The Retail Industry: Jobs, Skills, Trends and Job Outlook
The Retail industry is a key area of the economy, involving the sale of goods to end users. Retailers - the final link in the supply chain between manufacturers and consumers - purchase large volumes of goods from wholesalers, which they then resell in smaller quantities to the end customer. In some cases, retailers sell goods that they produce themselves.
In addition to carrying out sales, retail professionals also perform a wide range of other tasks, including arranging merchandise on shelves, display units and in store windows, welcoming and greeting customers, customer service activities, handling cash and credit card payments and carrying out promotional and marketing activities designed to boost sales.
Typical retail industry jobs include cashier (or check-out operator), sales assistant, window dresser and visual merchandiser. More senior retail positions, meanwhile, include store managers and supermarket managers, who are responsible for the day-to-day operation of sales outlets and for ensuring they are efficiently and profitably run.
The training required for a job in the Retail sector can vary widely.Entry-level positions such as shelf stacker or sales assistant do not require any specific training, while management and coordination roles typically require a degree in Management, Economics or Marketing or, alternatively a suitable level of experience in the field.
What types of businesses operate in the Retail industry?
Job vacancies in the Retail industry are published by a vast range of shops, stores and sales outlets of all types and sizes, including mini markets and convenience stores, boutiques, department stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets, shopping centres, franchise stores, discount outlets, small family-run shops and sales outlets run by national and international chains.
Although retail is typically associated with sales in a fixed physical location, such as a shop or store, in reality, the sector also includes mobile street trading (such as market stalls), in-home and door-to-door sales, automatic vending machine sales, as well as online retail sales (e-commerce).
The retail industry encompasses a vast range of both food and non-food products, such as footwear, electronics, telephones, furniture, home improvement, books, make-up and perfumes, cars, and many more besides.
Companies hiring in the retail industry:
Retail Industry - Trends and Job Outlook
Forecasts for the retail industry point to the increasing dominance of retail chains and large stores and outlets at the expense of smaller local stores, which are unable to achieve the same levels of competitiveness as their larger rivals.
The key innovative factor in the retail industry sector, however, are online sales. The rise of e-commerce has significantly impacted on traditional purchasing habits, with customers now using mobile apps and websites to search, evaluate and buy products online that they previously would have bought in physical stores.
The retail outlets of the future will be a blend of physical store and virtual space, with the key to retailers’ success lying in their ability to incorporate both ‘online’ and ‘offline’ elements to achieve the necessary speed and agility, quality and competitive edge.
These developments will inevitably have an impact on the job market in the retail industry. Job numbers for generic workers are likely to fall as the result of the introduction of technologies designed to perform manual tasks, such as handling payments at a checkout. At the same time, however, there is likely to be an increase in demand for customer service workers, digital and IT experts and warehouse and logistics workers.
What skills are required in the Retail sector?
In order to provide customers with an optimal level of assistance, encourage them to carry out purchases and manage a sales outlet or store as efficiently as possible, retail professionals require a wide range of both hard and soft skills.
The most frequently requested skills in retail industry job adverts include:
The ability to welcome and assist customers in a polite, positive and friendly manner, to understand and anticipate their needs and to patiently accommodate their requests are all aspects of what is known as a client-focused approach - something all retail sector workers should have.
A fundamental attribute of all successful retail sales professionals is the ability to make sales. This includes being able to convince a customer to go ahead with the purchase of a product by drawing their attention to its benefits and features, to propose additional related purchases and to suggest alternatives if the requested product is not available in stock.
The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is a key skill for all retail industry professionals. Communication skills may be used to achieve a range of different objectives, depending on the specific role held by a worker. For example, with customers, the focus is on persuasion, negotiation and relationship-building, while in interactions with colleagues, managers and suppliers, communicating clearly and accurately is the main goal.
Retail - Job Descriptions
Interested in finding out more about jobs in the retail industry?
Take a look at the job descriptions we’ve prepared: