Today, retail is the UK's largest employer outside the business services and health sectors. The retail industry employs over 3 million people with year-on-year growth, making it a significant contributor to the UK economy. Between 2013 and 2020 the retail sector workforce is predicted to grow by almost 55,000 people. The majority of this growth is expected to be within managerial positions as more highly skilled managers are in demand due to technology, customer trends and more sophisticated supply chain management. Now might be the time to start your retail graduate career.
In an increasingly competitive market, companies are having to constantly compete to provide better customer service, including online and multichannel retailing. Customers want to combine the personal service of traditional retailing with the convenience of using technology, hence the rise of ordering online for delivery or collection in store. As a result of this, there is a demand for graduates with technical skills to, for example, produce apps for smartphones.
As customers continuously demand more rapid delivery of online shopping purchases, logistics has become increasingly important and is a significant area of growth within the sector.There is also a need for graduates who can combine their creativity skills with commercial awareness for roles in marketing and buying, and graduates with analytical or number skills for roles in merchandising. Therefore, retail is a very promising career choice for graduates with a variety of roles on offer within the sector.
The industry is still undergoing changes as more channels to market are becoming available and the traditional high street environment continues to be under great pressure. Supermarkets continue to place significant emphasis on their web offering, and companies such as Amazon have completely redrawn the lines of business for book and music stores. The growth of the internet as a sales tool has heavily influenced the recruitment demands of many retail organisations. Today, there is still a high demand for graduates with a good understanding of the internet as a sales tool, and therefore a lot of opportunities exist in web marketing, web analytics, and web sales roles.
Average Retail Graduate Salary
Retail Graduate Career Path
Many of the large high street retailers offer fast track graduate management training schemes. Providing an insight into all business departments, such recruiters allow graduates to ultimately choose which career path to take. Programmes offer both classroom and on the job training, therefore allowing trainees to quickly gain industry and job-specific knowledge.
Those starting a retail graduate career can gain experience across the fields of buying, merchandising, analytical work, logistics, human resources and marketing (including brand and online marketing). The retail industry can offer a structured career path and many graduates go on to become business leaders and senior managers.
There are few careers that allow graduates to take such immediate responsibility for their performance and actions and many successful graduate retail employees reach managerial status after just a few years. Generally, employees will start a career within an Assistant position, but advancement is sharp and consistent across the industry.
At present there is a huge graduate demand to fill positions in the following areas of retail:
- Merchandising: ensuring the supply chain runs effectively so that goods are in-store when consumers require them. Merchandisers work alongside buyers, allocating stock to various outlets by analysing sales trends and forecasting for future demand. They are also responsible for negotiating prices with suppliers and implementing promotions strategy.
- Business Analysis: disseminating large amounts of data to identify industry and market trends as the basis of an overall business strategy. Analysts are the "eyes and ears" of the organisation, studying the habits and behavioural trends of it's customers.
- Marketing: planning and implementing a retailer's traditional and web marketing strategy. Marketing is a key business differentiator in this sector as the landscape becomes more and more competitive.
- Buyer: a very popular route for graduates, the position of buyer ensures a retailer has the stock to sell to its consumers. They identify market trends and predict forecasts in stores and online channels. They often work with suppliers to fill a hole in the market with new products.
Other opportunities also exist within customer services; loss prevention and security; store management; visual merchandising; IT and technical support; warehouse, distribution, logistics and supply chain.
Qualifications and Skills Needed
What proportion of candidates as a percent we place into Retail graduate careers and the typical qualities graduate employers look for.
GRB Placements for Retail by Degree
Typical Candidate Attributes
Retail organisations are not subject specific in their graduate requirements and usually welcome applicants from a wide variety of degree courses for a lot of their roles. Although a relevant degree may be preferred for some roles. For example a fashion or art degree for roles in fashion buying or visual merchandising or for logistics and supply chain, some employers specifically require a degree in transport, logistics or supply chain management. On the whole, recruiters seek graduates who are able to demonstrate the following on their CVs:
- Strong numerical and analytical skills
- Common sense with commercial awareness
- Good communication skills
- Organisational skills
- People management skills
- An understanding of the high street
- Experience on the shop floor or store level
- Creativity, negotiation skills and strategic thinking
- A willingness to work unsociable hours and weekends
Michael, Liverpool Hope University
"My first job as a university graduate. I suppose I should start reeling off a big load of information and using words such as scheme and placement, internship and many others that sound super exciting. But the truth is that the summer of 2008 was a horribly busy one for all my desired companies for whom I'd loved to have worked. I accumulated a stack of unanswered letters, unwanted CVs, emails, phone numbers, business cards. As an Art and Theatre Studies graduate I knew I wanted a job that required creativity and some knowledge. And that's when I landed the job as a make-up consultant with a premium cosmetics brand. Like most simple jobs its title is just dressed up to sound more distinguished. Anyway I was very proud to have gotten the job after the prolonged process. I was based in a large chemists store among other graduates with degrees in business management, healthcare and even a girl with a Masters in Modern Astronomy. Strange. But I really learnt that during my short time there that so many graduates face so much competition and rejection that they just take a job anywhere no matter how relevant or irrelevant it may be to their studies.
Money is tough stuff to get when you're fresh out of uni. Between us the girl with the Astronomy MA was actually rejected from a job at a research lab due to being 'over qualified.' Is that flattering or frustrating or just both at the same time? Thank God I didn't do a Masters I'd have given up all hope of getting my career long ago. My work there did have it's up sides; brilliant discounts, free stuff and just generally being surrounded by pleasantly smelling substances in pleasingly colourful bottles.
But it also had it's less desirable sides especially for a university graduate, and it was all self inflicted. Everyday I resented my job, myself and the bored colleagues I worked with as they served customers with coughs, colds, lice, eczema and bad breath. I endured, for eight months, the mindless common gossip across the staff room table at lunch time, the stacks of magazines detailing the lives of idiotic celebrities as they put their bins out. I was bullied by my manager, a woman who was twice my age with the reading comprehension of a nine year old - no joke! She was as known as the 'The Pit-Bull.' Only behind her back of course. I suppose my story may be quite cynical and slightly bitter compared to others you may read but it's the truth. I am still today trying to find my way through a rainforest of options and trying to make decisions about my future.I have a new job. But that's a different story."