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There is more to retail than stacking shelves

Retail Week

Are you interested in working in logistics, marketing, finance, supply chain, accounting, HR, IT, management or a creative role? Are you looking to use your numeracy, planning, design, communication, analytical or leadership skills? If yes, have you considered a career in retail?

Retail doesn’t mean simply working on a shop floor or stacking shelves; it is the UK’s largest private sector employer, employing 11% of the total UK workforce and is also the second fastest growing sector for graduate recruitment. There are some great opportunities for those looking to get into buying or merchandising but there are also positions in retail which are suitable for people studying a wide range of other degree disciplines including Maths, IT and Creative Arts.

What roles are available?

  • Buying – sourcing new products and developing ranges each season.
  • Merchandising – working with the buyers, looking after the department’s budget, analysing sales and data of the product sales.
  • Design – creating design ideas for new products for each season.
  • Marketing – communicating the brand to customers, through stores and online.
  • PR – maintaining public image for the company.
  • HR – hiring and training staff, providing support to managers.
  • IT – managing the internal business IT systems.
  • Finance – analysing and reporting on the business’s finances.
  • Store operations – managing a store.
  • Visual merchandising – designing and producing product display.
  • Warehouse and logistics – stock storage and distribution.

(Source: Prospects website)

Who can I work for?

Many leading companies in the retail sector offer graduate schemes. Just some of these are:

Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, John Lewis, Mothercare, Waitrose, Tesco, Boots, HSBC, B&Q, Santander, Lidl, Vauxhall,    Aldi,    Sainsburys, Ocado, Abercrombie & Fitch

To find more retailers that offer graduate schemes for a variety of disciplines, have a look at both Milkround and Target Jobs to see what is out there and how to go about applying.

What skills will an employer look for?

No matter what area of the retail sector you are looking to go into, certain skills are required. Through work experience, start to develop some skills that go hand in hand with working in this sort of industry. According to Ashley Hever from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the three main skills that show retailers you mean business are:

  • Leadership
  • Trustworthiness
  • People skills

You need to show that you are capable of taking hold of a situation and solving any problems that may arise. Get involved and take things on – do not be backwards in coming forwards! Take the bull by the horns and show you are capable of leading a team. You will also need to show that you can be trusted to handle the sort of responsibility that comes with this sort of role.

Prepare for this by getting involved in university life. Being a member of clubs, societies and committees is valued highly by employers. Explain your positions of responsibility, such as being treasurer or club secretary. Why did you take on the role? Highlight your achievements, for example, ‘we doubled our membership and increased club profits by 50% when I became secretary of the rowing club’.(Source: Guardian)

Finally, from colleagues including managers and peers to the customers you will be working with on a day to day basis, you need to prove your people skills.

Work experience and internships can really help to develop the sort of people skills that retailers require. More companies are now offering internship programmes so it’s always worth checking out corporate websites of companies to see if there are any opportunities for you to broaden your experience. (Source: Guardian)

Make sure to also do some networking.

LinkedIn provides an easy way to keep in touch with contacts and to build a network of business leaders that can help you now or in the future. Before you leave your work experience, ask your managers for a written reference and when connecting on LinkedIn, ask for as many recommendations as possible. (Source: Guardian)

What can I do to get started?

Make sure you come along to Retail Week to meet some high profile employers in the retail sector.

Meet the industry experts who will be showcasing their organisation, offering job opportunities and providing hints and tips on their recruitment process. See the event listings on CareerHub for more information and to book onto the individual presentations that will be taking place on de Havilland Campus.

Remember that the Careers and Placements Service can help you explore new career options and discover different routes into your career that you may not have previously considered.

Useful links

Blog: Katharine Littlefair   Photo: Barry Lawson: Geograph

Categories: Careers
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