From the shop floor: BWS store manager on the benefits of working in retail

Retail is the largest private sector employer in Australia. According to ABS data, more than 1.4 million people work in the industry, and while it’s often thought of as a young person’s job, the median age of the workforce is 33 and only 50 per cent of roles are part-time. 

For many people who need flexible hours, retail is a great career option with a clear path to promotion. Here, we speak with multisite store manager at BWS Nikita Lakhote about what drew her to the retail industry, her future career goals and what businesses need to do to attract top candidates in a competitive recruitment environment.

Inside Retail: Tell me about your current role and how you got into retail.

Nikita Lakhote: I’m currently working as a multisite store manager for BWS – looking after two sites for them. My main responsibilities include looking at the inventory, all the financials, doing the P&L analysis, looking after the team, rosters, and all the daily tasks that are required to run the store. 

I started my career at McDonald’s. I started as a crew member, then worked my way up to assistant store manager. My husband really motivated me to start working in retail. He was the one who encouraged me to apply for the role [at BWS]. I have been in retail since then, and I really enjoy it. I really enjoy interacting with customers. I have a lot of older customers; they like to tell their stories. It’s really nice to get to know them and get involved in the community. You don’t get to do that in an office. 

IR: What are your longer-term career goals?

NL: It would be amazing if I could get an executive role in the next five years, so I can make more of a difference. A lot of executives start in [the head office], but if you start from the store, you know a lot more about what happens in the background. 

IR: One of your main responsibilities is managing people. What have been some of the key things you’ve learned about motivating a team?

NL: Having empathy is very important. A lot of [team members] have so much going on in their lives, so trying to get to know them is important, but drawing a boundary as well to ensure they’re doing the right thing. If someone’s not performing well, try to get to know them and see what’s happening. 

IR: What do you think retailers could do to make the industry more attractive to potential job seekers? 

NL: Since Covid, we don’t have enough labour in Australia. There’s a lot of competition in recruiting, so I always try to make sure [my team is] happy, that they’re getting what they want and are happy with their shifts. Having that work-life balance is super important. After having my own daughter, I know how hard it can be. I have a lot of team members who are parents, so it’s important to create that balance.

IR: I’m hearing a lot of retail leaders talk about this at the moment. Beyond rostering, how else can businesses attract and retain team members?

NL: A lot of people don’t get recognised for their work. So recognition is one of the key aspects nowadays. It doesn’t have to be monitored; a few words of encouragement go a long way. That definitely makes a difference.

IR: Let’s say you were hiring someone to come and work at BWS, what would be the reason that you would tell them that working and retail is a great career decision?

NL: First of all, flexibility. A lot of students opt to work in retail because of the flexibility, so that’s one of the reasons. And the pay is good – there are a lot of discounts and benefits. Plus it’s a fun place to work. You get to know people and have conversations with them. I have so many customers who are like friends. They’ve added me on Facebook as well. 

This article is part of Inside Retail’s #IRWD365 campaign to shine a spotlight on inspiring women in Australia’s retail industry and drive tangible change towards gender equality.

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