Ask the experts: Your retail industry questions answered

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Crystal ball required!

Dear Retail Therapy

I've got a place on a retail degree in September. I chose a broad course because I don't want to specialise too early. But what areas should I concentrate on? Where's going to be the best place to be in retail in three years time? Marianne, 18, Glasgow

Cathy Hart, senior lecturer in retailing and operations management, Loughborough University

Dear Marianne,

As you rightly say, a retail degree course is a great starting point to gain an insight into the retail industry. You are likely to touch on all the key areas - buying, finance, human resources, IT, marketing, public relations, merchandising, visual merchandising and operations/store management - before specialising. You can take postgraduate courses in subjects based around fashion, logistics, purchasing and supply chain management and food and grocery industry management, for example. Or you can enter the world of work.

Current trends suggest that it might be wise to steer towards e-tailing. Online retailing has benefited from the growth of broadband. Many high street retailers use virtual stores, but the internet also provides a platform for online-only retailers, such as Amazon and eBay. It is predicted that by 2010 online retailing will account for 30 per cent of all retail sales in the UK and demand an extra 350,000 to 800,000 IT specialists. These changes will also mean more work in related areas, like distribution management, delivery, website design and security, and a reassessment of current in-store roles.

That said, the retail industry is so dynamic with new trends emerging every year, so your best bet is to keep your finger on the pulse and wait. Congratulations on getting a place on the retail degree course and good luck!

What's the spin on working in the music industry?


I have a part-time job in a music shop. I'm thinking about working in retail when I leave school. What can I do, what skills do I need to do it and what can I expect to earn? Josh, 16, Basingstoke

Gennaro Castaldo, HMV head of press and PR (UK and Ireland)

Hi Josh,

It is great that you have found an area of work that interests you. Working in a music store, you will have seen how developments in downloadable music have forced record companies to re-think. While CDs are still number one, people are embracing downloadable music onto computers, mp3 players and now mobile phones.

The fact that you are already working in music retail has given your potential career a kick-start. You could find yourself predicting and monitoring sales of artists as a merchandiser, working as a store manager, heading up the distribution section, designing and running a music company website or managing online mp3 sales.

By sticking with your current employer until you leave school or graduate, your loyalty and enthusiasm may earn you a place on a management training scheme - a sure-fire way of progressing your career and increasing your earning potential. Music retail needs skilled, knowledgeable and passionate people with varying skills to fill its management positions.

Salaries vary. A music store manager at HMV can expect a starting salary of between £22,000 and £40,000, depending on previous experience and store size/turnover, with the potential to earn a bonus of up to 40 per cent upon the achievement of sales, stock and customer service targets.