Careers in Retailing

Retail career opportunities occur in 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.

Management Information Systems (MIS)

Employees in this area are involved with applications for capturing data, development and maintenance of inventory. Management of the retailer’s systems—such as POS terminals, web sites, customer data bases, self-checkout systems, and in-store kiosks—are additional facets.

Supply Chain Management

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.


Many aspects include public relations, advertising, visual merchandising, and special events. This department attempts to build the brand image and encourage customers to visit stores and/or website. Managers in this area typical major in marketing or mass communications.


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 relationship with the financial community.

Real Estate

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

Human Resource Management

Responsibilities include 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. Retail merchandise buyers invest in a portfolio of merchandise, monitor the performance, and make purchase decisions based on the sales. 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.

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.