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Retail and sales

This sector, crucial to the UK's economy, offers a diverse mix of opportunities in a range of areas.

The retail sector is the UK’s largest private sector employer with 2.9 million employees. 66% of all retail employees work for the largest 75 retail companies. By the end of 2017, the UK will have 3.3 million retail employees, according to Retail Appointment.

The retail industry is vital to the UK economy; in 2015 alone, it generated £340billion worth of retail sales. It is the largest private sector employer with approximately 290,315 bricks and mortar retail outlets in the UK, saying nothing for all of its online operations, according to Prospects.

Job options

The sector offers extremely diverse opportunities in a range of areas from buying, merchandising and store operations, through to marketing, HR and finance.

Jobs within this sector include:

Types of employer

In this sector, you could work for a range of multi-national, medium-sized and small employers, including: Amazon, BT, GSK, Unilever, Virgin Media, Mars, Sainsburys, Aldi, L’Oreal, Microsoft, Tesco, John Lewis Partnership and many more.

Skills and abilities

You will need:

  • excellent communication and negotiation skills
  • resilience
  • be able to work independently and part of a team
  • problem solving skills
  • creative flair
  • strong business awareness
  • the ability to work under pressure in a dynamic environment and to quickly identify problems and recommend solutions
  • computer literacy.

Find out more about the transferable skills employers are looking for.

Breaking into the profession

Many graduate schemes exist in retail, particularly with the large, leading companies. Opportunities also exist with smaller establishments.

Work experience can include:

  • part-time retail opportunities
  • customer service roles
  • junior level positions, for example, distributor, merchandise administrative assistant
  • graduate trainees
  • assistant buyer.

Improving your skills

In addition to the workshops, courses and masterclasses you could attend to develop your skills, you can also:

Come along to the Autumn careers fair and Business, finance and banking careers fair in October and internships, work experience and volunteering week in the spring.

We also organise careers fairs and employer workshops so you can find out more about job opportunities and network with employers. Learn more about our programme of events in your Careers Account.

To improve your employability, consider joining a professional body or special interest group. Professional bodies often have free or low-cost student memberships and many include careers information, member directories and jobs boards on their websites:

Find out more

Careers and Employability