Stores in retail

Nm_home_logo In many ways, I have always been looking for the answer "what should I do when I grow-up".   I started off in the world of retail as early as high school and then went on through college to work in retail graduating with the coveted job at Macy's starting in the training program.  But I even remember now that although I was working at Macy's, I wonder about other jobs that I would be great at.  Did I go down the wrong path and should I fix it now?  Maybe a food stylist, a currency trader, etc.

To me, the most magical part of the retail business was being in the stores.  My favorite job was being an assistant store manager where I oversaw 1/3 of the departments.  I loved the interaction with the sales people, the managers ( who I mentored and trained to get to the next job in their career ) and the customers.  I actually still have a soft spot for retail although the familiarity of all the ups and downs make me hesitant about jumping back into that rink again….although never say never.

I was talking to someone today about Neiman-Marcus and a flood of memories and stories came back to me.  The summer after my freshman year in college, I returned home for the summer and worked as a floater in the NM store Chevy Chase, MD.  A floater is someone who is not assigned a specific department but just floats around based on the needs of the day.

The store in Chevy Chase was an interesting one.  Many of the customers came from the diplomats who lived there.  Some of the biggest sales were done after store hours on personal buying trips.

I spent almost 2 weeks in the food department.  The food department in NM was quite incredible.  Magnificent cheeses, chocolates, condiments, etc.  Since the store was relatively empty on most days, we spent our days making sure the cheeses were perfectly cut, lined up.  In essence, I ate my way through that time period putting on a few pounds.

Everyone in NM, except for the floaters and summer help, were on commission.  So, when I'd come in a department for a few days to fill in for people on vacation, I was ostracized and basically told not to sell a thing.  Needless to say, I didn't pay much attention to that and didn't understand why.  Was I supposed to just hang out all day?  One day, a woman came in, wearing ripped jeans and a white t-shirt and a pair of flip flops.  She was wandering around the mens department so I struck up a conversation with her.  Ended up her husband was the top Diplomat to the Mexican Embassy.  She spent about $5K in purchases for husband, suits, shoes, shorts, shirts, the works.  She pulled a huge wad out of cash from her pocket to pay.  She looked like she didn't have any money on her.  I told her she shouldn't walk around town with that type of money in her pocket and she basically said, I don't look like I have any, now do I? 

My favorite is the evening I spent in the scarf department.  At that point in time, each sales person would pick up their box in the morning with cash and receipts in it for the day.  In essence, we each had our own personal cash register.  There wasn't a department register and everything was done by hand.  How they kept inventory figures was questionable except for the bi-annual hand count.  A couple came into the store and looked at scarves.  I showed them a few scarves and they fell in love with the Hermes scarf.  The price was $500.  Pretty expensive but what I saw was $50.  I couldn't imagine a scarf being $500.  They bought it. The next day, I told the manager I sold one of the scarves.  She was thrilled that I sold the $500 scarf.  I never said a thing because of the antiquated system there would make it almost impossible to track what had happened.  But to this day, I remember that and still laugh. 

Just a few memories about the world in retail.