Consumer & Retail

The retail industry is at the heart of society, directly affecting the lives of millions everyday. It’s a multimillion pound industry with plenty of opportunity for career advancement and a strong salary. Think it could be for you? This is your ultimate guide to the industry…


What is Consumer & Retail?

The Consumer & Retail industry is a broad sector encompassing a diverse range of job roles – everything from merchandising to supply chain logistics (don’t worry, we’ll get to that later). Generally, all jobs related to the buying and selling of goods to the general public for consumption are within the Consumer & Retail industry. You might just see a friendly face behind the counter in the store, but there are whole host of people working behind the scenes to make that transaction happen.

It’s an exciting industry to be in; you’ll be right at the heart of society, anticipating the latest trends – and let’s not forget that nifty staff discount. It’s also a satisfying industry to work in, with tangible results and concrete goals to work towards. So hold onto your hats, let’s dive right in and see what a career in Consumer & Retail is all about.

All jobs related to the buying and selling of goods to the general public for consumption are within the Consumer & Retail industry


Job Roles

When people think of the Consumer & Retail industry, they often think of shop assistants, but the number of different roles available will boggle your mind. Let us take you through some of the main ones, what they involve and the kind of skills they require.

    • Buying is all about strategy – deciding what products to buy and when by predicting trends before they even happen. It involves a lot of data analysis, but also strong communication and negotiation skills.

    • A positive shopping experience is all about good customer service. You’ll need to be an outgoing, positive person with strong interpersonal skills.

    • This is all about the complex process that goes into transporting goods from the factories where they’re produced, to the shelves of the stores where they’re bought. There’s lots of planning and strategy involved, but you’ll also be getting hands on and doing plenty of travelling.

    • The shopping experience is all about the visuals; the glossy products on the shelves that are just crying out to be bought. Visual merchandising is all about that aesthetic, and requires a creative and passionate mind.

    • In retail management you’ll be leading a workforce as a store or department manager. You’ll be responsible for ensuring a positive consumer experience and pushing your team to work to the best of their abilities.

    • Like all industries, the digital era has made a big impact on the Consumer & Retail industry – online shopping is increasingly becoming the biggest source of revenue. From advanced technology used to track sales, to tech advancements in store, the sector is increasingly going digital.

    • In order to decide what to put on the shelves, retailers need to conduct some thorough market research to make sure the stuff they’re selling is actually going to be bought. This is a job all about people, and working out what makes them tick.

    • If you’re able to analyse data, tackle spreadsheets and evaluate stats to improve performance, then a role in Finance could be just for you.

    • At the very core of the Consumer & Retail industry is Marketing – establishing new and creative ways to sell products and engage consumers.

    • A career in HR can be based in a number of sectors, and in Consumer & Retail you’ll similarly be responsible for sourcing new talent and enhancing the employee experience.



You don’t necessarily need a degree in a specific discipline to forge a successful career in Consumer & Retail. A strong degree in any subject and some good work experience will help you to secure that first role, and you’ll be able to work your way up. Some degrees, however, such as Business Studies, Retail Management or Fashion can help give your application that extra boost. Similarly, a degree in Logistics, Distribution or Transport will help securing a role in Logistics and Supply Chains.

Postgraduate qualifications aren’t at all necessary in the industry, although an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) might be useful.

Top Retail employer Arcadia – which runs high street names including Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Burtons, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Wallis – accept applicants from a wide range of degree disciplines for many of their roles. Check the Debut app for their latest vacancies.


Skills you need

A successful career in Consumer & Retail is all about strong communication and organisational skills. You’ll be working as part of a large team, pulling together people and resources from a number of different departments, so the ability to communicate effectively to get the job done is essential. If you’re in a customer-facing role you’ll be expected to approach them appropriately – and that means dealing with unhappy customers when necessary.

A successful career in Consumer & Retail is all about strong communication and organisational skills

You’ll also need to be able to analyse and deconstruct products and advertising, and that takes a sharp analytical mind. You need to be able to understand why a particular product has been placed where it is, and how it has been designed and advertised to appeal to a particular audience. You need to step away from being the consumer, and understand the strategy behind the industry.

Also make sure you research the sector, understand all the different departments and how they work together to produce the shopping experience the customer sees. This will also help guide your own interests and decide what kind of role you would work best in. Keep up to date with the latest industry news as well – the Retail industry changes rapidly as the economy fluctuates, so make sure you stay up-to-date with any developments.


Industry Insights

Like many industries, the Consumer & Retail sector is in a state of flux as it adapts to the changes in society. Most obviously, online shopping has grown exponentially in recent years as the world moves online. About 15% of retail spending occurs online, so retail outlets are rightly diverting more resources and skills to ensure a high quality digital shopping experience. The downside of this of course is the loss of jobs, as companies reign in high street outlets to focus on online.

There’s no massive cause for alarm though. The retail sector still employs 2.9 million people in the UK, making it one of the largest sources of employment in the country. Although recent trends show people are spending more on travel and leisure experiences as opposed to material goods, the industry still continues to thrive and is an exciting and cutting edge sector to work in.


Work experience

Compared to other industries, getting work experience in Retail can be relatively easy. Securing a part time job or work placement in a retail outlet, especially over Christmas, is easy so make sure you get stuck in. Employers want to see strong communication skills in a consumer facing role, so a part-time job is the perfect way to demonstrate this.

There are also other things you can do to enhance your application, such as joining societies. Employers are always impressed by experience gained on business and entrepreneurial societies, as these will help develop your knowledge of business operations at all levels. Showing some entrepreneurial flair shows you know how to develop and market a product, valuable skills you can apply to a job in retail. Any experience you can get in organising events and campaigns shows you know how to project manage.

Employers want to see strong communication skills in a consumer facing role, so a part-time job is the perfect way to demonstrate this


Pros and Cons

Still on the fence about whether a career in retail is right for you? Well we’ve put together a list of all the pros and cons to help you make that final decision.

It’s an exciting and dynamic work environment, with the potential to work in a variety of different areas.Work often involves unsociable hours, including weekends.
The average graduate starting salary is pretty high - you could be earning around £30,000.It’s a fast paced work environment and can get quite intense.
There is potential for overseas travel if you work for a multinational business - and especially if you’re a language student.Work can be quite seasonal, with longer hours during christmas and summer periods, and less work during non-peak months.
That cheeky discount - This can sometimes even be 50% off products!


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