WORKING in the retail industry is often considered a “stop gap” arrangement.

However, experience in this field can provide an excellent foundation for careers in a variety of different sectors.

Professionals who start in the retail industry later diversify into roles in training or human resources.

Graduate schemes can also provide a thorough induction for individuals who may later move into other commercial sectors as they have transferable skills such as sales and people management.

The vibrant and fast-expanding retail sector presents a number of compelling career options.

A job in the retail sector may usually be associated with retail operations but there are additional functions like buying/merchandising, marketing communication/public relations (PR) and visual merchandising/store design that can offer highly rewarding career options.

Retail operations

This is the job role most people are familiar with as it is the most visible in-store job.

Retail operations are ubiquitous, from food and beverage retailers to luxury fashion brands.

When working in a retail store, you are the person creating the brand identity and consumer experience. An individual must display brand affinity, culture fit, good customer service, interpersonal skills and commercial competency.

Thus, it is important for someone interested in a career in retail operations to consider how they can embody their potential employer’s brand and values.

Many work in retail while in school and build up a core understanding of day-to-day operational requirements within a business.

Upon leaving school, some step into full-time roles and progress to store management roles, district and area management or beyond.

Due to the dynamic nature of the sector, individuals are often earmarked early to be fast-tracked, so it is likely that individuals with ambition, hard work and passion will progress quickly.

The other route into retail operations is via graduate trainee schemes offered by large retail organisations that induct their intakes of graduates into all aspects of retail management, generally over a one- to two-year period.

After this period, individuals may take on a management position with a clear development programme. However, competition can be tough, and employers will often look for individuals with a retail, hospitality or business-related degree and some practical experience in the sector.

Buying/merchandising

The skill set an employer requires for this role is more specific and the right candidate may need to possess strong numeric and analytical skills.

Aside from having a relevant educational background, candidates also need as much practical work experience as possible.

Many companies offer internships and temporary work that will give a candidate a real insight into what the job entails.

Candidates can be assured of a structured career progression and further specialisation into product areas that can develop their expertise and enhance their career development potential.

One important consideration is the frequency of lengthy travel periods often required of the candidate, which may prove a privilege or a disadvantage.

Nevertheless, opportunities of interesting long-term career options are abundant here.

Marketing communication/ Public relations

Marketing and PR for a retail organisation are often seen as fun and glamorous, and bring many intangible perks.

However, behind the scenes, these roles require large amounts of hard work, time and effort to perform well in the fast-changing retail industry.

Stepping into a marketing or PR role at entry level may not be difficult but as you progress to a more senior position, organisations often expect you to have good knowledge of industry players, media contacts as well as being in the loop of who’s who to bring together a successful marketing strategy for the brand.

Visual merchandising/ Store design

With Singapore’s retail industry blossoming, many retail players are improving their standards in store visual merchandising and store design.

A good visual merchandising manager is highly sought-after in the market. Many well-performing managers start out in their roles as window display artists and work their way up.

Today, educational institutions are seeing the potential of this function and offer courses that will provide candidates with the relevant educational background.

The retail industry presents many exciting career options.

A vibrant market such as Singapore’s is constantly developing new mall concepts and will continue to attract many new and exciting brands, which will, in turn, offer challenging and rewarding career opportunities to anyone who chooses a career in this industry.