EPIC POST ALERT oh my god writing this has wiped me out and it’s stupidly long. I hope it helps. Please do ask questions if you have any. I don’t think I even remotely covered everything.
I’ve seen a lot of posts on a couple of forums about trial shifts and interviews for Lush where people have drawn the worst possible conclusions about the company, the staff and the selling. I got a bit fed up so I thought I’d set the record straight – only I’m not going to be negative about it, I’m going to be positive, because that’s what Lush did to me. I’ve finally got a job working at a bookshop (i.e., where I’ve always wanted to work) so I’m passing on what I’ve gleaned about Lush in the hope that someone else with the enthusiasm, the drive, the energy and the interest can go into a Lush shop, get a good job and make the most of it. People who want to work for Lush without putting the effort in just shouldn’t apply (and it is an effort – it’s like being on stage every shift for hours and having to ad lib every line in a massive stage production). Like book shops or perfume shops, to work there you’re effectively required to be a specialist. So before I launch into this good and proper here are some things that need to be the case before you even consider handing your CV in:
– KNOW YOUR PRODUCTS. I don’t mean know them inside-out; I mean know what suits you, what you like, and why. I used Lush for three years before I applied to the shop – just a few bits here and there, because it is pricey (the product quality is high and the mark up is far less than other things you’ll find on the high street). Know what you like and why – I never liked one of the most popular perfumes because I don’t like heavy over-powering fragrances like jasmine, but I knew I liked vanilla and spicy fragrances, so I could enthuse about those without being negative. I knew my skin was oily so I knew which products from the website (and forum!) worked best for my skin and hair and why – for instance, products with a lot of citrus in absorb oil, so they’re the first stop for oily skin and scalps. Things like that. It’s not hard, but it means you have somewhat of an understanding about what to point at in an interview or a trial shift. That’s how product knowledge starts – know what your products are.
– KNOW THE COMPANY. It’s an eco-friendly environmentally minded non-advertising company that is so green it gives the Incredible Hulk a run for his money. The world is one of their main concerns (yes, along with profit, because that’s how they pay people). They are activists. Know what they stand for, look at their past campaigns – and above all make sure you’re comfortable being a front for their beliefs. If you share their beliefs then that’s awesome. It’s brilliant to work for a company you can take pride in. If you have issues with any groups they’ve supported, make sure you’re okay with supporting them too – though I had doubts I believed in the products so much it wasn’t a problem because my entire reason for being there was to make sure customers found what suited them and didn’t waste their money. I had many colleagues who were entirely on board with the causes Lush promoted; when you work for a company that represents the very things you want to change in the world, and sells products you believe in, it’s a very special conjunction and is far too rare these days.
– LIKE THE PRODUCTS. Oh, seriously. If you applied to Lush because you “liked the atmosphere” or think “it looks like fun” you’re crazy and deep down you know it. There’s so much more to it than that. You have to at least like what you’ve used. You have to know why you like it. You have to have some sort of enthusiasm for the brand, for the message, for the atmosphere. That’s what you’re selling – an experience as much as a product. You want everyone to enjoy being in your shop and around you, spending money if possible, but even if they don’t you want them to leave having loved their time in the shop and wanting to go back. Samples help but the easiest way is to show how much you love the stuff you’re selling. There are so few places on the high street that allow you to wax lyrical about the amazing stuff you can prove feels great to use. You get to champion stuff you care about. Goddamnit, it’s fun, and that positivity is only part of what gives Lush that awesome vibe that people love. And if you don’t like Lush stuff THAT much then don’t fanny about – there are loads of people out there who genuinely love the products.
– HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR GODDAMNIT. People are arseholes. In retail you get crap from the public day in, day out, and I’ve never had it so bad as I did at Lush. There are loads of reasons for it – everything from the fact that recommending products to help with eczema in sensitive areas requires really personal questioning to the slightly less icky fact that you have to greet everyone who comes in with at least a smile and nod. People hate that. People hate being spoken to. People hate being sold to. People hate being lectured. You’re going to have to do all those things and do it with such charm that they a) take your advice and b) come back. You have to have a sense of humour to cope with the level of mean responses you’ll get, as well as to keep hold of your “audience”. When I was little I could write essays – any and all story-telling abilities I have now I got on the shop floor explaining how good my favourite bath bomb smells when you use it with a particular bubble bar, or setting the scene for a husband buying a present for his wife or kids in a hurry. It’s a stage. Don your stage persona and perform; nothing’s personal. Just keep smiling. You hit the moment pretty quickly where suddenly you’re enjoying it – customers stop being a chore and become a welcome challenge. I’ve made some brilliant friends out there. You just have to pretend that you’re the world’s greatest source of positivity.
So if you can tick these four things off, you’re well on your way. I can’t advise how to get your CV noticed or any of that because I never had a hand in that side of things. What I can advise on is the group interview. It’s important to point out here that I was in one of the biggest Lush shops for some time, so in the smaller shops it’s probably entirely different. But, yeah.
I worked with a bunch of people who are going on to become authors, lawyers, dancers, singers, actors, playwrights and all sorts. They were all creative and willing to make tits of themselves (yes, even the lawyer – ESPECIALLY the lawyer!) to amuse and entertain. Everyone has their own creative streak, and you need to stand out from the crowd in that group interview by being inventive and unique and memorable while still being yourself. Think outside the damn box. I can’t predict the questions or challenges you’ll be asked but they’ll likely be quite unpredictable. I can’t give hints about how to get through because only the best people should get through, and your task is to prove that’s you. It’s nerve-wracking – one group interview involved singing or rapping, for heaven’s sake, and the prospect of that still makes me hella queasy. It’s about how you tackle it. You need to prove that you can think fast, know what you’re dealing with and at least pretend to be at ease. Show those four points above with that dash of originality without disrupting everything for the other applicants – coming up to Christmas there’ll be more than one spot open so don’t dwell on competition. Your job is to advertise and prove yourself, everyone else be damned. If you’re asked to sing and, like me, cannot sing, think outside the box. Asked what item of clothing you’re the most like? Think outside the box. Need to sell a gift box to the interviewer? Well, how entertaining can you make that sale?
Also, not all personalities suit all shops. I went from a small one to a big one. I was hired in the first place for my enthusiasm and, I suspect, because I knew loads about the products having used them. If you don’t get the job in a big shop because you’re too laid back or too shy, don’t give up! Smaller shops need gentler sales assistants. That’s pretty generalized – all shops need all sorts – but the idea is that if you don’t fit in one place it doesn’t mean you won’t fit in anywhere else. The shops all have different atmospheres.
Trial shifts are complicated. Again, I’m not of much help – you have to be the right fit and different managers and management teams need different types of people, so I’d be a crap guide there. Always: be yourself. When it comes to being a Lush sales person, even just for a couple of hours, what you need to remember is to stay calm, be positive and be conscientious.
It’s easy to get scared shitless. I was. I was completely new to the idea of talking to strangers as it was my first stint in retail (I still hate talking to strangers) and all I remember about my prep was googling madly looking for all the advice on selling that I could get. I found nothing of any use. I was trembling, my palms were sweaty, I spent half an hour just refilling the bowls to keep them as warm as possible. I was crap. Then a man walked in wearing the most tremendous steampunky coat with brass buttons and a wonderful collar, so good I had to comment on it; suddenly it was well easy. Compliments work! The people who are open to being spoken to respond while the people who aren’t just accept it and move on – it’s not a foolproof method but it’s a good way to get started. You don’t need to sell in your trial shift (… IT HELPS) but you do need to open conversations with customers, greet them and make them feel welcome. Keep an eye out and make sure you don’t talk to someone who’s already been spoken to. Open questions (not yes/no duds like “Do you have baths?” but questions like “What’s your favourite scent?” that need a considered answer). Etc.
Sidenote: people hate Lush staff because they’re considered to “bother” customers. You can’t not do it, it’s the job to approach people. My solution was always to do drive-bys – wander past and point out that you love what they’re looking at, for instance. If you hang around a Lush shop on a Saturday you’d see how it’s done. And as for asking if people are okay – most of the products don’t have packaging (eco-friendly!) and are pretty eccentric as skin care etc things go, so people genuinely don’t know what they’re looking at half the time. Lush staff are effectively there to replace the packaging. If people don’t want to be helped, don’t. Some of them know what they need, but if they don’t, and they don’t want your help, you can’t do anything. Keep yourself busy cleaning or refilling bowls, always present but unobtrusively just in case they turn around with a question after all. Don’t harass, don’t push, don’t force them to smell a product. The only pressure I ever applied in selling things was when people with, say, sensitive skin were determined to buy something too harsh for their skin type; that’s very specific, not something you’d be expected to know yet. Just bear it in mind. If in doubt, smile and nod. Do a QEII wave if you have to! As long as people know you’re there to be asked for help, it’s cool. (It’s the mystery shopper thing, by forumites, aka big fans of the company – fans are always the harshest critics and they’re normal members of the public so impossible to spot. Lushies live in fear of them. Just be lovely to everyone, that’s the rule, and it’s a goodun.)
Don’t ask people if they want to try a product or have a demo because most people are just browsing like they would any shop and don’t trust you because you’re a weird stranger in an odd shop. You’ll know an opening when you see it; hopefully you’ll be given a run-down of your area (or the shop) before your trial begins so you’ll know what tools you have to hand. If you’re really stuck, YOU HAVE HANDS. Demo on yourself. Offer some to passing customers. Be active. Be creative. Eavesdrop on other sales, maybe do a drive-by “Oh, I love that one!” to back up someone else’s sale (be honest though, that’s a vital, vital aspect). Be positive about everything you use – if, like me, you hate the smell of Karma perfume, talk about what the scent is. If it applies, talk about people you know who use it. You don’t need to like everything but being able to sell products you aren’t keen on is a big skill.
I could go on but this is long enough. Do ask questions if you have any – most of this is what you’ll be told in a group interview or before a trial shift anyway, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Enthuse but don’t intimidate.
Smiles are amazing. Use them.
Start conversations over trivialities like what someone’s wearing or what they already have in their basket.
Get a handle on what Lush is about and what you like so you have something to talk about at least.
Think outside the box.
Sod it. I reckon this all counts for most jobs. But, hey, so it goes. I loved my time at Lush, I worked with a great team who are still really good friends and it was a lot of fun as well as bloody hard work, considering the pay, but I don’t regret it at all. And to think ten years ago I loathed the place! How things change.
If anyone else has anything to add please do comment cos why not. 😀
ALSO: this article is probably far more useful and informative.