“Take the good out of each day,” advises Chris Dennis, retail supervisor for Altitude Sport and Gift at Mount Washington. A career in retail means dealing with the public every day, and being front and centre in almost any situation.
It was being a people person that first attracted Chris to the retail industry. She took a business management course at a community college in Lethbridge, Alberta and soon afterward landed a job in the clothing retail industry. “I’m an outgoing person. Retail met my needs of being able to interact with people,” said Chris. It also helps that she loves clothes.
She moved to British Columbia and worked her way through the ranks. Now, at Mount Washington, she’s involved in all aspects of the retail business — from training and coaching staff to maintaining store inventory levels.
Working in retail at a ski resort presents its own unique challenges. For one thing, their store is heavily seasonal. “The number one biggest challenge of this job is that the summer season is completely different than the winter season,” said Chris. Every four months her store faces a complete turn over of both stock and staff. The stock changes because the season changes, and the staff changes because they leave to work at summer jobs. “Just being able to manage the constant change of training people is a challenge,” said Chris. “We basically run two separate businesses, but for periods of four months.”
Another challenge for a retail supervisor is what Chris calls “people pollution.” “When you’re dealing with the public all day, many people have problems and issues you have to deal with. Many of them get in your personal space. Retail is harder than what people think.” At peak periods in Mount Washington, 9000 people ski the hills, and most find their way into the store.
For people seeking a career as a retail supervisor, Chris advises education training — especially business management and inventory control. She describes these areas as “outstandingly important”. Of course, it helps if you have an eye for merchandise and a friendly, outgoing personality. But if you have the business skills to back it up, you’ll find success.
Chris says future retail supervisors have to overcome the obstacle of retail being viewed as a crossover job. “You have to overcome the stigma. People think retail is not a career. It is a career and there’s more value in retail than people give it credit for.”
“Retail is a lot of fun. People look at it as a mundane job, but I have a blast.” Chris described a situation last winter where she recommended a customer visit a certain restaurant. The next day the customer came back and thanked her profusely. She had taken her suggestion and run into an old friend.
It’s these kinds of things that Chris is talking about when she says retail supervisors should take the good out of each day. “There’s always a few spectacular people,” said Chris. “And every day has an outstanding moment.”