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Visit the BII organisation's website to find out more about professional standards in the retail sector.


Retail is one of the most competitive industries around and the battle for consumers’ money gets fiercer every year. In the last few years, for instance, some supermarket branches have gone from places selling food and basic household goods to giant superstores offering anything from televisions and flowers to furniture and clothes (often with their own designer label). Furthermore, the opening hours for some of these supermarkets are way beyond those of the old trading hours, and some even remain open 24 hours. In such a competitive industry, there are bound to be a large array of opportunities for interested people.

In addition, shopping online has continued to grow over the last few years, but not as much as expected. In some areas, especially grocery shopping, it may keep growing but only if supermarkets can meet the demands of the customer.

Want to know what it's like to work in retail banking? Click here.

What does retail and sales involve?

Retail and sales involves, well, exactly what it says. As a starter in the retail and sales sector you can find yourself working in a face to face role with customers on the shop floor, offering assistance on finding specific items, advice on what to try if their first selection is unsuitable, or simply serving behind the tills. In addition, you're likely to be kept busy with stock checks, possibly some customer relations, and often dealing with returns and exchanges.

There are, however, a number of other career options open to those that enter the retail sector. Logistics, operations and merchandising are just some of the other routes that could be open to people with the right mindset; not to mention eventual management opportunities.

Why should I apply for a career in retail and sales?

Retail and sales is a flexible and fast-moving sector that can offers not only a wide range of career options, but enables its employees to develop a wide range of skills from communication and team working to maths to management. One of the most attractive reasons tp apply for a career in the retail sector is the continual promotion opportunities.

Training and Applicants

Starters in this sector have excellent training prospects - both learning direct from their superiors, but also with opportunities to study apprenticeships or foundation degrees/NVQs alongside their work. No specific qualifications are specified for a lot of starting positions, though employers will expect basic GCSE competency at English and Maths. Some sort of organisational experience, or a position of responsibility involving dealing with money can be a very good asset.

Applicants for the sector should:

  • Have a strong interest in commercial sales
  • Be motivated and hard working
  • Enjoy working with a wide range of people
  • Be able to think on their feet
  • Possess good communication and 'people skills'
  • Be able to work as part of a team
  • Have an approachable, polite and helpful manner
  • Be confident and tactful when dealing with demanding customers
  • Maintain a reliable and responsible working attitude

What opportunities are available within the sector?

Despite the current economic instability, the retail sector still employs one in twenty people in the UK. Every month, over 30,000 retail positions are advertised through the JobcentrePlus website, proving that there are a large number of opportunities for those who would like to transfer their passion for buying into a passion for selling. The sector offers a range of promotion opportunities plus a wide range of roles, both at the forefront of the store and behind the scenes.

A number of major retailers - Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons amongst them - are pledging money to schemes to encourage young people to move into this sector in an attempt to utilise and develop the vast arrray of skills that young people have and need to forge a successful career in retail.

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Further Information

  • A working week is likely to see you working 35-40 hours per week
  • Salaries start between £12,000 and £15,000, rising for those who move into supervisor or management roles
  • Most retail companies offer good bonus packages and holiday overtime pay; not to mention the advantage of staff discount.

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