The retail industry is like an iceberg, with shopfronts and outlets floating above the water, and the vast mechanism which supports them mostly unseen. As a result, misconceptions about the retail industry abound. In an effort to right the record, we’ve brought together the five most common retail myths along with the actual facts.
It’s true that you don’t need a degree or any specific training to work ‘on the floor’ at most retail outlets; however, it’s also true that these unskilled jobs make up only a fraction of the roles found within the retail industry. Retailers also recruit people to jobs in areas like sales, marketing, public relations, human resources, IT, business planning, management, and logistics—and in most cases, these jobs do require a specific degree, if not extensive experience.
Walking around a local mall, it’s easy to get the impression that most retail workers are in high school or only a few years out of it. However, a study by the Families and Work Institute has shown that the average age of retail employees is actually 37. This isn’t so surprising when you consider how many people work behind the scenes in roles related to finance, management, marketing, and more.
This is perhaps the most misleading of the myths about retail—many see it as offering, at best, entry-level jobs that don’t really go anywhere. In fact, retailers often have complex organisational structures that, coupled with their tendency to hire internally, creates numerous opportunities for career advancement. One graduate profiled by GradAustralia now works in the retail industry, managing a $25 million business with 32,000 customers a week—and that’s in an entry-level role!
It might seem that the rise of online giants like Amazon and eBay has made imminent the demise of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. However, a review of the data makes it clear that consumers still overwhelmingly prefer shopping from stores they can physically enter. In the US, for example, nine of the ten largest retailers are not online, with a CBRE report finding that 77% of younger consumers (members of ‘Generation Z’) actually prefer shopping offline.
Sure, this may be true if you’re stacking shelves or being paid the award rate to provide customer service as a teenager. However, professionals in the retail industry—those in ‘back-end’ jobs related to HR, management, finance, and so on—earn salaries that are comparable to their counterparts in other sectors. In other words, pursuing a career in retail doesn’t mean giving up the dream of a six-figure salary. If you’re Jeff Bezos, it can even lead to you (briefly) becoming the richest person in the world.