Working in retail with a degree (or similar)

Many large retailers have graduate schemes, although they also like to promote their own staff.

Your graduate programme may give you a taste of different retail jobs such as buying and department management. As a manager, you may have less direct contact with the public and you will have a team of staff to manage. You will also be part of the team responsible for your store’s performance figures.

Case study

Working at a supermarket

Once I've graduated, I’ll apply for graduate schemes. I’m not sure that store management or retail operations are for me, though. I am more interested in a head office job...

Harrison Muyeji, supervisor/shift leader at a leading supermarket

Example jobs

Buyer’s assistant
Developing and sourcing product ranges, negotiating with suppliers.

Customer service manager
Managing call-centre staff, arranging rotas, managing time and attendance, meeting targets.

Merchandise planner
Analysing sales figures to look at trends, planning how shops should be stocked, including discounts and special offers.

Technical manager
Responsible for a particular product group (such as snack foods), ensuring products meet safety and labelling guidelines.

Graduate trainee manager
Shadowing department managers, dealing with any customer queries, people management, ensuring the department is well staffed and generally demonstrating proficiency and expertise with managerial responsibilities.

Store manager
Responsibility for recruitment, disciplinary matters, training and development, motivating staff, sales targets, communicating corporate information to staff, and generally ensuring the store runs smoothly.

Approximate pay levels

Figures supplied as a guide only

Pay depends on the size of the store. Staff and managers may get sales-related bonuses. Staff may get a discount in the store.

Pay levels graph

Typical working conditions

Things you may need to know:
  • The work can be very fast-paced and demanding with sales targets to meet.
  • You are likely to work long hours (often beyond shop opening hours).
  • You may wear a uniform or smart business clothing.

Qualifications needed

For graduate training programmes you need a degree, sometimes in a relevant subject (such as food technology, material science, etc.) or business. Experience in retail or other business, at any level, is useful. Many retail management training schemes are open to non-graduates, so if you prove yourself to be a hardworking and capable employee, you could be selected for a development programme even without a degree.

Career path

Once you have been accepted on a management development scheme, you can expect to reach a senior management position, either in operations (stores or e-commerce) or in head office. So you could reach the top. Some chief executives of retail companies started as retail assistants.

Useful links

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Retail Week

Read articles about the retail industry

British Retail Consortium

British Independent Retailers Association