More than stacking shelves and packing bags: How a career in retail might be the right fit for you

Throughout your degree you may have had a part time job and there’s a good chance that it was in retail. Scanning hundreds of items through a till each shift, folding endless piles of clothes and stacking shelves may not have filled you with the desire to consider a career in the industry; but retail is a sector with a variety of roles spanning finance, HR, IT and much more.

If you think about the range of products and services on offer in retail there’s no wonder there are such a wide variety of jobs available. Whether you’re passionate about design, numbers or people there’s something in retail to suit almost any graduate. Speaking of suits, many of us think that retail is mainly about fashion, but if that isn’t your thing then technology or something more obscure like camping might be. And aside from products there are opportunities to get experience in marketing, product design and web design, to name a few.

The Three Cs for a career in retail

These three areas are a great starting point for developing your knowledge of the sector, whether you have heaps of retail experience or none at all.

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) – You’ll need to know what companies are doing besides making money. From sustainability and environmental awareness to improving the job prospects and living standards of the local community; how do they make sure their business has a positive impact on the wider society?

Commercial Awareness – An understanding of what retailers are doing to get ahead of the competition, the challenges they face and how they are embracing e-commerce will stand you in good stead.  What is the current climate for retailers? How are they impacted by developments in the wider economy?

Customer Service – Customer satisfaction is at the centre of every successful retail business and can cover a multitude of things, from how customers are greeted upon arrival to the number of days they have to return items. In applications and in interviews you may be asked questions such ‘What is good customer service?’ or ‘Give an example of when you have delivered good customer service’.

How do I find this information?

CSR and Commercial Awareness – Retailers are keen to show that they are doing their bit for society so their websites can be your first reference point. But, bear in mind that almost all candidates will be looking here too so it’s worth doing some wider reading. Keeping up to date with news, seeking out stories which affect the sector and reading the FT can also help to give you a greater knowledge base.

Customer Service – If you’ve worked in retail make a list of all the procedures which were in place to deliver great customer service: it’s likely that there will be many aspects which overlap with a potential employer’s. Visiting shops and having a browse of websites will give you an idea of what services the retailer provides in order to deliver high standards of customer satisfaction.


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