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Careers in Retail Department Stores

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The retail industry has evolved tremendously over the last few decades. Gone are many of the mom-and-pop stores of the past; today, mass merchandisers, discount clubs, category killers, and specialty and online retailers dominate the retail landscape.

Retailing is the second-largest industry in the U.S. About 15.3 million people in the U.S. generate about $4 trillion in annual revenue for the nation's 1.4 million retail businesses. Moreover, the retail industry is growing.

Along with sales and revenues, career opportunities in retail have grown, achieving crossover within different segments of the industry. According to the National Retail Foundation, eating and drinking establishments employ the most retail workers, followed by food stores and general merchandise stores.

Because of the variety of tasks associated with retailing, there are plenty of retail opportunities in fields as diverse as human resources, operations, computer science, finance, and advertising. Interestingly, retail department stores employ highly skilled staff as well as students and recent high school graduates. Apart from full-time staff members, there are many who work on temporary and part-time bases. The field is also open to those who want to work only during evenings and on weekends. Executive training programs are often crammed with 20-somethings eager to learn the nitty-gritty of the retail industry and excel.

Although most retail employers are not very particular about formal education requirements, a college degree or diploma will allow one to advance to a higher-level position more quickly. Like many other employers, retail department stores offer plenty of chances to gain valuable hands-on experience.

Rather than looking for those with formal degrees, most employers seek candidates who demonstrate tact, patience, strong communication skills, and some understanding of business. Appearance can also be a factor when it comes to hiring in the retail industry.

In addition to retail jobs, retail internships are also available and can provide higher-level skills and broader exposure to responsibility. When the market is full of options and narrowing your choices is difficult, it makes sense to start out as a trainee before deciding which environment is right for you.

Who Would Make an Ideal Department Store Employee?
  • someone who understands customers' needs and wants

  • someone who is enthusiastic about providing quality service

  • someone who is a team player

  • someone who can adjust to an ever-changing marketplace

  • someone who interacts well with a variety of people on different levels and can perform multiple tasks

  • someone who is decisive and self-motivated

  • someone who is ready to accept responsibility

  • someone who is analytical, able to solve problems, and able to analyze data to predict trends

  • someone who works in accordance with set priorities

  • someone who is familiar with advanced technological tools used to manage operations

  • someone who is able to perform well under pressure and maintain professional standards under varied work conditions
The Top Five Department Stores in the U.S.:

Company 2006 Revenues (in thousands) Comparable Sales per Store
Federated $26,970,000 4.4% $19,874,723
JCPenney $19,903,000 3.7% $19,267,182
Kohl's $15,544,200 5.9% $19,025,948
Nordstrom $8,560,698 3.5% $44,820,408
Dillard's $7,849,400 -1.0% $23,931,090

Job opportunities in retail department stores are likely to expand in the future as many department stores have started offering long-term career-development opportunities. Employee confidence in the sector is also very high.
On the net:Retail Careers—There's Plenty in Store

Retail Industry Profile

Department Stores
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Popular tags:

 college degrees  retailers  businesses  diplomas  careers  category killers  United States  discounts  institutions  nation

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