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Retail, sales and consumer goods industry overview

Elise Tornos

A fast pace leads to a fast career progression for graduates who have got the goods.

From Foodstuffs to your local gift shop, New Zealand’s retail industry encompasses all manner of businesses, large and small, and is worth around $92.3 billion a year. 

The sale of consumer goods lining the aisles (or webpage tiles) of stores is used as a real-time indicator of financial upswings or downturns, allowing this fast-paced industry to react instantaneously to the market. While consumer needs may vary, the demand for consumer goods is relatively consistent.

Graduates may find themselves working across functions such as marketing, finance, IT, research and development, or quality assurance. This could be for a small local business, or for a multinational organisation with instant global brand recognition. People who like fast innovation and change will enjoy working in retail and consumer goods, where their work is likely to make an impact on the market quickly. 

With companies vying for consumer attention, there is a need for constant innovation, especially in product design and marketing. For example, Steve Jobs famously reinvented Apple’s packaging to become a showstopper in itself, lending further excitement to the experience of unwrapping new goods. This kind of ‘user experience’ has become a way for brands to set themselves apart from each other while delighting customers. Creating positive customer experiences is serious business, and grads who have this kind of ‘empathy’ from the get-go will do well.

The median salary in this sector is $42,000, with salaries ranging from $35,000 to $65,000. Note, however, that average salaries may be different for graduates on the business side of retail, such as those who work as in-house lawyers, product engineers, or business analysts. 

Job market outlook

Currently, around ten per cent of all jobs in New Zealand can be found in the retail sector. However, this number is expected to climb, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment finding that retail is the second-fastest growing industry, expected to achieve 2.3 per cent annual growth until 2026. This will create jobs for both highly-skilled and low-skilled employees, from retail shop workers to business strategists. It’s anticipated that much of the growth will be found in the online retail space, which already accounts for eight per cent of annual retail sales.

Graduates that can adapt to change and work within a lean business, or dream up solutions to problems faced by traditional brands and stores, will ensure their long-term employability in an industry that has been changed dramatically by technological innovation. 

Globalisation is giving small businesses and niche producers everywhere the chance to do well, as consumer bases spread further and wider across the internet-connected world.

How to get hired

Recruiters expect candidates to have a strong working knowledge of their brands, and, importantly, a comprehensive understanding of competitors and the overall market environment.

Graduates who successfully landed a graduate role recently suggested the following tips for success:

  1. Research the company and the role, applying any insights to the responses you provide during your interviews.
  2. Network with someone employed by the organisation before applying. This will help give you an accurate understanding of the role and what is expected of you.
  3. Know the organisation’s core values.
  4. If you are applying for a retail position, visit a store before your interview.
  5. Be prepared to demonstrate your leadership skills and experience.

Key skills you need

Technological aptitude

Being tech-friendly is a prerequisite of almost any role now, but especially in retail, as products and services become increasingly web-based.


Retail requires a certain amount of savvy. Buying and selling in the retail industry is a competitive undertaking, and you need to know the rules. 


When satisfying (and sometimes creating!) a need, it takes imagination to dream up a solution in the form of a product that your new customer desperately needs and will pay top dollar for.