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Is Retail a Career? From Shop Floors to Climbing the Ladder

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

There are so many misconceptions around this industry that I can’t blame you for wondering ‘is retail a career, or is it just an entry-level option for your university days?’

Maybe you were actually intrigued by the idea of entering or growing within this bustling sector, but you’ve heard so many bad things about it that you’re now put off.

Well, let’s find out if it’s just about stacking shelves and working weekends or if there’s more to retail’s career progression.

Is retail considered a career?

Whether or not retail is considered a career entirely depends on who you ask.

Your cousin who only worked a summer season at their local store during uni? They’d probably tell you that retail is just a temporary gig.

Someone who’s started out on the shop floor and ended up managing HR for a dynamic company, on the other hand, would be like, ‘duh? Of course, retail is a career!’

Ask me?

Well, I’m known as ‘the happiest retailer on the planet’, and I’ve worked in this industry for over twenty years, so what do you think?

And yet I can still spot some condescending eye-rolls whenever I mention that I work in retail.

Debunking harmful misconceptions on a career in retail

While I mainly tend to hear them from people who’ve had a single bad experience or have never worked in retail themselves, I’ll be honest: some stores aren’t helping improve this industry’s reputation.

Poorly organised shop floors, not providing adequate training, ignoring their employees’ unique ambitions… Some managers have really been bringing more and more people to instinctively answer ‘no’ to our initial ‘is retail a career?’ question.

Should you judge an entire industry based on a couple of negative experiences, though? Well, you can if you want to, but you’d be missing out BIG TIME.

Because here’s the thing: it’s true that it’s fairly easy to get into retail compared to other industries or career paths. After all, you don’t need a degree to get your foot in the (shop) door.

But while virtually anyone—in theory—could secure themselves an entry-level job, this industry also offers a wide range of opportunities that go WAY beyond your initial idea that retail = stacking shelves.

Not only is meritocracy a thing if you want to climb the ladder in the retail industry, but you might be able to start from a different higher-level role depending on your background.

And yes, there is a ladder to climb in retail.

(No, I’m not talking about the one used to reach an aisle’s top shelf.)

So, let me tackle the most common misconceptions on a career in retail:

  • MYTH: ‘Retail is just a starter job.’ TRUTH: retail does offer many entry-level opportunities, but it doesn’t end there

  • MYTH: ‘It’s just a summer job or something to do during university.’ TRUTH: you can enter this industry at any time in your life, and it can certainly be a steady job

  • MYTH: ‘It’s a stepping stone.’ TRUTH: if you like this industry, you don’t have to quit it or force yourself to start a ‘traditional’ career in a different sector just because that’s what your family and friends recommend. Retail is a real career, too!

  • MYTH: ‘Retail offers no career progression.’ TRUTH: not only does retail have plenty of room for career progression, but it offers a variety of opportunities to grow within this industry in different ways

Who is retail a good career for?

First things first: there’s a reason why I specified that anyone could work in retail in theory, earlier. Even the most well-known entry-level roles aren’t for everyone!

In general, I believe that retail is a good career for:

  • Extroverts who love being around people

  • Those who are—or wish to become—skilled at problem-solving and multitasking

  • Those who love dynamic and fast-paced environments

  • Ambitious employees

Yes, ambitious, too. For real.

What a career in retail can actually mean for you

Before looking at some job roles and opportunities that you might have not heard of when talking to retail sceptics, let me tell you about skills.

Skills that you’ll develop when working in retail

  • Character building

  • Customer service and communication skills

  • Initiative and problem-solving

  • Time-management

  • Working at a fast pace or under pressure

  • Commercial awareness

  • Responsibility

And if you think that soft skills are just buzzwords that nobody cares about, think again: 93% of employers consider them ‘very important’ or ‘essential’!

Jobs & opportunities that a career in retail can offer

Let’s abandon the idea that a career in retail is synonymous with working on the shop floor forever!

First of all, if that’s what you personally enjoy, you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that there’s anything wrong with it just because it doesn’t look like their typical office job.

If you were craving something different, however, I have excellent news:

not only is retail a career that can be both lucrative and rewarding, but it’s a lively industry that can open the door to a wide variety of exciting opportunities.

For instance, I know many people who started on the shop floor and are now heading up HR departments or even running entire regions from Central Operations.

And while progression and meritocracy are still important in retail, let me reassure you again: you don’t necessarily need to start from the bottom if you already have some relevant experience or transferable skills.

Here are just a few examples of the lifestyles and day-to-day realities that a career in retail can translate into for you:

  • Retail field management (e.g. area or regional managers)

  • Speaking with high profile clients

  • Hosting events

  • Travel opportunities around the country, Europe, or… beyond!

  • Visual merchandising

  • Training

  • Product technology

  • Other corporate positions such as HR, marketing, strategic planning, etc.

And these are just some of the opportunities that you can expect with a career in retail!

It all depends on what you’re personally interested in and what other passion you’d like to combine with your drive for working with people and never letting customers down.

So, can you have a career in retail?

Yes, the moral of the story is that you can definitely have a good career in retail: it’s not a dead-end job, and it most certainly doesn’t have to be a temporary gig.

On the contrary, retail is a dynamic industry that can introduce you to lifestyles and opportunities that you had never even thought about.

Climbing the ladder: the right CV & tools for a successful career in retail

So, now that you have a better understanding of what a career in retail can look like, how do you get the right role for you?

The happiest retailer on the planet can help!

I’ve been on the other side for twenty years, reading CVs and interviewing candidates, so I know exactly what to do—and what to avoid—when it comes to CVs for the retail industry.

If you’re struggling to get interviews and don’t feel confident enough to send your current resume to your dream company, check out my CV help:

  • CV writing: I’ll find the best way of showing to that company why you’re the perfect match, optimise your CV for ATS, and actually help it stand out with my method that has helped hundreds of people to land interviews

  • Career bundle: CVs are still essential, but they’re no longer enough on their own, especially when it comes to higher-level and more competitive positions. To really outshine other candidates, I’ll also help you with a cover letter that’s tailored to a specific job ad and with a LinkedIn profile that showcases your captivating personal brand

  • Ultimate career game-changer: can’t wait to steer your career in retail towards the direction of your dreams? As well as a CV, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, I’ll help you with LinkedIn network introductions, interview coaching sessions to make sure you land the best examples and softskills to connect with the interviewer, presentation feedback & actions for that major interview, and weekly job search support, truly setting you up for success with fast tracking your career! Not only this, I will coach you for your first 30 days in your new role to help you land impact immediately, getting you 'top of mind' as the one to watch for progression and promotions. You want to land your ideal role, secure a great package and make an impact? This package is for you!

So, is retail a career? Absolutely! And you can build one that incorporates your other passions and interests too, whether that’s marketing, more travelling, or something else entirely. I can’t wait to hear about it and help you get there!

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