What are the most in demand skills for jobs in the retail industry?
From cashiers and customer service reps to merchandisers and managers, the retail industry offers a wide range of attractive jobs. Be it fashion, books, antiques, or pharmaceuticals, there is a career for every taste. Retail jobs offer flexible career paths and a wealth of professional experiences with transferable skills. Some even grant their staff special perks like discounts on their products.
So, whether you’re looking for a summer job, experience in an industry you’re passionate about, or a position with great promotion prospects, retail jobs can offer tremendous opportunities to all kinds of workers.
But what skills are most likely to help land you a job in the retail industry?
Here’s our handy guide to the top 6 skills for working in retail:
1. Communication skills
Whether you’re dealing with customers, clients, staff, or management, clear communication is absolutely vital in the retail environment. In fact, according to the 2016 NACE Job Outlook Survey, written and verbal communication skills ranked third and fifth of the list of skills most sought after by employers.
You may think that communication is all about speaking clearly. That is a factor, but others to consider include:
choosing the right words (ease of understanding, tone, etc.)
choosing the right medium (private conversation, meeting, private email, group email, etc.)
emphasising key words
sounding friendly and engaged
looking friendly and engaged (body language, facial expressions, etc.)
looking the part (grooming, clothing, etc.)
listening actively (paying attention, responding, asking questions, etc.)
2. The ability to work in a team
No matter the size of the business or your position in it, the ability to work as a part of a team is another essential skill in the retail industry. The 2016 NACE Job Outlook Survey found it to be the second-most important attribute that employers want in a new employee. A good team player should:
be an active listener
be willing to collaborate
understand and respect the roles of team members
be consistently reliable, respectful, and amiable
encourage, help, and praise others
be skilled at conflict management
3. Commercial awareness
Having commercial awareness means understanding how the business works and what your role in it should be. You need to know about the company’s products, customers, and organisational structure. You also have to understand what your job will entail and how it will fit into the overall company structure.
Don’t panic — you don’t necessarily need a degree in business administration! Before you go to your interview, take the time to do some online research on the company, the industry, and the position. This will help you both in the job interview and, if all goes well, in the workplace.
Poor maths skills and retail jobs simply don’t add up! It doesn’t matter if you’re a cashier, a stock-keeper, or a store manager – strong numeracy skills are a must. It’s true that we have computers and cash registers to help us these days. But even so, it’s simply unacceptable to have to rely on these technologies. So, whether you’re counting change, calculating discounts, creating graphs and charts, or performing ratio analyses, a strong grasp of mathematics is essential.
Need help with your numeracy skills? Check out these free online resources:
- The National Numeracy Organisation
- SkillsYouNeed.com – Numeracy Skills
- FutureLearn.com – Numeracy Skills for Employability and the Workplace
5. Leadership skills
Obviously, if you are applying for a management position, leadership will be key. However, leadership skills are also greatly favoured for other positions in the retail world. Actually, they were considered to be the most valuable attribute in job applicants, according to the 2016 NACE Job Outlook Survey.
The skillset of a leader blends with many of the key skills mentioned so far. Leaders are organised, trustworthy, and dedicated. They can be trusted to work independently, analyse issues, set priorities, solve problems, and understand hierarchal structures. What’s more, they focus on self-development, but also motivate others and offer help when they are needed.
In short, leaders lead by example. For this reason, leadership skills are highly respected – and the most likely cause of your getting a promotion.
6. IT skills
These days, information technology is integrated into every aspect of the retail industry. From point-of-sale cash register software to management software systems, retail operations have changed enormously over the past few decades. If you are tech-savvy, you should be able to pick them up with the correct guidance. For entry level jobs, you can expect to receive on-site training. However, higher level jobs will require certification and/or experience using these systems.
If you possess these 6 skills, the retail industry may be the one for you. With that said, it is a broad sector, with numerous jobs – each with their own specific skillset. For detailed advice on a number of potential retail careers, including job descriptions, working conditions, standard salaries, entry requirements, key skills, and training tips, check out the incredibly helpful UK Government’s National Careers Service website.