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MORE THAN WORKING BEHIND A TILL

 

Thursday, January 3, 2008.

 

By Robert Cowen

 

When people talk about their dream job, what do they really mean? A survey amongst young people has revealed that the three most popular career choices are IT and computing, working in the music industry and setting up a business. No shock there. How many of us would love to be the next Bill Gates, Jay-Z or Richard Branson?

 

Strangely though, the survey also states that only 21% of the people asked would consider forging a career in retail. It seems that, even though the majority of students that work whilst studying do so in retail, most continue to be unaware of the full range of opportunities in the industry. I mean, just think…where would Kano, Diddy and Richard be without retailing?

 

The reality of working in the retail means being part of the vast and varied chain of departments that put the products in your pocket. From the latest Estelle album to the fruit and vegetables we eat everyday, the world of retail involves pretty much anything you can think of.

 

Because of its broad range and variety, it is one of the few sectors where people can actually choose to work in a particular field of interest, such as music. But, contrary to what you might think, working in music retail doesn’t just mean being a sales assistant on the shop floor. You could easily find yourself being part of the teams that manage the download sales of big-name artists or as a visual merchandiser liaising with record companies to develop in-store marketing strategies.

 

It’s the same story with people who are keen to set up their own business; retail offers a world of opportunities. Many of the UK’s most successful companies are retailers, set up by people like you with little more than a few pounds and some good ideas.

 

Look at the recent success of the smoothie drink makers, Innocent, or the largest independent mobile retailer in Europe, The Carphone Warehouse. With the latter, Charles Dunstone set up his mobile business with just £6,000 of savings but managed to turn over £1.5 million in the first full year of operation.

 

No-one would recommend starting your own business without experience so it is essential to work in industry before paddling your own canoe. Retail employers are always on the look-out for entrepreneurial spirit and innovation to drive forward their business, rewarding hard work with early responsibility and impressive salaries.

 

Indeed, most High Street stores are now multi-national businesses with fantastic career prospects in any of the industry’s different job areas, including buying, operations, merchandising, design, human resources, IT and marketing.

 

Negative attitudes towards retail largely come from a lack of knowledge about the modern industry, but you only have to look at the rise of online retailing or ‘e-tailing’ to see how dynamic retail is. From initially being written off as a ‘fad’, shopping online has become as normal as visiting a bricks and mortar store and it is predicted that, within the next four years, etailing will be responsible for over 30% of all UK sales alone - a staggering £75 billion per year.

 

In fact, if IT and computing are your dream career choice, retail is fast becoming the place to be. Most large retailers now have IT recruitment schemes in order to attract computer specialists that are capable of designing cutting-edge systems.

 

But the rise of e-tailing also means greater opportunities in associated areas like distribution management for online companies like Ocado, ASOS and Amazon, not to mention an increase in store-based creative roles like web design.

 

For the more sci-fi minded developers, imagine being at the forefront of the fascinating new retail developments that are emerging in online virtual reality worlds like Secondlife.com. There is a system being trialled in America where purchasing products in virtual reality also results in the real product arriving at your door.

 

So, whilst it is important to pursue your dreams, don’t forget what you might achieve by following them into retail. It really doesn’t matter where your interests lie, what you study or where you currently work, if you are ambitious and committed, you could make your mark in an area that interests you in an industry that has created more jobs over the last five years than any other.

 

Whatever your dream career is, retail might just be the perfect fit.

 

For further information, visit www.skillsmartretail.com

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

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