Shoppers across the UK are preparing themselves for the retail event of the year as the countdown begins to Black Friday.

Falling on November 29 this year – with Cyber Monday hot on its heels on December 2 – customers will be hoping to bag some of the biggest bargains in time for Christmas.

According to the Office for National Statistics, online shoppers spent £1.49 billion on Black Friday last year – an increase on the £1.39 billion spent in 2017. 

On the UK’s high streets, however, spending reportedly dropped by 7% compared to 2017.

However, this still beat most retail analysts’ expectations and, while retailers say they’re not expecting the overnight queues and barely controlled riots of recent years, there will be crowds eager to get their hands on the best sales items.

In fact, according to a 2018 YouGov poll, 29 per cent of us plan to purchase our Christmas gifts in November.

So how do frontline sales staff and customer service agents prepare for – and survive – one of the busiest and most frenetic days in the shopping calendar?

To find out we spoke to Ann McPhee, who has worked as a sales consultant for the premium skincare brand Clinique for 17 years, 15 of which have been at Boots in one of the UK’s biggest shopping centres.

“Actually, I’m really looking forward to Black Friday. It’s a totally different kind of day from any other,” says Ann. “It’s always different because it’s that one day of the year when there are just so many fabulous offers in store. The whole shopping centre has a fantastic atmosphere.”

From a commercial perspective, Ann and her colleagues prepare in advance by ordering extra stock.

“We also contact our clients by phone or Instagram or converse with them at the counter and let them know all about our Black Friday offers – advertising is absolute key, as well as having plenty of products!

“We also have extra staff on so we never have to compromise on the level of customer service.”

But what about preparing physically and mentally?

“Definitely have a good night’s sleep,” laughs Ann, “and a good breakfast, as you don’t know when you’re going to get a break!

“Mentally? I say just go with the flow and don’t take any customer criticism personally. For some people shopping can be a stressful experience, especially on Black Friday when it’s extra busy. Me? I just enjoy the chaos.

“There is definitely an air of excitement on the day and a sense of anticipation. You just can’t predict how the next few hours will go – except very quickly, of course!

“To stay on mission, I find it helps to set yourself a goal and focus on achieving it.

“Oh, and last year our sales trainer came into the store with gel insoles for our shoes, sugary drinks and sweets for all the team!” 

For Ann there’s a great sense of job satisfaction in helping people buy that special offer they’ve been waiting for or travelled far to get, often as a gift for someone’s Christmas.

She adds: “It’s also a day that very much depends on a team effort to achieve our sales goals – as well as helping clients get the make-up look they’re looking for or helping with skincare concerns.

“Black Friday brings such a variety of clients to the counter and so, among all the hustle and bustle, it’s an opportunity to introduce them to the brand.”

The worst part of the Black Friday experience, says Ann, is it brings out a minority of people who normally don’t like to shop and find it so stressful they become short-tempered.

“That’s when your customer service skills – have patience, stay calm and keep on smiling – come into their own.”

Thankfully for stressed out or bad-tempered shoppers, many UK stores are increasingly spreading their Black Friday sales offers over a few days or even weeks. This means not only is the in-store experience more relaxed and less stressful, but store managers can avoid a sudden big hit on their sales and deliveries by spreading customer demand over a longer period.

For Ann, the joy of working in retail may peak on Black Friday but the job satisfaction lasts right throughout the year.

“Working for a skincare brand can be very rewarding,” she says. “By putting your training into practice and listening to customers you can improve someone’s confidence by helping them to achieve their make-up and skincare goals.

“It’s not all about how you make them look but how you make them feel . . . plus everyone loves buying a new lipstick!”

It’s not just the cosmetics sector of retail that’s helping people pucker up and feel good about themselves. 

According to figures from Statista, the market value of the retail sector in the UK saw steady growth between 2015 and 2019, rising by around 10 per cent to 440.5 billion euros. The market value is expected to rise even further next year, with estimates totalling 453 billion euros. That’s a lot of retail therapy. 

Why not make Black Friday your chance to cash in on retail happiness with a new career from x1jobs?