Retail Management – Retail as a Career – Part. 2
This is the second installation in a series that we are doing on retail management. We recommend that you read our first article, Introduction to Retail in General – Part. 1 if you have not already.
In this article Retail Management – Retail as a Career – Part. 2 we will go over the different titles, tasks and duties for those running or managing a retail location. Retail is a people-centric industry, and is one industry which simultaneously can expose you to many skills and disciplines. It offers many choices in terms of a career, chief among them are buying and merchandising, marketing, store operations, finance, human resources, technology and e-commerce, visual merchandising and finally supply chain management and logistics.
Topic: Retail as a career
Buying and Merchandising
Merchandising and Buying is often termed as a combination of art and statistics. It is a key function for any retailer as this department is responsible for the procurement of merchandise to be sold in the stores by it, sourcing it from vendors or manufacturers. Key tasks in this career area include the selection of vendors, costing of merchandise procured, allocation of merchandise to the stores, developing distribution plans and calculating gross margins. A key aspect to be remembered is that very often, it may require extensive traveling to locate vendors and exclusive merchandise for the retail stores.
In retail, marketing functions may be centralized and may include different departments like advertising, sales promotion, and public/press relations. Marketing would also look at ways of understanding the customer and his behavior by way of focus groups and analysis of customer buying patterns to develop strategies and plans that guide marketing components like advertisement, websites, store signage, etc. The size of the retail organization would determine whether various functions would be in one department or would be divided into various combinations.
Retail professionals in the store operations career area oversee the overall store operations and profits. Positions include Head of Store Operations, Regional Manager and District Manager, and responsibilities in this area may include managing staff functions like loss prevention and/or human resources. Responsibilities in operations may vary from being responsible for a department, floor, the entire store or a group of stores.
Very often, sales is considered to be a part of store operations. Positions in sales include sales associate, cashier, store stock associate and stock receiver.
The primary duty of a sales staff is to serve customers on the selling floor, actually selling goods. However In front-end sales staff may also be involved in receiving merchandise into the store, counting it and then displaying it on the store shelf. Responsibilities would also include receiving merchandise returned by customers. These front-end positions need the ability to deal with people, flexibility and importantly, the ability to working teams.
The finance retail career area includes all accounting and treasury functions like accounting for income, paying expenses, compiling and maintaining financial records, money management and cash flow control, banking, investment and managing credit lines. Auditing of stores for merchandise and money may also be a part of the responsibilities of this department. With the rapid development of retail in the country, understanding and implementing project finance may also emerge as a key area of responsibility in the next few years.
Human Resource in retail may range from recruiting and hiring employees to larger areas like identifying training needs at various levels within the organization and then designing and implementing the programmes. Responsibilities may also include overseeing compensation and benefits, and planning for and ensuring legal compliances in hiring and employment practices. It is necessary to remember that retail is a people focused business, but at the same time, it calls for long working hours at both the front and back end. The Human Resources department, needs to understand these aspects of the retail business while creating and implementing performance appraisals and promotions.
Technology and e-commerce
Retail is one of the most mature users of information technology. From RFID implementation to e- technology-driven training programs delivered over satellites or the internet, to state-of-the-art cash register and credit systems. Careers in this department may involve the overall responsibility for the data processing efforts within the chain, including systems design, programming, computer operations, and information systems (IS). A retailer who has a presence in the e-commerce segment may also look for individuals who may be made responsible for strategy development, procurement of merchandise, fulfillment of orders and payments as specific areas.
Visual merchandising is largely associated with creating the look of the store. Visual merchandisers are responsible for the total merchandise or service presentation, the overall business image, and even the building and placement of design elements. The increase in competition has necessitated retailers to differentiate themselves from the competition. While products and services are the primary methods of differentiation, visual merchandising is fast becoming an area of differential advantage, as it is believed that attractive displays attract and stimulate, which in turn is believed to cause increased sales.
Supply Chain Management and Logistics
Supply chain management and logistics are fast emerging as key focus areas in retail. Supply Chain Management is the integrated management of the flow of materials and products, services and information from raw material suppliers, through operations, to the final customer and back again. Supply chain management and logistics is an integral factor affecting cost. Effective management of the supply chain enhances profitability. Depending on the size of the organization, a job in supply chain management may involve analyzing and negotiating contracts with suppliers, manufacturers and/or distributors, capacity and production planning, resource allocation and facility location and scheduling the transportation and logistics of a product/service to its final destination.