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What Does a Career In Retail Look Like?

career in retail

Working in retail is about more than stacking shelves or sitting behind a till.  So, what does a career in retail look like?

You and your mates may already have Saturday jobs – it looks good on your CV and earns you some much-needed cash! The music, technology, fashion and sports retail sectors are highly youth- orientated and this is reflected in the average age of the workforce. However, the retail sector is good for more than a bit of weekend work and it’s not all about stacking shelves or clearing changing rooms – the retail sector has lots of really exciting opportunities to aim for, so read on and find out what they are!

Sales assistant

Being a sales assistant can involve anything from working on a till to handling customer complaints and an important requirement is to have great communication skills and to enjoy working with people. It is important to be friendly and polite as you will have to interact with the public and other store staff and being a team-player is a must. Look out for jobs by going online and checking out stores’ websites for full and part-time job vacancies and apprenticeship opportunities.

Customer services cover a wide range of jobs which all deal with the public in some way or other, and can range from a sales product support representative to a technical support analyst. A customer service manager will need to communicate courteously with customers via email or deal with customer complaints about their service or product. It is possible to become a customer service manager by working your way up from the shop floor and by demonstrating your particular skill in this area and then undertaking in-house training. However, most applicants for this type of job have a degree of some kind, with a degree in a relevant field such as business studies, management studies, consumer studies, marketing or retail being the preferred options.

Buying and merchandising

Seen as one of the more glamorous jobs in the retail sector – who wouldn’t want to be paid to go shopping every day?! Buying and merchandising involve sourcing new products and having detailed knowledge of the success of existing products. This job can lead to worldwide travel where you’ll be seeking out new products and brands. To have a career as a buyer, you should have great communication skills and a degree in a field such as business studies, economics, marketing, retail management or a related subject but it is also possible to start work on the shop floor with a retailer then progress through the ranks within the company by participating in their in-house training programmes. It is also generally expected that you would also need to have good grasp of IT and foreign language skills would also help if your company does business abroad.

Retail marketing manager

Retail marketing managers oversee the branding and merchandising of products in retail stores. They work for manufacturers and wholesalers of goods who sell to retailers. As a retail marketing manager, you would develop displays, distribute merchandise, create marketing strategies and manage customer accounts. This position requires knowledge of branding, marketing and advertising techniques.

Visual merchandiser

Who do you think comes up with eye-catching (sometimes strange!) shop-window and in-store displays or puts those delicious chocolates by the till to tempt you as you wait in a boring queue? The answer is – a visual merchandiser – also known as a window dresser or a display artist. You’ll need to possess good creative and artistic abilities, be able to work to deadlines and operate not only within a team but also on your own initiative. A strong interest in design is important for a visual merchandiser and you could gain a higher education qualification, such as a  degree in retail design, to kick-start your career in display or merchandising, as an alternative to working your way up to the job within a company.

Retail manager

Being a retail manager means overseeing the day-to-day running of a store and carrying out a wide range of tasks. The role also includes managing and motivating a team to increase sales, devising promotional activities, ensuring excellent levels of customer service and being responsible for recruitment. Retail managers need to be organised, motivated and flexible with great leadership skills. You could start by working on the shop floor and moving up through the ranks or by completing a relevant course and then enrolling on an in-house management training programme.

For more on retail careers visit our dedication retail careers page.

About Lynette Daly

Lynette is the publishing editor of Moving On magazine. Moving On is devoted to helping young people make good choices for their future – education, qualifications and careers. Moving On really wants to motivate you! Our articles cover a range of topics to inspire and give ideas. Our magazines are delivered free to all schools, colleges and sixth forms in England and is also available online.

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