The Ultimate Resource Guide to Securing a Job in Retail (2020)
If you’re looking for top insider knowledge about securing a job in retail, you’re in the right place.
Because we’re going to cover everything you could possibly need to know about a career in retail.
After reading this guide, you’ll not only know all the tips and tricks for securing a retail job, you’ll know whether a career in retail is right for you.
So, the bar’s been set high (as it should be), let’s dive straight in.
What is Retail?
What to Expect
The Ins and Outs of Retail!
We all know what retail is…right?
Even so, here’s a little reminder. Retail is the activity of selling goods to the public.
People depend on retail stores to lead comfortable lives (you and me included)! So, it’s a pretty integral part of modern society.
In fact, a whopping 1/3 of consumer spending in the UK goes through retail, and retailers are a massive differentiator in bringing in these sales.
But that’s enough of the facts and figures – let’s get down to business.
There are hundreds of different positions and there are hundreds of different names for these positions. Don’t worry – we aren’t going to discuss them all now.
Instead, let’s whittle it down and take a closer look at three of the most common retail jobs.
A retail assistant is an entry level position. They often work as cashiers, stockers and in other parts of the store that require general customer service. Essentially, they’re the front line of the company.
Assistant Store Manager
This is an intermediate level retail position which usually refers to floor leaders or team leaders. They support the store manager by supervising the sales team and overseeing the operations of the store, including taking inventory and directing virtual merchandising.
The store manager is responsibile for the entire operations and management of a store. All employees working within the store report to them. They oversee pricing and stock control, maximise profitability and liaise with head office.
Types of Retail
Retail’s variety and range is ever-growing, but some of the main types are:
- Department stores
- Online stores
- Convenience stores
- Specialty Stores
As I’m sure you can imagine in our continually advancing technological world, online stores (E Commerce) is huge.
But of course, retail salespeople work in-store, meaning they’re constantly battling with the convenience of online shopping. but this isn’t to say it’s a losing battle.
In fact, store retailers have a huge positive impact on the customers’ shopping experience. It’s because of this that 75% of shoppers purchase more when shopping in-store!
That’s right, you can have a massive direct influence on store sales as a retailer. For many, it’s the rush of making a great sale that motivates them in the job!
So, that’s the basics of the retail industry covered. Now, let’s dive into what you can expect from working in retail.
What to Expect in Retail
Are you wondering what a job in retail truly entails?
This chapter will cover just this. We’ll look at the responsibilities, hours, salaries and pros and cons of a job in retail.
The daily duties of a retailer vary depending on the position and what it is the store sells. But in an entry level position, you can expect some of the main responsibilities to be:
- Excellent customer sales service
- Greeting and serving customers
- Dealing with customer complaints and queries
- Processing transactions
- Maintaining the sales floor by displaying and restocking products
- Ordering stock and overseeing deliveries
- Advising and providing customers with merchandise
- Pepare the store for daily trading
For more senior retail positions, the following are a few of the responsibilities that can be included on top of this:
- Overall care of staff and their wellbeing
- Administrative duties (updating financial records, managing store budgets)
- Recruiting, performance management and workplace scheduling
- Managing store budgets
- Maximising profitability
- Motivating the sales team to meet sales objectives
Retail is absolutely an industry that allows for a wide variety of working hours, from how many hours a week you do, to when you do them.
Shift work is very suited to people who are looking for flexible hours – such as people with children or students – as it allows them to construct a better work-life balance.
And on that note, lets talk numbers.
For part-time and temporary retail jobs, the rate is often hourly, rather than per year. In this case, the typical hourly rate is around £8.50/hr. But of course, this can differ greatly depending on experience and location.
Aside from this, here are the average pro rata early career (1-4 year) salaries in the UK for three of the main retail roles, according to Payscale.
Assistant Store Manager
And here are the pro rata average mid-career (5-9 year) salaries in the UK for these three main roles, again according to Payscale.
Assistant Store Manager
If you’re looking to excel and tuck into that top pay bracket (I mean, who wouldn’t be), you’ll need to go above and beyond what’s expected
Fortunately, we’ve got the inside track on how to make this happen – but more on that later.
For now though, here’s a quick overview of some skills that are correlated to pay that’s above average for each position:
Retail Assistant: oral and verbal communication
Assistant Store Manager: customer service and people management skills
Store Manager: people management and leadership skills
Pros and Cons
Because of all the above, there are some obvious pros and cons to working in retail (as there are with any job).
It’s important to consider these pros and cons, and whether they align with what it is you’re looking for. Far from an extensive list, here’s a quick overview of some of the main pros and cons of working in retail.
- Usually requires little to no experience
- Lots of room for growth/ promotion
- An opportunity to further your communication and social skills
- Flexible working hours
- Staff discount!
- Irregular shifts/ overtime due to potential staff shortages
- Unpredictable work flow
- High pressure work environment
- Possibility of dealing with difficult customers
- Work can be physically draining
So long as the pros outweigh the cons (which we think they do), you can rest assured that retail is the right industry for you!
How to Get Started
Is a career in retail starting to sound up your street?
If so – stay tuned! This chapter wil cover what you’ll need to make this happen. From skills and personality traits, to education and qualifications.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of retail skills, check out our retail job description.
For now though, let’s cover four of the vital skills needed for a position in retail.
Communication is an essential skill to any role ever. But it’s especially important to retail jobs.
At the heart of any retail position is communication. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your customers, your fellow team mates and your manager. This means not only does your communication need to be clear and effective, it needs to be multifaceted.
Multiple customers, multiple customer queries, multiple outstanding store duties – you can see where I’m going with this.
A retailer rarely has the luxury of focusing on one task at a time. They need to be able to juggle several things at once without dropping the ball. To make this act of multitasking a successful one, you must also be able to prioritise tasks to address more urgent ones first.
Retail is a rapidly changing and growing industry. The ability to keep up with these changes is essential.
This is done through learning new skills and behaviours in response to any changes. Doing this is also important to your growth within the job. An adaptable, versatile retailer is much more likely to progress up the career ladder – but more on this later.
There’s no denying that retail is a demanding industry. You need the ability to bounce back from situations such as difficult customers or circumstances.
A resilient capacity is also important when seeing yourself through drops in sales. If the store is experiencing a sales slump, you need to be able to pick yourself up from this.
Effective employees are crucial to the success of a retail business. Remember, a retailer is the reason a customer prefers shopping in-store rather than online!
So, aside from the core skills discussed above, the following personality traits make for a stand-out retailer.
You need to be an excellent listener, communicator and have the ability to put yourself in the customers’ shoes. By taking the time to build a rapport with the customer through empathy, you can massively improve their customer experience.
This isn’t to say you need to be an extremely extroverted and outgoing person to succeed in retail. You simply need to be able to approach customers naturally and without hesitation.
As well as being confident in yourself, you need to be confident about the product or service you’re selling. If you’re not persuaded, your customers won’t be either!
3. An Upbeat Attitude
Your attitude is a key element to the customer’s experience. A positive attitude spreads, and is likely to have good effects on the moods of your customers. The last thing you want to do is tarnish people’s perceptions of your store or brand with a negative attitude.
Browse Retail Jobs on Jump
Qualifications and Education
Some GCSE qualifications graded A*-C (including English and Maths) is preferred. But, generally speaking, there are no specific qualifications you must have to get into a career in retail.
Many people start off as a retail assistant and work their way up to store manager, meaning that experience is highly valued in the retail industry. In fact, it can often be more desirable to have experience in retail as opposed to qualifications.
But that isn’t to say education and qualifications are out the window, and a college course or bachelors degree will still help enhance your application and get your foot in the door at a higher level faster.
Aside from degrees and college courses, you can also consider doing a retail apprenticeship. For lots of people, ‘earning while learning’ through an apprenticeship is the preferred method of training.
If you’re reading this far, it means you’re probably wondering how to apply.
Your CV has to stand out. You also have to interview like a pro.
Did I mention we have the answers to these interview questions too?
After reading this chapter, you’ll be hired in no time.
Recruiters spend 5-7 seconds going through a CV
So, it’s vital you make it as concise and appealing as possible! Otherwise, it will find itself in the ‘no’ pile before the recruiters even read your second name (scary, I know).
But don’t panic – here are some essential tips for writing your CV that will stop this from happening.
As well as this, here are three examples of the top skills you should include on your retail CV (you’re welcome).
Skills To Include In Your Retail CV
1. Attention to Detail
Any good retailer needs to be detail focused. From making sure a customer purchases the correct product, to keeping items fully stocked and properly displayed.
Insider tip: you can showcase your attention to detail skills right there on your CV! By making sure your CV’s accurate, concise and visually appealing, you can prove on the spot that you’re a meticulous person.
2. Customer Service
Customer service is at the heart of any retail position. So, your CV should reflect that this is a skill you uphold. To be a successful retailer, you have to relate to people on a human level.
Show on your CV that you’re a positive, friendly person who is keen to help customers resolve problems and make successful purchases.
3. Basic Technical Skills
Most retail jobs today require the use of computers and other technological devices, so having some basic technical skills will give you a competitive edge.
In entry level positions, you will likely have to work an electronic register and a point of sales system (POS). At higher levels, you can expect to use management information softwares to analyse consumer behaviour.
For even more skills, as well as a downloadable example CV, check out our retail CV tips. Also, if you’re looking for a more managerial role, we’ve got the lowdown on the best store manager CV tips which again comes with an example CV!
Retail Interview Questions
Now that you’ve got the 2D version of yourself up to scratch, let’s take a look at how to bring these skills to life when answering interview questions!
1. “Why do you want to work in retail?”
As #10 of the biggest interview mistakes states, lying (whether it be on your CV or in the interview) won’t cut it, and in most cases, you’ll quickly be caught out.
So, take the time to think about your answer here before the interview. What is it about the industry that really appeals to you?
Are you someone who enjoys working with people? Does flexible shift work suit your lifestyle? Or is it simply that you’re someone who loves to stay busy and is thrilled by the hustle and bustle of the shop floor?
Whatever your answer may be, make it an honest one. Doing this not only highlights to the employer that you’re a good fit for the job, it highlights to you whether or not you’d be truly happy in the position!
2. “What qualities do you consider most important to the position?”
Here’s a surefire insider hack to help you answer this question.
All you need to do is tailor your answer to fit the qualities that were mentioned in the job description. If the job description states that they’re looking for someone who has excellent attention to detail (which, as we discussed above, an employer in the retail industry will be), then you can rest assured that this is a quality most important to the role!
So long as you tailor your answer here to fit the qualities they specified, you can’t go wrong.
3. “Tell me about a time when you felt challenged while selling to a customer”
Explain why you felt challenged, but be sure to follow this up with how you handled it.
Although it’s tempting to go into intricate details about what the challenge was, this isn’t really what the interviewer wants to know. What the interviewer does want to know is what skills and attributes you used to address the challenge.
Check Out More Interview Tips
Of course, there still are loads of questions you could be asked, specific or not to retail.
Fortunately for you, we at Jump consider ourselves interview experts.
Prepare for all possibilities and check out everything you need to prepare for a job interview below…
If you’re already in retail and looking to progress to the next level, then you’re already someone who’s passionate about the industry, and this passion will take you far.
But if you’re looking for a nudge in the right direction, these nifty tips and tricks for landing a promotion will do just that!
Master Excellent Learning and Listening skills
How you absorb information plays a crucial role in how quickly you progress up the career ladder.
Of course, you won’t remember everything you learn. But you can learn to filter between useful and non-useful information.
As well as mastering your learning skills, one of the easiest ways to get promoted when starting out is by listening to your manager and being a good student.
Take the initiative to go above and beyond what you’re expected to do.
As discussed earlier in Chapter 1, a good work ethic will go far in getting you noticed as someone who’s looking to progress.
In most retail jobs, success is quantifiable. So a quick way to climb the ladder is by exceeding your sales targets.
It’s easy to fall into the routines of your coworkers. But acting professionally will help you to stand out if you’re serious about progressing in your role.
To do this, uphold the store’s mission and culture as well as supporting its best practices. You’ll quickly become a person who your fellow team members look up to – and this won’t go unnoticed.
That’s a lot of information to take in!
Let’s recap everything we’ve gone over to give you a checklist of the highlights.
- Retail is the activity of selling goods to the public
- The three most common retail jobs are assistant, assistant manager and store manager
- Most retail jobs don’t have fixed Monday to Friday work hours, instead they offer shift work
- Average early career (1-4 year) salaries range from £17,675 for a retail assistant to £22,692 for a retail store manager
- Some of the main responsibilities are excellent customer service, serving customers and resolving customer queries
- The four most important skills are communication, multitasking, adaptability and resilience
- The three most important personality traits are empathy, confidence and an upbeat attitude
- Generally, there are no specific qualifications needed, but a college course or bachelors degree can improve your application
- A great retail CV should focus on showing key skills
- Three of the most common retail interview questions are:
- Why do you want to work in retail?
- What qualities do you consider most important to the position?
- What interests you about selling to customers?
- The best ways to get promoted are: mastering your listening and learning skills, exceeding expectations and being professional
That’s a Wrap on Retail!
And there you have it! Retail in all its splendour.
You’ve taken all the information in and you know all there is to know. But why stop there when the search for the right job for you is only the click of a button away?
Here at Jump, we’re experts at recommending the right jobs for you. By using your CV and preferences to get to know you, we find the jobs that you’d be great at and support you with your job search every step of the way.
Don’t navigate the job market alone – let us do our job by helping you find your job.
It’s about time I drop the mic – now it’s over to you.
Other Articles You Might Like
Uncover the 7 job interview questions you should be asking employers during Covid-19 that will help you make an excellent impression and secure your next job!
With video interviews fast becoming the new normal, we’ve compiled the 8 best video interview tips you’ll need to put your best digital foot forward.
Find out the top 5 most common interview questions and answers, as well as what the interviewer is really looking for, here on Jump.
Let's grow together.
Find a job today with Jump
Kickstart your perfect career today with personalised job recommendations.
Stay in the loop!
Sign up for honest, useful and insightful resources.
The best things in life are meant to be shared.