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Retail – no place to hide

for columnRetail is, and always has been, an open and honest industry that survives on innovation, passion, discipline and urgency. It is intolerant of insincerity, falsehoods and the frivolity of political endeavour by the condescending outsider. Impervious to the pomposity of self-elevation and the vested interests of the lone wolf or the farcical indoctrination of witless commentators.

There is little time for airs and graces, nor a tolerance for personal manoeuvre at the expense of the greater good. A resilience misconstrued by those with a poor understanding of the business and scant appreciation for the multifarious mix of hard work and ingenuity.

Retail is not for everyone, of that there is no doubt. One’s unsuitability is exposed from the outset, becoming more and more evident over time. There is no place to hide and even those who hunker down behind a web of denial and deception are laid bare.

However, what a wonderful career it is. Where no two hours are ever the same. A career that demands the use of every aptitude at our disposal, including our gut instinct. Gifted with the chutzpah to respond at a moment’s notice, yet retain the conviction to stick to basics. Ensuring meaningful compliance while pushing the frontier of creativity. All impossible without the engagement of a workforce striving for a common goal and the mentoring of individual aspirations.

There exists a continuum of resourcefulness and an unparalleled attention to detail that augments a shrewdness that fans the flames for a lifelong career. A down to earth occupation about people, for the people, by the people. Being part of an amazing deep-rooted family, dysfunctional at times, to depend upon and to grow with. A trade that will take you anywhere in the world because the fundamentals remain unchanged, irrespective of culture or language.

There is the invariable naysayer who advises against such a path in favour of an easier alternative, just as there will be peer pressure for a job with a better perceived social appeal. Like everything in life, we reap what we sow.

When chatting to old school pals of 30 years, very few remain and even less are stimulated, by their original career choice of reward over vocation. There are only so many ways to hold a pen, wield a spanner or bamboozle an audience, but few of us live long enough to experience everything retail has to offer.

The secret is in finding the ‘right’ retailer who resonates with your personality, for every outlet has its unique culture. Select the one you relate to as a customer and resist the allurement of others who promise the earth, yet fail to deliver on key performance indicators.

It is a fine and a magnanimous career, regardless of social standing or educational prowess.

Dave Farrell is a retailer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at

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