Retail Jobs and Careers
It may surprise you, but roughly 10% of all people working in the UK today are employed in the retail sector. This translates to approximately three million people, working in a huge variety of positions. While a large percentage of these are customer service assistants working in stores, or individual shop owners and their staff, a considerable number of positions are at regional and national level in bigger companies. This reflects the fact that the retail sector is not only huge, but it is a diverse and exciting industry to establish your career in.
- Retail Jobs Sites.
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The Retail Industry
If you're looking for a career with longevity, this industry certainly offers enough scope. Its sheer size means that many people can start in entry level roles and work up to retail management and then higher management positions.
Specialist areas include merchandising, buying, marketing and logistics, as well as all the financial, human resources and service roles associated with large corporations. Even with specialist skills, there are always going to be enough employers in the industry for you to make a sideways move.
Due to the ease with which employees can move to other companies, many employers offer excellent benefits packages, including competitive salaries, bonuses and commissions, generous vacation time, car allowances, pensions and life assurance, healthcare, staff restaurants and share options.
Next, we take a brief look at some of the most popular careers in the retail industry. There are many variations on these, as well as levels of seniority ranging from entry level to national director.
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Specialist Career Areas
- Buyers work for the head offices, locating suppliers for products to be sold by attending trade fairs and travelling to the product sources. They also maintain relationships with established suppliers. They are concerned with not only sourcing products, but with price negotiation, delivery dates and product specifications. Buyers work alongside store managers and merchandisers to monitor sales and predict demand, as well as developing new ranges. They also monitor quality control.
- This role suits people with strong commercial awareness, negotiation and decision-making skills, preferably with a business qualification (although fashion is also acceptable in that sector). You must be articulate, with good verbal and written communication skills, is important. Organisational skills are vital, coupled with high motivation and enthusiasm.
- Buyers need to be aware of marketplace activity, especially on the high street. Fashion buyers need an almost intuitive sense of what will translate to the high street and sell. All decisions need to be communicated and justified to internal departments, including senior management and the merchandising team.
- You can get started on this career route by gaining retail experience and knowledge of a particular market sector (e.g. fashion, home wares, etc). This role is popular and vacancies are hard to come by, with most advertised internally. Read the many trade publications on your chosen retail area. You may need to gain store management experience before entering buying, as you will then have deeper knowledge of the customer's needs.
Retail or Store Manager
- Retail managers are responsible for maximising the profitability of supermarkets, high street stores and individual shops to meet financial targets. They achieve this through achieving sales target through effective implementation of sales strategies with the customer service team, undertaking the financial management, recruiting and training staff, controlling stock ordering, etc.
- They also improve the shop's local profile and undertake promotions according to the company's instructions and standards. They are responsible for analysing sales figures and anticipating future sales trends.
- For this role, you need rounded management skills, including communication, organisation and planning, decision-making, commercial awareness, analytical abilities and numeracy, plus an interest in leading and motivating a team. This includes ensuring staff are properly trained and rewarded.
- Experience within the store is as important as qualifications, although many larger stores welcome graduate trainees with business-related qualifications. A typical route is to start as a graduate or other trainee, before taking on departmental manager or trainee manager duties. With experience, it's possible to move into other store positions or progress to head office roles.
Operations or Logistics Manager
- Logistics managers and their teams are responsible for the movement of goods from supplier to the shop shelf. The term 'logistics' is frequently used in connection with non-fashion retail. Working on the supply chain, the logistics manager aims to minimise build-up of stock at any one stage, from supplier's warehouse to the retailer's warehouse and then on to the store stockroom and shelf. This involves rigorous inventory monitoring, tracking and ordering.
- Operations management is closely linked to logistics, as it is also concerned with the manufacture of materials and products that are used within or are sold by the company. These managers are more concerned with what is happening within the company, rather than at suppliers, although the two roles can and often do overlap.
- These managers develop policy and strategy for the supply chain logistics and operations, so need advanced management and leadership skills. This needs to be communicated within the retail organisation and also to suppliers and retail partners. A comprehensive and up to date knowledge of the industry and the relevant sector, plus awareness of competitor activity, is important.
- Team leadership and communication skills are essential, applied both within the chain of command and outwards to stores and suppliers. Clearly, powerful organisational abilities are crucial, as well as prioritisation skills. The ability to analyse statistical information relating to stock is vital.
- A degree in business, statistics, finance or mathematics is usually preferred, along with solid retail experience. Beyond this, different companies have different requirements. In-house training is essential, as each new trainee manager will need to become familiar with the ordering and communication systems within that retail company.
- This head office post involves ensuring shops have sufficient inventory to satisfy customer demand. The merchandiser works closely with buyers and retail managers to locate and distribute the products to outlets, while forecasting and analysing sales. They plan new ranges, anticipating and optimising sales volumes and therefore profitability. This involves financial forecasting for the season and controlling stock accordingly.
- The merchandiser works to minimise any setbacks that occur during the supply chain. They also analyse the success of particular products and assess why some products fail to sell. Decisions as to lines to be sold at a discount are made by the merchandiser. Outcomes of season's activity are presented to senior managers.
- For this role, you need to be numerate and analytical, with the ability to plan and organise. Decision making abilities are important. Communication skills are essential, as is IT literacy, due to the amount of data, trend and figure analysis involved. A strong commercial awareness underpins the role.
- To enter this profession, it's important to gain retail experience on the shop floor. Understanding the retail sector you choose is important, so read trade publications and learn as much as possible. Graduates are best positioned with degrees in business, numerate or fashion subjects, although any subject is accepted with the right experience. Full training is usually given by retail companies.
Graduate training schemes abound with the larger companies in the retail industry. Schemes may shape graduates for management work in areas such as IT, finance, HR and operations, as well as some of the more sought after positions, such as those listed in this article. The diversity of careers on offer is reflected in the breadth of the training programmes' content.
A degree of class 2.2 or above will support entry to a graduate training programme. While retail degrees are tailored for the industry, major employers are more concerned with commercial awareness, motivation and leadership potential. Numeracy, problem-solving skills and a passion for retail are invaluable, and are best demonstrated through hands-on work experience and evidence of working with and understanding customers.
Retail Jobs Sites
Jobs' boards with retail vacancies include:
Retail recruitment agency:
Advice on retail careers: