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Retail & Merchandising

Do you know what this season’s must-have item is before it hits the shops? And do you think you know what it takes to get it seen? It might be time to check out a career in Retail.

What is retail and merchandising?

This industry is all about driving customers into stores and using clever merchandising tools to entice them to buy the latest fashions and exiting new products. This could be on the high street or in the growing number of online shops.

Working in retail you could find yourself designing products, choosing the latest stock for your collection or coming up with ways to get your products noticed.

Fashion, entertainment, food, health, beauty, sports, music, technology and home furnishings are all major areas in retail.

What retail and merchandising jobs can I do?

There are lots of varied roles to get involved with, including creative, managerial and sales.

If a career in fashion design sounds like your dream job, check our 60 Second Interview with a fashion designer.

Buyers are real life trendsetters who predict the latest styles, choose the right products for stores to stock and negotiate the right price, from clothes to the latest gadgets.

Fashion designers work for high street retailers as well as designer labels. Designers work the latest catwalk trends into cutting edge and affordable fashion, from sports shoes to party dresses.

Merchandisers make sure that products appear at the right time and in the right place. They work closely with buyers to work out how much stock they need, analyse how popular it will be and when to put things on sale. Visual merchandisers get creative and design displays for new products either in store or online.

Store managers select the right products to sell or choose from a collection if you’re working for a major brand. You will also manage sales staff and make sure your store stays in profit. Some clothing stores also employ stylists to put together outfits or work with individual shoppers to help them find the right look. Stylists can also work for fashion brands to put together looks for photo shoots.

There are also plenty of jobs in retail for anyone interested in these Career Zones:

Is a career in retail and merchandising for me?

You don’t need to be able to see into the future, but if you have an interest in style and keep an eye on the latest trends, a career in buying or merchandising could be for you.

Creativity, attention to detail and initiative are also important qualities.

If you work directly with customers you’ll need to have great people skills, customer service skills and bags of energy. Jobs in store will often require weekend shifts as well, so you’ll need to be flexible with your diary.

How can I start a career in retail and merchandising?

If you want to work directly with customers or even as a buyer, experience is more important than qualifications. There are retail sales jobs available for school leavers and graduates.

You should still aim for a grade 4 or above in GCSE maths and English, whichever area you want to go into. If you are interested in fashion design you should think about creative subjects like art and design and textiles at GCSE and A-level and a degree in fashion design. You can also study for an NVQ in fashion and textiles.

Apprenticeships and vocational

Relevant apprenticeships are available in the following areas:

  • Customer service practitioner (level 2)
  • Fashion studio assistant (level 3)
  • Retailer (level 2)
  • Retail manager (level 4)
  • Sales executive (level 4)

You could also study for an NVQ/QCF in retail, which includes management, sales and visual merchandising.


If you want to work as a buyer or merchandiser, a degree in business or retail will help you get onto a graduate training scheme.

How to boost your career

Take part in a Young Enterprise scheme challenge. You'll get valuable experience creating and marketing products and an understanding of how consumers can shape a product. You'll be able to show your teamwork skills too and maybe even pick up an award while you're at it.

For more information about careers in retail and merchandising, our Art & Design Career Zone could be useful.

What retail and merchandising qualifications are available?

If you work in management you could qualify for a diploma in management through the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) or a qualification in procurement & supply through the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

Did you know these retail and merchandising facts?

In 2022 UK retail sales were a not-too-shabby £441 billion. The sector is growing, with sales increasing nearly 5% between 2021 and 2022.

About 3 million people are employed by the UK retail industry (2022).

There are over 300,000 retail outlets in the UK!

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