Your Ultimate Guide to Retail Apprenticeships.

Looking for a fast-paced and dynamic career? Look no further than retail. 

In retail, every day is different, so your learning, growth and development are supercharged. It’s hard not to feel a sense of joy and satisfaction when you help someone find a product, get a refund or buy something new.

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Retail Apprenticeships Hero: Barista pours coffee into mug

The basics.

Okay, okay… retail sometimes gets a bad rep for being stressful. But remember that one person’s idea of stress is another one’s idea of dynamic, fast-paced and exciting. In the world of retail, you get to work with people from all walks of life, and your help or advice might just make somebody’s day a little bit brighter. 

As a buyer, merchandiser or shop assistant, it’s your job to truly understand what makes customers happy and what makes them tick. Every part of the retail ecosystem relies on creative ideas, teamwork and a friendly face to help a business flourish.

Retail apprenticeships aren’t just about organisation and being helpful. Modern retail includes optimisation, logistics and user experience, as well as the ability to keep up with the latest trends.

Put your social and organisational skills to the test with one of these in-demand roles or apprenticeships in retail.

Types of Roles in Retail

Customer Service

As a customer service advisor, you will be the main point of contact between business operations and customers. You will communicate with customers face-to-face and via other channels, like phone and email, to build long-lasting positive relationships.

Core responsibilities include assisting with queries and complaints, processing transactions and making customers feel valued.

Retail Manager

Store managers and assistant managers are leaders who are responsible for overseeing daily operations, managing staff and ensuring the store meets its financial goals. It’s your duty to set sales targets, supervise staff and overcome day-to-day operational challenges.

There are loads of progression opportunities for retail managers, and you could work your way up through the business to become a regional or country manager.

Visual Merchandiser

Visual merchandisers are the creative brains behind the ‘look’ of the store. You’ll be tasked with designing visually appealing product displays to attract customers and adapting the store design according to trends, seasons and sales.

Retail Buyer

The role of a retail buyer is to analyse market trends, negotiate with suppliers and purchase inventory that aligns with customer demand. Trends fluctuate frequently, so it’s critical to stay on top of how the market is moving and select products accordingly.

Logistics Coordinator

Unfortunately, shelves don’t magically stock themselves. Logistics coordinators manage the supply chain to ensure the relevant products are prepared, shipped and stocked at the correct times. You’ll need to keep a close eye on tracking inventory, monitoring transport and ensuring the products are stored safely when they arrive.

Entry requirements?

There are no national entry requirements for apprenticeships, so you’ll need to check each job spec with potential employers. Keep in mind that higher-level apprenticeships (Level 4+) may expect you to have at least five GCSEs (grades nine to four) or two A-levels.

The secret to a successful career in retail is having a positive attitude. You could support hundreds of customers daily, and it’s impossible to please everyone. Customer complaints are totally normal, and it’s important to take a proactive approach and keep your spirits high so you can deal with the issue and move on – rather than letting customer critique get you down!

Apprentice Levels

Apprenticeships are split into levels depending on length and the qualification that you receive at the end. Here’s a breakdown:

Level 2 (intermediate) – equivalent to 5 GCSEs (at grades 9 to 4)

You’ll find an exciting and extensive choice of Level 2 retail apprenticeships, including:

Level 3 (advanced) – equivalent to 2 A-levels

You can jump straight into one of these Level 3 apprenticeships, or complete one after you’ve finished a Level 2:

  • Travel Consultant Apprenticeship – Hays Travel
  • Retail Team Leader Apprenticeship – Harrods
  • Team Leader Apprenticeship – Co-op  
  • Supervisor Apprenticeship – Farmfoods 
  • Store Management Apprenticeship – Aldi 

Levels 4 and 5 (higher) – equivalent to a foundation degree 

Level 4 and 5 apprenticeships are not as widely available in the retail industry, but you can still find gems like this:

Levels 6 and 7 (degree)

You’ll get a full bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. Yep, that’s right: with some high-level apprenticeships you can achieve a full degree at the end, without going to university.

You could earn a bachelor’s degree in retail or management with these amazing opportunities:

  • Retail Leaders Programme (Level 6) – M&S 
  • Store Manager Development Programme (Level 7) – Morrisons 

Sector Spotlight

Are you surprised that supermarket companies are the leaders in excellent apprenticeship programmes? All the big supermarkets (Aldi, Morrisons, etc…) have high-quality retail apprenticeships that offer clear career pathways, so you can progress into well-paid management roles.

The great thing about an apprenticeship with a supermarket is that these companies are huge – they have loads of different departments and a lot of money to fund great training courses. You could easily transition to a role in logistics or finance after your retail apprenticeship without needing to move to a new employer.