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A Career Guide to Working in Retail

Published: Friday 10th April 2020

In 2019, over 2.9 million people were employed in retail jobs in the UK. That’s a huge industry sector. And while some people might think a career in retail is all about selling, there’s much more to it than that. Many jobs in retail are about understanding what customers want and developing the best ways of offering those products (or services) to them. There’s a big focus on developing relationships, both with customers and business partners, to create the best strategies for creating a profitable business.

Retail word cloud, business concept

Many people get into retail through a part-time or Saturday job, perhaps while still at school, or studying at university, but again, these are typically junior roles, such as sales assistant. Today, many retailers also offer apprenticeships for those looking for a career in it and the prospects are excellent for those with the dedication and personal skills needed to succeed in what can be a challenging, but exciting industry.

Types of retail jobs

If you’re looking for a career in retail, it’s a good idea to research the sectors you’re interested in, as well as the companies that operate in those niches. Many retailers go on to specialise in the niches that interest them most. Within those, there are also many different types of jobs available. So it’s a good idea to get some basic experience in customer-facing sales or service roles to see which types of work suit you best.

Day to day duties are in entry level and junior roles include customer service/sales, helping with store displays, inventory management and cashiering, while senior roles tend to have much more varied and include:

  • Sourcing product/liaising with suppliers
  • Hiring and managing employees
  • Opening/closing the store
  • Analysing sales, maintaining budgets and setting targets
  • Reporting to senior management
  • Negotiating contracts with vendors, suppliers
  • Handling escalated customer service issues

Skills for a career in retail

To be considered for a career in retail, you’ll need to be a people person with a strong customer focus. Most employers are looking for team players with excellent communication skills and a positive, enthusiastic personality. Those with leadership ability can find themselves promoted into supervisory positions quite quickly. Much success in retail comes from understanding your product or brand, so attention to detail and an inquisitive nature will be helpful here.

Customer Satisfaction Service Support Assistance Concept

Qualifications aren’t really necessary for entry level jobs in retail, but GCSE maths and English will stand you in good stead if you don’t already have previous experience. Cashiering will require a good level of numeracy. A relevant degree can help you secure a management or more technical role. With experience you can then specialise in other areas, such as merchandising, marketing, operations, warehousing and training.

When it comes to pay, most entry level jobs are minimum wage, but you can expect your salary to rise quickly as you rise up the ranks.

Where can I find jobs near me?

Getting a job in retail isn’t as easy as you might think. There is a lot of competition for retail jobs in certain high profile brands and outlets. Handing out your CV at shopping centres and retail parks can help, but the easiest way to find a retail job in your locality right now is to start with a quick search using the Zoek job search app.

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