Careers in Retailing

In retail firms, career opportunities occur in the merchandising/buying, store management, and corporate staff functions. Corporate positions are found in such areas as accounting, finance, promotions and advertising, information and distribution systems, and human resource management.

Retail Corporate Staff

The corporate staff positions in retail firms involve activities and require knowledge, skills, and abilities similar to comparable positions in non-retail firms. Thus many managers in these positions identify with their profession rather than the retail industry. Thus, accountants in retail firms view themselves as accountant, not retailers. Continue reading...

Management Information Systems (MIS) Employees in this area are involved with applications for capturing data and development and maintenance of inventory, and the management of the retailer's systems such as POS terminals, web sites, customer data bases, self-checkout systems, and in-store kiosks.

Supply Chain Management Operations employees are responsible for operating and maintaining the store's physical plant, for providing various customer services, for the receipt, ticketing, warehousing, and distribution of a store's inventory, and for buying and maintaining store supplies and operating equipment. Promotions/Advertising Promotion's many aspects include public relations, advertising, visual merchandising, and special events. This department attempts to build the retails brand image and encourage customers to visit the retailer's stores and/or website. Managers in this area typical major in marketing or mass communications.

Finance/Control The finance/control division is responsible for the financial health of the company. They prepare financial reports for all aspects of the business, including long-range forecasting and planning, economic trend analysis and budgeting, shortage control and internal audit, gross and net profit, accounts payable to vendors, and accounts receivable from charge customers. In addition, they manage the retailer's relationship with the financial community.

Real Estate Employees in the real estate division are responsible for selecting locations for stores, negotiating leases and land purchases, and managing the leasehold costs. Students entering this area typically major in real estate or finance.

Human Resource Management is responsible for the effective selection, training, placement, advancement, and welfare of employees. Because there are seasonal peaks in retailing (such as Christmas when many extra people must be hired), human resource personnel must be flexible and highly efficient.

Retail Store Management

The typical entry level retail store management position is department manager with responsibility for merchandise presentation, customer service, and inventory control for an area of the store. The next level is area or group manager with responsibility for executing merchandising plans and achieving sales goals for several areas, as well as supervising, training, and developing department managers. After these positions, you can be promoted store manager, then a district manager responsible for a group of stores, and regional manager responsible for a group of districts or take a corporate position.

Retail Merchandise Management

Retail Merchandise management attracts people with strong analytical capabilities, an ability to predict what merchandise will appeal to their target markets, and a skill to negotiate with vendors as well as store management to get things done. Retail merchandise buyers are similar to financial portfolio managers. They invest in a portfolio of merchandise, monitor the performance (sales) of the merchandise, and based on the sales, either decide to buy more merchandise that is selling well or get rid of (discount) merchandise that is selling poorly. Buyers are responsible for selecting the type and amount of merchandise to buy, negotiating the wholesale price and payment terms with suppliers, setting the initial retail price for the merchandise, and monitoring merchandise sales and making appropriate retail price adjustments. Continue reading...

Many retailers have broken the merchandising management activities into two different yet parallel career paths: buying and merchandise planning. Planners have an even more analytical role than buyers do. Their primary responsibility is to determine the assortment of merchandise sent to each store -- how many styles, colors, sizes, and individual items to purchase and allocate to each store. Planners also are responsible for allocating merchandise to stores. Once the merchandise is in the stores, planners closely monitor sales and work with buyers on decisions such as how much additional merchandise to purchase if the merchandise is doing well, or when to mark down merchandise if sales are below plan.

The typically entry level position of college graduates interested in retail merchandise management is either assistant buyer or assistant planner in a merchandise category such as men's athletic shoes or accessories for consumer electronics. In these positions, you will do the sales analysis needed to support the decisions eventually made by the planner or buyer you work for.

The National Retail Federation Foundation and Federated Department Stores provide more information about retail careers and profiles of people in the wide variety of positions offered by retail firms.

Retail Executive Profiles

The Miller Center has gathered insights and experiences from managers in the retail industry in order to help illustrate the vast opportunities and exciting challenges that students may expect when focusing on a career in retail.

Retailer Training Programs

The following companies offer opportunities for students interested in entering retail management training programs after graduation. Some of these companies may also offer paid internships. Follow the links below to find out more information about our sponsoring companies and the opportunities offered.

Sponsoring Companies


College Info

Warrington College of Business
BRY 100
PO Box 117150
Gainesville, FL 32611-7150
Phone: 352.392.2397
Fax: 352.392.2086

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