public relations and accounting.

The Pros and Cons of Temping in Retail

Remember that turnover factoid above? It's no secret retail jobs have always had their drawbacks, especially on the sales floor: long, weird hours, comparatively low pay, customers with bad attitudes, working conditions that change from pandemonium to boredom in minutes. So is it for you?

The Good

By temping in retail, you gain:

  • A foot in a particular company's door. This lets you research a company up close.
  • Insider industry knowledge and personal contacts.
  • A sense of what it would be like to work there without having to make a long-term commitment.
  • An opportunity to strengthen your skills and update yourself on the latest in retail technology.
  • Greater confidence in back-to-work transitions and career changes.
  • Experience and skills to put on your resume.
  • A way to pay bills with the flexibility to manage personal or family responsibilities.
  • A chance to earn some cash or get a staff discount on your shopping.
  • The possibility of a permanent job.

The Bad

The drawbacks of a temp retail job include:

  • Very little advancement. For a temp job, you're hired for a specific length of time or to work on a special project -- and that's generally where you'll stay.
  • Your assignment may end abruptly due to management changes, canceled contracts and slumping sales.
  • During busy seasons, you'll inevitably experience more customers, more merchandise, more hours and more pressure. You'll have to be cheery, even if the customer is being rude and difficult.

Getting the Temp Job You Want

If you decide you want to work in retail over the holidays, you should get out there and track down the right opportunity for you.

Here are a few suggestions for securing -- and keeping –- your perfect temporary retail job:

  • Try stores that interest you. If you like a store and it doesn't have a sign up, go in and ask anyway. It can't hurt.
  • Choose an area within a reasonable commute from your home.
  • Dress sensibly when you're out looking for work.
  • Be polite, friendly and honest.
  • Have a resume with you that you can leave with the manager.
  • Pay attention, work hard and try to get a handle on what's expected of you as early as possible.
  • Use your initiative, and be energetic.

Succeeding in a Temp Job

Temp jobs offer opportunities for you to build on your network, attend training events, conduct informational interviews and even, when appropriate, enhance your social life with all the new coworkers you meet. Approach your temp experience as an opportunity to shine. Many regular employees see temps as people who don't really care or who may even make their jobs harder. Show that you are willing to go above and beyond to get the job done. Offer to assist with projects to demonstrate your skills. This will help if you are later being considered for a permanent position.

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