Retailing is a good base for anyone starting out in a career. Ultimately the skills learned in this industry will apply to elements of all jobs in later life. People are either trying to sell products into retail or they are providing services to make the industry happen. Lawyers, accountants, architects, planners, caterers, human resources and so many others sectors contribute strongly to the success of retailing at many levels.
HIGH FLYERS PROSPER
There are few careers that allow young people to take immediate responsibility for their performance and action. But in retail, it is not uncommon to have a 20 year-old earning £25,000 as a manager of a shop and it is common to find 30 years-olds earning in excess of £150,000 at board level by this time. This is a global industry as the core skills of retailing hold good anywhere in the world.
Career progression can be very fast and very varied. Many major organisations like Marks & Spencer, Kingfisher, Boots, Dixons, Sainsbury's and others run graduate recruitment schemes. They know how important it is to win young talent into the business. Whilst there are people who study retailing as a degree course, recruitment is far from limited to these graduates.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SCHOOL LEAVERS
Retailing is one of the only industries that recognises and rewards talent right from the start. Retailing is about people, it focuses on people, it profits from people. Good communicators at all levels are vital from the sales ambassadors on the shop floor to the marketing department, store designers and caterers. Retailing must know what people want and supply them with products accordingly.
Retailing is strong on training, from NVQs to management degrees. If people are keen to learn retailing they will be given the chance to shine and be rewarded accordingly. The number of GCSEs people have are not necessarily important it is the enthusiasm and willingness of the employee that is important. People can be taught to learn retailing skills and most companies, even small organisations will have training courses that staff can attend.
FINDING OUT ABOUT RETAILING
Listed below, you'll find a brief description of the different categories within retailing that involve much more than just walking the shop floor. Of course, if walking the shop floor is what you want to do, you'll find there are plenty of jobs for you to choose from.
Sales advisers (assistants)
Sales advisers or assistants are the public face of retailing. They represent the image the store wants to promote. A successful adviser needs to be tactful, enthusiastic and must genuinely like dealing with people. The adviser has direct contact with the customer offering service and giving information and advice. The impression they give is crucial. Happy customers are happy shoppers who will return frequently if treated well.
As you progress up the retail career path from the shop floor the next rung is to be in charge of a special sector in the store. This could be the delicatessen counter, toiletries, toys, household and many others. Here you learn new areas of responsibility and become more accountable for trading performance.
A supervisor will be responsible for a number of sectors, ensuring that merchandise levels are adequate, that display and promotional activity is activated and actively participate in the efficient running of the sector, the sales team reporting directly to the store manager.
Overall, the day-to-day control of the store is the responsibility of the store manager. They have to ensure that sufficient stock is on site for daily trading, that merchandising and marketing programmes are being delivered, they link with the community on special promotions, interview new staff and keep everything running smoothly, efficiently and up to budget.
In national companies there are different levels of managers, ranging from a business manager who's responsible for one department, to a regional or general manager who has overall responsibility for the whole retail outlet or outlets. What they all have in common is they must make sure their area of expertise is run as efficiently as possibly. This means that as well as setting quotas for staff, planning budgets and expenditure, they monitor staff morale to make sure it remains high and that customer service is of a high quality.
The word may sound unfamiliar but the process is fascinating. The logistics team forecasts what stock should be in store, making sure the right goods are in the right place and available at any time for customers. Logistics managers need common sense, good numeracy skills, a liking for, and an ability to, communicate with people.
If you like putting your mind to planning, this job's for you. The people in this sector take over once the logistics team has done its work. They ensure that products reach distribution depots on time, organising onward distribution to the stores for timed delivery slots. To do this, distribution staff liase with retail management and suppliers. It is vital that this sector runs smoothly to maintain business efficiency. No stock no sale!
This can be one of the most glamorous and exciting sides of retailing. Buying is usually divided into categories, so throughout your career you could become a specialist in a number of areas. Sourcing products and making the right buying decisions is crucial to store success. Too much stock can be disastrous not enough stock can cause distress. The buyer has to have a feel for the store and know the customer profile. The role calls for someone with an eye for style, who is numerate, who must also be a good negotiator, capable of finding and choosing products that offer the right profit margin for the store.
Drawing people into the store is the job of the marketing department. This department needs to identify what customers are looking for and to develop advertising and promotional campaigns that will attract people to shop in the store. The department carries out extensive market research to keep in touch with consumer trends and needs. All stores need to persuade new customers to shop and to keep old customers satisfied ensuring that what they are offering is better than anyone else. This is the role of the marketing department. The key skills required here are a good command of English, numeracy and an ability to communicate.
This sector of retailing involves the overall management of people, stores and products so that they meet commercial targets, providing profits for the stores. The key to a post in this department is the ability to co-ordinate.
You have to work with and motivate large teams of staff and managers so that they in turn can provide the best service for customers, the most important people in retailing. A head for figures is an added bonus, as another task is to set financial targets for the sales teams to achieve.
This is the department for the person who loves all the most modern technology. Information technology supports retailing outlets by providing the most flexible and cost efficient systems needed, in order to maximise the company's profitability and growth. And that's only the start.
Within the department, people will be working on all aspects of retailing, from looking at easier ways of working with logistics to introducing software that will allow buyers to get the best look and "feel" of fabrics on screen down to till management and reporting systems. It's a diverse and fascinating field that requires continual training and numeracy skills.
People are everything in retailing. The bigger the company, the more important the human resources department is. The department provides a link in the chain between the company's senior and junior employees, from the Chief Executive to the shelf-filler. A personnel officer will be responsible for the recruitment, selection, training and development of staff. It's an expensive business and it's important that the personnel officer is both skilled and sensitive enough to recognise the best qualities needed for both the company and the prospective employee. Someone who works in this field must have infinite patience, diplomacy, negotiating skills and a real liking for people.
Finance manages the budgets and financial targets of the business. It concentrates on the overall picture of the company's business plan, rather than dealing with the individual departments. Financial analysts will look at where the company is going, seeing if promotions are bringing about growth and looking at which sector can be improved and how. Numeracy skills are essential and continual 'on the job' training is available. The true saying that 'retail is detail' applies particularly to this department.
This department looks at building relationships abroad, either through a company opening its own stores abroad or by negotiating with another like-minded company overseas to sell and promote the company's own lines in another country. The staff who work in this section need to be sensitive to the way companies operate on the global stage, to be aware of other cultures and to enjoy working with other nationalities. Those keen enough to be on the lookout for, and able to identify, products with global potential, can be guaranteed a good future. Languages are necessary as well as solid business acumen.
Once stores are up and running, they need maintaining. Building services need people with a whole myriad of skills. There are opportunities for anyone who wants to learn about building maintenance - from painters and decorators to carpenters and plumbers, among others.
This department is for people working with food. Advisers keep all the food operations, such as restaurants and
coffee shops or in-store cafeterias, running smoothly. They need to be interested in food and quality. They must be prepared to accept flexible working hours, be able to handle the kitchen team as well as the customers. With food becoming a major part of the 'leisure-shopping' lifestyle this is a very interesting area to work in.
"Shrinkage" is one of the key areas of retailing loss. Security employees always keep a lookout for something "not quite right". Security protect the store, whether it's from shoplifters who deprive the shops of profit and cause misery to customers because of the subsequent rising cost of prices, or from the very few employees who sometimes go astray. The job requires tact above all, as well as the ability to be watchful without causing offence to colleagues and honest customers alike.
This is a job for a creative person. It involves responsibility for how the store is laid out and how the goods are displayed on shelves. Customers are often persuaded to buy by the display alone. Once the overall look is right, the visual merchandiser must make sure the most sought-after goods are placed in the best positions, so they are displayed to their best advantage.
The design department is responsible for the look of the stores from the front of the window to the back of the store. Those involved in design will range from architects, in overall charge of construction of the building, to visualisers responsible for the inside layout of the building.
Some stores have outside structures that are subject to planning approval. The need then is for architects to ensure the best adaptation of the space already laid out. This means designing and then liasing with local planning officials to persuade them that changes will not only be necessary but will actually benefit the environment around the building.
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