Training, interviews and work experience. Sometimes it seems like landing your dream retail job is a heck of a lot of work, but never fear, organisations like the National Skills Academy for Retail can help plug the gaps in your skill set with their specialised training programmes.
RetailChoice.com caught up with Jane Rexworthy, Head of the NSA, to find out more...
Q. What skills are employers looking for and can training fill a skills gap?
A. The retail industry is all about customer service, so it’s no surprise that the key competencies recruiters seek continue to be teamwork, leadership and communication.
There are a number of training programmes and qualifications dedicated to customer service and management which can be found through the National Skills Academy for Retail’s network of retail skills shops.
Q. Store Managers – what training and development is available?
A. As the name implies, store management jobs offer impressive opportunities to develop and hone managerial skills. Graduate training schemes are a common way to get into retail manager jobs at store level.
Some national retail businesses run trainee management schemes for graduates (most degrees are accepted). These are usually a combination of skills training and work placement in one or more of a company's stores – individuals undertaking this path normally enter a store manager position after developing experience as a department manager and/or deputy manager during their training.
A store manager is responsible for the day-to-day management of a store/retail outlet in accordance with overall company policy. The main focus of any retail manager's job is to improve the commercial performance of the store by increasing its turnover and maximising profitability. The major parts of the job include managing and motivating staff, finding new ways to improve sales, and meeting customer demand.
Q. Retail Buyers – What career opportunities are available as a buyer?
A. Job opportunities are available with high street retailers, supermarkets, retail chains and independent retailers, department stores, discount and DIY/home improvement stores, mail order companies, internet retailers and television shopping channels. Smaller retailers may combine buying jobs and merchandising jobs into a general retail management position.
A retail buyer is responsible for planning, selecting and purchasing quantities of goods and merchandise that are sold in retail stores. Most buyers specialise in one product type, for example clothes, fashion accessories, food and drink, or books. Within an organisation, buyers are generally responsible for one area, category or brand such as teenage girls' handbags, chocolates or own-brand detergents.
Those in retail buying jobs need a clear understanding of the customers they are buying for, the prices they are willing to pay and the likely demand for products. Reacting to, and most importantly forecasting market trends and changes in demand, are key aspects of the job.
Q. How can a candidate make themselves stand out against the competition?
A. Every candidate has the potential to be successful, but it requires good preparation. It’s important to do research on employers and find out what skills, competences and experiences they expect candidates to possess. So, use all the resources that are available to find out as much as possible. The more the candidate knows about an employer and the position, the greater their advantage will be.
Work experience is valued by employers and it also demonstrates that someone is serious about the job you being applied for.
Q. What interview skills are important?
A. In an interview, the CV (or application form) should act as guidance notes which then need to be expanded on. If the candidate has said they are highly organised or good under pressure, the interview is the chance to give real examples to corroborate the facts.
Again, retail skills shops that are members of the National Skills Academy for Retail are always on hand to offer information and guidance on interviews and interview techniques.
Q. Are there any current retail trends that candidates should be aware of and gain knowledge about?
A. I would strongly recommend reading sector magazines such as Retail Therapy. These are also read by the top people in the business and really give you a flavour for how the current market is and what new trends are up and coming.
It is worth candidates noting that in the recent recession, footwear jobs were the hardest hit area of retail. This fact should not discourage job applicants but instead give them an opportunity to expand on how they would envisage bolstering sales and profits.
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