Working in retail

Retail is all about selling products to customers.

Retailers have to buy, too, from wholesalers and suppliers. Retailers range from those who sell everyday items (such as food) to occasional purchases (such as diamond jewellery and cars). Shops themselves vary from tiny specialist outlets to giant superstores and department stores that seem to sell almost everything. Trades stores such as builders’ merchants or food suppliers sell to businesses.

Not all retail jobs are on the shop floor. Each large store has ‘backroom’ staff dealing with finance, human resources (HR) and admin.

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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

Future careers

E-business is increasingly important to retailers. Branches of shops are closing as more and more goods and services are available online. Call centre work dealing with sales and after-sales care is on the increase.

Things to consider

Things you may need to know:

  • Retail relies on customers, so you need to have excellent customer service skills.
  • You could be a specialist within retail. For example, selling IT products, DIY supplies or jewellery all require expert knowledge.
  • Many jobs include retail skills alongside other skills. An optical assistant also sells frames for glasses and hairdressers sell hair care and styling products.
  • Supermarkets often only recruit over 18s so they can sell restricted products.

Useful links

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British Retail Consortium

British Independent Retailers Association

Careers in retail