Fashion Careers: Guide To Fashion Retail

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Fashion retail helps brands share their vision and connect with customers via in store experiences, services and products. Explore fashion retail career paths.

Fashion retail is an incredibly fast paced industry and it forms the backbone of every high street up and down the country. There are many job roles within fashion retail, all of which require creativity, passion and customer care.

A fashion retail career is ideal for those who perform well under pressure and are able quickly to adapt to the ever changing fashion retail landscape. There are many different areas of fashion retail, allowing you to specialise in a particular area and progress your career.

Our careers guide on fashion retail explores the different areas you could specialise in, responsibilities, key skills and salary expectations.


Fashion retail describes businesses that sell clothes and accessories directly to customers in store. There are four main types of fashion retail businesses including highstreet chain stores, department stores, luxury brands and independent boutiques. 

There are many different job roles within fashion retail, ranging from in store to head office. This includes sales, buying, management, merchandising and visual merchandising.

Retail is at the heart of every fashion business and although consumer shopping behaviours have evolved over the years, many consumers still prefer the experience of shopping in store rather than online. 

Retail stores allow brands to create their own unique shopping experience - not only in terms of building rapport with customers but also in sharing the brand's messaging and values. They’re also really beneficial for customers and allow them to ask questions and try products before they buy them.

With so many fashion brands fighting for consumers' attention on the high street and online, fashion retail businesses must be really innovative in order to stand out. As such, each and every job role within a retail brand is integral to its success.


Fashion retail is a huge industry and there are many areas you can specialise in. Some of the most common fashion retail career paths include:

  • Sales Assistant
  • Retail Manager
  • Retail Buyer
  • Retail Visual Merchandiser
  • Retail Merchandiser


Sales assistants form the backbone of every fashion retail business. Without them, no customers would be greeted and no sales would be made. It's also a great way to kick start your career in the fashion industry as working as a sales assistant provides you with a lot of transferable skills and there are plenty of opportunities for progression.

Sales assistants main responsibility is to provide good customer service. This includes, answering questions about products or services, helping customers find what they’re looking for, promoting new products and promotions and building rapport with customers. They must also assist with business operations by replenishing stock on the shop floor, styling product displays and making sure that the store is clean and tidy.

What Do Retail Assistants Do?

Retail assistant’s main duty is to increase sales and transitions. In order to do this, they must be really friendly and engaging with customers. It can also be quite physically demanding as they will likely be on their feet for long periods and are required to lift and move stock. It's an incredibly fast paced environment and working with lots of different customers can be incredibly rewarding. 

The main responsibilities of a retail assistant include:

  • Welcoming and greeting customers
  • Serving and advising customers
  • Unpacking and sorting new stock deliveries
  • Displaying and arranging stock
  • Rotating and replenishing stock
  • Promoting products and offers
  • Taking cash and card payments
  • Handling returns and refunds
  • Meeting sales targets
  • Keeping the store clean and tidy

Retail Assistant Skills

  • Excellent customer service skills
  • The ability to work well as part of a team
  • The ability to work under pressure and remain calm
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Sensitivity and understanding
  • Sales and promotion skills
  • The ability to use own initiative
  • Excellent verbal communication skills
  • Computer literacy

Retail Assistant Salary

The salary of a Retail Assistant can range from £16,000 - £32,000+ depending on experience. Many sales assistant jobs are often paid hourly meaning the salary will also vary depending on the number of hours worked.

  • Entry level positions can start at £16,000 a year or £9.50 an hour if you are 23 and over
  • The average sales assistant salary is £23,023 per year or £11.81 per hour
  • With experience, sales assistants can earn up to £32,175 per year


Retail store managers are responsible for ensuring that the day to day operations of a business runs smoothly. This may include managing employee schedules, training new employees, handling payroll, understanding sales trends, setting sales targets and managing in store marketing and promotions.

Having excellent communication and leadership skills is essential for retail managers as they will likely manage a team of sales assistants and they themselves may report to an area manager or business owner. They must lead by example and demonstrate excellent customer service skills as well as help motivate their team to reach sales targets.

What Do Retail Managers Do?

Working in retail is incredibly fast paced and Retail Managers must be able to quickly adapt between the customer service and leadership components of their role. The main responsibilities of a Retail Manager include:

  • Manage and motivate a team to reach sales targets
  • Manage stock control
  • Analyse sales and forecast future trends
  • Employee management e.g. conducting interviews and performance appraisals
  • Staff training and development
  • Respond to customer queries
  • Organise marketing materials and promotions
  • Customer service and sales
  • HR and logistics
  • Oversee store visual merchandising

Retail Manager Skills

  • Experience leading a team within a retail setting
  • Excellent problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills
  • Proven ability to set and achieve financial and business objectives
  • Experience enforcing and maintaining company policies and procedures
  • Firm understanding of sales, promotions, trends, retail markets, and merchandising
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Experience creating and maintaining employee scheduling
  • The ability to work as part of a team

Retail Manager Salary

The salary of a Retail Manager can range from £17,000 - £60,000+ depending on experience.

  • Retail Assistant Manager average salary: roughly £17,000 - £23,000. Depending on the organisation and experience this can range up to £30,000
  • Retail Manager average salary: roughly £35,000 - £60,000+ depending on business size


A retail buyers' main responsibility is to source the right products at the right price in order to maximise profits. That being said, their duties can vary day to day, which is what makes it one of the most desirable jobs in the industry. The responsibilities of a retail buyer may also vary depending on their level of experience and the business they work for.

Retail buyer’s must take several factors into consideration when making buying decisions. They must have excellent analytical skills and be able to evaluate customer buying patterns, trend forecast, research market trends, plan product ranges and assess the quality and sustainability of collections. They must also be good communicators as building relationships with suppliers is a huge part of their role.

What Do Retail Buyers Do?

The great thing about being a retail buyer is that their role is incredibly varied. Their duties may also vary depending on their level of experience and the business they work for. The main responsibilities of a Retail Buyer are:

  • Trend forecasting and research
  • Building and maintaining relationships with suppliers
  • Planning product ranges and pricing
  • Working with internal marketing and merchandising departments
  • Assessing quality and sustainability of product ranges
  • Developing sales strategies and monitoring budgets

Retail Buyer Skills

  • Analytical and numerical skills
  • Organisational and multitasking skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Creativity
  • A passion for retail
  • The ability to work in a fast paced environment
  • The ability to work as part of a team

Retail Buyer Salary

The salary of a Retail Buyer can range from £18,000 - £100,000+ depending on experience.

  • Junior buyers typically earn between £18,000 and £25,000 as their starting salary.
  • With experience buyers can expect salaries of £25,000 to £45,000.
  • Senior retail buyers earn between £45,000 and £70,000+.


The role of a visual merchandiser is to design and communicate visual ideas and displays to help promote retail brands. They combine their creativity with business skills to create eye-catching displays that pull customers to stores and drive sales. 

The responsibilities of a retail visual merchandiser may vary depending on their level of experience and the business they work for. Visual Merchandisers who work from a head office will most likely collaborate with other departments to create annual visual strategies and promotional events. They may also ensure that there is consistency across multiple stores and provide retail staff with training. 

Visual Merchandisers who are freelance or work in a store will have much more creative control over a brand's layout and visual concepts. This includes researching trends, planning display themes for different seasons, managing the layout of stores, deciding what product goes where, designing window displays and styling mannequins.

What Do Retail Visual Merchandisers Do?

A Retail Merchandiser’s roles and responsibilities can vary from brand to brand and they may work in store or head office. That being said, their main duty is to increase profits for the store by creating a space that attracts customers and makes them want to shop. Here are the main responsibilities of a Retail Visual Merchandiser:

  • Design store plans and displays
  • Sourcing materials
  • Analysing competitors
  • Creating visual merchandising packs
  • Analysing performance
  • Travelling to stores to provide training

Retail Visual Merchandiser Skills

  • Creativity and design skills
  • IT and CAD skills
  • Trend forecasting
  • Communication and leadership skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Visual and spatial awareness 
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • Must be able to provide and receive constructive criticism 

Retail Visual Merchandiser Salary

The salary of a retail merchandiser can range from around £12,000 - £55,000+ depending on experience.

  • Assistant Visual Merchandiser: roughly £12,000 - £18,000 (sometimes this role is combined with a customer assistant role)
  •  Visual Merchandising Coordinator: roughly £20,000 - £27,000
  •  Visual Merchandising Area Manager: roughly £30,000+
  •  Head of Visual Merchandising: roughly £55,000+

There’s also lots of opportunity for freelance and consultancy work, particularly with smaller or independent brands. You could also specialise in visual merchandising installation or prop-making, as large businesses can often outsource projects. 


Retail Merchandisers are responsible for ensuring that products appear in the right store, at the right time and in the right quantities. Merchandisers help to shape collections within a brand and they must accurately forecast trends, plan stock levels and monitor performance. It is their responsibility to make sure each collection is profitable.

Merchandisers work closely with buyers and visual merchandisers to ensure that collections come together. Fashion Buyers choose the product lines while Merchandisers decide how much money should be spent, how many lines should be bought, and in what quantities. Once the collection has been finalised by the Merchandising department, they will then work with Visual Merchandisers to ensure that each collection is displayed and promoted appropriately in store.

What Do Retail Merchandisers Do?

Retail merchandising is incredibly varied and fast paced. While most Merchandisers will work in head office, there is the opportunity to travel to stores and meet with suppliers and manufacturers. The main responsibilities of a retail merchandiser include:

  • Merchandise planning
  • Trend forecasting
  • Price planning and budgeting
  • Sales forecasting
  • Building manufacturer and supplier relationships
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Manage stock levels
  • Analyse product performance

Retail Merchandiser Skills

  • Analytical and numerical skills
  • Flexible and good under pressure
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Creativity
  • The ability to work well as part of a team
  • Computer literacy

Retail Merchandiser Salary

The salary of a retail merchandiser can range from around £16,000 - £85,000+ depending on experience.

  • Merchandising Admin Assistant: roughly £16,000 - £22,000
  • Merchandising Assistant: roughly £28,000 - £36,000
  • Senior Merchandiser: roughly £45,000 - £65,000
  • Head/Director of Merchandising: roughly £85,000+


There are several ways to get into fashion retail. You could kickstart your retail career as a Sales Assistant, study and achieve qualifications in fashion retail or gain work experience by taking part in an internship.


Most fashion retail jobs require experience or training and starting out as a sales assistant is a great first step in your career. Working in a store will give you the opportunity to work directly with customers and garments. Being at the forefront of the fashion industry will give you a range of hands-on experience and transferable skills that will help you progress in your career.

Working as a sales assistant will provide you with an understanding of visual merchandising, styling, trends, customer service, communication, an eye for detail, pricing structures, time management and commercial awareness. 

Most brands are willing to train and help their employees progress in house, so this could be a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and show what you can really do.


To progress your fashion retail career from sales assistant to manager and beyond you will need to gain the relevant qualification or degree to help you stand out.

At the Fashion Retail Academy, our courses are designed to teach you the skills you’ll need to succeed in your career. We’re known for our high-quality graduates and each of our courses offers excellent progression into further education, apprenticeships or full time employment.

To help you decide which area of fashion retail is right for you, you can take a course that covers many of the different aspects. 

Our Level 4 Fashion Retail (With Marketing) diploma course allows you to study each area of the fashion retail industry from initial garment design to products reaching stores. This course is ideal if you aren’t sure which fashion retail career path you’d like to take.

We also offer Level 2 Fashion Retail and Level 3 Fashion Retail diploma courses, which provide an excellent introduction into the world of fashion retail.

Internships and Work Experience

Internships and work experience are a great way of boosting your CV, particularly if you’re looking for a fashion retail role in buying, merchandising or visual merchandising.

By studying at the Fashion Retail Academy you will have the opportunity to work with over 140 of our retail partners, allowing you to build your network and gain real life work experience. Working directly with brands will allow you to learn more about the duties  of fashion retail, helping to build the skills that can’t be learned anywhere else.

Throughout our courses, you'll also be tasked with live briefs set by our retail partners. This allows you to work on real-world issues affecting the retail industry right now, giving you up-to-date, transferable knowledge.

Think a role in fashion retail is right for you? Take the first step to your dream career and study with the Fashion Retail Academy!

If you have any questions about the courses on offer at the Fashion Retail Academy, send us an email at We’d love to hear from you!