Shop Talk

By J&C Team

If you love people, and are good at selling and spotting what’s hot and what’s not, you could enjoy working in the multi-million-pound retail industry

The retail industry generates more than £340billion a year in sales, and employs three million people. And while this industry has taken a battering during the past few years of austerity, seeing high street favourites going to the wall, it is slowly regenerating, with 1.7% growth expected in 2017.

There are also small, independent shops springing up in towns and cities across the UK.

Retail can be a great choice if you enjoy working with other people, and have an eye on what’s fashionable and popular. Success in retail comes from providing people with what they want, at the right time, and also for the right price.

It’s a broad sector, with jobs in many areas, making it a versatile career option. If you enjoy the excitement of selling, working on the shop floor as a Sales Adviser would suit you. Then you could progress to Manager, where you’ll have more responsibility, and be in charge of a team of Sales Assistants. There are lots of roles behind the scenes, too, in areas such as product and store design, buying and merchandising, and marketing.

It’s an industry that offers lots of flexibility, with part-time positions ideal for those returning to work, or wishing to combine work with family or other commitments.

Getting in

When it comes to retail, the opportunities are vast. As for getting in, you generally won’t need formal qualifications if you start as a Store Assistant, but you will need a positive, hardworking attitude, good communication skills and the ability to remain calm under pressure.

You can also get your foot in the door by signing up to an apprenticeship, gaining qualifications as you earn, or you can do a diploma or degree, then join as a Management Trainee.

‘It is possible to join a retailer from leaving school, college or university and develop a very successful career, as retailers promote on merit,’ says Richard Cuthbertson, Research Director at the Oxford Institute of Retail Management at the University of Oxford. ‘Higher academic qualifications should help you along the way, and may make your path quicker or easier.

‘However, retailers invest more in training per employee than the financial sector (£1,275 per employee per year, compared to just over £800 in the financial sector), and it is this long-term investment in people that has helped develop today’s retail leaders from all stages of academic development.’

Earning power

Major industry names such as Sir Stuart Rose, Mary Portas and Mark Price all powered their way up from the shop floor to become influential figures in retail at companies like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis.

This is proof that it is possible to make your way to senior, well-paid positions from entry-level roles, which can’t be said for all industries.

If you’re ambitious, enthusiastic and work hard, you will be rewarded.

Retail may have a reputation for being a career that pays peanuts, and while the pay packet for junior roles may be a bit stingy, the salaries for managerial positions are in line with other industries, and people at the top of the chain can earn a packet – we’re talking millions.

Junior customer service roles offer an average salary of £16,000 a year, and graduates entering the sector can expect to earn at least £25,000 a year.

However, the good news is it can be much more than that. For example, Aldi’s Graduate Manager Training programme is very well respected and sought after. It is a one-year fast- track scheme that comes with a salary of £42,000 and great perks, including an all-expenses-paid Audi, and the chance to be running a multi-million-pound business of four stores within four years. It’s the perfect chance to apply your leadership skills, commercial awareness and management prowess.

Good for graduates

By 2020, the retail sector workforce is projected to grow by 54,800. The majority of growth (41,700) is expected to be in higher-level managerial positions. This is great news for graduates, and the majority of large retailers have in-house management training schemes.

Demands for higher skilled managers are due to technology, customer trends, plus more sophisticated supply-chain management, according to the latest industry overview by

In an increasingly competitive market, companies have to compete to provide better customer service, including online and multichannel retailing. Consequently, there is a demand for graduates who have technical skills to produce apps for smartphones, for example.

There is also a demand for graduates who are able to combine commercial awareness with creativity for roles in marketing and buying, and graduates with analytical or number skills for merchandising. Strong business acumen gained from a business management or marketing degree can also be highly sought after by big retailers and stand you in good stead for a successful career in retail.