With a three million-strong workforce, and year-on-year growth, the retail sector is a significant contributor to the UK economy. Discover where you can begin a promising career in this industry

What areas of retail can I work in?

Employment opportunities in the retail sector can be found in:

  • buying;
  • customer services;
  • loss prevention and security;
  • merchandising and allocation;
  • store management;
  • visual merchandising;
  • warehouse, distribution, logistics and supply chain.

You could choose to work within a specific area such as: fashion, books, jewellery, music, sport, online, an optician's, or supermarket retailing.

There are also opportunities in the finance, human resources (HR), marketing and IT departments of retail companies.

For examples of job roles in the sector, see graduate jobs in retail.

Who are the main graduate employers?

In clothing retail, employers include:

  • Arcadia Group (includes Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Topshop, Wallis);
  • John Lewis Partnership (includes Waitrose);
  • Marks and Spencer;
  • Next;
  • TJX Europe (includes TK Maxx and HomeSense).

In online shopping, large companies include:

  • Amazon.co.uk;
  • ASOS;
  • N Brown Group (includes Jacamo and JD Williams);
  • Shop Direct Group (includes Littlewoods.com and Very.co.uk).

Supermarket retailers include:

  • Aldi;
  • Asda;
  • Lidl;
  • Sainsbury's;
  • Tesco.

Other retailers who employ graduates include:

  • Boots;
  • Dixons Carphone (includes PC World, Currys and Carphone Warehouse);
  • Kingfisher (includes B&Q and Screwfix);
  • Wilko.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the retail sector can expect:

  • Varied working environments. Local retail branch, head office, distribution warehouse and overseas for some buying roles, particularly fashion, where language fluency can be a requirement;
  • An average graduate salary of £26,000, according to The Graduate Market in 2015 report from High Fliers. However, one of the highest published graduate salaries this year is Aldi's Area Manager Programme at £42,000;
  • To find many roles based on shift work. This can mean unsociable hours and weekend work, as retailers are often open seven days a week with some operating 24 hours a day.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.

What are the key issues in the retail sector?

Between 2013 and 2020, the retail sector workforce is projected to grow by 54,800. The majority of growth (41,700) is expected to be in managerial positions. More highly skilled managers are in demand due to technology, customer trends and more sophisticated supply-chain management.

In an increasingly competitive market, companies have to compete to provide better customer service, including online and multichannel retailing. Customers want to combine the personal service of traditional retailing and the convenience of using technology, hence the growth of ordering online and collecting in store. Consequently, there is a demand for graduates with technical skills to, for example, produce apps for smartphones.

There is also a demand for graduates who can combine commercial awareness with creativity for roles in marketing and buying, and graduates with analytical or number skills for merchandising.

As customers increasingly demand rapid delivery of online shopping purchases, logistics has become more important and is a growth area.