Retail Career Areas
With so many diverse career paths, the retail industry gives everyone the opportunity to explore their passion and interests. The following resources will excite and inspire you for a career in retail!
Download our Career Path Illustration, and watch our Go Retail! video, designed to promote retail as a high energy and fast-growing industry. The video features interviews from retail CEOs and corporate employees and covers the wide array of career choices within the industry.
Explore career areas and job opportunities in:
- Store Operations
- Loss Prevention
- Store Management
- Human Resources
- IT and eCommerce
- Sales and Sales-Related
- Distribution, Logistics, Supply Chain Management
- Merchandise Buying/Planning
Unleash your creativity (or your strategic side) in retail.
Depending upon company size, marketing functions may be centralized in one department, divided into different departments (like advertising, sales promotion, art and visual merchandising, and public/press relations), or group in various combinations. Marketing also conducts focus groups and statistical analysis of customer buying patterns to develop strategies and plans that guide marketing components like ads, websites, store signage, etc.
Are you a big picture person?
Retail professionals in the store operations career area oversee overall store operations and profits. Sample position titles include Head of Store Operations, Regional Manager, and District Manager, and responsibilities in this area may include managing staff functions like loss prevention and/or human resources.
Do you have an eye for detail, an appetite for solving puzzles, or a knack for pro activity?
The loss prevention career area is responsible for safeguarding company assets and may include risk management issues, like customer and employee safety. Loss prevention team members work together to prevent and handle merchandise loss due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors, and vendor fraud. Physical security of store and company buildings may also be included, as well as financial auditing responsibilities.
Where people skills and running a business meet.
The store manager or management team has responsibility ranging from departmental to overall establishment. Managers at all levels supervise and assist sales and other employees. Additional responsibilities, depending upon store/company size and management level include opening and closing the store, staffing, administration, and financial functions. Promotions to management positions can be earned through experience, or a college degree may afford direct entry to management trainee programs.
Are numbers your game?
Financial and accounting skills are more than a game in retail; they can be your career! The finance retail career area includes all accounting and treasury functions like accounting for income, paying expenses, compiling and maintaining financial records, money management and cash flow control, banking, investment, and credit lines. Auditory responsibilities may also fall into this retail career area.
The people side, the legal side, and the detail side of retail.
Recruiting and hiring employees are the most obvious parts. But retail careers in human resources also include a wealth of other responsibilities such as training, designing training programs, overseeing compensation and benefits, and planning for and ensuring legal compliance in hiring and employment practices.
For the IT savvy.
Technology careers are numerous and varied in the retail industry. From the e-commerce websites that complement most brick-and-mortar stores to complex inventory systems, from technology-driven training programs delivered over satellites or the Internet to state-of-the-art cash register and credit systems, from web design to servers and network systems management, technology careers are only growing in the retail industry.
What drives the industry.
The sales and sales-related retail career area includes positions like sales associate, cashier, store stock associate, and stock receiver. These frontline positions are retail's core business--serving the customer and generating sales. The passion for working with all varieties of people, flexibility, level-headedness, problem solving, and teamwork are critical for success in this area. These positions are typically entry points into retail careers, though some choose to spend their professional lives here, particularly in high-end commission-based sales areas like jewelry, appliances, and others. Frontline sales experience is highly valued and many retailers promote from within.
Moving mountains of merchandise worldwide.
This retail career area oversees movement and storage of consumer products. Responsibilities include management and facilitation of distribution centers, logistics traffic management, trucking and other transportation operations, and may include import/export shipping and related duties.
The intersection of retail art and statistics.
These retail professionals select the merchandise to be sold in the stores by sourcing vendors in the U.S. or overseas markets and/or working with vendors to produce house label goods. They facilitate order follow-up, inventory flow through and allocation of merchandise to stores, attending to issues like flow quantities and timing. Statistical development and analysis are increasingly woven into this retail career area, where team members also coordinate gross margin planning/analysis responsibilities, develop distribution plans for merchandise categories and subclasses, and balance stock unit ratios by store.
Do you want to be your own boss?
Many retail career areas and positions offer lots of opportunities to be entrepreneurial, without the ultimate responsibility of business ownership. But, a large component of retailers own their own store(s). Single, independent, and privately-owned retail businesses account for 95% of the retail industry.
*Note: Career area information is generalized to be representative of the entire retail industry, but individual companies will vary in the details based on size, type of retail format. This information is intended to provide introductory information. See retailers' websites for specific job details. Check out NRFF's Employer Partners.