Retail Graduate Jobs - Careers Guide

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Retail is one of the largest sectors in the UK, and in the world. One third of all consumer spending goes through shops, and UK retail sales totalled £303 billion in 2011 alone. There is a growth in the number of retail employers taking on graduates - there are 67.7% more graduates jobs in retail in 2013 than there were in 2007.

It is a sector that is changing quickly, especially in the way that consumers shop for products - in the last quarter of 2012, for example, retail searches on tablet devices increased by 238%.

With the changes taking place on the British high street over the last few years, those looking to work in the retail sector must be technology savvy and open to new and potentially avant-garde marketing and advertising techniques.

There are almost limitless opportunities within the industry - everything from store management to advertising to fashion buying. The retail sector covers everything from the business of selling high-end couture to budget shopping and supermarkets.

A large number of retail companies feature in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. They include:

  • Aldi
  • Apple
  • Arcadia Group
  • Co-operative Group
  • Diageo
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • John Lewis Partnership
  • Kraft Foods
  • L’Oreal
  • Lidl
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Oxfam
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Tesco

Graduate schemes run by large supermarkets (e.g. Aldi) are also regularly named as the best available, and for this reason they attract the highest calibre of candidates.

You may also have the opportunity to travel abroad, especially if your job is in buying, as you will be required to source new products.

What degree do I need?TOP ^

Graduates with a wide variety of degrees can work in the retail sector. In the majority of cases you will need to have a 2:1, as well as a large amount of work experience in the particular area that you are looking to pursue - jobs in retail, especially fashion, are among the most competitive.

If your role is very specific, it may be worth looking into a course that can equip you with the more practical skills that you need.

What skills do I need for a career in retail?TOP ^

Working in retail primarily requires a great deal of business sense, especially if you are working in an area such as marketing, advertising, sales, or consulting with consumers.

This applies across all retail sectors, from designer fashion to beverages. It is vital that you have knowledge of your customer base and the ways that the retail sector is changing.

Other skills that are important for those working in retail include:

Because retail graduate schemes are often named as the best, employers looking for graduates who have the ability to significantly impact their businesses - so ensuring that you offer insight and originality are key to securing a retail job.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability and the ethics of the retail process are also increasingly important areas for those working in retail to be aware of.

What graduate retail job can I do? TOP ^

There are a wide and diverse range of graduate job opportunities in retail and retail businesses are some of the biggest graduate employers in the country.

Some of the areas of work you might encounter in the retail sector are:

  • Merchandising: predicting sales trends, monitoring the realities of them, maximising profits and keeping control of budgets in order to maximise profit.
  • Managing: this could be at a regional level on the shop floor, or at a higher level in a head office dealing with strategic direction for the company.
  • Advertising: getting across your company’s message to the consumer and audience and ensuring that the products are as desirable in their eyes as possible.
  • Buying: sourcing and purchasing the best materials/ food/ products at the best price, which your company can then offer to the consumer.
  • Market research: researching and analysing the way your audience behaves and what they most need your product to provide.

These graduate roles are available across the retail sector; whether you are in bookselling or the food industry or fashion, the principles behind the jobs are the same.

Average retail salariesTOP ^

Pay in the retail sector varies depending on your role, location and the sector you are interested in. Retail buyers, for example, may begin on between £18,000 and £25,000, whilst experienced buyers between £35,000 and £60,000 and those in senior positions £70,000 or more - so an average wage is difficult to quantify. Whichever retail job you have, as you move up in the world of retail your salary is likely to increase quickly.

On average, research from High Fliers says that graduates in retail jobs on average will start on around £25,000. Some graduate schemes, for example those with large supermarket chains, may pay around £30,000 – this is the top end of the graduate pay market.

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