The retail industry is also becoming one of the nation's largest employers. The approximately 1.4 million retail establishments in the U.S. employ more than 23 million people—around 20% of the nation's workforce. The revenue of the industry hovers close to $4 trillion, and the numbers are still moving upward. There is no doubt that the industry is in the midst of significant growth.
Careers in the Retail Industry
The retail industry's growth spells opportunities for all. Wal-Mart, a $100 billion retailer, is opening stores by the hundreds and hiring by the thousands. And Wal-Mart is just one of many major players in the industry.
In the retail industry, one might meet chief executive officers younger than 40 and see salaries doubled within two years. This is also the industry that has helped American visionaries realize their dreams of opening thousands of stores on different continents, successfully overcoming the barriers of geography, language, and culture.
If you were asked to define "retail" and you said "working in a store selling things to customers," you would more or less be right. In addition, if you believe a retailer's employees should passionately and critically understand the psychology of consumers, you are absolutely correct. However, you will miss umpteen opportunities in the industry if you fail to see beyond the salesperson at the counter.
In reality, the retail industry of today offers such a wide breadth of employment opportunities that you could spend decades in the industry without ever venturing into a mall or store. As in all other industries, in retail, there is a huge back-office operation encompassing IT, marketing, communications, finance, merchandise planning, distribution, and more.
Education and Training
Although no formal educational qualifications will guarantee you a job in retail, communication skills, tact, patience, and a pleasing personality are prerequisites for progress in the industry. Recruiters prefer energetic young people who demonstrate initiative and can relate well to people. However, a degree in marketing or retail management can be useful. Most large retail companies have evolved their own on-the-job training modules to orient staff and help young executives develop and build careers.
Compensation in the industry is not uniform and varies greatly depending on management policies and store category. According to industry sources, at some large retailers, managers earn salaries as high as $100,000 plus bonuses, while management trainees make around $26,000. Moreover, in this industry, experience is valued very highly in comparison with qualifications; two to three years' experience can significantly increase compensation.
Types of Opportunities
The retail industry offers a variety of career options in the following categories:
- Marketing/Advertising: This includes advertising, promotions, visual merchandising, public relations, and statistical analysis.
- Store Operations: This includes overall management of store functions, including staff supervision, general administration, and loss prevention.
- Finance: This includes maintaining accounts and financial records, handling expenses, banking, investment, and overall money management.
- Human Resources: This includes recruitment, training, promotions, and employee compensation.
- IT and E-Commerce: This includes developing e-commerce websites, inventory monitoring, and the development of cash-register and credit systems.
- Sales: This includes generating sales and dealing with customers.
- Distribution, Logistics, Supply-Chain Management: This includes managing distribution centers, logistics, traffic management, importing/exporting, shipping, and other related duties.
- Merchandise Buying/Planning: This includes the selection and allocation of merchandise to be sold in stores, the production of house-label goods, following up on orders, and the maintenance of inventory flow.