Retail is just as much about working on the shop floor and building up a rapport with customers as it is about visual merchandising and buying products behind the scenes. If you have an eye for making products appealing in a shop window, or talking someone around to your way of thinking, but most of all excellent communication and customer service skills, then this could be the industry for you.

Careers in retail and sales are not only about selling and making money; they are all about providing excellent customer service. People don’t enjoy buying things because they like spending money, they do it because they enjoy the whole experience: the conversation with the person at the till, or an enthusiastic estate agent, for example.

Jobs in retail outlets

Roles in this industry are available in every kind of shop you can imagine: clothes stores, supermarkets, department stores, computer stores, sports shops, music shops, book shops, and many more. Every store needs shop floor staff, sales assistants, loss prevention staff and store managers who are responsible for making sure stock is on the shelves and transactions are processed, for example. Retail managers need the ability to lead and motivate a team, excellent communication skills, a strong commitment to customer service, the ability to work under pressure, as well as a strong knack for speedy decision-making.

Visual merchandising jobs

Every shop is also designed and set out in a certain way. This enhances people’s shopping experience and encourages them to buy things that they may not even have considered buying before they came in. These decisions are made by people working in visual merchandising, display design and store design/layout. Visual merchandisers need to have a creative flair with an eye for three-dimensional design – and the ability to translate these design concepts into physical displays – so these roles suit people with creative and hands-on skills.

Jobs in retail buying 

Shops also need to keep up with market trends, fashions and public interest, so they need buying/purchasing staff, for example fashion buyers. These are especially important for retail organisations with different branches across the country: deciding which shops in which towns need what stock is vital.  Buyers need to be analytical, numerate and commercially astute.

Retail apprenticeships

School leavers wanting to work in this sector could do an Intermediate Apprenticeship (Level 2) in roles sales assistant, stockroom assistant, beauty consultant and visual merchandiser.

They could then do an Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3) in roles like senior sales assistant, visual merchandiser supervisor, style advisor (personal shoppers, retail consultant, stylist), supervisor or team leader and department manager. School leavers with A-levels could also access these schemes.

There are Higher Apprenticeships (Level 4) in retail available, for school leavers with A-levels. You could train in roles like retail supervisor, team leader, store/department manager, sales manager, assistant store manager and operations manager.

School leavers could also look at the retail-related courses on offer at further education college and university. 

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