If you work in retail or hope to eventually, 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.
Because you often have to start from the bottom in retail, people don't necessarily consider working in retail a career. Making your way up the ladder we mentioned above can seem like a long and tedious process, and if you're looking to take care of a family, that's frustrating to wait out. You have the power to quicken the pace of your corporate ladder climb by giving yourself the right skills to be taken very seriously for promotions.
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.
If you are a motivated individual, don't wait for your bosses to consider you for a promotion. Get their attention by demonstrating the skills needed for the job you want, not just the job you have!
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.
For this reason, taking an IT class might not hurt to brush up on your basic computer skills. Your employer will take note that if there is a problem with the computer, you will become the go-to person to solve it. Just knowing basic IT skills gives you advantage over many of your coworkers who likely do not have that same knowledge level. It will also allow you to have a greater understanding of the following technical skills you'll need to be a customer services representative.
- 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.
You'll also need a lot of patience. The customer is always right is a cliche for a reason. It is important to not lose your temper with a customer, even if they are being unreasonable in a request. You'll have to be patient and kind without being condescending. It is a vital tool to have in any retail position.
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
Retail Management: Getting Started at CCI
At CCI we offer a wide variety of courses that will teach you the skills you need to succeed in the retail industry. If fashion, customer service, boutique sales, or any other retail career interests you, we're here to help you succeed in getting the position you want. Aside from business courses, we also offer IT courses that can help you brush up on your computer skills, or add those skills to your resume.
Our instructors have worked, or still currently work in the industries in which they teach about. Their real world experience will be abundantly beneficial to your education. They have the ability to cut out the fluff, and get to exactly what you need to know how to do to be successful.
Our courses often only require one or two nights a week for you to come to CCI Training Center, and some are offered online. We know our students do not want to take off work in order to take classes to further their current positions into better paying ones. Unlike a four year university degree, CCI Training Center has a great deal of class times to work around your schedule.
When we experience life changes, it can make us reevaluate what we are doing in our careers and how we are going to get to where we want to be. Having a baby might have motivated you to get a higher paying position in the retail industry, or change industries altogether. A divorce can also lead to the need for a better position, or a career with better hours to ensure you are able to take care of your children without spending too much on daycare.
Even reaching certain milestones, like graduating from high school, force decisions on us and we should take those into careful consideration. If you don't feel like a four year degree path is for you, there isn't anything wrong with that. Maybe you had a job in high school that you really enjoyed and would like to turn it into a career? At CCI Training Center, our courses will give you the skills you need to turn your dreams into reality.
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.