A career in Retail

Despite the recession the retail industry continues to provide exciting opportunities with many flexible working opportunities available for women in part-time, full-time and temporary capacities. 

State of the industry

Despite the recession the retail industry continues to provide exciting opportunities with many flexible working opportunities available for women. One prediction from the UK Retail Futures 2011 sector summary suggests that the UK retail market is actually set to increase in size by 15% over the next five years, taking its value to just over £312bn. It’s no secret, however, that working in the sector has never been more challenging with operating costs and the cost of credit set to rise forcing operators to work even harder to persuade consumers to part with their cash. For these reasons industry fortunes can and do vary across the industry. The electricals sector is currently the best performer for example, with a predicted growth of 24% according to UK Retail Futures 2011, whereas the home sector retailers face a tough period as falling house prices make people more cautious about moving home. The retail industry employs around three million people – this is 11% of the total UK workforce whilst almost 8% of the Gross Domestic Product of the UK is generated by the retail sector.

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Qualifications and ways in

There are a variety of jobs within the retail sector. Many of them won’t require a degree, particularly at the more junior levels. Those with a degree, however, may find they can rise up the ranks quicker. It isn’t always necessary to have a retail management or retail merchandising degree because there are many areas of retail for which other qualifications will apply such as, finance, HR, fashion, marketing and operations. Typical job roles within the sector might include (taken from Prospects, the Graduate website):

• Buying – finding new products and developing ranges.
• Design – creating new products.
• Finance – analysis, reporting and strategy.
• HR – hiring and training staff, providing support to managers.
• IT – business systems.
• Logistics – product distribution.
• Merchandising – market analysis and working with budgets.
• PR and marketing – promotion, communication and media.
• Retail Banking – customer facing banking.
• Store operations – managing a store.
• Visual merchandising – designing and producing product display.

Working in the industry can be hard due to its commercial nature and pressure to perform. The hours can be long, particularly in stores which are open for trading around the clock. Work-life balance can be a significant issue for an industry which traditionally has an image of long or antisocial working hours. Yet many outfits are working hard to plug the gap and, for many, the flexibility afforded in the sector is a reason to join it. With family commitments and the cost of childcare, the very fact that the industry is set up for after-hours working and shift patterns is a way for working mums to continue with their careers whilst balancing financial and family commitments.

Salary

The MichaelPage Retail salary survey of 2009 shows that following the collapse of Woolworths and store closures by many retailers, the dynamics in the market have changed considerably over the last 12 months. Yet a fall in the number of vacancies and an increase in the number of retail professionals who have been made redundant has not necessarily led to a reduction in salaries.

“The general factor that determines any given salary is the volume of sales for that section, store area or region,” Says Russell Adams, director of retail for Michael Page.

In the fashion, department stores and out of town sectors, it is predominately sales volume which dictates salary parameters. This is reflected by the difference in salary for high street stores where turnover is typically below £3m compared to department stores which have an average turnover of £100m+. Consequently, a fashion area manager for high street stores may be paid less than a store manager of a department store.

The salary survey suggests that an area manager working in the capital in a department store may take home an annual salary of between £60,000 and £80,000. However in Scotland that same job would have a cap of £75,000.

Online retailing in the electrical sector has had a huge effect. As a result of the scale and turnovers of these operations, the salaries for these units are considerable. The overall packages in this sector are bonus driven, reflecting the sales driven nature of this retailing environment. An assistant store manager working in this sector may earn between £16,000 and £25,000 in London.

In telecoms, bonuses are usual. For some, this may account for as much as 50% of a worker’s package. A store manager in Scotland would earn between £18,000 and £30,000, whilst in London that job would be paid at a level between £20,000 and £35,000.

In non-food businesses such as Boots, Superdrug and Wilkinson as well as a number of out of town operators such as Pets at Home, Halfords and Furniture Village, the wages can be good. An area manager working in Scotland would take home between £35,000 and £65,000 whilst an assistant store manager in the same location would earn between £15,000 and £25,000.

In the Do-It-Yourself sector, which is dominated by four big players – B&Q, Homebase, Wickes and Focus – the salaries tend to reflect the footage and turnover of the stores. A store manager in London for example would earn between £35,000 and £65,000.

In the convenience and forecourt sectors, the survey suggests that an increased footage and turnover of larger units now justify a higher salary than could previously be expected. As a result there can be considerable variance on the salaries offered. Benefit packages tend to be excellent reflecting the large blue-chip companies that dominate this sector. An area manager working in London, for example, would take home between £30,000 and £60,000.

Buyers and merchandising specialists can command even higher salaries. A trading director could earn anywhere between £120,000 and £200,000 for working in the capital whilst at the other end of the scale a buyer’s administrative assistant would earn between £15,000 and £18,000 in the south. A design director could earn between £85,000 and £120,000 in the north whilst a design manager in London would earn between £50,000 and £65,000.

A huge benefit of working in retail is employee discounts on the merchandise in the store.

Case study: Melissa Sincock, HR & Training Manager for fashion house Hobbs talks to Workingmums.co.uk about her rise up the ranks within the retail industry and how she made it work after the arrival of her daughter in 2008. Read more.

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