Whether you've got years of experience and looking for an area manager role, or you're new to the industry and prefer to start as a sales assistant, there's a range of roles available in retail sales.
Each role offers different tasks and responsibilities, we talk you through a few of them...
So, what will I actually be doing?
As a sales assistant, you'll be responsible for dealing with customers, answering queries, selling goods, handling payments and making sure that the goods are attractively displayed. In specialist stores, for example a sports goods or computer store, you may need a level of specialist product knowledge.
At manager level, you'll be responsible for running the outlet, which could be anything from a large supermarket to a small independent shop. It could also be just one section or the entire store. Your day-to-day work will include:
- Managing and motivating staff
- Making sure that your store meets sales targets
- Running promotions
- Managing stock levels
- Analysing sales figures
- Forecasting future sales
- Dealing with takings
Apart from these specific tasks, you will be expected to continually look for ways to increase sales and improve efficiency and customer service, as well as monitoring competitors and training staff.
In smaller shops, say a local convenience store, your day-to-day jobs will be more varied than a large High Street outlet, and may include everything from designing window displays to receiving deliveries from suppliers.
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The nitty gritty
Basically, you work store opening hours. This usually works out as a 35 to 40 hour week, but is also likely to include evenings and weekends. However, part-time work is now very common and you may work a shift pattern.
Retail is a growing industry, and reflects prevailing conditions in the economy faster than any other. In towns and cities nationwide you'll find shops and stores of all shapes and sizes, from small independent shops such as newsagents or pet dealers to large department stores.
Many stores and retail organisations now have their own web sites, which often advertise vacancies and training schemes.
You can move from sales assistant to supervisor, manager and director. You should also be prepared to move companies, though.
You also have the prospect of working for yourself and opening your own outlet, once you have some experience.
Money, money, money
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
- Full-time sales assistant salaries are usually between £11,000 and £15,000 a year
- Supervisors can earn between £15,000 and £20,000 a year
- Starting salaries for managers are usually between £14,000 and £20,000 a year
- Senior store managers earn £40,000 a year or more
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The good points...
Promotion prospects in retailing can be excellent, particularly in larger organisations committed to staff training.
Many larger retail companies also offer benefits like staff discount and bonus schemes.
...and the bad
You should be aware that sales assistants spend a lot of time on their feet. Managers also spend much of their time on the shop floor, as well as in their office. So you’ll need nice comfortable shoes to wear!
Is there study involved?
Experience, aptitude and sheer passion are more important in retailing than pieces of paper. There are no minimum academic qualifications required, although it would be helpful to have a good general education.
Previous experience of working with the public would also be good, as would knowledge of the activity if working in a specialist outlet.
For more senior roles, a facility with maths and IT would be an advantage. It's usual to be promoted to supervisor or manager after you've gained experience as a sales assistant with the same company.
You could also join a large retail chain directly as a trainee manager, through a management training scheme. Most companies will ask you to be qualified to at least level 3 (for example, with A levels or an equivalent such as a BTEC National Diploma).
You may be able to get into the retail industry through an apprenticeship scheme. The range of apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the skills employers need. For more information, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
Training is usually on-the-job and may be linked to relevant NVQs/SVQs. If you work with certain products such as fish or meats, specialist training is provided.
Structured graduate management training schemes are available, and usually last between 18 months and two years. Larger organisations will offer a programme of ongoing training throughout your retail career.
If you are aged 16-24, Foundation and Advanced Modern Apprenticeships (MAPPs) may be available.
For details see:
- MAPPs (England)
- Skillseekers MAPPs (Scotland)
- National Traineeships MAPPs (Wales)
- MAPPs (Northern Ireland)
Relevant qualifications include:
- GNVQ/GSVQ in Retail and Distributive Services
- NVQ/SVQ Retail Operations at levels 2, 3 and 4
- NVQ/SVQ Sales Delivery at Level 2
- NVQ/SVQ at Visual Merchandising Level 2
- NVQ/SVQ Distributive Operations Level 1
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
In retail sales you should:
- Be ready and able to work within a team
- Enjoy working with the public
- Have a polite, helpful manner
- Be confident and assertive
- Be good with numbers
- Able to use modern computerised equipment such as cash tills
- Have plenty of stamina
- Have a commitment to customer service
- Be able to work under pressure and handle challenging situations
- Have business sense and an understanding of retail laws