Retail is the aspect of sales that is directed at people (consumers) through on street shopfronts, department stores, retail parks and increasongly, through onlone sales outlets.
Retail includes a wide range of goods from Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) i.e. products that are sold quickly and at relatively low cost (e.g. non-durable goods such as soft drinks, toiletries, and grocery items), to clothes, shoes, books, furniture, flooring and electrical goods, to hardware, gifts, jewellery and cars.
In the last 10 years we have seen many international chain stores and larger sized retail outlets opening here, but Ireland's retail sector also has many small, indigenous companies.
Retail is Ireland's largest employer bar none, with over 280,000 people working in the area, representing 14% of the total workforce. 70% of all retail jobs are located outside of Dublin
. Source: IBEC/Retail Ireland, Strategy for Retail 2017-2020.
|Did you know ...
The average grocery retail manager earns more than fully qualified accountants & solicitors!
Retail Excellence Ireland
Retail success is based on having the right products, in the right places, at the right price. A wide range of Business Support Functions in the retail sector are dedicated to ensuring that this is the case - Buying, Supply Chain Management, Logistics, IT, Human Resources (HR), Marketing, Data Mining, Finance and Legal roles.CAREERS IN RETAIL
The breadth of career opportunities available across the retail sector is extensive - from entry level store assistant roles, to a broad range of business support occupations. Retail also employs many highly skilled professionals including accountants, actuaries, solicitors, food scientists, data analysts, HR professionals, traders, web designers, horticulturalists and psychologists.
Changes in the Retail Sector
The retail sector has become technologically intensive, with a significant focus now on ICT and data analytics to optimise the flow of goods from producers to consumers. Automation, in the shape of new in-store technologies, is continuing to grow, with an inevitable impact on consumers, on retailers and on employees.
For the retail workforce, the move towards greater automation will have implications for the number and nature of job roles available in stores, but will also see the creation of new roles in a range of areas including IT, Marketing and Customer Service.
|"As technology and consumer behaviour changes, retail is undergoing a fundamental transition which is already changing the nature of the skills required and roles available in retail across a range of areas including customer service, buying, HR, technology, communications, sales, logistics, analytics, marketing, finance and management."
Video: The breadth of career opportunities across the retail sector
Sales occupations include sales or store assistants, retail cash desk and check-out operators, as well as petrol pump forecourt attendants. People working in these occupations interact directly with the customer. They are the people who make the sale happen.
Retail Sales Assistants - More than half of employment in all sales related occupations is accounted for by sales assistants. With an employment level of 118,000, this is the single most populated occupation in the economy. These positions are typically entry point jobs into careers in retail, though some workers choose to spend their professional lives here, particularly in high-end, commission-based sales areas like jewellery, appliances, and others. Frontline sales experience is highly valued and many retailers promote from within.
The level of skills required varies by individual employers but at its core, people working in sales need to have a pleasant personality, lots of patience, good selling skills and a good knowledge of their products.
Getting into Retail
Training for a career in sales and retail is generally provided through work experience and training on the job. SOLAS provide a range of courses in Retail Skills from Level 3 or 4 to Level 6, to train people in the role of sales representative and retail sales.
A number of PLC Colleges around the country provide awards at Level 5 and Level 6 in various areas of Retail Practice. Most business studies courses focus on aspects of sales and marketing and the IT colleges nationwide offer more specialised courses in Retail Sales and Management at Level 6 upwards.
Retail Management - Retail sales jobs often form part of a career extending into Management - e.g. Customer Care, Store Supervisor, Trainee Manager, Store/Department Manager, Regional Manager.
The retail store manager or management team has responsibility ranging from running a department within a store, to running the overall establishment. Managers at all levels supervise and assist sales assistants and other employees. Additional responsibilities, depending on store/company size and management level, include opening and closing the store, staffing, administration, and financial functions.
Top level jobs in retail include: Managing Director; Marketing Director; Chief Operating Officer; Head of Retail; Financial Director; Commercial Director; HR Director; Divisional Director; Head of Supply Chain; and Procurement Director.
Getting into Retail Management
Promotions to management positions can be earned through experience, or a college-degree may provide direct entry to a management trainee programme. Many graduate training programmes offer the opportunity to experience different aspects of the business before deciding on the most suitable career path for you. A number of colleges around the country provide certified education and training programmes aimed at people working as retail managers. Explore the course menus on the right of this page for detailed information.
Human Resources (HR) - The recruitment, development and retention of staff is vital in the overall performance of a business. Most large organisations, including retail chains, employ a HR Manger or HR Managment Team. The role stretches into a wide range of staff related areas including: recruitment and training of staff; policies and procedures; career development; remuneration and benefits; employee and industrial relations; employment law and compliance; disciplinary and grievance issues; and such areas as redundancy. The HR Manager must keep up to date with any changes in employment law, and related policy areas, that may effect the company.
Getting into HR
Typical entry routes normally require a Degree, although a wide variety of degree types are acceptable, e.g. Business Studies, Public Administration, Psychology, Law, Social Studies and Economics. A Professional qualification from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) is also acceptable. Entry level jobs include HR administration. In some organisations, HR staff work their way up to the role, based on experience and internal training.
Marketing - Marketing, advertising and Public Relations (PR) are all career areas that are about promoting the goods and services of an organisation. The marketing professional's job is to create, manage, and enhance brands, towards increasing sales. Marketing overlaps into the areas of advertising, media planning, and sales strategies. These are key areas in retail. Careers in this area of retail include Marketing Executive, Product Marketing Manager, Marketing Advisor, and Market Researcher.
Getting into Marketing
Positions in Marketing and PR can be either in-house, or with an outside agency. Marketing and PR have become very competitive sectors, so having a qualification is becoming increasingly important. Degrees in marketing, communications, business management, PR or information systems will give the competitive edge. Generalist degrees such as English may be useful too, and Languages can have significant added value for roles with international retailers.
Merchandising - Retail merchandisers are typically employed by manufacturers to liaise with the retailers that are selling the manufacturer's products. The role of the merchandiser is to work with the retailer to maximise product sales and increase sales volume for the company. In larger companies, merchandisers may be employed in-house. They work alongside Buyers, to analyse historical sales, stock information and sales trends, and to forecast future stock and sales requirements.
Visual merchandising involves the presentation of products to potential customers. This role supports the sales efforts of retailers by presenting the visual look of the shop or outlet, and the merchandise, or products it has for sale. Visual merchandisers are typically employed in-house in larger retailers, or may be contracted in from agencies by smaller outlets. Their role is to ensure that the products are displayed appropriately, with proper signage, and the use of effective displays and point of sale material, in order to encourage initial or repeat purchases.
Getting into Merchandising
Entry routes include in-house promotion from the shop floor up, or completion of a qualification in a business related area and participation in a graduate training programme.
Information Technology - Technological innovation has played a central role in the wholesale and retail sector in such areas as productivity improvements, effective marketing decisions, stock control, matching staffing levels to workload, decisions on product location and space utilisation, customer payment methods etc. The IT department plays a significant role in modern retailers. IT support, keeping the networks active or rolling-out a new system for the entire business are challenging and exciting areas in retail.
Technology careers linked to retail and purchasing are numerous and varied. From the e-commerce websites that complement most bricks and mortar stores, to complex computer systems, from technology driven training programs delivered over satellites or the Internet to state-of-the art cash registers and point-of-sale systems. Web design of on-line retail outlets is also a growing area as are computer network management systems.
Getting into IT in the Retail sector
You typically need to have a suitable IT qualification and a business-focused perspective. An internship is a good place to start in order to gain some relevant experience. Some larger retailers have graduate recruitment programmes with IT/Information Systems positions available.
Data Analysis - Data analysis is also known as predictive analytics, or data mining. It is a tool widely used in the modern retail sector. To stay competitive, retailers need to understand both current consumer behavior, and to predict future consumer behavior. Accurate prediction and understanding of customer behavior is what helps retailers to keep their customers, improve sales, and extend the relationship they have with their customers. Large retailers use predictive analysis through data mining, to gain insight across the organisation and make informed decisions for the future of the business, based on that information and analysis.
Financial functions play a vital business support role for all retailers. Two key areas are prominent in the retail sector:
- Reporting of financial information to internal management and external regulatory bodies - The central finance function
- Analysing the figures reported by central finance teams to measure performance and make strategic recommendations - The commercial finance side
Monitoring sales performance, analysing the results of product promotions, or looking at turnover of individual stores - large retailers typically have individual finance teams who support the different areas within the business. Key areas of work include financial year ends, when finance departments are required to meet regulatory and budgetary requirements.
Getting into Finance in the Retail Sector
Entrants to this career area typically hold business, finance or maths-related degrees. It is possible to enter the field with any degree background, for someone with an analytical mindset who is comfortable with numbers. Some large retailers offer entry opportunities via graduate training programmes and may provide the chance to work towards a professional qualification over a number of years e.g. CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants).
Law and Legal - Legal services required by retailers include areas of the law relating to regulation; compliance; competition; properety and conveyancing; employment; health and safety; website trading and data protection. Retailers who operate in multiple jurisdictions may require local legal knowledge, or advice on international expansion, in areas of acquisition, concessions, franchising etc.
The larger retailers typically have in-house legal departments, or directly-employed legal specialists. Smaller companies may buy-in necessary legal expertise as required. Entry routes to this area include the typical Law Degree route, or a Business Degree with Graduate specialism in an area of value to the sector, e.g compliance.