What types of jobs and employers are there in retail, buying and fashion?
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The retail industry offers a wide variety of jobs that goes beyond customer service and the shop floor. You could be working behind the scenes to design new products, helping to attract more customers or making sure stores stay profitable. Although product sales are what keep retailers in business, there is plenty of work that has to be done before goods even hit the shelves.
Store managers are at the forefront of the retail business as they interact with staff and customers on the shop floor. You would have general responsibility for meeting sales targets, checking stock levels, ensuring customers receive good service and keeping an eye on staff performance.
Buyers are responsible for selecting and purchasing new product ranges that are suitable for a store’s customers. You could buy for a department, a store or even a whole chain. Duties involve checking whether products are selling well and bringing in new lines that will be popular and set your store apart from the competition.
Merchandisers ensure their departments hit sales targets and make a profit by organising promotional events and finding the quickest ways to buy the right amount of stock. You would predict which products will be the best sellers, what lines you should stock in the future and how much money your department will make in the coming months based on how products are selling.
Visual merchandisers create striking store displays that draw customers in and boost sales. You would consider space, lighting and store guidelines while boosting the retailer’s image and brand.
Product technologists are responsible for the quality, safety and legality of products and are needed for a wide range of goods such as clothing, food, electrical goods and toys. You would also be responsible for creating new products and improving existing ones.
Fashion designers work for retailers and mass market design ‘houses’, producing high-street brands. The role involves drawing sketches, selecting fabrics, creating patterns and samples, checking which designs are popular, overseeing production and negotiating costs and prices.
Logistics is defined as organising the transportation of products from manufacturers to distributors in the most cost-effective, fast and environmentally friendly way possible.
There are also roles available for people who have skills in finance and marketing. Retailers need people who have a head for figures.
If you are interested in IT, take a look at the technology roles available with stores that operate ecommerce divisions. These divisions provide services such as retailers’ websites, data gathering and online marketing.
The main types of retailer include:
- Supermarkets usually focus on food and household products and have significant buying power, often allowing them to sell products at low prices.
- Department stores offer a wide range of goods, usually sectioned off by type.
- Warehouse stores are usually based in retail or business parks where rents are lower, allowing them to offer a large variety of goods at low prices.
- Speciality stores sell specific products and staff can often offer expert knowledge.
- Convenience stores are usually in residential areas and offer a limited range of products, often at higher prices due to their convenient location.
- Discount retailers offer a range of cheaper products – either less fashionable brands or leftover brand-name stock.
- Online-only retailers allow customers to buy goods over the internet.
Online-only retailers are able to supply to a wider geographic customer base and can have lower costs than a traditional store. However, many big-name retailers have a physical high street presence as well and are often referred to as ‘multi-channel’ or ‘brick and click’ retailers.
There are options for self-employment in the retail sector, usually when you have more experience. For example, it is possible to establish a website at a much lower price than it would cost to rent a store. If you have the funds you could become a franchisee for a national retailer. Franchising is the opportunity to set up a store in the name of an established retailer, in exchange for a fee and a percentage of sales revenue. This can bring the advantages of instant brand recognition with tried and tested products, although it will tie you in to a contract.