Do You Have the Skills Today’s Retail Employers Need?

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There’s a change coming in retail. You may have noticed it. Retailers are reaching out with mobile technology and online tools to bring in customers. And with back to school shopping already in high gear, the push is on to bring in young shoppers—for everything from laptops to lunch totes. So what does that mean for today’s retail job seeker? New skill sets—in addition to the ones you already have.

Hard skills emerge as “must haves”

Acquiring the right hard skills can put you on the short list of candidates—especially if you want to move up from the sales floor. For example, if you plan to work for a food retailer, you’ll need to brush up on the latest food safety regulations and maybe even get a certification in the field. If you plan to work for a tech retailer like Best Buy, you should not only know electronics but be able to install entertainment systems. If you’re selling computers, you’ll need some hard skills in setting up and installing software.

Digital skills increasingly in demand

With so many retailers going online, digital skills are becoming de rigueur for the new “virtual” sales floor. Retailers are already in desperate need of software developers, online customer service staff, and people who can set up and manage Internet advertising campaigns. As reported in Deloitte’s Changing Face of Retail report, 86 percent of consumers now use mobile or smartphone for Internet access on a daily or weekly basis. In South Korea, Tesco has created a virtual store in the subway that allows commuters to order groceries from a huge wall display. This has helped make Tesco the number one grocery brand online in South Korea. It’s not hard to imagine US retailers adopting this and other online shopping paradigms, creating retail jobs that require digital skills. Another thing you may want to brush up on is cloud technology. As reported in Cloud-Based Technology: Identifying Key Opportunities for Retail, cloud-based solutions are already being adopted by a growing number of retailers for point of sale transactions, supporting IT deployments for pop-up stores or brick-and-mortar expansions, or to add scalability to the dynamics of today’s rapidly changing retail market.

Soft skills still a top priority

If you’re already working in retail, you know the importance of soft skills. If you’re a newbie college grad, you’ll have to develop and hone them, spending time on the sales floor. The importance of good communication can’t be overstated and includes such specific skills as listening, patience, negotiating and conflict resolution. Some companies will provide training in these areas to bring promising candidates up to speed. Usually these programs include some role-playing exercises to help prospective managers deal with things like demanding customers or problem employees under their charge. Other retailers may assign you a mentor who will help improve your soft skills. As noted in a recent article in, Pickier than ever, employers on the hunt for 'soft skills', companies are eager to find people with the right mix of skills, using role-playing exercises to see how they handle pressure and get along with others. “What the employers want is a well-rounded student,” says Jean Manning-Clark, director of the Colorado School of Mines' career center. “The ones that get 10 to 12 job offers are the ones who have strong soft skills.”

Want to land a management post in today’s tough retail job market? Enhance your hard and soft skills.

 Image courtesy of Ambro/


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