This tale belies the fact that retail does offer lots of fantastic graduate opportunities.... and the sector is keen to promote this. A recent careers conference I attended attracted 18 organisations including high street stores, retail support services and the hospitality industry. Those present recruit to over 2500 paid graduate and undergraduate opportunities.
The employers at the event recruit to 14 different job functions, including Logistics, Marketing, IT, Property and Law, as well as more obvious areas such as Buying, Merchandising, e-Commerce and Store Management. These roles offer real responsibility, with the opportunity to really add value to the business through projects and leading on new initiatives. According to Simon Roberts, Chief Operating Officer at Boots, working in retail ‘is hard work but it’s great if you really enjoy being around people, and making things happen that make customers feel special’.
Yet retail does appear to be misunderstood by many students, especially in terms of the nature and diversity of graduate opportunities. In a recent Rate-My-Placement* survey of 2500+ students 54% said they were not confident that they know what graduate roles exist in the industry. Only 65% said they thought the sector offered retail management opportunities for graduates (!), and only 40% thought that the industry offered jobs in e-commerce and logistics. This misconception may be partly based on students’ own experience of part-time student jobs in shops but retailers admit they have to do more to promote the sector and more accurately represent the opportunities available. Although, relevant existing work experience is useful for management training schemes and placements, the employers stress that it’s definitely not essential to have retail experience to get into the industry as a graduate. It is a good idea, though, to visit stores that you want to apply to so you can get a feel for the brand.
For more information on Retail Careers see www.prospects.ac.uk/retail_sales_sector.htm
*www.ratemyplacement.co.uk carries over 350 student reviews of retail placements, scoring an average rating of 7.6 out of 10