Six things you should know about retail

By Bill Thorne
Published Sep 3, 2020

Here at the NRF Foundation, we remain committed to doing everything we can to help you launch your career in retail. That’s why we created new, online programming with NRF Foundation All Access.

We kicked off the program this week, and throughout 12 weeks this fall, we’ll have insightful conversations with the people who power the industry, professional development sessions, our exclusive Executive Mentor Experience, an online career fair and more – all of it designed to connect you with opportunities in retail. 

Each Wednesday at noon ET, we’ll premiere a new episode. For our first session, I shared six things you should know about retail.

  1. Retail is much bigger than you think

    Retail impacts everyone, everywhere, every day. As the nation’s largest private-sector employer, retail supports more than one in four jobs in the United States. That’s 52 million working Americans.

    Fifty-nine percent of Americans have worked in retail. It’s a first job for many, and it’s where people learn some of the most basic skills that serve them throughout their careers. 
  2. Retail has endless career opportunities

    When people think about retail careers, they often think of jobs in the mall, with people folding sweaters or behind a cash register. But 46 percent of people who work in retail don’t work in sales.

    Retail has careers for a myriad of interests: merchandisers, marketers, buyers, accountants, software engineers, lawyers, writers, information technologists. The options for what job you can have at a retailer are almost limitless.
  3. Retail is transforming

    Nobody innovates faster than retail. And while shopping has changed, stores still matter. It’s not in-store versus online. It’s both.

    And retail is certainly transforming right now because of the pandemic. COVID-19's impact on how and why we shop underscores how quickly retailers have to adapt – and you can take a deeper dive into this with the National Retail Federation research team here.
  4. Retail is so much more than fashion and apparel

    Clothing stores account for less than 4 percent of total retail sales. When you think about what you buy, you’ll realize that plenty of those transactions are for something other than apparel.
  5. Where you start doesn’t dictate where you end up

    Retail is a great place to start, and it’s a great place to grow. If you want to build a career, the opportunities are there.

    Take Marvin Ellison, now the CEO of Lowe’s. He started as a security guard at a Target, making $4.35 an hour. He loved retail, and he worked his way through school, and as he grew in terms of responsibility, he was learning more about the business, making him a much better leader.
  6. Retail is giving hope and leading change

    People who work in retail are passionate about the jobs they do, the people they work with, the customers they serve and the communities they are in. They sponsor the Little League team. They show up during natural disasters with the goods and services that people need to survive. They keep their doors open during the pandemic.

    Retailers make a difference every single day.

Bill Thorne is the executive director of the NRF Foundation, NRF’s nonprofit 501(c)(3). He is also NRF’s senior vice president for communications and public affairs and host of the “Retail Gets Real” podcast. You can learn more about retail from the people who power the industry every Wednesday at noon ET with NRF Foundation All Access. Register now for our free program.  

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