If you work in retail or would like to, an understanding of business practices can prove a vital addition to your skills-base, especially if you want to take on a management position.
On the surface, there may seem to be little connection between retail and administrative roles. However, when it comes to both technical and soft skills, there is quite a bit of overlap. As you make your way up the retail career ladder, from cashier and salesperson to first line supervisor then on to store manager or product purchaser, the overlap between the two industries becomes even more apparent.
Retail sales, cashier and customer service staff all require basic money handling skills, as well as an understanding of point-of-sale and inventory technology, to ensure the shop runs smoothly. Large retail companies will have a dedicated administration team while small businesses may have one administration or accounts staff member or alternatively will delegate these tasks between supervisors, managers and store owners.
Often, retail management are responsible for staff scheduling, payroll paperwork, and regulatory requirements such as insurance and taxation. If you take on a retail management position, you may well need to implement and supervise adequate inventory and purchasing systems. There is also a constant supply of business administration tasks, including customer and supplier marketing, communications, and paperwork. How these tasks are delegated depends on each business’s methods, but knowing how to do them may give you the edge you need to secure the career or promotion you are after.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15 million people work in the US retail industry. From clothes to cars, food to pharmacies, retail involves any goods that are bought and sold to the general public. Retail businesses can be ‘brick and mortar’ shop faces or can include door-to-door and online sales organizations.
General merchandise stores (such as super centers, variety stores, and warehouse clubs) and food outlets are the biggest employers in retail with 3 million workers each. Motor vehicle and parts dealers come in second with 1.8 million, while fashion outlets account for 1.4 million jobs. The industry is projected to grow by 7 percent over the next five years.
Almost two-thirds of all retail workers hold one of four occupations: salesperson, cashier, supervisors, and stock and order fillers, which we looked at in our Spotlight on Warehouse Administration blog last week.
In 2013, there were 4.5 million retail salespeople, 2.4 million customer service representatives, 3.3 million cashiers, 1.3 million retail supervisor, 220,000 retail managers, and 109,440 product purchasers employed in the United States.
Texas has the highest employment of customer service representatives, with 257,600 people accounting for 21.93 jobs per 1000 people employed. There are 64,590 people employed as customer service representatives in the Dallas Metropolitan Area alone. Retail salespeople and cashiers account for 32.62 and 23.18 jobs per 1000 people employed in Texas, respectively.
Demand for workers in each field changes depending on consumer spending habits. Currently, it is online stores that are seeing the most growth, so customer services representatives with strong problem-solving skills and a thorough understanding of software and communication technologies are in high demand.
- Computer software & hardware: You should be confident working your way around a computer and have enough knowledge to pick up new software as required. Retail businesses require the use of point of sale, inventory, database, shift scheduling and accounting software on a daily basis.
- Inventory: You will need to keep detailed inventory reports to keep track of available stock.
- Cash handling: If you work in retail, you need to have the necessary mathematical and money-handling skills to quickly work out the cost of purchases and change required. You may also be required to have an understanding of banking processes.
- Business administration & accounting: Knowledge of business administration, accounting, and management is essential if you wish to work your way up the retail career ladder. You should understand resource allocation, leadership, accounting practices, banking and reporting.
Essential Soft Skills
Negotiation and Communication skills are vital if you work in retail. You need to be able to negotiate your way out of potential disagreements with customers as well as communicating effectively to secure a sale. A natural ability to listen to nonverbal cues such as body language and tone of voice, known as Social Perception, will assist you in gauging a potential customer’s reactions to the information you are giving them. Active Listening will also assist you to understand what customers really want when in a retail environment.
All retail outlets require these skills to some degree or another, including supermarkets, hardware stores, fashion outlets, online shops, bookstores, mechanics: the list could go on forever.
Examples of Job Titles
Job titles vary widely depending on the workplace, but here is a list to start you off.
- Retail Salesperson
- Customer Service Representative
- Shift Supervisor
- Store Manager
- Inventory Officer
- Payroll Officer
- Product Purchaser
- Shop Owner
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, over the next week we will look at opportunities available if you want to become your own boss. To find out more about how business and accounts skills can help you further your career, fill in the information request form or download our ebook here.