Retail Week: Can I Advance From My Role As A Sales Associate?


Most of us have experienced working a retail job at some point in our lives – or have at least have watched a friend go through the experience.

This is an egg-citing field to work in for many reasons. Firstly, the fast changing nature of retail guarantees no two days on the job are really ever the same. You have to opportunity to interact with different levels of management as well as hundreds of customers every day. Considering that the jobs are usually entry-level, it means that you’re often thrown into an environment where you’re required to learn exceptionally fast. Which, in turn, means that you develop incredibly useful skills quicker than you can keep track of!

For this reason, you might not necessarily have to leave the field in order to achieve professional advancement. In fact, there are countless retail roles out there (that you may have never heard of) that could be perfect for your later career! Let’s take a look and see if any of these grab your attention:

Visual Merchandiser

Ever wonder who the masterminds behind stunning window displays, in-store displays, and holiday decorations in department stores, boutiques and other retail establishments are? That would be Visual Merchandisers!

It’s their job to make an impact on customers before and after they enter a store by setting up enticing displays that will excite and drive purchase decisions. Retailers dedicate a lot of time and money to make sure their store is visually striking in order to boost sales, since “window shopping” is often what will draw a customer inside.

Visual Merchandisers often work with Merchandise Managers to re-arrange fixtures and move merchandise on the sales floor. For example, if sales records show that a specific brand or item is not selling as planned, the decision might be to move that merchandise from a wall unit to a freestanding fixture. This role requires a lot of creativity!


As a Merchandiser, your main responsibility is analyzing data in order to forecast sales and stock requirements. Merchandisers work alongside Buyers in determining what products will sell and develop plans to place orders that will result in maximized profits. They then relay this information to a Visual Merchandiser, who rearranges the feature displays to showcase an item that is selling well – or that isn’t selling enough.

A knowledge of stock information as well as current market trends are key to success in this role. Retail trends will play a big role in developing relationships with different suppliers and making sure orders are filled correctly, on time, and in the interest of company profits.


The key to any retailer’s success is having the right product in the right store (and at the right price). A Buyer’s role is determining what items customers want and how much they would be willing to pay for them. In doing this, a Buyer must evaluate available products and decide what can be offered to customers with the highest profit for the organization, and then negotiating the best possible price with suppliers.

Buyers in most organisations also have responsibility for quality control, in-store displays and brand management. To pursue a career in buying, you’ll need to be a commercially sharp, relatively calculated individual with some shop floor experience. It’s also essential that you have a fondness for the products you buy, whether they be food, fashion, homeware or entertainment. You will learn about the buying process and how to build a well-balanced and profit-oriented range based on customer purchasing patterns.

Marketing and Public Relations (PR)

Marketing and PR involves a wide range of activities that involve both incorporating customers’ views into the business and promoting products in order to drive sales. You’ll gain an in-depth understanding of customer needs by researching consumer markets and conducting customer satisfaction questionnaires. You’ll also need to monitor press and magazine coverage for your brand and try to promote your products in appropriate circumstances as per your judgement.

Marketing is dynamic, exciting and often enjoyably challenging! Because marketing and PR are such competitive sectors, having a degree is becoming increasingly important, particularly in Marketing, Communications, Business Management and PR. Positions in Marketing and PR could be either in-house or with an outside agency but regardless will require an energetic, hit-the-ground running type of attitude. A role in Marketing and PR can include work on projects such as advertising campaigns, writing and sending press releases, preparing photo shoots, sourcing and sending marketing materials and analysing data to ensure the campaigns are a success.

Human Resources

The recruitment, development and retention of employees is a crucial factor in the overall performance of any business. The HR profession covers training and development, recruitment, pay and benefits, career development and the overall corporate care of employees. These roles will usually involve liaising with people at all levels throughout the business, as well as supporting management teams on the full range of HR issues, so you’ll need to be a credible, persuasive communicator. To be really successful in this field, a genuine interest in people is essential.

Entry-level HR and personnel roles are often advertised, usually requiring good degrees and relevant skills. It is possible to gain experience through temporary work in administrative roles or by sending speculative applications to larger companies. Starting out in HR, you can expect to implement company policies and procedures, promote equality and diversity, recruit staff, perform payroll duties and maintain records relating to staff.


The term wholesale encompasses a broad spectrum of roles, with opportunities in areas such as sales, merchandising and imports and exports. In most cases, the wholesale function will be involved at some stage in the buying cycle, from overseeing the manufacture of goods to the release of products into retail circulation. This role will vary greatly depending on the size of the company and the industry sector.However, no matter where you work, in this role you can find yourself collaborating with buyers in order to get products from point A to point B.


As most people know, a designer’s job is to create the product that you see on retail shelves and hangers. This requires staying in touch with the latest trends in the field and predicting what customers will want to buy seasons in advance.

They’ll often work closely with the buyers to develop new ideas to translate into collections or product ranges. For a designer, monitoring the changing face of style through magazines, catwalks, design fairs, films and TV and in other popular culture is key, as well as closely monitoring competitors both at home and abroad.

Typically, you will begin your career as an assistant, which means you’ll be performing basic administrative duties such as chasing down fabric samples and making up sample cards, and you will later move up into roles with increased responsibility!

If you have a love for retail, there are countless roles that you can take on beyond the sales floor. Working as a sales associate provides a great point of entry for any one of these roles, as it provides you with hands on experience at the level of the organization where you are able to see where all the work from behind the scenes comes together.