Breaking into the Retail Industry

Why would I want to work in retail?
The retail industry employs around 2.9m people in the UK and generates over £260bn a year in sales – larger than the combined economies of Portugal and Denmark.
By its very nature retail is a fast-moving industry as organisations try to respond to - and predict - customer demand and future trends. But if you think that a career in retail is limited solely to the shop floor, think again. From sourcing new producers to transporting goods, ordering stock and forecasting trends, there are a multitude of roles that are critical to the retail operation that you may never have even realised. And these roles can also be found in a number of associated sectors, from warehousing and distribution to finance, marketing and design. Here are a few examples of jobs from across the retail spectrum:
• • • • • • • •

Merchandiser - Forecasting trends and budgeting Store Manager - Running an outlet and meeting targets Visual Merchandiser - Designing product displays Logistics Manager - Distributing and storing products Market Researcher - Analysing consumer behaviour Buyer - Finding new products and anticipating demand PR & Marketing - Promotion of brands to consumers Design - Creating and developing new products and packaging

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There are many opportunities to move between each of these disciplines if you feel you’d like to move your career in a different direction. As many departments work closely together of projects, it’s likely that you will pick up a diverse range of skills in various business disciplines without you even realising. One of the other benefits of retail is the flexible working hours and Retail Sales Assistants account for 13% of all part-time positions in the UK. In an age when consumers demand access to goods and services 24/7, retail workers are needed to 'man the shop' around the clock meaning there are many opportunities to fit your working hours around your personal and family commitments. The retail industry has plenty of variety – not least because of the vast array of products in the marketplace. In both traditional retail stores and in new online markets, there really are limitless opportunities for people to work within a sector that interests them regardless of whether you are a petrol-head or fashion lover.

How much can you earn in the Retail sector?
Salary by Gender Salary by Experience Salary by Job Role Salary by Company Size Salary by Location

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

What are the common retail career paths?
A career in retail is not just for the shopaholics among us although the prospect of receiving staff discounts off our favourite brands is enough to woo many candidates.
The industry takes people from a wide range of backgrounds and all stages of education. So whether you have just taken your GCSEs or have recently graduated with a degree, there are openings and career paths to suit you. Experience is often key. If you want to work in fashion, the best way is to learn about the industry from the ground up. If you want to move from entertainment retail to fashion retail later on in your career it can be done, but you will need to prove you have the transferrable skills to deal with the switch. For Graduates Large retailers offer graduate trainee schemes designed to provide a broad experience and understanding of the entire retail sector; from head office roles to store management or distribution. Schemes will typically last between one and three years and upon completion, you can choose to specialise in your preferred role.

Further Reading
- How can I choose the right company? - What are my transferrable skills? - Should I work part-time, temporary or permanent?

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For head office roles, the next move is into a senior position, such as Senior Buyer. From here your career will typically take the route into management before specialising in a certain area and taking over as departmental head. Alternatively, if you are involved in store management, your career path will take a slightly different route. From managing a single store your next move will invariably be as an Area Manager with responsibility for a number of different stores before eventually progressing to National Manager and Director level. For Non-Graduates Senior roles within the retail industry are not solely reserved for graduates. A number of the UK’s leading retail giants are starting to recruit non-graduates into their management training schemes, although the route to the top may take slightly longer. A Trainee Store Manager, for example, could progress to Duty or Line Manager before taking on the responsibility of managing their own outlet. Entry level positions which are not necessarily restricted to graduates include sales assistants and customer services.

Job Searches
Assistant Buyer Buyer Human Resources Merchandiser Sales Assistant Assistant Manager Department Manager Marketing Senior Buyer Store Manager

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

Where can I find out about retail employers?
Now that you have decided to make a career in this sector, your next big task is to decide which employer you want to work for. With literally thousands to choose from and each varying in size, culture and location, you need to identify who your ideal employer might be.
The best way to find out about a company is to have worked there yourself. If you are still at university, target a specific organisation for a work placement or internship. If you have already graduated, find someone who already works there or in a similar company – some university careers advisory services will keep in contact with exgraduates for this very reason. For non-graduates without these readily available contacts, you will need to be more proactive in your information gathering. Ask friends and family if they know of anyone who works in your chosen field who they can introduce you to - ask them questions about how they started their retail career, what constructive advice and pointers they can give and, more importantly, if they are aware of any opportunities within their organisation.

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Once you have identified some of the companies that you want to target, research them. Don’t just rely on the PR-blurb that promotes the organisation as an ‘employer of choice’. Look at their website to see what they expect of their staff and the opportunities available. Google them to see what is being written about them by others outside the organisation. And if there is a retail outlet nearby, make sure you visit the store so you can get an idea of how the staff feel. Were they smiling and happy to help or did they look like they really didn’t want to be there? Attend recruitment fairs and prepare some probing questions in advance, taking advantage of the opportunity to learn about the organisations culture, their expectations and what it is really like to do the job on a day-to-day basis. There are a significant number of trade publications serving the retail industry which will keep you informed about the latest trends, developments and challenges facing the sector. Professional associations will also give you some useful information.

Key Industry Associations
- British Retail Consortium - Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (CILT) - Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) - National Retail Federation

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

What qualifications are important in retail?
The qualifications that you will need will be decided by the direction you plan to take your career. Some roles demand a university degree as a minimal entry, whilst other people come into the industry through an entry level position on the shop floor.
If you are taking the university route, there are a number of degree courses that will provide a basis upon which to launch your retail career, notably:
• • • • •

Marketing Business Management Fashion or Textiles Engineering ICT

For most roles a subject-specific degree is not important, so if you have your sights set on working in Marketing, you don’t necessarily need a Marketing degree to qualify. There are a few prime exemptions, such as IT, Fashion and Food Technology. Some fields within the industry are more competitive than others, such as Marketing, Buying and Merchandising, where a good degree (2:1 or above) will boost your chances of employment

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And for these highly sought-after fields, post graduate study is often encouraged with some employers prepared to fund your course and give you time off to study. Although post graduate study on the whole is not necessary to succeed within the industry, it demonstrates your eagerness to develop your business and practical skills which - in terms of your career - can enhance your profile and increase your earning potential. There are many general courses that you could look into, such as a certificate in Introduction to Retailing or a certificate in Retail Principles. If you have an area of interest in mind, you could look into a Certificate in Visual Merchandising for Retail or a Target Award in Retail Stock Control. Careers in retail management are often more dependent up the individual’s passion for retail, their drive, experience, ambition, leadership ability and commercial acumen rather than academic qualifications. The qualification of 'experience' is not easy to get, so do what you can to gain work placements and part time positions so your ability to make an impact in the real world can be judged along with your academic ability. This will provide you with an insight into your chosen sector and could place you at an advantage if a suitable permanent vacancy comes up.

Find Retail Courses
- UCAS - The Open University

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

What skills are retail employers looking for?
Retail is a popular industry, so it's imperative to find out what the in demand skills are, acquire these skills and give yourself a competitive advantage over your fellow applicants.
Some roles will require a very specific set of skills. For instance, Visual Merchandisers will need to have a creative flair with an eye for three-dimensional design and the ability to translate design concepts into tangible displays that will woo potential customers. Buyers and Merchandisers need to be analytical, numerate and commercially astute. Whilst Store Managers need to be good allrounder’s – sales people, team leaders, target driven and the ability to juggle a number of different tasks simultaneously. Luckily, most of the skills that are required for each position will be learnt on the job but, you may have already acquired some of them during your career or work placements. Regardless of whether you enter your career via the graduate or non-graduate route, the retail industry recognises a set of four key competencies that anyone serious about carving out a career for themselves in this sector will need.
• • • •

Business Focus Personal Effectiveness Relationship Management Critical Thinking

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These competencies include a range of typical skills that employers are looking for in applicants, such as: • • • • • • • • • • • excellent communication and interpersonal skills good standard of IT and numeracy effective influencing and negotiation skills strong customer focus ability to work under pressure and to tight deadlines analysing and problem-solving skills commercial awareness flexibility strong time-management skills attention to detail demonstrable leadership and management qualities

Above all else, employers are looking for people who can use their initiative to look for ways of improving the way things are done, are committed to their employer and are passionate about their sector whether it be fashion, food or cars.

Further Reading
- What are my transferrable skills? - How can I improve my skills on my own initiative? - Should I become a specialist or a generalist?

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

What makes a good retail CV?
When submitting your CV, it's vital to know what it is your potential employer is looking for in the perfect candidate.
By reading the job advert you'll get a good idea of what they are looking for. If you can go one further and get yourself a full copy of the job spec from the HR department or your recruitment agent, then you'll have all the information you need to tailor your CV to include the key skills that you know they're looking for. Find out as much as you can about the job and the company to make sure you can match your abilities to their requirements. Look at the company website, call the company directly or speak to someone you know who has worked there previously. Think about what you have to offer and ensure that your skills, experiences and career aspirations are in sync with the employer’s requirements and their company values. If they are a company that believes in creativity, try to demonstrate how you have been innovative throughout your career.

Further Reading
- How can I tailor my CV to an audience? - What are my unique selling points? - What are the classic CV mistakes to avoid?

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Most retail roles are reliant on knowing what customers want so it's important that you can demonstrate that you know the theory behind this, as well as how to put it into practice. The theory part is relatively simple to demonstrate by listing your certificates and qualifications. If you state that you have a BSc (Hons) degree in Retailing, Marketing and Management then they can immediately determine that you will have knowledge within which retailers operate. The key to creating a CV that really catches the eye is showing how you're used these skills to achieve results in a professional environment. Be specific to the job you're applying for and use examples of projects you have worked on which made a difference. For example, Buyers need good negotiating skills. So instead of simply stating that you have ‘strong negotiation skills’, explain how you successfully negotiated the best possible price with a supplier which resulted in significant cost savings for the company. The key to writing an interviewing-winning CV is to keep it as relevant to the advertised role as possible. Only include information that will support your application and always try to add value to what you claim you can do. Finally, consider who will be reading your application. Avoid using technical jargon which only people working in this role will understand because your CV may be read by a HR assistant or recruitment consultant who isn’t conversant with retail-speak.

Free CV Templates
Buyer Store Manager Warehouse Manager Sales Assistant Visual Merchandiser

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What does the job interview process consist of?
Your CV has sufficiently impressed an employer to invite you to an interview. Now you are just a couple of steps away from securing the job that you want. But first you need to make a good impression at the interview.
In general, large retailers will conduct interviews via a series of assessment tests which can range from a couple of hours to an entire day where you will be surrounded by other candidates who are applying for the same post. The assessments will be held at the company’s head office, one of their retail stores or in a dedicated training centre where you will take part in a programme of tasks. These will be designed to test your skills and abilities that are required for the job role, such as problem-solving, communication or analytical skills. This may include group exercises, interviews, presentations, personality tests and case-studies.

Take part in a Virtual Job Interview to find out if your answers are what Retail employers want to hear. Click here when you’re ready to begin.

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Be prepared for the interviewer to test you on the things you claim you can do on your CV. If you're applying for a store management position, your interviewer is likely to present a hypothetical situation or ask you to describe a time when you have used your problem solving skills - one of the key skills required for this role. Before the interview, think of a time when you have encountered a difficult situation, the steps you took to resolve it, the eventual outcome and the lessons you learnt from the experience. Anticipate the 'strengths and weaknesses' questions that you will inevitably be asked, and brush up on your industry and company knowledge because you will be expected to understand the sector in which you are hoping to work and to have done your homework on the company. Also consider where you see yourself in five years time: Store Manager? Senior Merchandiser? Head of Buying? Retail employers want to see what motivates you and what your ambitions are. Interviews are a two-way street where you need to determine if the company is right for you in the same way that they want to find out if you are right for them. So you need to ask your own questions about the organisation, the job itself, training opportunities - and then you can decide if the employer is positioned to meet your expectations

Further Reading
- How do I make a good first impression? - What should I wear to my job interview? - How can I calm my job interview nerves?

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

What career goals should I set myself?
Once you have got your foot in a retailer's door and started out on your career, what opportunities are there for you to move up the career ladder and how do you know if you have made the right career choice?
The positive news is that opportunities for career advancement within retail are very good – all you have to do is identify the path that you want to follow then plot a course. Most large retailers will have good training development programmes at both store and head office level that will provide you with what you need to take your career to the next level, such as training plans and skills workshops. Whether you entered the retail industry via the graduate or nongraduate route will largely determine the length of time it will take for you to realise your career ambitions. A non-graduate working at a store will typically start out as a Sales Assistant and work their way up to management positions, whereas a degree holder on a graduate programme will be propelled into a management role within 2-3 years.

Monster’s Career Snapshots show you the skills you need in order to take your career to the next level:
Buyer Merchandiser Store Manager Cashier Retail Salesperson

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One of the great features of the retail industry is the freedom to choose from a range of different roles across a number of sectors let’s be honest, you never really know what its like to work in a particular role until you have experience of doing the actual job itself. So if you feel that the role you are in is not quite right for you, there are opportunities to switch over to a new position in a different department such as distribution, head office or one of the company’s local stores. Or you could move across different Head Office disciplines like marketing, IT, Merchandising or Finance.

What Next?
If you’re still looking for advice on finding the right job, creating a great CV or tips on job interview, career-advice.monster.co.uk contains everything you ever wanted to know, and more! If you’re ready to apply for jobs, upload you CV to Monster and then take a look through the latest Retail roles.

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

Retail Glossary
Anchor store - one of the larger stores in a shopping centre, usually a department store or a major retail chain, that attracts more footfall and benefits smaller retailers within the outlet Brand - used to distinguish one product from its competitors. It can apply to a single product, an entire product line, or even a company. Customer - one who purchases or receives a product or service from a business or merchant. ‘The customer is always right’ is a phrase often used in the world of retailing. Drop shipping - a supply chain management technique in which the retailer does not keep goods in stock, but instead transfers customer orders and shipment details to either the manufacturer or a wholesaler, who then ships the goods directly to the customer. Exit interview - An exit interview is an interview conducted by an employer of a departing employee. They are generally conducted by a relatively neutral party, such as a human resources staff member,

www.monster.co.uk Fair trade – an organized social movement and marketbased approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. Goods - t hat which is produced, then traded, bought or sold, then finally consumed. Homebase - a British home improvement store and garden centre, formerly owned by Sainsbury’s with over 300 stores in the UK. Inventory - a list for goods and materials, or those goods and materials themselves, held available in stock by a business. John Lewis Partnership - a major UK retailer who operate John Lewis department stores, Waitrose supermarkets and direct services company Greenbee. Kiosk - any small structure that stands alone, usually for the purpose of supplying a product or service. Layaway - also referred to as lay-by, is a way to purchase an item without paying the entire cost at once. Mark-up is the difference between the cost of a good or service and its selling price. A mark-up is added on to the total cost incurred by the producer of a good or service in order to create a profit.

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Breaking into the Retail Industry Next - Next plc is a British clothes retailer, with its head office in Enderby, Leicestershire. It is one of the United Kingdom's largest clothing retailers. Organising - the act of rearranging elements following one or more rules. This forms a key part of a Store Manager’s role where they need to maximise layout to increase sales. POS- standing for Point of Sale, this generally refers to a checkout counter in a shop, or the location where a transaction occurs and a final opportunity to offer additional products to consumers. QVC – a multinational corporation, specialising in televised home shopping. The Shopping Channel broadcasts live 17 hours a day for 364 days a year. Retail Week - the UK’s leading news magazine for the retail industry, covering food, fashion, property, technology and stores. SKU - Stock Keeping Unit is a unique identifier for each distinct product and service that can be ordered from a supplier. Transaction - transaction is an event or condition under the contract between a buyer and a seller to exchange an asset for payment

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Uniform - a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organisation while participating in that organisation's activity. Vendor - any individual or organisation who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money Warranty – or guarantee, is a written assurance that a product or service will be provided or will meet certain specifications. Zavvi - an entertainment retail chain that launched in the UK after a buy-out of Virgin Megastores in September 2007 before falling into administration in December 2008.

Think you know retail? When going for a job interview it really pays to know about the issues affecting the industry the company operates in. We’ve devised a short quiz to help you judge how much you know about the retail sector. Take the quiz now!

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Breaking into the Retail Industry

They say that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but often it is. Our series of eBooks brings together expert advice to help you secure the job you want and build a successful career. For more career tools, visit career-advice.monster.co.uk.

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