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What Is Retail Operations?

The retail field involves selling a wide range of products to consumers and these operations can vary by the size of the business. Learn more about retail operations, including retail operations management and other careers in retail.

Retail Operations Definition

Retail operations generally refer to the daily business activities of a retail business, which is a business that sells products directly to consumers. These activities, or operations, range from choosing and buying products for the store to accepting payment for the product from consumers and everything in between. Learn more about some of the careers in retail and their role in retail operations below.

Careers in the Retail Field

There are many different careers available in the retail business. Most of these careers work together to perform daily retail operations for the business and keep the business profitable. The size of a business may determine what careers are available for that specific organization. For example, small business owners may only hire a manager and some cashiers, while a bigger retail chain may have marketing personnel, buyers, and customer service representatives in addition to these positions. Some available careers in retail include job titles like:

  • Sales managers
  • Retail sales workers
  • Cashiers
  • Customer service representatives
  • Marketing managers
  • Advertising managers
  • Promotions managers
  • Buyers
  • Purchasing managers

Here we explore some of the careers in retail operation management in more detail, as well as a couple of other retail careers.

Retail Operation Management

The size of a retail operation management team will mostly depend on the size of a business, with small business managers possibly taking on multiple responsibilities versus a chain store that may hire multiple positions. Some common careers in retail management include sales managers and purchasing managers.

Sales managers typically need a bachelor's degree and some sales experience and are primarily responsible for helping their organization sell as many products/services as possible. They may do this by setting sales goals, training sales representatives, coming up with ways to secure new customers, and creating special pricing plans. Sales managers may also be responsible for managing budgets and addressing customer complaints. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for sales managers was $124,220 in 2018.

Purchasing managers also usually need at least a bachelor's degree and are responsible for securing the products for a business to sell to consumers. These managers must evaluate suppliers, determine pricing for products, negotiate contracts, and handle delivery agreements. Once products arrive, purchasing managers must ensure that the terms of the contract are being met, that the products are acceptable, and that inventory is where it needs to be. They are also responsible for training and coordinating buyers and purchasing agents. The BLS reported that purchasing managers made an annual median salary of $118,940 in 2018.

Retail Buyer

Retail buyers are somewhat similar to purchasing managers. To become a retail buyer most need at least a bachelor's degree. Some retail buyers may work as a buyer for a few years and then advance to a purchasing manager position. Buyers perform many of the same duties as purchasing managers involving the evaluation of suppliers and managing contracts. These professionals may also:

  • Visit suppliers and/or trade shows to learn about products
  • Make new contacts with suppliers
  • Evaluate the reliability, quality, and price of suppliers
  • Interview suppliers to discuss distribution, product design, delivery systems, etc.
  • Make and monitor contract agreements with suppliers

As of 2018, the BLS reported that buyers and purchasing agents made an annual median salary of $62,750.

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers are the workers who get the most facetime with customers. Becoming a sales representative usually only requires a high school diploma and some on-the-job training to learn how to assist customers in finding the products that they want. Retail sales workers may need to have some knowledge of the products they are selling, especially with niche products like technology or jewelry. In general, they perform tasks like:

  • Greeting customers and answering questions
  • Discussing products with customers and/or demonstrating how to use them
  • Processing payment for products
  • Letting customers know about current sales/discounts
  • Helping prepare inventory and store displays

According to the BLS, retail sales workers made a median annual salary of $24,200 in 2018.