A career in retail offers a wide variety of professional opportunities. From the purchase of inventory to the final customer sale, individuals in various job positions work together in a retail setting. When considering a career in this field, first identify what type of retail establishment best meets your professional goals and interests. Boutiques are small, specialized retail establishments that focus on high-quality merchandise, while department stores are considerably larger with a more diverse inventory.
Choosing the Inventory
Retail buyers do much more than just buy. They play a large role in determining the store's financial success by deciding what inventory to sell. By analyzing current trends, buyers predict what merchandise customers will likely purchase. These workers then negotiate prices with suppliers and coordinate delivery. Buyers also administer contracts and create financial reports for the store.
Most retail buyers have a bachelor's degree in a business-related major. It is also useful for aspiring buyers to gain knowledge about the merchandise that their potential employer sells. According to the employment site ONet Online, the median salary for a retail buyer was $59,780 in 2013.
Stocking the Shelves
Merchandise stockers or placers are responsible for getting the merchandise into the store and displayed for customers to see and purchase. As items are delivered to the retail store, stockers receive them and record what was delivered. They then place the merchandise within the store as directed by management. Merchandise stockers also restock items as the displayed inventory depletes.
Stocking jobs generally do not require any specific level of education. Work hours vary, as many stockers work overnight to ensure that the store is ready for customers each morning. The average hourly rate for merchandise stockers was $10.81 as of 2013, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Making the Sale
Retail establishments typically hire two types of sales employees. Sales associates work on the sales floor, assisting customer in the decision-making process. They help customers find specific merchandise and answer questions. These employees may also complete the sale by operating the cash register and taking payment for the purchased items. Cashiers remain at the checkout location, greeting customers and taking payment for purchased items.
Retail sales jobs generally have no education requirement. Employers look for candidates with good customer service skills and the ability to follow directions. These positions usually pay minimum wage, but sales associates at higher-end boutiques may earn more. Additionally, some retail associates earn commission for their individual sales, which further increases their wages.
Managing Them All
The operations of a retail establishment are usually run by one of more store managers. These workers handle many responsibilities, including supervision of other employees and creation of work schedules to ensure adequate coverage for the store. Managers also address customer complaints and complete payroll duties. In some retail establishments, the manager verifies the employee's timecards and sends them to a specific payroll department; in other stores, the manager completes the entire payroll process.
The BLS lists the average annual salary for retail managers as $41,450 as of 2013. Most retail managers have at least a high school education, but some establishments require a business-related college degree.
2016 Salary Information for Retail Sales Workers
Retail sales workers earned a median annual salary of $23,040 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, retail sales workers earned a 25th percentile salary of $19,570, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $30,020, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 4,854,400 people were employed in the U.S. as retail sales workers.