If you’re thinking about working in retail, it can be a great choice with lots of different ways to achieve your goals. Retail is one of the most versatile industries, with a constant, churning demand to meet ever-growing sales and customer needs. It’s also an industry where you can start laying out a career path that takes you up through the management level, or get that “right now” job while you figure out what your longer-term career plans are. It’s also a field that’s growing and diversifying quickly due to changes in technology and e-commerce, making it a broader field than ever before.
Let’s look at some of the fastest-growing job opportunities in retail for the new year.
1. Sales Associate
Think of this job as “retail classic,” especially if you’re just starting out. Sales associates are basically the boots on the ground in the retail industry, working out on the floor in brick-and-mortar stores to make sure that shelves are stocked, customers are being helped, sales are being made, and operations are running smoothly. It’s typically an hourly job, worked in shifts set by the store’s management. Working as a sales associate can mean working nights, weekends, and holidays, depending on the type of store.
Working as a retail sales associate can be a major experience-builder, especially if you’re thinking about branching out into a more advanced career in the retail field.
What you’ll need: There’s no official education level needed to become a sales associate, but some companies prefer high school graduates (or equivalent). Sales associates should have good organizational skills, trustworthiness, solid math skills, and excellent customer service skills—not to mention the patience it takes to help customers of all kinds. Most stores provide on-the-job training for new employees.
How much they make: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), sales associates make a median annual salary of $22,900 per year, or $11.01 per hour. This can vary depending on experience and seniority.
For more on how to snag retail associate jobs:
- 6 Job Skills You Need to Be a Sales Associate
- How to Write a Perfect Sales Associate Resume (Examples Included)
2. Retail Manager
If you’ve got some retail experience under your belt already, 2018 is a great time to start thinking about moving up into the managerial level. Retail managers are often responsible for managing teams of associates, or an entire store. Their day-to-day responsibilities may include scheduling staff, interviewing and hiring new staff, training employees, overseeing daily operations, monitoring sales and transactions, providing customer service as necessary, overseeing stocking and inventory, and opening and closing the store. Managers are also ambassadors for the store’s branding and corporate interests as well, making sure the store and the staff are operating within company policies and working toward company goals.
It’s a leadership job that requires a good deal of maturity and responsibility, particularly when it comes to handling store finances and making personnel decisions.
What you’ll need: A high school diploma (or equivalent) at a minimum, and experience working in retail. Many stores hire and promote from within. Strong customer service skills are a must, but administrative skills are essential too, particularly organization, accounting, and both written and verbal communication.
How much they make: According to PayScale.com, retail store managers make a median annual salary of $45,191, or $14.56 per hour.
For more on how to snag retail management jobs:
- How to write a retail management resume (with examples)
- Retail Management: Your complete guide to starting your career
3. Customer Service Representative
Sometimes called “customer care” or “customer success” associates, these retail professionals are responsible for making sure customers are informed and happy with their purchases. In a brick-and-mortar store, that might mean manning a desk that handles returns and customer questions or issues. Otherwise, customer service associates may work remotely in call centers, fielding calls, emails, social media queries, or other types of outreach from customers. Customer service associates may be responsible for troubleshooting orders or shipment issues, processing returns or refunds, giving customers information about their product or the store, or providing technical support. In a world where customer feedback can be swift and harsh on social media, customer service professionals need to be more proactive and helpful than ever. It’s also a field that grows immensely, as the retail experience continues to expand from traditional stores to digital storefronts.
What you’ll need: A high school diploma (or equivalent) at a minimum and stellar customer service skills. Customer service associates are often the ones dealing with irate or unhappy customers, so strong people skills are a crucial part of the job. Customer service associates should also be tech-savvy, since they may be working with customers in a variety of different communication formats, from multi-line phones to computer chat apps.
How much they make: According to the BLS, customer service representatives make a median annual salary of $32,300 per year, or $15.53 per hour.
For more on how to snag customer service jobs:
- Develop a solid career in customer service
- Top 10 Skills You Need for a Career in Customer Service
- Your Complete Guide to the Best Customer Service Jobs
- The top 12 hottest customer service jobs
4. Online Merchandiser
This is a job that takes advantage of the e-commerce boom. Rather than working in a traditional store, you’d be working within a digital storefront to make sure that products are organized and displayed in a way to maximize ease and appeal to a customer. In a brick-and-mortar store, this job would mean organizing displays for maximum eye-catching and attention. In an online store, this role includes ensuring that product pages are organized in a logical, easy-to-read way; maximizing SEO and keyword searches to ensure that products are showing up in customer searches; and ensuring that product descriptions and necessary information are complete and readily available. Merchandisers may also coordinate sales and promotions, ensuring that customers are aware of the sales and that there is clear information on the site.
What you’ll need: A high school diploma (or equivalent) at a minimum, though many companies prefer further education in business or merchandising. Data analysis skills are also a key element of the job, as you’d be making sure that the site’s offerings line up with customer needs and behavior.
How much they make: According to PayScale.com, online merchandisers make a median annual salary of $56,839.
For more on how to snag merchandising jobs:
Top Opportunities in the Online Retail Revolution
5. Warehouse Associate
Tagged by Forbes as earning one of the fastest-growing salaries, warehouse associates are another job that is fueled by the up-and-up-and-up growth in the e-commerce sector. The goods that people are ordering online have to live somewhere before they’re shipped, and warehouse associates are the ones receiving, processing, tracking, and shipping these products behind the scenes.
Warehouse associates are typically responsible for tracking inventory, getting shipments ready to go out, processing incoming and outgoing shipments, and moving merchandise from one place to another. It’s a very hands-on kind of job—think forklift, not cubicle. It also may not be a 9-to-5 kind of gig, given the need to ship products fast after a purchase is made. Warehouse work often includes shifts at odd hours, as well as on weekends and holidays to make sure that orders are going out on schedule. If you’re interested in a job that can prepare you for a career in logistics as well as retail, this is a great place to start.
What you’ll need: Most companies require a high school diploma (or equivalent). You’ll also need to be in good physical shape, with the stamina to work on your feet and lift heavy objects.
How much they make: According to PayScale.com, warehouse associates make a median annual salary of $31,311, or $12.69 per hour.
For more on how to snag warehouse associate jobs:
- 6 top retail jobs this holiday season and how to get them
- Top Opportunities in the Online Retail Revolution
If you want to work in a versatile, ever-developing field, it’s hard to go wrong with retail. It’s not always an easy job (what job working with the public is ever easy?), but if you’ve got a knack for customer service and an interest in business, it’s a field that will continue to grow in 2018.