As the retail environment evolves, consumers are becoming more demanding, and retailers are looking for more educated, knowledgeable, and motivated people to run their organizations. This presents a great opportunity for ambitious graduates to make it big in retail.
Retail managers are primarily responsible for running stores or departments to meet a company’s targets and policies. The aim of any retail manager is to maximise profit while minimising costs. Retail managers ensure promotions are accurate and merchandised to the company’s standards, the staff are trained and aware of their targets, and excellent customer care standards are met.
Depending on the size of the store, and organisation structure, retail managers might also be required to deal with marketing, logistics, customer service and finance.
Again, depending on the size of the store, typical work activities of a retail manager might differ but tasks typically involve:
- managing stock levels and making key decisions about stock control
- analysing sales figures and forecasting future sales volumes to maximise profits
- analysing and interpreting trends to facilitate planning
- recruiting, training and motivating staff to achieve targets
- ensuring quality standards, as well as health and safety standards are met,
- responding to customer complaints and comments
- organising special promotions, displays and events
- touring the sales floor regularly, talking to colleagues and customers, and identifying or resolving urgent issues
- Staying in tune with market trends and monitoring local competition
- Implementing changes to improve business
Graduate starting salaries can vary tremendously and are most often incentive-based and performance related. Large companies or chains pay better. Working hours could vary especially during busy sales periods such as seasonal holidays. As a retail manager, although you will spend some time in the office, you will most often spend a considerable amount of time on the sales floor.
What to study
While it is very common for Retail buyers can earn great money and have fast-paced, exciting careers in which they get to constantly monitor industry trends, track sales and profit data and buy product for stores. Trend managers and forecast managers assist buyers by researching fashion trends and analyzing the future of their markets
Though most often marketing, management or business graduates who apply for openings in retail, employers do not restrict recruitment to only these subjects. For example, increasingly today, fashion students are finding niche opportunities with apparel or design retailers. Retailers are looking for managers with specialised training in any one particular area to cater to highly demanding customers.
As retailers look to offer more and more expertise to customers and clients, they need managers with specialized training. Students with specific degrees, who possess the right combination of skills are in high demand by category specialists and niche retailers.
The most popular subjects chosen by students pursuing a career in retail are:
Usually a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry-level positions. For those who hope to move up the ladder quickly to the position of retail manager, a postgraduate degree is required. Courses you could take up include:
- Diploma or BA in Fashion and retail design.
- BA in apparel merchandising, Food marketing.
- MBA marketing.
Most often it’s the skills and personal qualities that are more important than academic qualifications in the retail industry. The skills most valued by retail companies, and employers in general, is good communication skills.
Most of the large retailers place graduates into retail management training programmes, which are normally of high quality, well-structured and intensive.
Once you have gained a strong foothold in the industry, typical progression may include moving to a larger store (in another part of the country) or managing a larger
department. Within three to five years, you could potentially move on to senior retail management positions.
Employment opportunities are found in:
- department stores
- variety stores.
- 'category killers' (for example, shops selling a range of pet products or toys);
- general discounters;
- chain stores specialising in particular products.
There are also other retail based work environments such as airlines, travel, and hospitality.
Image courtesy by Simon Howden