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Retail Career Progression: From Sales Advisor to Head of Retail! What you Need to Know.

Do you sense a crushing, muddled abyss between your current role and that of your dreams? Trust me: you don’t have to stay stuck forever!

Career progression in retail is definitely a thing, regardless of what your present situation looks or feels like. How do I know for sure?

I’ve been in this industry for over twenty years, and I’ve seen so many motivated professionals go from sales advisors to heads of retail or climb the ladder in many different ways.

Let me show you how you can do the same and go towards the right retail career progression for your own preferences and goals.

Is this how your career in retail feels like right now?

Perhaps you enjoyed your bustling job in retail when you started out, but now it no longer seems worth it:

  • It feels like your hard work and efforts go unnoticed and unappreciated by your managers, so you often find yourself wondering why on earth you even keep on trying

  • Your store or maybe the entire company is permeated by a toxic culture

  • You’re starting to question whether career growth in retail is even achievable, worrying that you’re going to be an unappreciated sales assistant at an uninspiring company for the rest of your life

  • You have no clue as to what the next move should be and whether your current situation even has a way out

  • You feel trapped. The only reason why you’re not quitting? Knowing that at least you can rely on a safe monthly salary

If one or more of these points struck a nerve, I get it: going to work must feel overwhelming and soul-crushing.

The good news, though?

Your current situation is NOT permanent.

Or, better: it doesn’t have to be. As long as you’re willing to do the work, at least.

Career progression in retail: yes, it’s a thing!

I absolutely love this industry but can’t deny that it’s plagued by misconceptions and stereotypes, so let me reassure you first.

Yes! If you’re serious about it and willing to do what it takes, you can definitely work your way up in retail.

As I said, I’ve helped several people go from Sales Advisors to Store Management and flagship Manager to first time Area Manager, supporting and coaching Heads of Retail, and other sought-after roles within this industry.

Not only can you do it too, but you 100% should.

No one should force themselves to feel comfortable in a dead-end job, especially when you’re so ambitious and… well, when there are plenty of retail career progression opportunities to choose from!

Not sure?

Let me give you some examples.

What career progression in retail can look like for you

This vibrant industry has something for everyone! In fact, career growth in retail can take lots of different forms.

Of course, your specific background and qualifications might work better for certain ones.

To give you a little overview, however, here are just some of the roles and fields that you can aim for when climbing the retail career ladder (you might also want to keep them in mind for the next time someone tells you that you’ll just be ‘stacking shelves forever’):

  • Retail field management: overseeing stores and their performance, whether that’s as a store manager, area manager, district manager, regional manager, operations manager or even the coveted position of head of retail

  • Visual merchandising: making a store look outstanding and aligned to brand expectations while facilitating and inspiring the customer’s journey. A great perk to this role is that you get to travel (usually alot)!

  • Brand marketing: driving brand equity by implementing optimal customer experience and loyalty plans within CRM initiatives. Public relations, social media executive, affiliate marketing, influencer scout and so much more

  • Technical product manager: becoming responsible for a product's success while working in synergy with different teams, from manufacturing to marketing and selling the actual item. Technical merchandising really suits people who love numbers and analytics

  • Corporate positions in marketing, HR, Finance, Supply Chain and more! I've helped Store Managers move out of the store doors and into corporate floors. It's a HUGE change; massive swing in pace and ways of working. But, it can easily be done.

Not bad for an industry that many people still consider a temporary gig, huh?

How to unlock career progression in retail: 8 actionable tips

While there’s plenty of potential for career growth in retail, let’s be realistic: it won’t happen by magic or overnight. It certainly won't happen by leaning back and hoping for the best.

Success is not by chance. It is a choice.

You definitely need to work hard and work smart to get there.

But when you do? It’ll be oh-so-worth-it!

1. Get around people who are up the chain and whom you admire

You’ve probably heard that ‘we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with’ or the saying ‘show me your friends, and I'll show you your future’, right?

This is because the people we surround ourselves with have a MASSIVE influence on the way we think and look at life or, in our case, a career.

So, get close to other successful individuals within your company who have already been climbing the retail career ladder, and try and adopt their perspective on your industry.

Sure, it’s unlikely that they’ll become some of the five people you hang out with the most. Still, being able to have genuine conversations with them in the workplace or at events will allow you to absorb their positive and resilient influence… and to get some juicy advice!

2. Network with people a few steps ahead of you, especially on LinkedIn

This tip relies on the same premise as the previous one but in the online world, which means you’re not even limited to your physical location.

Connecting with professionals who’ve already experienced the kind of career progression in retail that you’re after? It’ll allow you to consume the right kind of content and look at your industry from a fresh perspective.

So, start sending some connection requests, learning from their content, and even commenting on their posts.

3. Volunteer for some extra work, or get onto a committee

Show your bosses that you want MORE!

Sometimes, what’s stopping sales assistants from unlocking some career progression in retail is simply that… they don’t actually communicate their ambition to their managers.

So, start by showing them that you’d like to be more involved with your store and company.

For example, you could volunteer to take part in some team events, volunteer days or even join a committee. Basically, when the business wants support you put up your hand!

4. Ask for a robust succession plan

Sometimes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Whether that’s due to retirement, upcoming transfers, or just to be safe rather than sorry, the wisest companies have been developing and putting a succession plan into place.

Be vocal about your desire to be involved with it and considered as a candidate for roles that are likely to become vacant in the future.

When should you have the conversation? Book in a 1:1 with your Manager and arrive with clarity. Be clear but not demanding. Follow-up a few weeks later to align on plans.

5. Attend online workshops and in-person industry events

This is a fantastic way of keeping yourself on track with your retail career progression while also growing, developing new skills, and networking (psst: you never know where the next opportunity might come from!).

For example, you could start with the events organised or advertised by The Retail Bulletin, Retail Week, and Internet Retailing.

Once you start engaging with other professionals within the retail industry on LinkedIn, you’ll probably find out about many more, too.

6. Work on your self-development

It’s easy to fall off track or lose motivation. If you’re serious about career progression in retail, though, you must take some steps towards it steadily and always see yourself as a work in progress.

From podcasts to books, I recommend putting some time into learning more about this industry and investing in your self-development on a regular basis.

Here are some helpful and inspiring titles to get you started:

7. Develop your own personal brand in retail

Nowadays, together with a traditional CV and cover letter, a head-turning personal brand is what can actually get your foot in the door and help you develop the right career progression in retail in the long run.

Basically, you want to be known for your industry knowledge and passion as well as your most authentic self!

This could involve:

  • sharing your own opinions on this sector on LinkedIn (including thought-provoking articles) and other social media

  • blogging about them on your own website

  • showcasing your actual personality when interacting with both customers and colleagues

8. Hire a coach to accelerate your growth

Here’s the thing: it’s often hard to look at the bigger picture from where you’re standing right now… especially if your current position is that of an overwhelmed and uninspired sales assistant in a company that doesn’t recognise your potential!

The two main risks?

Wasting time going in the wrong direction or—worse, perhaps—staying put.

Do you actually want to turn this career growth into a reality sooner rather than in a magical distant future?

Then working with a coach is what can help you find clarity, work hard and smart, stay motivated, and truly facilitate your own career progression in retail.

The Ultimate Career Game Changer: kickstart your retail career progression

Ultimately, career progression in retail is in your hands, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.

As you now know, I’ve helped several professionals go from what felt like a dead-end role to becoming head of retail or finding a job that truly matched their own preferences and personality.

And hey, you can totally be next. Seriously! No matter how far you feel from your dream job due to your current situation.

How did I help these people, you ask? With my Ultimate Career Game Changer.

For a one-time investment, you’ll get:

  • Bespoke CV optimised for ATS

  • Cover letter

  • LinkedIn profile & relevant network introductions

  • Interview coaching session

  • Breakthrough coaching session

  • Presentation feedback & actionable tips for your interview

  • Job search support

  • Salary negotiation support

  • Impact coaching to help you become ‘the one to watch’ during your very first 30 days in the new role or company

I promise: career progression in retail can happen to you, too. You really don’t have to stay stuck!

Let me show you the right direction with a step-by-step plan that’s tailored to your vision and goals.

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