Jobseekers: how to get ahead in retail


It might surprise you to hear that retail is the country’s largest industry, employing more people than any other sector.  Its size alone means it offers lots of opportunities for a great career. So too does the fact that it is multi-faceted – retail roles stretch from buying to pricing to marketing to personnel and customer service, in areas from food to fashion to homeware and lots more.

Domestic growth in Ireland in recent years has fuelled a very healthy retail market, with retail staff in high demand. The future is bright, and retail is less susceptible to peaks and troughs than many industries.

Once the retail bug bites, they say you can’t get rid of it. So, what do you need to make it in retail?

Let’s start with personality. Successful retail managers tend to stand out for the following characteristics:

  • Results-focussed
  • Ability to motivate, train and develop others
  • Strong customer service skills
  • Good negotiation and communications skills

One particular feature of retail is that careers are often made from the sales floor – that hands-on experience is often seen as a pre-requisite for progression in the sector. You don’t need a third level qualification to succeed, and internal training and development programmes are common.

It may sound a cliche, but if you don’t embrace the premise that “the customer is always right”, then retail may not be the place for you. Retail managers frequently face challenging situations and must exercise the utmost care when dealing with customers. Among the thousands you will deal with, mistreating just one customer can destroy a good reputation. It’s not for everyone!

Flexibility is important in retail. If you are serving a public that typically works from 9 to 5, then take it you won’t be working 9 to 5! Evenings and weekends are often the norm.

The results-oriented nature of the sector means a head for sales and profit is a characteristic of those who succeed in retail management, as compensation will often be linked to profit maximisation.

If you are wondering how to get started, target an area you are interested in, be it beauty products, sport, electrical goods or whatever. More than anything, employers will look for an energy and a passion for retail rather than technical attributes. You should work on your CV and interview technique to make sure these qualities are to the fore.

If you can, an exciting and rewarding career beckons!

Peter Kelly is Retail Division Manager at Eden Recruitment.


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