Getting in

Do you have good people skills? Are you presentable? Can you communicate effectively? Are you quick thinking? Can you work as part of a team? Do you like the idea of selling things? Interested in shops? Like working with the public?

Are you happy to work flexible hours – at weekends and into the evenings? If your answer is 'Yes' then retail could be for you!

Retail work can involve serving customers, cash flow, stock control, display, product knowledge and selling techniques in a variety of retail outlets.

The retail industry is not just about cashiers and sales assistants, although this is often a starting point. There are jobs for everyone, whether you want to work in operations management, human resources, training, marketing, public relations, IT, property or buying. There are also jobs that are unique to the industry such as visual merchandising – which is all about making things look good and attracting the eye of the customer.

Many young people work in retail part time whilst completing their education and simply see it as a chance to earn some money. However the retail sector provides people with excellent work skills and can be a career pathway in its own right. Lots of people start out in this sector on the ‘shop floor’, but not many realise that you can work your way right up to the top, gaining qualifications as you progress.

Distribution and warehousing

Distribution and warehousing is similar to retail work but is more concerned with behind-the-scenes activities, for example, checking deliveries coming in and going out, shelf-filling, trade counter work and computerised stock control.

To find out more go to the Distribution and warehousing job sector

Routes into this sector

There are various types of qualifications available: 

There are Retail Apprenticeships, including:

  • Intermediate Apprenticeships in Retail Skills
  • Advanced Apprenticeships in Retail - where you may specialise more in Management or Visual Merchandising, etc.
  • Higher Apprenticeships in Retail Management -providing apprentices with the business and managerial skills to work at senior levels.

An apprenticeship is good if you want to earn while you learn and get the skills needed for a successful career in retail. Visit the apprenticeships site for more information.

There are also opportunities to obtain higher education qualifications in retail management, on a full time course or studying part time while you are working in retail.

You would cover subjects such as:

  • Retail environment
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Customer service
  • Managing retail operations
  • Finance
  • Managing change and innovation
  • Technology and e-retailing
  • Supply chain
  • Retail marketing
  • Law

To find out more about the qualifications needed in this sector visit the Sector Skills Council’s website at People 1st Retail or for motor retail Institute of the Motor Industry - careers

Spotlight on... Apprenticeships in Retail

Retail covers a wide range of businesses, from market stalls and independent shops to national chains and large superstores. As an apprentice, your role will depend on your employer – you could be assisting customers with purchases or working in a specialist department as a product expert. An artistic flare could point you in the direction of visual merchandising, helping to create window and in-store displays. Or you could work behind the scenes in stock handling.

On the Advanced Level Apprenticeship, your training will focus on gaining specific skills in your preferred speciality. You will learn to take responsibility and gain important management skills.

A Higher Apprenticeship will help prepare you for senior and management roles in the sector and provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to run a retail operation and deliver exceptional customer service. You might cover everything from intellectual property to global business, merchandising and store design. Or you might choose to focus on leadership and people management, finance or the psychology of consumer behaviour.

Watch the video below to find out more about retail apprenticeships at the supermarket chain Aldi.

Retail Apprenticeships at Aldi supermarket

View/download a fact sheet about the Retail sector

Websites for vacancies in this sector

Why not try a free, online course (MOOC) in this job area?

Future Learn have lots of free, online courses that will improve your knowledge of this job sector and improve your chances of landing your dream job. e.g. The University of Leeds has developed a 2 week course on Innovation: the Fashion Industry. Click on the following link for more information

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