The retail sector is one of Australia’s largest employing industries, with close to 1.2 million workers. Due to the global financial crisis, employment decreased by 32,100 jobs in 2009, however employment prospects remain strong in many areas, including grocery and consumable goods retailing (

In retail, strong branding is critical to business success and retail businesses are focusing heavily on leveraging their brands. Retail is a dynamic, fast-paced and exciting industry with a broad scope of career opportunities for graduates, from the shop floor right through to head office.

In recent years the retail sector has been through several exciting changes and the industry looks set to evolve further, becoming more sophisticated and competitive than ever.

The work

The retail sector employs graduates in a variety of roles, such as retail buyer, retail sales manager and supply chain manager.

Many large retail firms offer graduate programs to train graduates from a range of academic disciplines for leadership and managerial roles. Graduate trainees are usually exposed to all aspects of the business, from marketing and sales to supply management and finance. Industry experience is often an advantage in applying for these programs.

While standard business hours are the norm for those in buying or supply chain roles, those in retail management often work longer hours. Work can be high pressure, with tight deadlines and expectations to meet targets in sales, production and distribution. Overseas travel opportunities are common for retail buyers. If you are a people-person, there is plenty of face-to-face contact in this industry.

Current prospects for graduates wishing to work in this industry are fair. Retail companies have greatly improved their work practices in recent years and are now offering more flexible conditions, quality leadership and a stimulating working environment with good opportunities for advancement.

What you need

  • Generalist degree
  • For management and specialised roles: marketing, business, arts, commerce, management, fashion, textiles and design
  • An advantage of the industry is that retail hours often fit in with study, so a career can be launched while still at university or college

Graduate salary ranges for selected relevant occupations are as follows:

  • Retail buyer: $42,500–$65,000
  • Retail manager: $34,500–$46,600
  • Retail supervisor: $26,000–$38,500
  • Sales assistant (General): $26,000–$40,000

(Figures taken from the Australian Graduate Survey 2008, GCA. Ranges refer to the middle 50 per cent of salaries for bachelor degree graduates with permanent residency, in full-time employment in Australia October 2007 to April 2008.)

Industry at a glance

  • 11% national workforce
  • 62% aged under 34 years (retail supervisors)
  • Declining outlook (32,100 fewer jobs, 2008-09)