Career Planning

There are close to 19,000,000 people currently working for retailers, and many believe they have exciting and challenging career opportunities. For the upcoming college graduate, selecting a proper career is often a bewildering, time consuming, and emotionally draining experience. The purpose of this appendix is to assist you in considering a career in retail management. Through it we hope, you will better understand what it will take to succeed in retailing. First, we will examine the role of self evaluation in career planning. Next, we will review many different career options in retailing. Finally, we will provide help for you in preparing your resume and preparing for a job interview, regardless of the career path you choose.


Is a retail career for you? Many students perceive only the glamorous aspects of retailing (e.g., buyers traveling to foreign markets) and do not fully comprehend that they will have to work hard. Retailers, and their employees, have to work evenings, Sundays or any time that a store is open for business. You have to work at times your friends do not. Therefore, you need to carefully evaluate your interests, aptitudes, skills, values, and goals.


Each of the various retailers recruiting on your campus have different opportunities available. While all programs begin with some type of training program, the road taken afterwards varies by both industry and company.

Department Stores.

A department store generally places a new college recruit in an extensive, formal training program. This program usually involves a series of rotating work assignments, together with formal training sessions. These programs range in length from two to six months. For example, the trainee will spend time in the stockroom, learning how to receive merchandise. Time is spent on the selling floor, with store management personnel, and with buyers. In this way, the trainee will learn all facets of the department store operation. Of course, opportunities for promotion are much better in larger firms than smaller ones. Competition for a position is strong, because almost all applicants are college graduates, and the unassertive person has a good chance of being overlooked.

Exhibit A.1 illustrates the career paths at a typical department store. Note there are two major career paths -- store management and merchandising.

If you elect the store management path, you will have many decisions to make that affect the store's profitability. Selecting, training, evaluation, and all other aspects of personnel management are your responsibility. You are responsible for in-store promotions, display, customer service, delivery and receiving, building maintenance and store security. In addition, there is a need to coordinate your efforts with buyers and merchandise managers in order to better meet customer needs, thus maximizing store sales.

If your inclination is toward merchandising, you can follow that career path. After spending time as an assistant buyer, you will be promoted to the position of buyer. Buyers are presented with a merchandise budget, called an open-to-buy position (you'll learn the details of the merchandise budget in Chapter 8), which can be in the millions of dollars. You have to develop appropriate buying plans for your merchandise lines. You are not only responsible for selecting the merchandise, but buyers are also responsible for selecting and negotiating with vendors. Your activities are coordinated with store managers in order to match the merchandise offerings to customer needs. As you will note in Exhibit A.1, you can progress to merchandise manager and general merchandise manager. Both paths can lead you finally to top executive positions. Retailing in Action A.1 provides a much fuller look at the job of the buyer.

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