When I moved to Australia, my visa allowed me to work wherever I wanted, but only for 6 months in each company. So, when I arrived in Sydney, the big city life I wasn’t used to took me straight to apply for a job in retail. Here’s what it was like to be on the other side of an opening to one of my then favourite clothing stores.
“…on top of loving the customer service aspect of it, I liked their clothes and loved learning new skills”
Getting the Zara offer
The retailer Zara had several stores all around the big capital of NSW, and I was lucky enough to have arrived just when they’re about to open a new one, which meant a massive hiring moment.
I had a bit of experience in part-time sales jobs in small stores back home, and I knew I loved working with people. But, with a resume with no real experience in retail and having just arrived in a country where I didn’t speak the language perfectly, I was not really expecting to get it, to be honest.
“…with a resume with no real experience in retail…”
On the other hand, I did know that on top of loving the customer service aspect of it, I liked their clothes and loved learning new skills, so to me, It was a work trifecta. So, I gathered some courage, printed my resume and went to their flagship store, in the middle of Pitt St., in Sydney’s CBD.
Like any big company, I was told to do the process online, but I insisted that I could do both, so someone in the Cash accepted it, and I left without really giving it much thought after. It was done, and wondering about it wasn’t going to change anything.
After a week or so, I got an email to start the hiring process. It took 1 email exchange, 1 phone interview and a massive long group interview, and I got a full-time contract as a Sales Assistant for their new Parramatta store. I was thrilled, even when I had no idea where Parramatta was.
“we set up the whole store, unpacked heaps of clothes and sorted a lot more”
Setting up a new store meant that clothing racks, rails and hangers weren’t even there. So between a big group of newly hired staff, primarily locals –where I was definitely the oldest one–, we set up the whole store, unpacked heaps of clothes and sorted a lot more.
“…constant teamwork chants were being screamed daily”
We received the containers from Spain and were in charge of sorting them out into their respective departments: Woman, MAN, TRF, Accessories, Kids, following the coding sequences indicated and labelling each and every one of them.
After a few days of intensive warehouse work, then working in the closed store, it was time for the most awaited opening day. The managerial team of Zara made sure we could feel the excitement, so constant teamwork chants were being screamed daily, and by the time the day arrived, I was fully committed to that store, smiling at the new customers as if it was my wedding.
The sales assistant team was made by mostly young people, and I was definitely the only Latin, if not the only one whose first language wasn’t English. This meant that even though everyone was very nice, it wasn’t like I was building lifelong friendships. Still, the experience itself was a novelty to me, and I was enjoying it, even considering that it took me just under 2 hours to get there every day.
Before the store opened, we were separated by teams in either SRA, CRO, NINO or CASH, and I was placed in the biggest one, SRA, which involved everything WOMAN and TRF, and a bit of Accessories, too.
For the first 2 or 3 months of the store opening, we started getting used to some familiar faces and returning customers, and we knew our job by memory. Unfortunately, it also meant that the newness began to fade out, and the sales were not on the rise.
By then, they fired a couple of people and others were relocated to different stores. One day, on a casual chat with one of the managers, I mentioned how long it took me to commute –I tried to keep it to myself, as it wasn’t their fault and I wouldn’t move away from my suburb. Because of this, they offered to move me to the Flagship store I went to first, located only 25 minutes by foot from where I was staying.
Retail craziness to another level
“…folding pants was the only thing I could remember from my Zara experience”
Moving to Pitt St. was the amount of excitement I definitely needed, and I loved it. The store was open during shopping centre hours, and I was lucky enough to get mostly morning shifts, which meant I made it back home just in time to still enjoy a decent social life—a big change.
The flow of customers, on the other hand, was like 3 Parramatta stores put together. I went from chill-keeping the tables tidy and in place to having to fix and redo a whole table of jeans several times per day. I folded so many of them that, until now, folding pants was the only thing I could remember from my Zara experience.
I can’t be so bad, right? Well, it shouldn’t be, but they’re separated by style and sorted by size, which explains that perfectly shaped pile that keeps the whole table tidy. And this may sound like a 30 seg part of the day, but pretty much everyone always wanted the size on the bottom and just went and grabbed it.
But that’s just how it is. I mean, every time you want jeans from the middle of the pile, do you just take it or carefully remove one half to avoid spoiling the table? Surely we know the answer to that, but don’t feel bad, almost everyone does it. And that’s when we, sales assistants, come to the rescue.
People are really messy, and I could not believe it, but what shocked me overall was working for Boxing Day. The day after Christmas in Australia, I got to witness first-hand the craziness of block-long queues, early morning waits, unreal discounts, overly excited customers and an even worse mess.
“I got to witness first-hand the craziness of block-long queues, early morning waits, unreal discounts, overly excited customers and an even worse mess”
In Chile, where I’m originally from, we don’t have that kind of sales day where people queue and go crazy over. So, when I started my shift at 6:30 am that day, and there were people already waiting outside, I could not believe it. Anyways, it’s still probably one of the most fascinating days I got to experience.
They were also better and more ordinary days, where I was assigned to my favourite section, the Fitting room –we had a rotating roster. There, I had to fold only what the girls didn’t buy, and I always had a hanger and a box for everything that could land in my hands. It was the most controllable mess in the whole store, and I was in my zone.
Working in the Flagship store also allowed me to talk to a lot more customers and coworkers from various countries, with different visas and life scenarios, so I wasn’t the only one anymore.
After all, and after years since I had that experience, I’m still in love with it. It was a fascinating learning process, and I wouldn’t change any of it, with all its highs and lows and pants to fold.
“I got to make people feel good about themselves“
I got to make people feel good about themselves when they try something out, see their grateful faces after it, enjoy random exciting stories, see cool clothes and get attractive discounts. Priceless.
Now, every time I walk past a “We’re hiring” sign at a retail store, I can’t help but wonder. Actually, when I went back home, I found the Zara store in the city my family lived in and decided to apply online, just in case, you know.
The following month we went into complete lockdown again, and I forgot about it. Months later, I got a call from Zara offering me an interview at that store. By then, I had only one month left before leaving the country, so I had to say no. I guess I’ll have to wait to find out how it actually is to work at Zara in my own country.
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One thought on “Behind The Scenes: What It’s Actually Like To Work for ZARA”
I must be one of the few people who would carefully remove my size if it’s in the middle of the pile! I try and keep the pile as neat as possible. I would feel bad if I left one huge mess on the table for the sales assistants to clean up!
I’m glad that you were able to transfer to the more convenient Pitt St store and that you enjoyed your time there 😊