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Retail Sector Career Pathways For School Leavers



From supermarket stores to your favourite high street shop, the retail industry is as diverse as it gets. It operates through roles that require a range of different skillsets from a wide variety of people. In fact, retail employs three million workers across the UK and brings in hundreds of billions of pounds in sales every year. The retail sector is the largest private sector employer in the UK.

Working in retail goes beyond check-out and stocking shelves. Whether you’re working in the head office or the shop floor, you’ll be contributing towards bringing quality products to market and providing shoppers with great customer experiences.

The retail industry is made up many different areas, including ordering, merchandising and buying. It’s an industry that has something to appeal to everyone!

Retail is going through a massive period of change at the moment, with many UK brands transitioning to e-commerce selling and marketing tactics while also pushing these through social media too – so it’s an exciting and challenging time to get involved.


To do well in the industry, being organised and able to cope well within a fast-paced environment will serve you well, as well as having an eye for detail and great customer service skills.

Other skills that will help you progress include:

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Commercial Awareness
- Multi-tasking
- Teamwork
- Verbal Communication

Progression opportunities

Retail is one of the most flexible sectors where skills are easily transferable to different job types. For example, if you already have had a part-time or Saturday job in a shop, cafe or bar, you should be qualified enough to apply for assistant level roles straight away.

It isn’t necessary to have a degree for several jobs in the industry. However, this will largely depend on the type of apprenticeship that you’re interested in and the area that you want to specialise in.

You can progress relatively quickly through a structured pathway that is set out by many large, established retail brands. This is especially true for apprenticeships. Alternatively, you could consider going on to university in order to increase your professional standing. This could lead to roles within head office, such as management.

Career development

Studying for a diploma or certificate with The Chartered Management Institute, or similar offered by the Institute of Leadership and Management, could be a good place to start if looking for a course after a few years of experience under your belt. Interestingly, managers who hold one of these professional qualifications tend to earn £152,000 more throughout the course of their career than those who don’t, according to Retail Choice – so this is something worth contemplating!

Related Companies

TitleHead OfficeIndustry
Blunts ShoesKidderminster, WorcestershireRetail Sector
SpecsaversTelford, ShropshireRetail Sector
EEHatfield, HertfordshireRetail Sector

Earning potential

When starting out in the industry (even after your apprenticeship, if you take this route) your wage is likely to be modest, but due to the responsibilities placed upon you and the level of organisation and skill required, you could see your salary increase quickly.

Head office roles will traditionally be offered higher salaries than those on the shop floor. However, management roles in-store can usually command decent wage packages too - especially with extra qualifications.

According to PayScale, here are some average salaries for roles in the industry:

Retail store manager - £24,650
Retail store assistant manager - £18,995
Retail sales assistant - £14,000
Buyer - £35,391
Operations manager - £35,068
Marketing manager - £32,892
Marketing executive - £24,104
Merchandiser - £28,955

Types of jobs in Retail Sector

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

You can go into retail with any qualifications at all, as it’s unlikely that particular GCSEs or A-levels will have trained you for a career in the sector – lots of this industry is learnt on the job, and what isn’t will be provided in training by your company.

Of course, if you have an academic background that offers specific skills – business, economics or textiles, for example – you are likely to be in a strong position as you’ll already have some of the skills needed.

Industry Bodies

British Retail Consortium (BRC)
Skillsmart - Retail Management Skills

Further Reading

Centre for Retail Research
Retail Economics
Retail Gazette
Retail Week

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