5 Great Career Paths You Can Take if You’re Working in Retail

Written by Peter Jones

Working in retail and wondering whether there’s any upward mobility? Just remember that actually selling items in store is only about 56% of the retail picture. The other 44% of retail employees are working behind the scenes in design, marketing, admin, and logistics.

Chances are you have skills that could transfer to these non-sales positions and help you move up the corporate ladder—or to another industry entirely. Cross-training here is key. Find a way to build your expertise in the most in-demand skills in your field, i.e. project management, people management, leadership, customer service, operations, and, yes, sales.

Take every opportunity you can to build your arsenal and develop these skills, and build your retail resume. Then you’ll be ready to consider making the jump to one of these 5 promising careers in retail.

1. Field Management

If you can work your way up to Store Manager, there’s nothing to stop you advancing to Area or District Manger. From there, you could become a Regional or Field Manager and oversee some 50 stores. You’ll need strong leadership and coaching skills, and the ability to manage others effectively, but it can be quite rewarding and lucrative. Expect to make anywhere from $42k to well over $60k per year.

2. Visual Merchandising

If you really like store work, and are creative and very attentive to branding details, you might be a good fit as a visual merchandiser. Make the store look great and help draw attention to what’s special about your store’s brand. Determine the shopper’s experience, what they see, and where. You can work either in the field or in the corporate office, and you can expect to make between $40-50k per year.

3. Buying/Planning

Buyers and planners make the decisions about what things (and how many of each) should go in stores. Buyers procure things from wholesalers and Planners are in charge of the logistics of getting products from point A to point B (the shelves). You’ll have to have a good sense of the brand, plus a bit of knowledge about supply and demand cycles, but the range for each position is wide: between ~$45 and over $95k per year.

4. Supply Chain Managing

You’ll have to have a good financial head on your shoulders and be an extremely competent project manager, not to mention know a thing or two about procurement, contracts, and legal and ethical issues. But you could work your way from a driver or warehouse worker to dispatch and beyond. Cross-cultural comfort is an asset here, and the pay scale ranges from an average of $59k per year to over $84k.

5. Security/Loss Prevention

It can be a good gig making sure no one runs off with the merchandise. Loss Prevention Managers, i.e. specialists in security and loss prevention, can be brought in to stores to work undercover and prevent theft—and can make an average of $45k (or as much as $64k) per year.

The bottom line is this: Retail jobs aren’t just about ringing purchases and completing returns. If you like the field, there are many upwardly mobile career opportunities just waiting for you to pursue them.

About the author

Peter Jones