Retail recruitment: how to recruit staff for your shop

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Hiring is a huge responsibility. You owe it to yourself and your retail business to perfect your recruitment process and employ the right people. 

However, when it comes to recruiting staff, shop owners face a number of issues, including inexperienced candidates and high staff turnover rate.

This guide will show that if you hire right and treat your staff well, you should be able to keep hold of them for longer, and teach them the skills they need to help you make your business a success. 

It’ll also explain why your responsibilities don’t end once your new hire has signed on the dotted line. 

You owe it to your new hire to be the best employer you can be. So, to ensure that you’re capable of doing that, we’ll be covering all the areas of recruitment – from HR and payroll, to training and staff rewards.

Retail personnel recruitment: ways to find the right staff

The best way to fill your position is to advertise it. Take a look at the table for some insight into the best ways to find retail staff, and how much these methods may cost you.

Location Price
Online job bulletins, such as Indeed Free
The local paper£3 - £20 depending on advert size
On your social media pagesFree
In your shop windowFree

While posting jobs online is usually free, if you’re looking to give your advert more traction, you may want to pay for a sponsored ad. 

When you pay for a sponsored ad, it usually appears at the top of the job research results every time someone makes a relevant query. This means the site that hosts the ad gets a small fee (usually a couple of pence) every time someone clicks on it – and you get a much wider pool of potential candidates. 

Alternatively, you can pay sites like Reed to set up a more sophisticated recruitment campaign on your behalf. 

Reed’s most popular tariff is £175 per job advertised. For that, it’ll automatically email your job to 100 of the best matching profiles it has on its system, and you can add screening questions to your ad to automatically reject applicants who don’t have the right skillset. 

But that’s not all. If you prefer, you could advertise your job through a recruitment agency, or through a certified apprenticeship scheme. We go into more detail about these options later in the article. 

Staff turnover in the retail industry

According to a study carried out by job site Monster, the average UK staff turnover rate is 15%. So how does the UK’s retail industry look against that figure?

In fact, the UK’s retail and consumer sector saw one of the highest turnover rates, coming in over the UK average at 16.2% in total. Let’s see how retail compares to other sectors: 

Restaurants 7.2%
Retail 16.2%
Sporting goods14.8%
Clothing and fashion14.5%

It can cost thousands of pounds in paperwork, recruitment, and potential overtime to replace an employee, so you need to know where potential hires stand before you offer them a role. 

Tell them what they can expect from the role. Are you offering: 

  • Career progression?
  • Discounts?
  • Bonuses?
  • Reliable hours?

The following two examples show why managing expectation is key to retaining your staff.  

  1. If someone asks about career progression, you’ll need to make it clear whether or not you’ll be looking to fill an assistant manager/manager role in the future. They’ll want something to aim for – and if you can’t offer them the career progression, you can guarantee they’ll leave sooner rather than later 
  2. On the other hand, people may not be looking for a highflying retail career. Instead, they may be looking for reliable hours, and rewards for when they do well. Get that right, and suitable staff won’t see any reason to leave

Samantha Bullard, Store Manager of Wine Boutique, backs up our second point. Her current team have been with her for over a year, and she says:

“When I recruit staff for Wine Boutique, I want to see the candidates’ personality shine through in their application. I want to know who they are, what they’ll do for the customer, and whether I have a connection with them. This fosters a great working relationship from the outset. In return, staff are rewarded with free wine, a 25% shop discount, staff parties, and birthday celebrations.”

Using retail recruitment agencies

Recruiting is time consuming and often stressful, which is why many businesses turn to recruitment agencies. The recruitment industry is highly competitive, with the number of agencies growing all the time. It means recruiters will work hard to find you the best candidate for the job – if you can justify paying the fees.

[vc_hoverbox image=”125621″ primary_title=”” hover_title=””]They can save you time

They can support hiring managers

They have a vast network of potential candidates

They can hold screening interviews

They can find specialised talent[/vc_hoverbox]

So then, the fees. What can you expect to pay? 

Typically, recruitment agencies will charge 15 to 20% of the candidate’s starting salary. So if you wanted to recruit a part time sales advisor with an annual salary of £18,000, you could expect to pay in the region of £2,160 to £3,600 in fees. 

However, this isn’t the only way that recruitment agencies work. You could also talk to them about: 

  • On-demand recruitment – support that is provided at an hourly rate
  • Ann upfront fee that pays for the assistance of filling the role

Retail recruitment agencies in London

When it comes to recruitment agencies, London is one of the UK’s hotspots. As of May 2018, there were nearly 40,000 recruitment agencies operating in the area alone. But which ones should you be using? 

Here are our top five recruitment agencies in London for retail:

Retail recruitment agenciesMinimum candidate salary Why?
1. Berry Recruitment £15,000 Great feedback from clients
2. Aspion £17,000 Experienced in recruiting senior positions
3. TDDS Recruitment Ltd£15,000Tailored recruitment solutions
4. CorerecruitmentNone specifiedHuge database of potential candidates
5. RHR (Retail Human Resources)None specifiedRecruits specifically for the retail industry

Retail apprenticeships

There are lots of reasons why hiring apprentices is a great way to expand your workforce – they usually have a greater sense of loyalty, they’re cheaper than adult hires, and they genuinely want to work hard for you. 

However, this isn’t an all take and no give situation. In return for their hard work and loyalty, you’re responsible for supplying all the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their qualification. 

Jake Hardy, founder of Brick Lane clothing store Number Six, says:

“We participated in the government’s apprenticeship scheme, which helped both in finding our apprentices and helping to fund their initial training. As you’ve helped to train these people up, their sense of loyalty tends to be much stronger – one of our apprentices has been with us for over three years.”

So how do you go about hiring apprentices? Well, there are two ways: 

Partner with a retail apprenticeship training provider

  1. Choose an apprenticeship framework and standard – do you want to train someone up to be a retail assistant, a shop manager, or something else? And would you like it to be an intermediate, advanced, or even higher level apprenticeship? 
  2. Find an organisation that offers the training – this could be a local college, or an apprentice training centre
  3. Research available funding – for example, the government may pay for up to 95% of the training, then you pay the outstanding 5%. However, there are additional funding options available if you choose a local apprenticeship centre
  4. Advertise your apprenticeship – your apprenticeship provider can do this on your behalf, and you can post it yourself using the channels mentioned earlier in the article
  5. Recruit your apprentice – you’ll need to make an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement to outline employment length, training, working conditions, and the qualifications they’re working towards

Partner with a retail apprenticeship training agency

Apprenticeship training agencies do all the legwork for you. They’ll employ and find training for apprentices on your behalf.  

There’s an extensive list of approved retail apprenticeship training agencies available on the Government website. 

Retail interview questions

Once you’ve sorted through your pile of CVs, it’s now time to find the perfect person to fill the role. 

Interviews are daunting – for both you and the candidate. These days, many companies disguise interviews as informal chats, which helps to create a relaxed, free flowing environment. That being said, you’ll need to ask the right questions. 

These include: 

What is good customer service? 
You need to know whether the candidate has the skills to provide the best retail experience for the customer. You’ll want them to mention things like attitude and product knowledge. Also look out for general answers that show the candidate is prepared to do everything they can to accommodate the customer.


Do you work well with people? 
In other words, will the candidate work well as part of a team, and will you get on with them? See if you can judge their sense of character. Does their answer imply that they will be too social, or too insular? Or are you confident that they know the right balance between being part of a fun, cohesive team, and being professional?


Why are you applying to work here? 
This question allows you to assess whether someone is using this role as a career stopover, or whether they’re in it for the long haul. Look out for answers that show they’ve done their research. Do their values align with yours? Do they have a passion for the types of products you sell? 


How would you handle a difficult customer?
Handling difficult situations is an essential skill for any retail assistant. You want to make sure they’ll remain calm, look to understand where the customer is coming from, and know the right moment when to call in a supervisor. They should get bonus points if they mention that they’d also seek feedback from their supervisor – you want candidates who are eager to learn!

Retail manager interview questions

If you’re looking to hire a retail manager, you’ll want to ask questions that pry into the candidate’s leadership, people, and project management skills. 

These are some of the questions you should ask: 

What is your management style?
Are they all about motivating the team to achieve sales targets? Are they always on hand to give advice? Do they care about supporting colleagues through career development? 


What strategies do you use to motivate a team?
How are they going to ensure that the team feels capable of hitting targets? Will they take different personalities and work styles into account? Do they consider individual goals, and rewards for meeting them?


What achievement are you most proud of in your career so far? 
This is a chance for potential candidates to tell you when they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty. Have they overcome massive roadblocks? Managed a team to achieve great things? Project managed a product roll out to massive success?


Tell me about a time you’ve had to deal with a difficult employee
Get them to explain a time where they’ve turned round a difficult situation. What skills did they demonstrate? What did they learn that they could implement next time?
Soft skills to look for in a retail hire

  • Personability
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving

Managing human resources

Once you’ve got your new hire on board, there are a few admin things you need to take care of to ensure your business complies with government legislation. These include registering your employees, and sorting payroll. You’ll also need to:

  • Decide how much you will pay them. Legally, this must meet or surpass minimum wage; if you’re based in London, you might also consider meeting the optional London living wage
  • Make sure your candidates have the legal right to work in the UK. Ask to see a copy of their passport or their National Insurance number
  • Register as an employer with HM Revenue and Customs. You can do this up to four weeks before you start paying your staff
  • Check whether you need to automatically enrol your staff into a workplace pension scheme

Managing staff payroll

If you don’t get payroll right, you and your business could get into a lot of trouble. It’s more than just a case of producing a payslip – you’ll need to take into account necessary deductions, and constantly keep HMRC in the loop when it comes to changes in circumstance. 

We’ve got heaps of useful information in our how to pay employees guide. Check it out so you don’t miss anything!

Retail staff training ideas

You’ve hired your new employee because you know they’ve got a great attitude. Now, you just need to teach them some Retail Assistant 101.

So what does an effective training plan look like? 

Research online training courses

It may be worth looking into a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) accredited online course. Online courses don’t need to be expensive, and could prove invaluable for upskilling your staff.

Use role play

Use role play to work through unfamiliar situations – perhaps how to deal with hesitant customers, or difficult complaints.

Train them to use your till

Customer checkout experience is important. If your employee isn’t confident on the till, you won’t instill confidence in the customer. Fortunately, many electronic point of sale systems have a training mode, so employees can become familiar with zero implications.

Lay out the ground rules

Let employees know where they stand from the outset. How do you expect them to behave when it comes to mobile phone usage, making drinks, and taking lunch breaks?

Give them goals…

By giving your staff reasonable goals, you’re pushing them to perform to an expected standard. If they aren’t meeting those standards, make sure you address the reasons and provide the training to overcome them. 

…and regular reviews

Use review sessions to go over any concerns that either of you may have, and constantly keep each other on the same page.

And that’s how you build your valuable shop team!

Yes, there’s a lot to think about. But when it comes to recruiting staff for your shop, a large part of it is finding people that you click with. An interview doesn’t have to be formal, and training can be as simple as being on hand to point employees in the right direction. 

When it comes to the formalities – such as salaries, payroll, and recruiting apprentices – there’s plenty of help available. Whether it’s talking to fellow shop owners, ringing up HMRC, or contacting local apprenticeship centres, don’t be scared to ask people for advice when you need it. 

Remain true to yourself and your brand’s values, and there’s no reason why recruiting your new member of staff won’t go smoothly. is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Written by:
Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.
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