Everything you need to know about retail jobs in Scotland

Retail is one of Scotland’s most diverse job sectors, drawing the attention of both graduates and non-graduates alike. The reason for its consistent popularity can be attributed to many things, but its potential to offer a fast paced and exciting career must come at the top of the list. Retail jobs in Scotland and the retail sector includes many different industries, from food to fashion; the career path options are almost endless. No matter what work style or professional personality you have; there will be an industry that can match it. Taking the first step into a retail career will always be exciting, but what does it actually entail? From warehouse-based roles to buyer positions, finding the right role isn’t always easy when it comes to retail. If you are ready to join one of the 3 million retail workers in the United Kingdom, then read on for more information about how you can do so.


Where exactly in retail can I work?


One thing is for sure; retail is not a one-dimensional field. Should you choose to work in retail there are various areas you can choose work in. The most popular areas the following:


  • Buying
  • Customer service
  • Security
  • Loss prevention
  • Visual merchandising
  • Allocation
  • Management
  • Logistics
  • Supply
  • Distribution
  • Warehouse operations


Each line of work provides its own career opportunities and opportunities for professional growth.


What industries can I work in?


Almost every industry has a retail outlet of some description, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Within the United Kingdom, the biggest employers of retail staff are supermarkets and clothing chains. But that isn’t all that it is limited to, as fashion, books, music, sport, jewelry and online sectors also regularly offer shop floor level retail opportunities, therefore retail jobs in Scotland are widely available.  While finance, HR, IT, and marketing sectors offer retail opportunities in smaller numbers and at generally higher career levels.


Who employees the most graduates in retail?


It is a fairly even mix of both graduates and non-graduates within entry-level retail positions in Scotland, but as the responsibilities increase within a role, the pendulum tends to swing one way. Graduates make up a large percentage of senior retail roles. Determining what industry and what company employees the most graduates isn’t particularly easy, as every industry is different. However, the following table breaks down the leading names within the most popular retail focused industries.


Clothing and Fashion
  • Arcadia Group (including Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, and Topshop)
  • John Lewis Partnership (including Waitrose)
  • Next
  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • TJX Europe (includes TK Maxx)
Online Shopping
  • Amazon
  • N Brown Group
  • Shop Direct Group
  • Aldi
  • ASDA
  • Sainsburys
  • Morrisons
  • Lidl
  • Tesco
  • Dixons Retail (including PC World and Currys)
  • Kingfisher (including B&Q and Screwfix Direct)
  • Boots
  • Wilko (formerly known as Wilkinsons)


What is life like in the retail sector?


Those who choose to work in the retail sector in Scotland can expect countless opportunities to open up to them over time. You will start out in retail in either an entry level shop floor position or in a position that comes off the back of a graduate scheme. Life in the world of retail is exciting and there is every chance that it can match your ambition.


What about seasonal employment?


What is truly unique about the world of retail is that you will be given plenty of opportunities to test the waters. One way in which you can do this is to try your hand at seasonal employment. As a seasonal employee you can’t expect to receive all the benefits that a fully contracted employee would receive, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a benefit free experience.


When you take on a seasonal retail position you can expect to be thrown in at the deep end. You will be working amidst all the chaos of the shop floor, something that will really show you whether or not retail is something that you are cut out for. Seasonal positions in retail may not seem like much on the surface, but in many regards they can both be a tremendous learning experience and a stepping-stone to something more substantial.


What is the common retail career path?


The world of retail isn’t simply the playground for the shopaholics out there; it is an entire career dimension in its own right. When evaluating the traditional career path and career trajectory of someone who works in retail, the information can make exciting reading. Experience and education often hold the key to progression, but whichever route you choose you will be expected to work hard from the ground up in order to keep pushing forward.


Graduates will already have a leg up on the competition because of their education. Many companies are looking to pick up graduates right out of university and put them onto a graduate trainee scheme. These schemes usually last several years, before they look to move you into a middle management position. After paying your dues and gaining more real word experience, companies may look to move you into a more senior role, with a director position obviously being the ultimate career goal. Store management is another route for a graduate and can often occur at a faster pace than a head office career. Moving from assistant manager to manager and finally onto an area or district manager role can take place over a shorter amount of time than you think.


Non-graduates may not have the leg up that a degree can provide, but all that means is that the route to the top will take a little longer. This is because on the job training will be pivotal to any progress made. Given the right entry-level experience you can look to move into a management-training scheme, that will not only help improve your career prospects but also you salary potential. It may take longer, but if you stick with it a non-graduate can be just as successful in retail as a graduate.


Within Retail job in Scotland – What type of salary can I expect?


After deciding that the technical aspects of the world of retail appeal to you, you will want to understand more about how much you can earn. With the sector reach being so far and wide, determining an average wage isn’t easy. Entry-level employees can expect to earn anywhere from a minimum wage salary up to £16,000. Many roles at this level are paid by the hour and are classified as shift work. Salaries become fuller and better rounded as you progress up the career ladder. If you’re a graduate entering the retail sector the average salary will be around £25,000, with those starting retail life within an advanced graduate manager-training programme earning up to £40,000. Should you rise to an executive level then a salary of £60,000 per annum may very well be within reach.


What key issues am I likely to face in the retail sector in Scotland?


As far as growth goes, very few sectors can match what retail is predicting. By 2020 the workforce numbers in retail should rise to almost 55,000, with the majority of this growth expected to occur within management positions. This means opportunities at senior levels are on the rise, meaning that there is serious career growth potential for those looking to get involved in retail.


The reason for this growth is because almost every sector that has retail elements is becoming increasingly competitive. This means that companies are being pushed hard to deliver better customer service, via both in store and online retailing. This means that the sector as a whole is on a large recruitment drive. Graduates have become hot property, with those with the technical skills being snapped up by large chains left, right, and centre.


The world of retail is growing on a daily basis, so if you have the skills you can expect there to be opportunities for you to take advantage of.


How important is a degree to retail career development?


It doesn’t matter whether it is within retail or any other industry, the importance of a degree is often questioned. In years gone by high-ranking retail employees (including store managers) had largely been promoted from within, based on experience rather than education. However, as time has gone on many companies have started to look toward applicants with degrees and this thought process is unlikely to change. Should you have a degree you can expect many chains to offer you the chance to be fast tracked into area management. But this isn’t the only area in which fast track opportunities are available to those who have degrees. Retailers recruit graduates who have almost any type of degree, so from IT to merchandising, your degree will more than likely be sought after. However, for some sectors you will need a related degree. For example, if you want to be a buyer in the world of fashion you are going to need a fashion related degree.


What skills are retail employers looking for?


It isn’t all about your education when entering into the retail sector. Employers are going to want to see that you can bring a wide variety of skills to a role. Retail is a sector that is ever evolving, which means the working hours involved may not be normal. You must be adaptable to the fact that long hours may be asked of you at any time. Commercial awareness is important, as you will be working either within a brand or with brands that will want to be promoted a set way. The basics of verbal and numerical skills are also of importance.


Should you step up the career ladder then more skills will be needed from you. Retail employers want to employ leaders who can remain organised even in times of crisis. You can be sure that when an employer is looking over your CV, the skills you listed will be just as important as your education.


Where can I get work experience within retail jobs in Scotland?


Employers will always cast a favourable eye over applicants who have worked in retail before, no matter whether you are a graduate or not. You will find that some university courses make work experience (in the form of a work placement) mandatory. This experience is valuable, but it isn’t the only way you can go about obtaining face-to-face customer serving retail experience.


Firstly, you can take the route that most take where they try to get retail experience and find local shop based work. This usually means becoming a sales assistant and working on the shop floor. Even though this work is customer interaction based, retail employees like to see that an applicant has at least attempted sales. Another route you can take is an internship, offering more of a learning experience than a standard role. Internships are usually offered in 3 month, 6 month, or 12-month form by many of the UKs biggest retailers (including John Lewis and Arcadia). It should be noted, that even though internships will introduce you to many different aspects of retail, the pay rate might not match that of standard position,


Why do company’s like candidates who have frontline retail experience so much? The answer is simple, they like workers who can get stuck in on the shop floor to increase sales when called upon.


How do I find a graduate specific job in retail?


After leaving university with an undergraduate degree to your name, you may be wondering how you can break into retail. For most it will be a case of applying and subsequently being accepted onto a graduate training scheme. These schemes cover all aspects of retail within a company, giving you a taste of anything and everything. Companies tend run a wide variety of graduate schemes all at once in order to get the pick of the very best talent available. For example, Tesco runs 19 different graduate training schemes, covering everything from store management to head office operations.


Start your search for a graduate training scheme by looking at company websites, as that is where they are generally listed. The actual grades required to qualify for a graduate training scheme vary from company to company and role to role. But a good rule of thumb is that logistics graduate schemes will require a 2:1 degree and this is what most employers will want in general. If you have a lesser degree then be prepared to placed on waiting list for your chosen scheme.


You will find that when it comes to these schemes that many companies will look favourably on candidates that have shop floor experience, or have taken it upon  themselves to enrol in work experience.


Can postgraduate study help further my retail career?


The above is a question that gets asked a lot, as the answer given by many professional tends to be vague at best. To figure out if postgraduate study is worth the investment you should ask yourself just how far in the world of retail you wish to go. For example, if you simply want to work on the shop floor, then obviously a postgraduate degree is almost irrelevant. Those wanting more may find that it can improve their career prospects. Roles that are within qualification driven sectors such as finance and money management, applicants may find that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) just isn’t enough. It times such as this when having a postgraduate degree would be of note.


It isn’t just the money management side of things that can benefit from a postgraduate degree. Retail contains many specialist areas and positions, especially within the realms of online retailing, visual merchandising, and buying. Postgraduate courses in such areas have increased for a reason, as even though you won’t require such to obtain a position it is definitely considered of benefit to a performance. There is also a consistent demand for skilled logistics workers and supply chain managers, with most companies giving preference to MBA applicants, due to the ease in which they can be promoted to senior roles.


If I work in retail, is it worth joining a professional body?


Without question, if you want to make a career in retail longstanding you should almost certainly join a relevant professional body. Not only is it good to be on the books of such for potential insider job opportunities, but also the chance to bolster your CV and skill set with new qualifications. For example, you may come across some jobs that require you to have a certain qualification from a professional body and without membership you simply won’t have access to it. It should be noted that some roles might deem that membership is mandatory, but it is largely a voluntary choice. Providing job, network, qualification, and career progression opportunities, membership to a relevant professional body can sometimes prove invaluable.


What professional qualifications are recognised by retail employers?


Much like any other line of employment, retail has many professional bodies that employees are encouraged to become members of. The benefits vary from body to body, but having your name one or more of the following books won’t ever hurt from a career perspective.


British Retail Consortium When it comes to retail training and taking your skill set to the next level, it is hard to argue against being a member of the British Retail Consortium. This trade association houses its very own training academy, which many of the retails brightest minds have used and graduated from.
The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport If you are working within logistics or amidst a company’s supply chain, then The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport is something you should consider joining. They offer accredited professional qualifications that can allow you take the next step in your logistics career.
Charted Institute of Marketing Solely focused on getting the best out of sales staff, this membership body promotes training that can help sales employees improve their performance and career opportunities.
Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply More management focused than other professional bodies in the retail sector. The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply promotes purchasing and supply chain management training amongst other professional qualifications.
Institute of Customer Service Operating as a solely independent membership body for customer service based retail staff, they provide a wide range of customer service based qualifications.
Institute of Grocery Distribution When you want information on the best practices in the grocery and consumer goods industry, you should join the Institute of Grocery Distribution. They offer both novice and advanced training and development for those who will be handling food and consumer goods. They also offer several interactive workshops that are also of note.
National Association of Goldsmiths If you work within the jewel and diamond industry, then membership to the National Association of Goldsmiths should be a given. As the industry is ever evolving, the education and training they provide could prove priceless.


What is the next step?


When you want to work in a growing sector that is going to offer you tremendous professional growth potential, then retail is somewhere where you will want to be. The industry is set to boom over the coming years, which is something that you will want to be part of. Getting involved in retail jobs in Scotland has never been easier either, no matter whether you are a graduate or not. Our Scottish Jobs Online team are ready and waiting to help you find your next retail opportunity, so pick up the phone and speak to one of our dedicated advisors today.

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