24 May 2024, 13:46
By Michelle Angeline Jul 21, 2023

Confessions of a retail widow

Long hours. Longer journeys. Inconvenient calls. Cancelled meetings. Problem customers. The life of a furniture industry professional can be tough, especially when you’re in sales – but have you ever stopped to think about how this challenging (but rewarding) lifestyle can impact their loved ones? Here, Michelle Angeline shares her story …

I am the wife of a retail lifer.

We have spent over 30 years together. About half that time he was a retail salesperson and manager. The other half has been on the manufacturing side, showcasing products to retailers.

When we first started dating he was a selling manager. Every once in a while we’d meet for lunch. It was inevitably delayed because he was working with a customer. I didn’t mind because I loved to watch him sell. He told a story with passion and conviction. If the customer said “no”, it just made him work harder. In his dictionary, the word no means “tell me more”.

After we were married, I kind of started to dislike the retail world. It meant a lot of nights and weekends alone. Plus, I had to hear those dreadful stories about whiny shoppers or delayed shipments, or people not getting approved for credit. 

But the next morning the sun still came up and the store still opened. Another day of opportunity.

When my hubby moved from retail to manufacturing we knew there would be overnight travel. We figured we’d give it a try for a year. That was over 15 years ago, and it has worked out well. Sure, I have a couple of empty nights each week, but we make the weekends count.

I’ve lived the life of a retail spouse and a road warrior’s spouse. If I could give some advice to those of you working in this business, here is what I would say …

If you work at a retail store, make sure there are no surprises. It seems every other week is the ‘Sale of a Lifetime’. That means extra hours or extra days at work. Let your wife or husband or main squeeze know your schedule a couple of weeks in advance to avoid disappointments. And if you own the store or set the sale schedule, for the love of Pete, help your workers’ families by letting them know when extra hours are required. We spouses have commitments that we have to keep, too!

On the other hand, you, like me, may be related to a retail owner or manager. Have some understanding. Building a business means fixing up or closing that late customer. It’s a pain to re-warm dinner or put the kids to bed by yourself, but it doesn’t help to complain about it. 

Yes, you will have to listen to unending stories of customers, other salespeople and bosses. Embrace the story and have some empathy.

If you travel for work, be a good partner. The people you left behind are worried about you. Take a moment to text or call when you arrive at your first stop. We think about you, and a couple of texts during the day let us know you are OK.

To the people who are left at home like me, you’ve got to trust your husband or wife or main squeeze. They are out there making a living. Sleeping in another Premier Inn or eating a dinner of convenience store sushi isn’t as glamorous as it seems. Be sure to clear away some of the chores during the week so you can have the weekend to yourselves.

To you ladies and gents who own stores – please understand that our spouses often drive or fly (or both) up to seven hours before they start their work day. If they show up late for an appointment, it’s probably because some airline can’t figure out their own schedule. And when they do arrive, please give them some of your uninterrupted time. They have many war stories that they call selling and marketing advice, and one of them might help your business become a little bit better.

That’s about all I have to say. I hope that the retail business has been as good to you as it has to us. We’ve made it through recessions and wars, bad times and good. Take care of each other and we’ll all be OK.

Michelle is happily married to a 35-year veteran of the furniture industry. She can be reached at [email protected].

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