There’s a lot more to the retail industry than meets the eye. It’s not just about selling products to customers in a physical store or the virtual kind – there’s an elaborate ecosystem of activities involved in getting you to cough up your hard earned cash. Let’s look at three roles in retail that you may not know much about.
Merchandisers are responsible for deciding what products should be sold and how much product should be stocked at each store. This requires a unique blend of skills to tackle the various responsibilities – the ability to forecast trends but back it up with solid data analysis, as well as interpersonal skills as you’ll be dealing with buyers, warehousing, retail stores, etc. There are practicalities that you’ll need to take into consideration as well – for example, how big is the retail store and what fixtures and fittings does it have? As anyone who’s been in a cramped Asian grocery store would know, more stock doesn't always equal better.
Retail marketing is big business. With the popularity of online shopping, even bricks-and-mortar stores with an online presence are having to spend just as much time (and money) on their digital strategy as they do with print. It’s no longer just about sexy billboards – how does this translate across your other marketing channels?
Marketing has become such a massive area to tackle for businesses that it’s often broken down into a range of disciplines, from your traditional marketing to digital, social media and e-commerce. There are lots of opportunities for you to flex your creative muscles in this space, as businesses strive to differentiate themselves from the masses (check out this podcast to hear about marketing mind control tricks). It also pays to be well organised and to have some analytical prowess in such a role – there’s no point spending money on marketing campaigns if they’re not well managed and you can’t work out whether they actually worked.
3. Supply chain management
You can’t sell products if you don’t have any products to sell. Supply chain management involves making sure that products get to the shelves in the quickest and most cost effective way. The Spanish clothing retailer, Zara, has optimised its supply chain to the point where it’s a competitive advantage. The company’s global scale allows it to create, manufacture, distribute and retail new designs with a two week turnaround time.
Depending on the size of the company, there are a range of roles within supply chain management, each requiring different attributes and skill sets. Some roles, such as inventory specialists, are more hands on whereas other roles, such as supply chain analysts, are, you guessed it, more analytical. However, all roles require people who love a good problem solving challenge.
Throughout the rest of this series we’ll be delving a bit deeper into the world of retail. Look out for our post describing a day in the life of a store manager from one of the world’s largest clothing brands – complete with some cringe-worthy customer anecdotes. There’ll also be our list of some of the best companies to work for and an interview with a visual merchandiser from a luxury brand.