Careers Service Occupations

Retail

Retail

About

The retail sector is a competitive market. Customer service is a key focus to help drive sales and create success for companies.

Providing jobs for three million people, the retail sector is the UK's largest private employer. Between 2013 and 2020 the retail sector workforce is projected to grow by 54,800 with the majority of growth is expected to be in managerial positions, according to Prospects

Careers advice

Guardian Careers: Retail careers features articles including: 

Industry news

Professional bodies

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

The main professional associations for this sector include:

Making contacts 

Making contacts is helpful for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field come through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:

Social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, is useful for making contacts, finding employers and opportunities. Find out more about how to use social media for your career and subscribe to our Retail twitter list.

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and other sector events give valuable insights and the opportunity to make useful contacts. 

For events for this sector see Careers Service events or External Events.

Related sectors

You may also be interested in Buying and Selling and Logistics and Supply Chain Management or see our other occupational pages for more options.

Roles & Skills

There are a variety of different roles available in the retail sector. You could be involved in a wide range of areas including management, visual merchandising and distribution.

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.

Retail manager

Retail merchandiser

Visual merchandiser

Warehouse manager

Bookseller

Call centre manager

Customer service manager

Antique dealer

Commercial art gallery manager

Stylist

Skills employers look for

  • commercial awareness
  • effective communication skills
  • creativity and design skills
  • an awareness of what makes customers buy products
  • the ability to motivate and manage people effectively
  • technical and IT skills

Gaining Experience

Formal internships and placements are commonly offered by large companies such as major supermarkets and high street chains.

TARGETjobs has information and advice on finding work experience in retail.

Part-time, casual and temporary work is common in the retail and customer service sectors. A part-time job in a supermarket or shop is a great way to increase knowledge of the sector and see if it's for you. To search for part-time jobs, see Vacancies Online  and Finding a part-time job

Voluntary work in a charity shop would also be helpful experience for the retail sector.

Internships

Work experience in auction houses:

  • Bonhams - internships in London and the US
  • Christie's - graduate internships in London, Amsterdam, Asia and the US
  • Sotheby's - unpaid internships in the UK and overseas

See also Internships, placements & shadowing for more sources of opportunities.

Specialist recruitment agencies

Finding companies

Find companies that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Finding Jobs

Competition is strong, especially for entry-level positions. Use these resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications.

Vacancy sites

Graduate schemes & entry level jobs

See Graduate jobs for more vacancy sources.

Specialist recruitment agencies

Finding companies

Find companies that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Self-employment

Being self-employed is common in the retail sector.

Many large companies offer retail business opportunities in the form of franchises. In the UK, franchising is regulated by the British Franchise Association. The BFA website offers in-depth information and advice for those thinking of joining a franchise.

START UP provides information on activities and support available to eligible Newcastle students and graduates interested in self-employment.

COBRA provides factsheets and reports on starting up and running a business. COBRA can only be accessed through a University computer on the Newcastle campus.