No matter where the economy takes us, retail operations are here to stay and offer a great place for everyone, from straight-out-of-school leavers to those with diplomas and degrees, to start their job search.
Plus, whether you begin your retail career as an entry-level cashier or end up in a senior management position, a career in retail can be highly rewarding, with appropriate positions existing for wherever your ambition may take you.
There is also no doubt that brick-and-mortar shops will be with us for a while to come. For many shoppers, nothing beats the thrill of visiting their local stores or shopping malls, browsing through the merchandise on offer and getting great personal service from a well-trained and knowledgeable sales assistant.
Other retail careers include buyers (who decide what stock a retailer should carry), visual merchandisers (responsible for a shop’s eye-catching in-store displays and windows), advertising and marketing specialists (responsible for getting feet through the door), logistics (keeping track of orders and shipments) and, of course, department, floor or even store managers.
These traditional retail roles will continue to exist and be vital to retail operations, but there are also now a number of new opportunities opening up for those interested in retail in cyberspace.
Increasing numbers of retailers are now turning to online where slightly more specialised roles exist for those considering either a retail or a digital career. These range from online call centre operators (one of the largest growing professions in South Africa) to those who actually develop and manage a company’s entire digital environment.
In fact, a number of retailers these days only operate online. Among them is Teljoy, an online retailer that utilises a rent-to-own model for its customers to acquire home electronics, appliances and furniture. Having been in operation for more than 50 years, it had moved away from its brick-and-mortar stores entirely by 2014.
According to the company’s Digital Marketing Supervisor, Melissa Signor, the online retail environment is a field that’s offering increasing opportunities, many of them similar to those offered in traditional retail: “However, although you do get similar roles in your physical and online stores, online ones do tend to be more specialised.”
Signor is, herself, a marketing specialist, and started her own career with a BCom in Marketing Management, before becoming interested in the digital environment. She trained for this by supplementing her degree with a digital marketing qualification, but advises those interested in entering the field that constant upskilling is crucial: “Digital marketing is constantly changing so you need to be continually educating yourself.”
But, notes Signor: “these days, this can be undertaken relatively easily via the many online courses and tutorials available. Many of these courses are free such as the excellent ones offered by Google.”
Being in charge of Teljoy’s online strategy, Signor spends a large part of her day ensuring the company utilises the correct digital channels by closely monitoring, reviewing and improving them to see they meet the Teljoy’s objectives: “My team makes sure we receive the best bang for our buck on each of the channels we use. And that we constantly keep up-to-date with any new digital avenues and tools that become available to us.”
One of the biggest digital objectives in the department is to make sure that the company’s online presence operates one hundred percent correctly: “We constantly look to update areas of the website to see where these could be improved. This is important because all our digital marketing points back to our website, so it’s key that our customers get the best user experience.”
The advice that Signor offers to anyone considering a career in retail – or any other career – is to get involved as early in life as possible, even while still in school: “If retail is your passion, try to land a vacation job at a local store. Learn the ropes from the bottom up.”
Having realised from an early age that marketing would be her passion, Signor followed this advice herself: “I started by doing promotions when I was still at school. When I started university, I had my first job with a below-the-line agency even before I finished my degree. This also meant that I had a job secured by the time I graduated and started working full-time.
From there she moved across to digital: “That’s when I completed my digital marketing qualifications which really grew my digital knowledge and skills set and led me to the job I have today.”
Signor also believes that increasing numbers of opportunities will open up in the online retail environment as its popularity grows: “the roles that people will play in digital marketing will become more specialised and specific as the focus on digital becomes greater in the retail space.”