Just as the nature of retail is changing and transforming at an ever-quickening pace, so are the multitude of jobs that make up the industry.

Today, there are 100,000 people doing jobs in retail that didn’t even exist five years ago – from behavioural data analyst to robotics engineers. The result is that many people have an outdated idea of what a career in retail means.

Those of us involved in the industry know that it is an exciting – and challenging – time to be in retail. We know of the diversity, the flexibility, the opportunity that the industry provides. We know there is almost no other industry where it really is possible to get from the bottom to the top. And we know that the industry plays a vital role across our society and communities, offering employment to many millions of people who, even if they lack many qualifications, can create a successful career for themselves.

“We know there is more to retail than stacking shelves, but to change this perception we need to do more to educate, inspire and attract people to the industry”

Like me, I expect many of you reading this will feel the same anger when you see how the press and politicians react to the loss of a few hundred manufacturing jobs. Yet the loss of thousands of retail jobs can happen without comment. Retail jobs are valuable and valued and should be seen as such.

But we have an image problem. There is more work needed to make sure retail is seen as the ‘career of choice’ to those entering or re-entering the employment market, to realise the vision of ′better jobs’ we set out with more than 40 of our members three years ago.

Jobs of the future

This is why the BRC has launched Rethink Retail – a careers website that aims to lift the lid on the future of retail careers, boosting the profile of the industry to prospective employees and careers guidance professionals, and to help achieve part of that better jobs vision.

We know there is more to retail than stacking shelves, but to change this perception we need to do more to educate, inspire and attract people to the industry. Retailers are fighting other sectors to attract the best talent and to do this we need to ensure retail is regarded as innovative and exciting.

The Rethink Retail website looks at six skills areas: communities; customer; experience; innovation; product management; and research and development. There are real-life examples of the types of roles available, from software developer to sustainability manager, each with their own case study and video.

“Everyone needs to know that whatever their skill set, there is a retail role that can take advantage of it”

The stories are as rich and diverse as the industry itself. There’s Gerred Blyth, the video game designer who used his skills to head the user experience department of Asos, understanding and building on the experiences of the website’s users. Or Charlotte Horne, who started seven years ago at the Boots’ pharmacy counter, before joining their graduate programme and working on the rollout of the chicken pox vaccine, among other programmes.

From school leavers to top graduates, to those already in the industry seeking new opportunities, everyone needs to know that whatever their skill set, there is a retail role that can take advantage of it. Retailers need to promote these exciting careers to existing colleagues, potential new employees and the careers guidance professionals who guide them.

If the careers adviser only knows about the jobs of the past, how can they advise the emerging retail workforce on the careers of the future? We all need to be telling people outside the retail industry about all it has to offer, while connecting them to the retailers that are leading the way in the careers space.

The future of retail is changing, but one thing is for certain – we need retail to be a career of choice for the many.

75,000 retail jobs lost in first three months of 2019