Get Sold on a Career in Retail: Join a Big, Lucrative World

A career in retail may not sound very interesting. But don’t get caught thinking that retail involves just being a cashier and learning to fold shirts the right way. The retail business has a big list of varied careers. Behind the front-line cashiers and stockers are a large group of professional support people – often with impressive salaries – who help get the products Americans want to buy to the businesses that want to sell them.

Retail is big business. An estimated two-thirds of the United States gross domestic product comes from retail consumption. Even when the economy turns south for a short period, as it did a few years ago, people still buy. We may not buy at the same rate or as many luxury items; but, as a whole, we are still willing to whip out the credit card to keep our families fed, clothed, and safe.

The retail industry is increasingly driven by high-end technology that requires advanced skills. But because of the misperception that retail jobs are low-wage and lack in growth potential, many retail employers struggle to attract and retain the best and brightest employees. What many job seekers do not realize is that today’s retail trade careers are rich with positions in information technology, marketing, communications, loss prevention, finance, and merchandise sourcing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a part of the United States Department of Labor, Sales and Related Occupations are the second largest “major group” of occupations. Sales and Related Occupations are found in nearly every industry, though almost two-thirds of the people employed in those occupations work in retail and wholesale trade. This major group has a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code of 41-0000; see “Understanding Employment Statistics".

Those occupations are growing more slowly than the economy as a whole, but the BLS still expects them to add just under 800,000 new jobs by 2024. (The BLS updates these statistics every two years; the most recent update was in late in 2015, and includes projections for the years 2014-204.)

Of the 22 detailed occupations that make up the group “Sales and Related Occupations,” four are expected to decline, two to show little or no change, seven to grow as fast as average, and four to grow faster than average. The educational requirements also vary. Of the 22 detailed occupations in the group, 12 require a high school diploma or the equivalent, seven have no formal education requirement, and three require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Retail salespersons (SOC 41-2031), is projected to be one of the occupations with the most job growth, adding 314,200 new jobs. To compete with e-commerce, retail stores are expected to focus on customer service, which is expected to increase employment for salespersons. The median annual wage for retail salespersons of $21,390 is well below the national median of $35,540 in May 2014. The overall median wage for sales and related occupations was $25,360.

In 2014, SOC 41-0000 included four of the largest 20 “detailed occupations.” These were Retail Salespersons (SOC 41-2031), with 4.4 million workers; Cashiers (SOC 41-2011), with 3.4 million workers; First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers (SOC 41-1011), with 1.6 million workers; and Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products (SOC 41-4012), with 1.5 million workers. For more information, visit here.

The BLS expects those four detailed occupations to account for two-thirds of the jobs added in SOC 41-0000 from 2014 to 2024. Retail Salespersons Occupations (SOC 41-2031) are projected to add more than 300,000 jobs, the fourth-most new jobs of any detailed occupation. Cashiers are expected to add 67,000 jobs.

The largest number of new sales and related jobs will be in occupations that typically require less than a high school diploma. However, the sales occupations requiring less formal education are expected to grow more slowly than those needing more.

Retail sales in the first half of 2016 were expectedly sluggish – following the same pattern as the last two years – according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). After the slow start, retail sales were up 5.1 percent year-over-year, according to the NRF. Most retail segments reported monthly gains, except for clothing and clothing accessories, which reported a decrease, and electronics, which remained flat.

The NRF had expected retails sales to grow 3.1 percent in 2016 earlier this year, but is now projecting 3.4 percent growth. That beats the 10-year average of 2.7 percent growth.

The NRF expected sales to pick up in the second half of 2016, due to better employment numbers and rising consumer confidence. In late July, the NRF announced that it expected online/non-store sales, which are included in the overall figure, to grow between 7 to 10 percent year-over-year, rather than the 6 to 9 percent forecast earlier.

Friday August 26, 2016

This article appeared in the September-October 2016 issue of Search & Employ Magazine