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What are the most useful skills in retail? We’ve taken a look at what employers are asking for throughout the industry to bring you an overview of the education, skills and experience you need to enter and progress within your chosen career path.

Graduate schemes in the sector can be open to graduates of any discipline with a 2.2 or above; however the application process is challenging and often involves proficiency testing. The more competitive schemes will require a minimum of a 2.1 as well as UCAS points of 240 or above.

Retail skills for management

A business or related degree is ideal for entry, but your degree discipline is not considered as important as your transferable skills in retail management schemes. Make sure you have knowledge of the sector by keeping up with current events, reading about the company you’re applying to and its competitors. Demonstrating that you have developed leadership skills through work experience or extra-curricular activities is also important, so look for formal placements or part-time work alongside your studies.

Requirements will vary, so check the information available on your targeted employer’s website, but the commonly asked for skills in retail job specifications are:

  • A 2.1 degree in any discipline.
  • 240 UCAS points (Three Bs at A level or equivalent).
  • GCSEs in Maths and English at grade C or above.

As well as your formal achievements, the other skills retail employers look for are:

  • Commercial awareness
  • Flexibility about locations
  • Drive and motivation
  • Team working and problem solving skills
  • Communication skills and persuasiveness
  • Leadership skills, such as decision making
  • A passion for retail.

Retail skills in the finance sector

Maths skills are an important part of working in the finance area of retail, so a numerically related degree – such as one of the sciences – is helpful, but may not be required. Strong GCSEs or A levels in maths will be a big help, however, as your maths skills will be screened (alongside English language and other skills) during your application.

You will also need the following financial retail skills:

  • The ability to analyse data and solve problems
  • Communication skills
  • Confidence and persuasiveness
  • Team working and people skills.
  • Time management skills
  • Attention to detail.

Buying, Merchandising and Marketing

As a graduate going into the buying, merchandising or marketing end of Retail you’ll be expected to be dedicated to the area of business – for example, if applying to a fashion or department store, successful applicants will be passionate about fashion. Related degrees are therefore more important than in other areas of retail, although if you don’t have this, work experience or placements are a good way of gaining the required experience and showing your dedication.

In a competitive market, emphasis is still placed on high academic achievement, and many will be asking for a minimum of a 2.1 degree and 240 UCAS points (Three Bs at A level or equivalent.)

As well as your formal achievements, employers look for:

  • Drive and passion for the product
  • Analytical skills and decision making ability
  • Communication skills
  • Organisational and time management skills
  • Team-working skills
  • Creativity and the drive to innovate.

One of the most important skills in retail is passion. With all routes in Retail,  show passion for your chosen career and a dedication to learning new skills. Take a look at our career advice sections for advice on how to succeed at job applications. You can find a list of some of the main employers on the Skillsmart website.

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