Retailing and Retail Operations

Many entry-level positions in retail operations are open to people with very little training, but advanced opportunities also exist for job seekers who have a relevant degree in fields like business, retail management or consumer behavior. Read on for career, employment and education information.

Is Retailing and Retail Operations for Me?

Career Overview

Retailing and retail operations involve the oversight of marketing, advertising and sales efforts in stores. Retail shops range from a local knick-knack businesses to the largest chain stores selling luxury items at very expensive prices. Retailers sell products ranging from water hose gaskets to high-end jewelry. You can work in retail as a sales clerk, store manager, district manager, buyer, merchandiser, vice president or chief executive officer (CEO).

Employment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2012, retail salespersons held 4.3 million jobs, and cashiers held 3.3 million jobs. Retail sales worker supervisors, which include grocery store managers, department managers, sales managers and shift supervisors, held more than 1.2 million jobs that year. Wholesale and retail buyers, who purchase products for large and small stores based on consumer preferences, held more than 108,000 jobs in 2012. There are clearly many options available to those interested in retail operations.

Career Outlook

The BLS projects that between 2012 and 2022, the employment of retail salespersons will increase by 10%. Employment for cashiers will increase by 3%, largely due to the high turnover rates as workers seek other jobs.

According to O*NET OnLine, jobs for first-line supervisors of retail sales workers are expected to grow 3%-7% from 2012-2022 (www.onetonline.org). The BLS projects that employment will increase by 4% for buyers between 2012 and 2022, along with projections of 12% growth for general and operations managers and 5% for CEOs.

Salary Information

According to the BLS, as of May 2012, the median annual salary for cashiers was $18,970, with a median hourly wage of $9.12. Retail salespersons earned a median annual salary of $21,110; the median hourly wage was $10.15 that year.

As of May 2012, front-line retail supervisors made a median annual salary of $36,820, with an hourly median wage of $17.70, and wholesale and retail buyers made a median annual salary of $51,470, with a median hourly wage of $24.75. For general operations managers, the median annual salary as of May 2012 was $95,440, and for CEOs, it was $168,140.

How Can I Work in Retailing and Retail Operations?

Experience

You can start working in retail as a salesperson or a cashier without a college degree or even a high school diploma. These positions typically require no formal training but can provide practical experience and can familiarize you with how retail jobs work and give you an idea of the type of job you might want to hold later. You might also have the opportunity to progress from one of these positions to an entry-level supervisory position, based purely on your experience and work ethic.

Education

For upper management positions, most employers require that you hold a bachelor's or a master's degree in retail management, retailing, business administration, consumer behavior or merchandising. Many of these programs offer specializations in related fields, such as consumer science, retail merchandising, marketing or fashion design.

You may explore topics that include retail principles, consumer behavior, inventory management, family economics, retail management and marketing techniques. Sometimes there is even retail field experience required as part of the curriculum. This training can lead to a career as a buyer or a store supervisor.

Doctoral Training

In a doctoral degree program in retailing or a related field, you'll take upper-division courses, such as decision processes in retailing and theoretical global retailing practices. You'll conduct research and write a dissertation on an aspect of the retail industry that interests you. This training can lead to managerial positions. You could also work in academia as a professor or pursue research jobs, exploring marketing techniques or managerial tactics.

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