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Me, myself and aisle: Sold on a career in retail

‘In Lidl you are given real autonomy. If you need support, you just have to pick up the phone’

Interest in the retail sector has grown enormously as a result of Covid. Photograph: iStock

Interest in the retail sector has grown enormously as a result of Covid. Photograph: iStock

 

When Cavan woman Sharon Lynch was a schoolgirl she had a part-time job in a shop. Though she went on to study interior architecture and had a successful career in that field in the UK and Ireland, she ultimately gave it up to return to retail.

“Once you get the retail bug, you don’t lose it and I found sitting in an office at a computer all day doing drawings wasn’t right for me,” she says.

Her career pivot saw her take a job in an accessories store. Within three years she was managing 16 stores for that company nationwide.

She left to join Lidl in 2015. “I wanted a bigger organisation with more job security behind it,” she explains.

She started out as a trainee sales operations manager, learning the business inside and out. “During your training you do everything from the ground up, from customer assistant to bakery, to packing,” says Lynch. Within five months of finishing her training she was running a district with five Lidl stores across Donegal and Sligo.

Right from the beginning she knew Lidl was a good move. “It was the security of working for a big organisation that appealed to me. I was coming to an age in my life where I wanted job security. I’m building a house and wanted a mortgage,” she says.

She loves the diversity of the work. “No two days are the same here, whereas I found interior architecture very repetitive. In the mornings I might be doing figures, then walking the floor with my teams, and after that doing personnel work. In Lidl you are given real autonomy to run your district yourself and if you need support, you just have to pick up the phone.”

She encourages people from outside retail to consider a career in Lidl. “Don’t under-estimate the training you’ve already got in other sectors, you will have so many transferable skills. And the money’s excellent, there’s no point in not saying it because that was a factor in my decision too. If I’d stayed in my previous job, I wouldn’t be building my house now.”

Master’s degree

Cork man Stephen Hegarty studied business and went on to do a master’s degree in UCC, joining Lidl straight from that programme, at the age of 25, in 2012.

He had spent six years working part-time in Dunnes while he was in college and he too had been bitten by the retail bug.

He joined Lidl in the depths of the last recession, a time when many of his friends from college were emigrating. Within months of finishing his nine-month training period with Lidl he was an area manager.

Lidl training is very comprehensive, giving you time to learn the ropes as customer assistant, supervisor, deputy store manager and store manager. Before he was made area manager he spent three months shadowing another area manager, who asked him to deal with various issues in different stores.

“At Lidl you get a huge amount of responsibility early on,” says Hegarty, who now has five managers reporting to him. The company invests a huge amount in personal development training, he says, to help colleagues get the best out of one another.

“It’s about recognising different personality types and ways of working. There’s no right or wrong way, just different strengths and weaknesses and the way you communicate to different people must reflect that,” he explains.

Having worked with Lidl in Dublin and Kilkenny, and taken responsibility for the opening of a new store in Athy, he then moved back to Cork, where he now lives, near Charleville.

Interest in the retail sector has grown enormously as a result of Covid, he reckons. “People now see it as a very safe sector, no matter what happens. Even in this very challenging year, retail is booming.”