All manufactured products, regardless of where they are produced, are produced to be sold. Products may be sold to wholesalers, retailers, or directly to consumers. While retailing is a process of selling goods and services to the purchaser for personal or household use, retail careers fall into two main categories: those involved in merchandizing, which means manufacturing, purchasing, marketing, and promoting the goods offered for sale, and those involved in selling goods to the public.
Retail is one of the most vibrant areas of the world economy. Careers in retail are dynamic, entrepreneurial, and stimulating. Individuals who thrive in a busy, sales driven environment and who genially enjoy working with a public should seriously consider retailing as a career option.
Retail is an industry always looking for new talent and is a great place to start building a career. The retail field offers diverse career ladders, a wide range of employee benefits, and on-the-job training that is increasingly spurred on by high-end technology that requires advanced skills.
Considering the oversaturation of similar products in the marketplace, it is the effective sales force that makes the difference in a retail enterprise. There is always room for competent and hardworking sales professionals who are goal and people oriented. Promotional prospects for those seeking to move up into sales management are excellent. Retail trade employers struggle to attract and retain the best and brightest employees because of the misperception that jobs are low-wage and lack growth potential. In reality, today's retail trade careers are more than just cashier and sales associate positions; they encompass information technology, marketing, communications, loss prevention, finance, and merchandise sourcing.
According to the National Retail Federation Foundation, the specific paths one can try in retail are:
- Sales and Operations - which includes sales, store operations, and loss prevention;
- Management - which includes store management, marketing/advertising, finance, and human resources;
- Merchandise Flow - which includes IT/E-commerce, Distribution/Logistics/Supply Chain management, and Merchandise Buying/Planning; and
- Entrepreneurship - which includes organizing and managing a business undertaking, assuming the risk for the sake of profit
Depending on the retailer, education leading to a high school diploma or equivalent is important for employment entry in retail. Employers, however, increasingly seek graduates from junior and community colleges, technical schools, and universities. College graduates will fill most new management positions. Many four-year colleges and universities offer Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral programs in Marketing and Sales. A Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Sales or Fashion Merchandising can lead to careers in areas such as retail and wholesale sales, marketing management, product planning, market research, small business management, and product display, promotion, and distribution.
Below are a few examples of some typical retail job categories and their respective roles.
Store Managers are charged with leading and directing all activities required to achieve store goals. These involve profitability, client service, overseeing the hiring, firing, and training of personnel, supervising the daily work of subordinate employees, payroll and operating expenses management, inventory control, as well as merchandising presentation and loss prevention. Since one of the main aspects of a retail store manager’s daily duties is to interact with customers and employees, it is very important that they know how to converse in such a manner which is courteous yet effective. Furthermore, since store managers handle store finances on a daily basis, they should have solid mathematical skills and numeric ability. Retail store managers confer and report to the corporate office regarding their store performance and progress.
Selling Department Managers are expected to be sales leaders who focus on building a cohesive sales and customer-service driven team. They must demonstrate the ability to coach, motivate, and address development opportunities of the sales force. In addition, they are required to possess strong merchandising skills along with the ability to multi-task, prioritize day-to-day business, trouble shoot and problem solve.
Lead Sales Associates may be responsible for assisting the department manager in selling, providing exceptional customer service, building relationships with customers, opening new accounts, merchandise placement, maintaining presentation standards, markdowns and sale event execution.
Merchandise Managers set the overall strategy and merchandise direction for a pyramid of businesses, which involves outlining merchandise assortment plans and in-stock positioning for key merchandise categories and classifications, items, and vendors. They manage, coach, and develop the divisional merchandise managers and buying staff. They support buying staff with the vendor community to ensure that their retail establishment obtains merchandise exclusives, product launches, best deliveries, and the desired sales, turn-over and margin plans. Merchandise managers work with the Divisional Merchandise Managers to strengthen market relationships and knowledge of market trends, strengths and weaknesses. Together, they plan and decide on merchandise cost, pricing, and profit margins, with the goal to produce sales growth and meet retailer’s earnings goals. Merchandise managers are also responsible for facilitating and promoting timely communication and cooperation between stores, merchandising functions, and resources to accomplish sales, margin, and service objectives. Employers are looking for applicants with a strong leadership profile, excellent written and verbal communication and negotiation skills. Individuals in this position must be able to work well with all levels of management, build partnerships, and direct, develop and empower teams.
Buyers scour the wholesale marketplace, visiting and negotiating with manufacturers, attending fashion and trade shows – in search and anticipation of products that would be a hit with consumers. They select the merchandise in their area of buying responsibility that meets the standards of quality of their retail employer and best suits the needs of its clientele. To achieve success, it’s essential for buyers to be able to have a clear vision for their product category that supports company’s overall business objective as well as to identify and maximize opportunities based on both short and long term strategies. The Buyer’s position requires dealing with seasonal financial planning, monthly financial projections, and developing advertising and promotional activity. One of their key job functions includes working with Assistant Buyers and the various sales support divisions to help advance their business appropriately. Retail Buyers work under merchandise managers.
The GCC Retail Management certificate provides students with learning opportunities through comprehensive instruction in the following areas: retail selling, managerial functions and styles, management communications methods, human resources management, marketing techniques, accounting principles, and computer concepts. Completion of the GCC program will prepare students with skills and abilities necessary to perform assignments of higher responsibility and will help them increase their chances for advancement to retail management positions.
Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Sales or Fashion Merchandising or other related fields should consult with an academic and/or transfer counselor to discuss university transfer requirements.
Key Skills and Characteristics
Store Management Positions
Duties vary vastly depending on area of specialization and degree of responsibility.
- Strong leadership ability with emphases on identifying business growth opportunities to improve existing operations.
- Recruiting, staff development and coaching skills.
- Merchandising know-how and commitment to creating an inviting and aesthetically pleasing environment for the customer.
- Retail store management experience, including demonstrated capacity to enhance visibility & revenues of the company.
- Strong business acumen and the ability to communicate with industry partners at all levels.
- Interest in coordinating data and resources.
- College degree or equivalent and minimum 1 year supervisory experience, preferably in retail or customer service related field, is a plus.
Sales Associate Positions
- Understanding of guidelines and methods for demonstrating, promoting, and selling products or services.
- Knowledge of retail operations and merchandising fundamentals. Ability to maximize sales by pro-actively interacting with customers.
- Focus on providing first-rate customer service and achieving customer satisfaction.
- Striving to obtain product knowledge in order to offer help and advice.
- Enthusiasm, self-starting attitude, high energy, natural propensity to approach others and engage them in conversation.
- Simultaneous ability to handle independent projects and to join forces with fellow employees to find best solutions for clients.
- Efficient time manager and results oriented.
- Willingness and capability to be flexible and multitask using different skills.
- Familiarity with accounting and record keeping procedures.
- Solid vocabulary and math competency.
- Computer literacy; proficiency with 10-key adder and calculators.
Buyers/Merchandise Manager Positions
- Previous buying experience and financial and negotiation strength.
- Effective people and communication skills
- Merchandising/visual expertise and a passion for retail.
- A high energy level, flexibility, resilience, positive attitude, and capacity to problem solve.
- Ability to maximize opportunities through skillful inventory management.
- Decisiveness, a keen sense of urgency, capacity to thrive in an ever changing environment.
Please visit the GCC Career Center to research specific occupational information and learn more about your selected career path.