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Careers that sell: jobs in retail

Retail is about so much more than working behind the tills, stacking shelves and arranging window displays. In fact, there’s a huge range of jobs in retail.

Retail covers everything from fashion, beauty and health, to food, sports and home furnishings. You could be buying the latest trends for Topshop, making sure supermarket customers are happy, or managing a team in a big department store.

As well as loads of opportunities in stores and shops, new technology means there are plenty of options to get into online retail.

Depending on the role you choose, you may not need lots of experience or qualifications to get started in retail. Staff typically progress quickly, so you could be on your way to a fast-paced and exciting career in no time.

People skills are really important when it comes to a successful career in retail. You’ll need to communicate effectively and work well with others – that goes for customers and colleagues. If you are good at thinking on your feet, coming up with solutions to problems and have a positive attitude, a career in retail could be spot on for you.

But with so many different jobs in the industry, where do you begin? In this guide, we’ll talk you through some of the main roles, what skills are needed and how you can get started. 


Buyers make sure that products reach the store shelves. For example, a buyer for a high-street sandwich shop would taste lots of different foods to get inspiration, and see what flavours are becoming popular.

Fashion buyer
Buyers consider what customers might want to buy,
and make sure the store stocks it

Or a fashion buyer would check out the newest designs and make sure their store sold on-trend clothes and shoes. Sounds fun, right? But being a buyer is also really hard work.

Buyers have to make very important decisions about stock and keeping track of what customers want. You need to be good at maths, negotiating and solving problems – as well as have a creative flair. It’s one of the most competitive jobs in retail. 

Retail managers

Retail managers oversee stores, or groups of stores. They are responsible for the day-to-day running of the shop, managing and motivating a team of staff, and making sure everyone reaches their sales targets. Tasks could include keeping track of stock, dealing with feedback from customers, managing the shop’s budget and training staff.

Retail managers need good leadership skills and confidence in their ability to make decisions. Salaries vary depending on the employer – they typically start around £20,000 and rise to over £40,000.

There are different ways to become a retail manager. You could do an apprenticeship or start with a role on the shop floor and work your way up. Many brands also offer trainee management programmes for graduates.  


Merchandisers are the people behind how the products are displayed, whether that’s deciding how accessories are displayed in the ASOS app, or arranging super creative window dressings in Selfridges. They make sure products are in the right place, plan discounts and set prices. Merchandisers usually work in busy environments. They need to be good with numbers.

Sales assistants 

Sales assistants are usually the first people customers see when they enter a shop. It’s typically a varied and fast-paced role – good for people with outgoing personalities and strong communications skills. 

Sales assistans at a food retailer
Sales assistants work in all sort of businesses,
from coffee shops to banks

So how do I get into retail?

Most jobs in retail don’t require a degree. Work experience is important to build up your knowledge and understanding of the area you’re interested in. Experience of working on the shop floor is usually important no matter what role you’d like to pursue.

A good approach is to think of companies or brands you like, and contact them directly.

Apprenticeships and specialised college courses are also good routes into retail. And don’t forget you could also be an entrepreneur! Many retail professionals go on to launch their own businesses.

Do you like the sound of a career in retail? Check out our Retail & Merchandising Career Zone to take your next step. 

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