Retail as a Career

Retail is a people center industry, and is one industry which can simultaneously expose you to many skills and disciplines. It offers many choices in terms of a career, chief among them being.

Buying and Merchandising:

Merchandising and buying is often termed as a combination of art and statistics. It is a key function for any retailer as this department is responsible for the procurement of merchandize to be sold in stores by sourcing it from vendors or manufacturers. Key tasks in this career area include selection of vendors. Costing of merchandise procured, allocation of merchandise to the stores developing distribution plans and calculating gross margins. A key aspect to be remembered is that very often, it may require expensive traveling to locate vendors and exclusive merchandise for the retail stores.


In retail marketing, functions may be centralized and may include different departments like advertising, sales promotion and public / press relations. Marketing would also look at way of understanding the customer and his behavior by way of focus groups and analyzing of customer buying patterns to develop strategies and plans that guide marketing components like ads, websites, store signage etc. The size of the retail organization would determine whether the various functions would be in one department or would be divided into various combinations.

Store Operations:

Retail professionals in the store operations career area oversee overall store operations and profits. Positions 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. Responsibilities in operations may vary from being responsible for a department, floor, the entire stores or for a group of stores. Successful stores managers have the ability to lead and motivate employees as well as have an eye for detail. Store management involves all the disciplines necessary to run a successful business.


Very often sales is considered as a part of store operations. Areas in sales include positions like sales associate, cashier, store stock associate and stock receiver. While the primary duty of a sales staff is to serve customers on the selling floor, actually selling goods; front end sales staff may also be involved in receiving merchandise into the store, counting it and then displaying it on the store shelf. Responsibilities would also include receiving merchandise returned by customers. These front end positions need the ability to deal with people, flexibility and importantly, the ability to work in teams. Very often, a sales position may be the entry position in retail. On the other hand, a cashier would work behind the cash register desk and would be responsible for billing of the merchandise purchased by the customer and the collection of the required amount of money. Many organizations seek to train persons across functions in sales.


The finance retail career area includes all accounting and treasury functions like accounting for incomes, paying expenses, compiling and maintaining financial records, money management and cash flow control, banking, investment and credit lines. Auditing of stores for merchandise and money may also be a part of the responsibilities of this department. With the rapid development of retail in the country, understanding and implementing project finance may also emerge as a key area of responsibility in the next few years.

Human Resources:

Human resources in retails may range from, recruiting and hiring employees to larger areas like identifying training needs at various levels within the organization and then designing and implementing the programs. Responsibilities may also include overseeing compensation and benefits, and planning for and ensuring legal compliance in hiring and employment practices. It is necessary to remember that retail is a people focused business, but at the same time, it calls for long working hours at both the front and back end. The human resource needs to understand these aspects of the retail business while creating and implementing performance appraisals and promotions.