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Working in the Retail Industry

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Retail has made great strides in the last few decades. In the U.S. today, after healthcare, retail is the second leading industry. The nation's 1.5 million retail stores currently employ more than 25 million Americans. The industry's annual sales revenue of around $3.8 trillion influences the nation's overall economy trends in a major way.

It is exciting to work in an industry that is witnessing unprecedented growth through global expansions, mergers, and consolidations.

Retail as a Career

Contrary to popular perception, having a retail career goes beyond simply being a salesperson. Although a large number of young people do start their careers in retail as salespeople, plenty go into other areas, too. Retail offers promising career opportunities in various segments of commerce and management. The fast-paced and fiercely competitive environment of the
retail industry is ideal for people who are dynamic and ambitious and enjoy challenge and excitement.


The evolution of the market has led more people to pursue degrees in the field. Many colleges and universities, including Kent State, Indiana University, James Madison University, and Texas A&M, offer associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees in retailing and related areas. Some schools even have ties to leading retailers that allow their students to participate in internships and hone their skills. However, a degree in retail is neither a prerequisite nor a guarantee of a job with a retailer. To many retailers, flair and aptitude are more important than degrees.


For most retailers, the training and development of new recruits is a priority. In-house training programs vary from company to company. Employers ensure that training is continuous, comprehensive, and well structured. While training enables you to add value to the company's business, it also assesses your potential, preferences, and skills and helps the company determine a suitable business segment for you. Often, the career progression of new employees depends on their performance during their training periods.

Average Salaries

For years, retail has been looked down upon as a field offering low-wage jobs, despite the fact that salaries are no lower in retail than they are in many other sectors. According to one market estimate, many new employees at retail stores in the Northeastern states earn between $35,000 and $45,000 per year.

Average salaries for different retail positions are shown below:

Position Average Salary
Commission Sales $50,000
Department Manager $45,000
Store Manager $60,000
District Manager $105,000
Vice President/Director of Store Operations $240,000
Merchandising and Buying $105,000
Distributing, Logistics, and Supply-Chain Management $110,000
Finance and Internal Auditing $185,000
Marketing, Sales Promotion, and Advertising $105,000
Human Resources $95,000
E-Commerce, Information Technology, and Telecommunications $115,000
Loss Prevention $90,000

The Top Retailers in North America

Although the American economy is facing some challenges, fiscal year 2005 proved to be another healthy year for the nation's leading retailers. The top retailers continued to make significant gains despite facing stiff competition from fast-growing startup stores.

According to the latest research by Deloitte, the top retail stores in the North American region are:

North American Ranking Global Ranking Name of Retailer Sales (U.S. $ billion) Country of Origin
1 1 Wal-Mart 312.4 U.S.
2 3 Home Depot 81.5 U.S.
3 6 Kroger 60.6 U.S.
4 7 Target 52.6 U.S.
5 8 Costco 51.9 U.S.
6 9 Sears Holdings 49.1 U.S.
7 13 Lowe's 43.2 U.S.
8 14 Walgreens 42.2 U.S.
9 16 Albertsons 40.4 U.S.
10 18 Safeway 38.4 U.S.

Source: 2007 Global Powers of Retailing

Retail is no longer an accidental career. As the economy grows, it will motivate the major players to increase the number and size of stores, resulting in a greater number of opportunities for career development in the industry.
On the net:Retail Fact Sheet

Working in the Retail Industry

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