The retail sector encompasses any business or individual involved with selling products directly to consumers. Related sectors include wholesale which supplies retailers with goods, logistics which connects wholesalers and producers with retailers, and the manufacturing sector which produces the products sold by retailers.
Retail is a significant sector in the UK labour market. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported in 2020 there were 3.1 million employees (a quarter aged below twenty-five years of age) in this sector which accounts for 5% of UK GDP. Retail jobs are spread evenly around the UK forming approximately 9% of the labour market. Retail roles are found in four domains: the shop floor, shop floor back offices, company headquarters and distribution centres. Retail Week lists the sub-sectors in retail.
Most graduate schemes in retail are open to graduates from all disciplines with employers such LIDL open to applications from graduates with lower second-class honours degrees (2.2). Common to all graduate schemes in retail will be some rotational experience on the shop floors as way to help new employees understand the company’s culture and customer base. Lucrative graduate starting salaries can be found here such as at ALDI with graduate starting salaries of £44,000 that rise to £82,415 in five years. In the 2022 The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, two retailers of Amazon and ALDI sit in the top ten. University of Exeter graduates have progressed to retailer such as Amazon, Harrods, Clarks, Vodafone which demonstrate the diversity of potential recruiters in retail.
For sector statistics, please visit the Retail Industry Report on My Career Zone Digital which contains some data on renewables
Career Zone Employability Schemes
To help increase your work experience and networks in this area.
- Career Zone Internship schemes: Internships can be extremely useful, so try and secure relevant vacation work or placements.
- Ask an Alum: A fuss-free way to connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask careers questions.
- Career Mentor Scheme: A popular employability scheme which matches a student or graduate with an experienced professional, for sector insight and one-to-one careers advice and guidance, over a six months period.
- Green Consultants: An award-winning programme comprising of training and work experience in the environment and sustainability sector which can equip progression into retail management as many retailers are increasingly conscious of sustainable practices.
- Professional Pathways: a suite of sector specific training courses and paid week-long internships that take place in June. In particular, see our marketing and international trade professional pathways.
Videos: Have a look at the following brief videos for an overview of this sector.
- My Career Zone Digital - retail industry insights and labour market data on the retail sector.
- British Retail Consortium Introduction to careers in retail – overview of roles within the sector
- British Retail Consortium - The Future of retail - in conversation with Google and M&S. Part 1: https://youtu.be/6FdjgSkSA_k Part 2: https://youtu.be/Rn44a-RnPN8
- iCould - videos on retail and customer services
If you wish to do further research into this sector, the following webpages may be useful.
Overview of the retail sector including sub-sectors
- Prospects: overview of job roles in this sector and graduate schemes in retail.
- Target Careers - overview of jobs and employers in the retail sector.
- Rethink Retail - information resource compiled by the British Retail Consortium, the industry body representing UK retailers, which showcases occupational insights of working within the wholesale and retail sector, entailing testimonies of professionals working in the sector.
- Drapers - digital periodical showcasing sub-sector news and trends in the fashion industry, including retail developments.
- The Grocer - digital periodical showcasing sub-sector news and trends in fast moving consumer goods.
- Talking Retail- digital periodical showcasing sub-sector news and trends specifically pertaining to UK convenience and independent grocery retailers.
- Kantar Insights - leading market research firm insights in trends in the retail sector and retail behaviours
Labour market information
- Marketing Week - industry digital periodical providing information on areas of advertising (brand management), PR, marketing, strategy, trends, news, commentary and jobs.
- Retail Analysis by IGD - review of three hundred UK retailers, analysing their strategic and operational behaviours.
- The Retail Gazette – industry publication exploring news items in the retail sector.
- Retail Week - digital periodical with sector news, market data, analysis and jobs.
- TRB - The Retail Bulletin - industry periodical providing retail sector news
Retail employer directories
- BCorp - directory of kitemarked high sustainability companies, including companies operating in retail.
- Best Companies Guide- agency assessing and accrediting the quality of workplace employee engagement.
- Kompass - directory listing of international businesses.
- Milkround - survey produced by CareerTest ranking companies by quality of working environments.
- Prospects - list of retail graduate schemes.
- Retail Week - list of significant companies in this sector.
For general information about finding graduate opportunities, please visit our Graduate Jobspage, and for a list of general job search engines please visit our general job sources page. You could also have a look at Handshake, our vacancy database with employers who are targeting University of Exeter students.
- Handshake - our vacancy database with employers who are targeting University of Exeter students.
- Adzuna -job search platform across all sectors, including retail.
- Drapers -job search platform for fashion careers.
- Graduate Jobs - platform listings of graduate jobs across all sectors, including retail.
- Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB) - recruitment service for entry level careers across all sectors including wholesale and retail.
- Marketing Week Job Search facility – job platform associated with industry digital periodical.
- The Retail Appointment – specialist retail recruitment company.
- Retail Choice: - job searching platform for jobs in retail.
- Prospects Job vacancies in sales and retail – job search tool.
- Success Talent Jobs - agency with graduate entry jobs into retail and merchandising.
- Talisman - agency recruiting for job in retail fashion.
- TARGETjobs vacancies in retail - aggregator platform listing graduate schemes and job opportunities in the retail
As jobs are not always advertised, it can be useful to develop your networking skills and also apply speculatively.
If you have studied a related degree, check if your course is accredited by one of the professional bodies. Being a member of a professional body is voluntary however, it can be valuable for developing networks, continuing your professional development, and generally keeping up to date with what is happening in the sector.
- BIRA - British Independent Retailers' Association - charity association representing and advocating UK independent retail businesses.
- BRC - British Retail Consortium - UK trade association representing British retailers.
- Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) - professional awarding body in procurement and supply.
- Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) – specialist training provider in retail.
- Institute of Commercial Management -award body for business development staff.
- Institute of Export and International Trade - association of exporters and importers.
- The Institute of Grocery Distribution – IGD – organisation measuring commercial trends and social impact in the retail sector.
- Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) - trade association representing online retailers; data insight reports on the health of this sub-domain of retail and guidance in operations for online retailers.
- NRF (National Retail Federation - USA trade association representing US based retailers
- Best Companies Guide
- Times Top 100 by Sector - milkround.com
- Wikijob - information on companies, application and assessment procedures and typical interview questions
- Kompass Directory - international business database
- Global 2000 - Top Retail Companies
If you wish to pursue postgraduate study before entering your chosen sector, please visit our Postgraduate Study information page for more information about choosing further study.
It can often be useful to gain postgraduate qualifications in the relevant subject area if your undergraduate degree is in a different topic but, beware, there are many courses on the market, and they are not all equally successful in getting you that "dream job". You can always complement your degree with professional qualifications to show your commitment towards the industry (see Professional Bodies section). A MBA can be advantageous in progression to senior retail management roles.