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Perhaps more than any other industry, retail provides you with the opportunity to explore a multitude of different careers. IT, HR, Buying, Merchandising, Marketing, PR, Logistics, Finance and more can all come under the umbrella of retail careers. Read this article to find out more about what each job involves.

IT careers in retail

IT is vital to the maintenance of the retail industry. IT careers in retail involve the creation and maintenance of systems to improve the business. If you choose a career in IT, you could be involved in anything from building websites to the computers at checkouts.

Websites are a big priority right now, due to the huge expansion of e-commerce in recent years. As a result, IT is an increasingly valued part of the retail business.

You might be surprised to know that this is a career that’s open to people of any discipline – you don’t need a degree in IT, or even a science related discipline in order to get entry to an IT training scheme. The IT industry has particularly opened up recently in response to the need to encourage more female talent in the industry.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in IT within other industries, take a look at our IT Career Advice.

HR careers in retail

HR professionals recruit and develop their company’s workforce. The key to HR is getting the best people into the right positions.

You also need to be able to understand and keep up with employment law, as well as organise training and negotiate salaries. The most important quality an HR professional possesses is people skills. Communication skills are also vital.

Within HR you can take your career in different directions, choosing to specialise in different areas – such as recruitment or training – and in an HR role, you could have the opportunity to influence such vital company issues as business restructuring, flexible working and globalisation.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in HR within other industries, take a look at our HR Career Advice.

Buying careers in retail

Buying careers in retail are often seen as the most glamorous area of the retail industry. They involve a great deal of travel (often global) to find and purchase items the company will be stocking. Buyers also try to predict future demand for different products and negotiate price and quality with suppliers.

All this adds up to an exciting retail career – but when considering if it’s the career for you, ask yourself if frequent travel, long hours and periods away from home are all things you’re happy to build into your lifestyle.

To be a buyer you will need strong negotiating skills and a head for business – your company’s relying on you to make the right decisions and get the very best prices.

Merchandising & visual merchandising careers in retail

In its simplest form, merchandising careers in retail are concerned with making products available to customers by stocking shelves and displays. It might sound easy, but you’d be surprised!

This can take the form of merchandising or visual merchandising.
Merchandisers work closely with buyers to predict retail trends, watch performance of stock and try to get the right balance of products in the right place, in time and in the right quantities.


  • Plan budgets, analyse past sales and monitor current sales.
  • Predict future sales and profit
  • Work closely with visual merchandisers to decide on displays and increase sales;
  • Control stock levels and manage distribution
  • Negotiate prices, schedules and delivery of stock.

To perform these tasks you will need strong maths abilities. It’s a high pressure job with a lot of responsibility, as the success of the business can depend on successfully predicting demand and ordering stock in the right quantities and price – but it’s a job that also brings rewards. As well as job satisfaction, merchandisers benefit from good salaries, benefits and more dependable hours than buyers.

Visual merchandising careers in retail are centered on trying to encourage customers to buy stock through attention grabbing and attractive displays. Shop windows are the ‘face’ of the business, establishing the identity of the company as well as luring in customers.

To work as a visual merchandiser you need to be both creative and business minded, using an artistic and psychological approach. The profession developed from the need to create appealing shop window displays in the early days of the department store, but in the 21st century has evolved to include all stock and interior shop design.

Visual Merchandisers:

  • Guide customer choices and make it easier for customers to find stock.
  • Showcase particular products through displays and strategic placement.

Marketing & PR careers in retail

The public perception of a business is very important, and nowhere more so than in retail. Marketing & PR careers in retail are built around shaping and controlling that image.

It’s a varied, fast-paced, creative job, which often has a very glamorous reputation – but be aware that there are many different roles within Marketing & PR, all of which will involve very different day-to-day tasks and skills. This can include advertising, branding, events, copy writing, marketing research, online and social media marketing, and affiliate marketing.

Although many Marketing & PR jobs can include more than one of these areas, the larger the retailer you work for, the more defined these roles will be – bear that in mind when you are considering the pros and cons of different employers.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in Marketing and PR within other industries, take a look at our Marketing Career Advice.

Logistics careers in retail

Working in the logistics end of retail means making sure everything arrives quickly, correctly and on time. This has also expanded in recent years to include the planning and movement of stock.

2.3 million people in the UK work in logistics – accounting for more than 8% of the entire country’s workforce. It’s a career that includes continuous learning, and pays very well. Logistics careers in retail could involve work in operations, planning, strategic development and e-commerce.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in Logistics within other industries, take a look at our Logistics &Transport Career Advice.

Store operations careers in retail

‘The heart of the industry’ – store operations is about ensuring the smooth running of the business in-store. Financial rewards can be great, and if you undertake a graduate scheme with a retailer, you will enter at management level, with early responsibility and fast progression – but working on the store front will still be crucial part of your role, and people-skills are absolutely essential, as you will be meeting and interacting with customers – never forget, that in store operations, you are the human face of the business.

Finance careers in retail

Financial careers in retail involve planning and securing the financial future of the business. Solid financial decision-making is absolutely central to business success, and this requires accurate performance monitoring, budgeting and risk analysis. Graduates in finance provide these things and help to make long and short term strategy decisions.

Many graduate schemes in finance will involve qualifying with a professional body such as CIMA, the chartered institute for management accountants. This paves the way for specialisation and career progression within the finance profession. Finance is a very global profession, and experience and qualifications in this area will provide you with a ‘second passport’ to work around the globe.

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