No longer confined to customer service roles, there's a range of retail apprenticeships for you to consider. If you'd like to kick start your career in the sector discover what's on offer and how to apply
Schemes span from intermediate (equivalent to GCSEs) to advanced (equivalent to A-levels) and higher (foundation degree level) to degree (comparable to a Bachelors or Masters degree). If you've decided that university isn't the right path for you but would still like to work in retail then why not consider an apprenticeship?
What kinds of retail apprenticeships are available?
On a retail apprenticeship you can train as a:
- assistant buyer
- assistant merchandiser
- digital marketer
- retail manager
- retail team leader
- senior sales assistant
- style adviser
- supply chain operative
- travel consultant
- vehicle salesperson.
Which companies offer retail apprenticeships?
- Aldi - provides practical, hands-on apprenticeships in logistics, stores and driving. The logistics programme is an intermediate scheme (Level 2) and takes a year to complete. As a store apprentice you have two options - the Career Starter intermediate scheme, which takes up to 15 months to complete or the advanced Store Management Apprenticeship, which takes 36 months.
- Arcadia - runs a two-year higher apprenticeship (Level 4) in merchandising.
- Asda - as an apprentice at Asda you can choose between four schemes. The intermediate Retail Apprenticeship, Retail Degree Apprenticeship, intermediate Warehouse Operative Apprenticeship and the advanced Technology Apprenticeship.
- Boots - currently offers four schemes - Beauty (intermediate), Optical assistant (intermediate), Pharmacy adviser (intermediate) and Support office (intermediate to degree).
- Co-op - offers five different apprenticeship pathways - Food retail, Logistics, Funeral care, Corporate functions, Legal.
- EE - the 15-month intermediate apprenticeship teaches you how to become a top-class retailer.
- Greggs - provides two retail apprenticeships at intermediate and advanced level. Both take 12 to 18 months to complete.
- Marks & Spencer - you can take the Retail Management Apprenticeship or a scheme in buying and merchandising.
- Morrisons - offers four degree apprenticeships covering retail management, corporate, logistics and manufacturing.
- Specsavers - apprenticeships at Specsavers reach Masters level. You could work in store, in a support office or from manufacturing and distribution sites. Apprenticeships include the Optical Assistant Apprenticeship, Customer Service programmes and a Lab Technician Apprenticeship.
- Tesco - runs a three-year degree apprenticeship in business management with a salary of £18,000.
- TJX Europe - home to brands such as TK Maxx and Homesense, TJX Europe run five apprenticeship schemes - the Retail Apprenticeship, Buying Administration Apprenticeship, Finance Apprenticeship, HR Apprenticeship and the Customer Service Apprenticeship.
- Vison Express - offer two 13-month apprenticeships in optical retail at intermediate and advanced level.
The above is not an exhaustive list, so when looking for vacancies research the companies that you're interested in to see if they run any relevant apprenticeships.
What do retail apprenticeships involve?
The complexity of tasks and your level of responsibility will be determined by the level of your apprenticeship. The focus of your apprenticeship will also play a part. For example, the structure and content of a retail management apprenticeship will vary considerably to a merchandising or logistics scheme. Finally, the company that you work for will shape your experience as an apprentice so be prepared to do some research at the application stage to find the right programme for you.
For example, on the intermediate (Level 2) Retail Apprenticeship at EE you'll learn how to sell a range of products, deliver excellent customer service and work as part of a busy team. You'll gain a Level 2 Customer Service Practitioner qualification and have the chance to progress into a permanent customer adviser role upon completion.
On the advanced (Level 3) Retail Apprenticeship scheme at Greggs you'll learn the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to successfully move into a retail management position. Key modules cover customer, leadership, developing yourself and others and finance.
At Arcadia the higher (Level 4) apprenticeship in merchandising involves analysing data, identifying trends that drive sales, assisting in stock allocation, monitoring and reviewing sales and providing administration support to the wider team. You'll attend regular training at the Fashion Retail Academy, as well as receive in-house training on databases systems. Upon completion you'll take on a merchandise administration assistant role.
The Business Management degree apprenticeship at Tesco will equip you with real-life management experience as you work at a busy London store. You'll work towards a BA Business Management, validated by the University of Kent. Your apprenticeship will start with an induction, where you'll learn more about the business and the programme. In your first year you'll become a team manager before progressing, throughout the apprenticeship into a senior role, leading a group of team managers.
One thing that all programmes have in common is that they all involve combining full-time employment with part-time study. You could be allocated one day a week to attend college or university, or study in scheduled blocks of a week or more. Assessment methods depend on the apprenticeship, but it's likely that you'll be assessed through a combination of essays, coursework and practical and written exams.
Who are apprenticeships aimed at?
Traditionally, the majority of retail apprenticeships were aimed at school levers. However, as apprenticeships are now seen as a viable alternative to university the number of degree-level opportunities is rising.
The level of the programme determines who can apply. For example, intermediate (Level 2) and advanced (Level 3) apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers. Intermediate retail apprenticeships don't require any previous qualifications; while to gain a place on an advanced scheme you'll typically need GCSE passes in English, maths and science. You'll need to be 16 or over, living in England and not in full-time education to be eligible to apply.
Higher and degree apprenticeships (Levels 4, 5 and 6) are generally geared towards those with A-levels or those who have already completed an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship. Learn more about degree apprenticeships.
Masters apprenticeships (Level 7) are aimed at those who already hold a Bachelors degree or have previously completed a degree apprenticeship.
Retail apprenticeships suit those with excellent customer service skills, the ability to work as part of a team, commercial awareness, an eye for detail, analytical ability and a hardworking attitude.
How much will I be paid?
All apprentices are paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which currently stands at £4.15 per hour for apprentices under 19, and those aged over 19 who are in their first year.
If you're over 19 and have completed the first year of your apprenticeship you must be paid the minimum wage for your age.
As an apprentice you'll be paid for your normal working hours as well as for any training that is part of your scheme. You're entitled to at least 20 days paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.
Salaries are determined by individual employers but in most cases you'll be paid significantly more than the NMW. For example, Aldi pay those on the Management Development Programme £6,24 per hour (£187 per week) in year one, rising to £234 and £279 per week in years two and three respectively.
How do I become a retail apprentice?
Apply for an apprenticeship as you would a job. Make sure you research the organisation thoroughly and that you're aware of what the apprenticeship involves, and tailor your application to each role.
Applications are made online through an application form, but check with the employer as methods can vary, some may also require an up-to-date CV. Be prepared to use relevant examples of your experience to support your application.
Certain organisations may ask you to sit situational judgement, numerical and psychometric tests as well as participate in an assessment centre or insight day. Some companies, such as Arcadia also use video interviews as part of their recruitment process.
Read more about applying for an apprenticeship.
Find out more
- Learn more about the retail sector.