Covering far more than shop-floor functions, retail apprenticeships are available in a variety of roles. From intermediate to degree level discover what's on offer and how to apply
Competition for head office jobs is fierce and despite stores closures and job losses, the retail sector as a whole continues to grow. Traditionally retail apprenticeships were confined to sales assistant and store manager roles, but today you can complete an apprenticeship in a range of retail careers. 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?
Retail apprenticeships span all levels, 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).
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 three intermediate apprenticeships each taking a minimum of one year to complete. You can train to become a pharmacy adviser, optical retail assistant or beauty and make-up consultant.
- Co-op - offers five different apprenticeship pathways - intermediate Retailer Apprenticeship, advanced Business Administration Apprenticeship, intermediate and advanced Funeralcare Apprenticeship and intermediate Customer Service Practitioner Apprenticeship.
- DFS - Four different schemes include the Service Manager Apprenticeship, Retail Apprenticeship, Manufacturing/Sewing Apprenticeship and the Warehouse Apprenticeship.
- 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 have got two options at M&S. You can take the Retail Management Apprenticeship or the 15-month Business Administration Apprenticeship, which specialises in buying and merchandising.
- Shop Direct - runs degree apprenticeships in retail functions such as Digital and Technology Solutions.
- 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 Lab Technician Apprenticeship.
- Tesco - runs a three-year higher Clothing Apprenticeship Programme, based with the F&F team.
- 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 Retail Degree Apprenticeship (Level 6) at Asda is delivered over four years through blended learning. You'll work towards a degree in business management, specialising in retail. The scheme combines real management experience as you work mornings, evenings and weekends meeting customer needs, with online learning modules, lectures and 12 to 15 days face-to-face tuition at university.
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 £3.90 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 their logistics apprentices £6.09 per hour (£183 a week) and on the Tesco Clothing Apprenticeship Programme you'll earn a salary of £20,000.
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.