With a variety of job opportunities and a wide range of graduate schemes, there’s more to working in retail than you might think.

Careers within Retail

Placed just behind the health and business sectors, retail is one of the UK’s largest employers, with over 3 million people working in the industry. It has become an essential part of the country’s economy, contributing over £381 billion in sales last year alone.

Companies are constantly competing with their rivals as the market becomes increasingly competitive and saturated with new businesses. There are roles available for graduates with a range of companies, from high-profile stores on the high street to local businesses.

The size and significance of the retail sector within the UK market leads it to pay some of the highest average starting salaries for new workers.

Some of the job roles available to graduates include:

Retail Buyer

Specialising in selecting product ranges to sell in retail stores and outlets, retail buyers also identify new trends and source items to sell. A degree in retail or business will increase your chances of being successful when applying for roles but is a role open to anyone.

Retail Merchandiser

Often working closely with retail buyers, merchandisers are responsible for ensuring products appear and for selling in the right place at the right time. You will need strong analytical skills, and a degree in business finance is an advantage here.

Customer Service Manager

Dedicated to ensuring customers get the most out of their experiences, employees this job role will develop new policies and procedures and require excellent leadership skills. Employers will often look for graduates to have a relevant degree in hospitality or retail.

Personal Shopper

Personal shoppers work with key clients and help them to select products based on their individual needs. Strong product knowledge and people skills are essential, and a qualification in fashion will prove valuable.

Procurement Manager

Responsible for sourcing and acquiring vital equipment and services to enable an organisation to operate efficiently, procurement managers build a network of industry contacts to sniff out the best available prices.

Skills Needed

When looking to forge a career within retail, graduates need to have a good knowledge of the latest fashion trends and new developments within the industry and are usually willing to accept a wide variety of degrees.

Employers will often look for candidates to have the following key skills:

  • Passion for fashion
  • Good communication skills
  • Creative flair
  • Negotiation skills and strategic thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong numerical and analytical skills
  • Leadership skills, particularly for management roles
  • Flexibility, sometimes availability to work unsociable hours

Opportunities for Graduates

There are many graduate and trainee schemes within retail, offering a variety of opportunities across a wide range of job roles. Some examples with well-known employers include:

River Island

High Street retailer River Island provides students with industrial placements in one of their thousands of stores as part of their sandwich degree, as well as providing opportunities in buying, design and merchandising for postgraduates.


Having run a highly successful graduate schemes over several years, Aldi continues to promote its 12-month fast-track Area Manager programme to graduates. This grad-scheme requires a minimum 2:1 degree in any discipline, offering exposure in all aspects of the business.


Offering the chance to work on challenging projects within various departments, Amazon promotes inventiveness within its workforce. They offer graduate schemes in retail leadership and product management, among other areas.


This retail giant offers graduates the opportunity to join one of their Store Management Trainee Programme or work in their head office within areas such as supply chain, HR and space planning.

How to Apply

Most schemes require candidates to submit an online application, although some recruitment processes will vary, so always check with individual employers.

When sending your CV to an employer, it is always a good idea to tailor for the job role. We have useful CV tips online, which are adaptable for any application.