Experience of high street store jobs

Username: DrDomDom 
Started working there in February 2007 on a checkout - applied online where you have to do a personality test (the whole "I strongly agree/ disagree" type of thing ) and give some referee details - sent it off and heard back within a couple of weeks. The personality test: they like their extremes apparently, so be inclined to take strong views on things. I know a couple of people who didnt get interviewed because their personality testing wasnt what B&Q wanted, and they both tended to opt for the "neutral" stance.

The interview was informal - basically just checking out what you were like; nothing that a civilised person couldnt endure.

I started working, 4 hours on a saturday and sunday, which was a hard shift to get, seeing as they want people to work 8 hours on a saturday and 6 on a sunday usually, and was taking home £5.44 an hour, time and a half on a sunday, and 20% discount after 3 months there. You also get a christmas bonus which is 6% of your half yearly wage. All in all I was making around £250pcm which isnt bad. Im now up to £5.69per hour due to inflation.

Strictly speaking, before youre 18 youre not allowed on the shop floor because of health and safety, but that never works out. Be prepared to, even if youre on a checkout, go on the shop floor and help people find stuff etc. If you're not DIY savvy, this may not be for you, 'cause working in a DIY store seems to give people the impression that you're an expert on everything. I have been asked questions about plumbing, to wiring lighting, to fitting tiles - this suits me okay since I've gotten a pretty good grasp of most things off my Dad, but it's not for everyone. Get used to having no clue about some things, and having to pass the problem on to someone else. The people you encounter can be as nice as they can be rotten; the majority of people are just their to get what they want and leave, which is fine.

Working the tills is not hard work, but it's extremely dull and time passes slowly. Very slowly. Administration and management seem to always be crawling down your back to update your health and safety but it cant be avoided. Working as early a shift as you can is good, because time passes quicker, and you serve less people. I start at 7 on a saturday, and wont do anything for the first two and a half hours.

All in all - its a mind numbingly boring and dull job, but the pay is comparatively good and at this point, I think thats all that matters.

Boots Pharmacy

Username: xylophonefairy 
When I first started working here, it was in May 2008 and I had just finished my AS levels (I was still 16 at this point). At this time it was still an Alliance Pharmacy, but they merged with Boots and the shop recently had a refit to make it a Boots Pharmacy. It's a fairly small shop in a small complex with a hardware store and a bakery and a tesco metro etc.

The pay is, to be blunt, rubbish. I am 17 and currently get £3.92 an hour. Pay goes up when you turn 18, and when you complete what is known as your Sales of Medicine training, which consits of 13 modules to be completed while you work. The pay rises are pretty good, I think it goes up to £5.65 when I get the Sales of Medicine training which is pretty good, even though I have friends that earn more, despite their jobs being less demanding.

The work is a little bit more interesting as it does involve giving advice to the general public, generally advising about hayfever in the summer and coughs and colds in the winter, though this can get a bit repetitive when the sixieth person that day asks you which cough medicine you'd reccommend for a tickly cough and you urn around and discover that you're all out of medicines, though I can now randomly spout out the names of active ingredients in various OTC drugs. I also help with the filing of prescriptions, deal with the new stock as it comes in, racing to put it out on the shelves alongside the rush of people that usually come in at the same time. General sales skills with the tills and cashing up the money.

You get to wear the snazzy white uniform as well, which is surprisingly flattering actually, though if you're male you just get to wear a shirt and tie which is less exciting.

I acquired the job when it was advertised in the shop window, my Mum was in there and she picked up a form for me. Apparantely they'd had a lot of applications and I didn't even want a job that much, but I filled it in anyway and handed it in. Didn't hear for ages, then suddenly got a phone call out of the blue inviting me to an interview. The interview was pretty informal, though it was an Alliance Pharmacy one, and I have a feeling that the Boots ones would be a little more demanding. The manager basically told me about the shop and the duties and the forthcoming refit, and then he asked me to tell him a little bit about myself with I fumbled over. In all honesty I thought the interview went horribly, but a couple of weeks later I got offered the job, much to my surprise.

All in all, it's a good job, especially if you're considering a future career in a healthcare field, at my medicine interview my interviewers seemed pretty impressed by it. The pay is absolutely rubbish to begin with, I'll admit that but if you make the effort it goes up pretty quickly. Also, once you'e got the Sales of Medicine you'd be pretty desirable to any pharmacy job, so if you're ever in a tight spot it's a good fallback.

I would just like to edit the above statement of Boots Alliance as it is completely incorrect, perhaps it has changed since the user had posted it but I would just like to make the following adjustments: the pay when you start is £6.01 this will continue to rise based on positive customer feedback, turning 18, further training and an annual pay rise. You also get an annual bonus depending on how much profit your store has made, and a birthday and Christmas present of £20. I too am 17 and started working for Boots when I was 16, it is an incredible company with so many different opportunities, I love my job and yes, the uniform is indeed very flattering, but the pay is actually very good.


Username: Pride 
I first started working at Primark when I was 16, during the summer before my first year at sixth form. My position was called Retail Operative, and I applied to a weekend position through their website. Primark does all it's recruitment on it's website now. These particular posts are filled with applicants of a similar age (16-20) because a weekend retail operative only works contracted hours during the weekend, which is when most students are free. As you'd expect in the current economic climate, the competition (as in the sheer amount of people who applied for the same post) was huge.

I'd got myself some retail experience at a nearby British Red Cross charity shop, because I'd been job searching for about half a year and no company would give me a chance at that age. My first interview was at Primark you see, after a month of volunteering at BRC, so when I got an email to book my interview, I was really nervous. Somehow, I got the job, the manager was really nice to me and the interview was very positive.

Now, about the actual job. Well 16-17 year olds are paid £4.52 per hour, 18-20 year olds are paid around £5.91, not sure about what 21+ get because I haven't asked them, but I'm pretty sure it's something a little over £6. When you're 16-17, you only get one 4 hour shift contracted, mine was on a Saturday 8am to 12pm. At 18 you can have longer 6 hour shifts, or work full time Mon-Fri. Many students get overtime on a Thursday when the store stays open till 8pm. But you can get overtime whenever it is available by calling them up and asking and also asking your supervisor for any extra weekend overtime. Primark are recruiting often, they normally take in half a dozen staff at a time.

When you start off, you're normally thrown straight onto a till, you quickly get the hang of the fast pace of the whole thing. You're also given a lot of shifts at the fitting rooms, which can be quite stressful as so many people use them and throw us their clothes when they don't want them, often without putting hangers back on, packing the place out and making it hard to keep on top of things. Soon, you get trained to work at particular clothing departments. The job is definitely amongst the hardest retail jobs out there for young people. It's always busy, you can get those annoying customers making the place messy, you can get that piece of clothing that you have no idea where to put, you can get impatient supervisors or managers who get annoyed at you because you are new and rubbish at folding. Still though, you learn quickly how to handle stress, the people you work with are both young and old and they are so nice. You make many friends, because there are so many people working at any one time. It's actually quite fun, and when I look at people who work at the more expensive branded clothing stores, I'm grateful for my job even more because contrary to the Bench clothing store, there's always something to do in Primark, so you lose track of time.

A phrase the manager always says is 'if you can work at Primark, you can work anywhere in retail' and I agree with her.


Username: 321beep 
I've been working at The Pier for about 5 months. I had a group interview, where I was given time to browse the store and then asked to present an item to the team, saying how it represented aspects of my personality. We then did a "speed dating" exercise, where we tried to find out as much as possible about each other, and again present this to the team. Finally, we were invited to plan a room's redecoration with Pier products and furniture, following a set budget, and present this. My advice would be stay calm, confident (they asked you there based on your CV, so they obviously see potential), and try and contribute as much as possible, without being domineering. Those who said very little, or came across too shy, were not offered a job.

Some things to consider if you're thinking about applying for a job: pay is not as good as you'd expect (£5.10 p/hour) and the staff discount is 20%, but can be combined with other in store sales for really good offers; The Pier mainly do four-hour shifts, so it can be difficult to accumulate worthwhile hours/pay; dress code is 'wear your own' black, white and grey clothes, with a hideous denim apron on top; compared to other shops/stores, the Pier concessions can become quiet, which can be either a calming benefit or just plain boring. There's also a fair amount of lifting, carrying and shifting of furniture required.

If you're working in a concession, you will have to deal with Debenhams staff/customers pretty often, and this can become annoying (explaining that nectar points aren't valid on your till; being watched by two sets of managers; the mess, hassle and arguments of megadays; etc.). The end of day procedures are also quite drawn-out.

On the plus side, I've made some really good friends with co-workers. The staff facilities are decent and clean. Admittedly, some of the items the Pier sells are over-priced, but others are really nice, and its a good place to pick up presents for family and older friends.

Department Store

Username: Talya 
For one year I worked in a department store called Beales. The pay wasn't very good, £4 an hour with no rises at all. I initially worked Saturdays but then decided I'd also like to do Sundays, and a lot of overtime is available at Christmas.

In a department store you must be careful when applying because you could get put in any department (I've known boys end up in lingerie).

A department store may not be for you if you do not want to work around older (especially) ladies.

Other chains (I hear) pay better, such as John Lewis, but they can have a harder application process (involved interviews with role play, etc) and expect high dedication.

Fat Face

Username: giambrone 
I've been working Sundays 11-3 since October 08 (Just after I started Sixth Form). It has been pretty good. At 17 (my friends were 16) my starting wage was 5.87 an hour - recently it went up to 6.05 (woohoo!). I get 75% discount on up to 120 worth of kit that I can wear for uniform, and 20% which I can use for friends/family and on accessories. In the first week of December this went up to 40%. You have to go through 13 weeks of probation (which is easy if you're good), and after that you get a day's holiday for every hour in your shift. The job mainly consists of serving customers and using the till, however it can be anything from getting supplies from the supermarket, cleaning the staff room/shop or doing the sacks of delivery (which takes AGES!).

The application process was a simple form you can get from the website, and they didn't require a CV.

It may not be the best paying job but it is certainly a lot higher than other stores.


Username: gapyahdilema 
I've been working at The Gap for six months now from November '09 full time during my gap year (what an unfortunate coincidence of name...). The application process was easy on their online portal on Gapcareers.co.uk and there was a telephone interview followed by an in store interview. The work is varied; a lot of selling at the weekend and a lot of tasking during the week, moving product around, which can be a nightmare when the store gets trashed. Expect a lot of pressure to sell and promote their VIP scheme, and a lot of constant management issues and drama. I often think about quitting, the only thing that stops me is the amazing discount, it is incredibly addictive. There is an unlimited 30% discount and then 50% discount on 6 tops and bottoms which gets renewed every month. e.g. a pair of jeans that sell for 40 quid, you would get for 20 quid. Plus, every season they print of a coupon for you to use which has a list of current products reduced for staff at 60% which you can use for yourself. It can be demanding as you often have to look after an entire section all on your own... I have to look after womens, which sells the most and gets trashed the most. It is quite a *****y work environment, so often you have to plaster the fakest smile onto your face and smiling all the time really does help you not break down with all the drama amongst employees.. I don't know, it could just be my store that is like that! It is a great brand to work for, the product is really nice, and I do feel a bit sad about quitting soon, but it filled a 'GAP' in my life 


Username: lulu_dudette 
I've been at HMV since August 2006. It was my first job and I had no experience at 16. I work all day Saturday and Sunday and all Bank Holidays on Double time. At 16 I started on £5.25 an hour. I'm now on £6.30 after a year and a half. This rise has nothing to do with age only the time you have been with the company. My interview was very relaxed and was fantastic! The first part is a quiz about some of the products that the shop sells. So things like, what is the current number one album, single. Who won best actress at the last oscars and for which film? Things like that. It is simply for management to understand how good your product knowledge is.

Being a specialist shop you do need to have good product knowledge of films, music and games. It does get better with time. For example I knew pratically nothing about games but now I know a lot. You will also find that many of the people you work with will have some sort of specialism So there will be a games geek, a heavy metal fan or a major film buff. This means that even if you get asked something you don't know, someone in the shop probably will. Questions are something you have to get used to. You will get asked a lot!

General tasks will vary from shop to shop but main tasks for part timers is till work, floor walking and putting stock out. As you become more experinced you will be given more demanding tasks such as organising campaigns and new release.

Generally a great company to work for. Sales bonus at the end of each month reflective of how the shop has performed. Good incentives have included tickets for the Brit Awards and Glastonbury Tickets and 30% discount. Some dodgy customers and you will never see Christmas the same again but general its all good.

House of Fraser

Username: supernova2 
Ive been working Saturdays at House Of Fraser for 3 months now. Its been much better than my past jobs as you're given a much greater sense or working towards something and helping the company. This is due to you being in control of small sections (mats), targets being set for sales and lots of reviews to make sure you're up to speed and improving. The pay is reasonable, £5.45 an hour and there are chances for a raise if you become a silver or gold sales advisor. The job mainly consists of serving customers and tidying up around your mat area. There will be a lot of time where you wont have much to do as its not very busy all the time so you get many chances to chat to your fellow employees and make lots of friends. Staff discounts work out to 20% on all items and 50% on 2 items(4 if your full time), 4 times a year that you'll use for work purposes, these may have to be black coloured though. I'm enjoying this job a lot and it provides much more satisfaction than my past ones.


Username: scaryhair 
I first started working in Matalan in July 2007, when I was 16. I was job hunting and just handed in a CV and got a call a few weeks later inviting me for interview - which was more of a informal, friendly chat than an interrogation!

When I first started I was on £5.02 an hour but that has since risen to £5.18. You don't get a pay rise until you're 19 unfortunately. I work mainly Saturdays, 4 hours a week. I am on a 4 hour contract and as my availability is quite restricted, they don't tend to give me more than that - an 8 hour shift it something of a rarity! However, most of the people I work with have more time to be at work and generally if you ask for extra hours, you'll get given them.

Normal pay on Sundays and double pay on Bank Holidays. Four weeks holiday a year (how much you actually get is contracted on your hours) and after working there for 13 weeks you get a membership discount card for yourself and one to give someone else, allowing you to get 20% discount on your purchases.

The typical part timers duties are till work, being on the fitting rooms, clearing the fitting room rail, tidying the shop floor, helping out in the stock room (unpacking stock etc) and putting out stock. The customers can be as lovely as they are horrible, so you'll need to be fairly good with people and have the ability to forget about any bad encounters quickly and treat the next customer as if they're the first of the day! It's a good idea to have a good general knowledge of what's in stock and whereabouts everything is. This can be a difficult task if you work in a branch that likes to reshuffle it's layout as much as mine!

The negatives aspects of the job are the management can be pretty poor at times, but I should imagine this varies from store to store. You need to be careful about what you put on your availability because if you are given the shift, you are expected to work it if your sheet says you are available at that time. Shifts are allocated on a rolling rota, so you only find out a week (if you're lucky!) beforehand when you're going to work. This can be a pain if you want to organise something in advance the day you're working. The work itself can be pretty boring, and when the shop is quiet the minutes seem like hours. However, when the shop is busy (which I find is pretty often) the time flies by and your shift is over before you know it!

All in all, I would say working for Matalan is a decent part time job for students. The pay is fairly good compared to some other jobs for this age bracket, and although the work can get quite repetitive it is a valuable learning experience with those who have never had a job before.

New Look

Username: tropicalcoconuts3 
I been working at New Look for a year and a half in one of the larger stores. For an under 18, the pay is great- 5.52 an hour. But it does not go up- equal rights and all that  So everyone gets exactly the same. Even a 40 year old who's worked there 10 years. I do 4 hour shifts each staurday and sunday. Get no breaks, and they sometimes make you stay later until you finshing tidying for free (unless it goes over half an hour) 
Interview: group interview (bout 6) where you have to style a celebrity you are given with the rail of new lok clothes, then do a presentation on why you chose this. Then if you pass that, a 1 to 1 interview asking about your personal style, customer service, experience and about the New Look brand.

Two 2 hour inductions, you get all basic training, till training and account card training. It's all very brief and I found I wasn't confident until I worked there about a month! I am on a department though so I usually just do replen and tidying.

Bonuses: no money bonuses what so ever. 50% off all stock (exc. sale)


Username: pinstriped.flower 
I got a job at Starbucks last summer when a new store opened in my town.

The interview process was really quick and easy, as it was a sort of open day where you filled in the forms and were asked a few preliminary questions then interviewed there and then. The interview was really friendly and I was just asked a few basic questions and was pretty much told by my interviewer that I had done really well. The next stage is doing three hours unpaid work at a nearby store, when you are thrown straight into working as a member of the team to see how you would fit in.

I really enjoy my work for many reasons, mostly because Starbucks only employ friendly personable people and so everyone I work with is lovely. I work an 8 hour contract, but as it is very flexible then I can pick up more hours during holidays easily and can change shifts literally the day before if I need to. The majority of people are students, and I am the only person at my store under 18 but I can honestly say that it does not make a difference. I am paid the same amount (£5.90 an hour, going up to £6.25 when fully trained) and am entrusted with the same responsibility as those older than me.

The work consists of working on the till, on the bar (making the drinks) and cafe (clearing tables etc) and everyone spends an equal amount of time doing every job. It can be tiring, but only because the ethos of the organisation is to use every minute doing something, whether it be cleaning or tidying or going the extra mile for a customer.

The benefits are numerous, perhaps the nicest thing is developing relationships with customers and getting to feel like part of a team. My discount is 30% off everything all the time, but free drinks and half price food when on shift (and if my colleagues get their way then free drinks all the time). I genuinely can't think of many disadvantages to working with Starbucks. Perhaps if you are the kind of person that cuts corners and wants to do the least possible till the end of the shift then it is not the place for you, but the opportunities for me as a budding university student are great as there is the chance to maintain my job at home during the holidays, and in a store near my uni during term time. Lastly - all my friends are jealous of my cool job 

WH Smith

Username: teenage-monkey 
WH Smith is a chain dating back many years, starting off as a newsagents and stationers. It still has that, but has grown to include books, entertainment and more. Although I've only been working for the company a short while, I feel as though I know the place well enough.

The position is a temporary 3 month contract for the summer, finishing in August. I was very lucky to get the position as many people went for it, liking the chance of a summer job. It's perfect for myself as I'll be going to University in September. The main outline is covering staff around a busy holiday time period. Hours change each week, and can range from a large amount to a short one, depending on when I'm needed.

The interview went smoothly and I was updated up to the point of when I began my training and employment. The training system is very good, especially compared to my last job. I enjoy WH Smith due it's organisation and it's fairness. The store manager is new, having taken over from a previous boss who was there for 20 years. She works fairly, ensuring that everyone gets a fair trial. She gives good advice, without being critical.

I began my first week on main tills around the newspapers. When it wasn't busy, I would go and sort out the cards or clean up around the till area. The tills also have seats, ensuring the staff's comfort. The breaks are good as well, having worked 8:45-5:30pm for four days, I got one hour lunch and two fifteen minute breaks.

I am now specialising in downstairs, working for entertainment, doing delivery as well as serving on the tills. This is a more enjoyable approach for myself, being interested in DVDs and music.

The pay is good, depending on how you look at it. 5.05 p/h starting, with 40p extra an hour for location allowance. I would highly recommend that anyone apply for WH Smith.


Username: FireDeuce 
I started at Wilkinson on Saturdays just to earn a bit of extra money. I only work Saturdays, a 7 hour shift at £4.95 an hour which goes up to £6.00 when I reach 18.

Interview: It was an individual interview, and I had to go in after store closing hours. It only lasted about 10 minutes but the questions threw me slightly, starting off simply with "so tell me about yourself." but apparently I got through it fine.

Training: Top notch! I arrived on my first day scared as anything with 2 other new recruits, and they showed us a squillion videos which were very. very. VERY. boring. ..but then I found out it was paid and I stopped resenting it as much. Then the supervisor took us round the store to meet the main people who work there, and we spent like an hour in the security guards office telling us about all the wanted people etc...I actually found it interesting. Then the supervisor took us off and we grabbed a basket and went on a shopping spree of many many items so we could practice using the tills later. we all got a chance to scan through the items and then she gave a poor shop assistant the basket to take back all the goods...damn. Then we got paired up with a "till buddy" who firstly we watched on the tills as they just talked us through it some more, then we swapped places and they watched to make sure we were OK, and gradually throughout the day they stepped back and started packing...and then they left and I didn't even realise until like 30mins after they left haha!

The job now: I get to sit down all day which is a real relief because I hate standing up all day (laziness, backache etc). The days do go slowly but some well needed respite is given when I get my beloved lunch break. 30mins paid, which isn't that bad and I can help myself to bread/toast, butter, marmalade, jam, marmite, tea, coffee, squash, biscuits etc.

The overtime pay is immense (double pay on Sundays, double pay plus 1/5 on bank holidays).

What I like most about Wilkinson is that I feel if I've got a problem I can call my supervisor and he/she won't shout at me or act grumpy for me getting something wrong, which I've had in a few places. At first I made like 329432904320 mistakes a day, and there are always things going wrong, like people thinking stuff is buy 1 get 1 free then not wanting it when they find out it isn't and so I have to get a manager to void it, but its OK because they don't tut at me. Oh boy I've done stuff really really wrong before. the customers got pretty mad.

I give wilko 8/10, because its not a bad job at all.

John Lewis

What an employer... probably the best place I could imagine working as a student. Initial interview is a group assessment, and then a short one on one meeting with a senior manager. On the first day, training is fairly standard with normal health and safety, DDA, fire hazards, manual handling, and business protection training lasting the first half of a morning. Then the rest of the day is spent acclimatising yourself to new departments. I have worked at JL for around 2 years now, in a variety of departments throughout the store. Pay is good, and varies between branches (based on the local market), but my store pays £5.00 for U18s and begins at £5.80 for over 18s. There is 1.5x pay for Sundays and bank holidays.

Just thought it's worth adding here - Waitrose pay starts at 5.11 for under 18s and goes up to at least 6.20 at 18.

Benefits of working are unending, but remember that a lot of these only kick in after 3 months. For a start, 25% off JL goods apart from electrical goods which is 12.5%, and also a 15% discount in waitrose. Then, subsidised food (£1.50 for roast lunch), subsidised bar (£1 a pint), social functions, clubs and societies, access to JL golf courses, hotels, adventurous training centres, yacht fleet, etc... The list is never ending, and can be incredibly useful in preserving your student loan. Also, they operate a student transfer scheme so you can work at your "home" branch of JL or waitrose during the holidays and at your Uni branch during the term.

Anything else that should be added to the list? Let us know in the comments. 

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