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Retail Management And The Career Opportunity

What is Retail Management?

People generally know what business management is. However, in the North-East Region, there is a slight confusion when one comes across the word—“Retail Management”. In real term, retail is the breaking of bulk into units. For example, it is the breaking of 500 Puma T-shirts into 100 each which is pushed into 5 retail outlets of the brand. Retail is the interface or the meeting point between the consumers and the products. It is the actual point where consumers get to see, touch, feel and smell the product and take a decision to purchase. Simply put, most of the branded shops in the malls of cities are retail outlets of the brands. The shops in Thangal and Paona Bazaar are also retail outlets where some are organized retail (like Nike, Reebok, Peter England etc) and the rest are “mom and pop” stores which are unorganized retail (independent family stores).

The power of retail lies in the fact that it is the point where customers take decision to buy and the fate of the product is decided. Therefore, valuable information is collected at this point for the product in the entire value chain. It is this precious information that companies must analyze, understand and strategies their product performance and improve bottom-line.

A glance at retail landscape

The continuing surge of the Indian economy and the ever-growing purchasing power of the great Indian middle class have turned India into an irresistibly big market, ever more hungry for goods and services. India has turned into a magnet for the world’s largest business corporations, especially the retail giants. On one hand, we have the home grown retail companies like Pantaloon, Big bazaar, Shoppers Stop, Westside, Reliance Trends etc and on the other hand, we have the international companies making inroads into India like Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer, Zara, Calvin Klein, French Connection, Tommy Hilfiger etc. Retail giants like Tesco and Carrefour are waiting to enter the Indian market soon. In the last five years, North-East Region has seen interesting retail developments. Big Bazaar has two outlets in Guwahati and Tinsukia. These two outlets have become the local landmarks and the most popular retail stores for families to stock up their weekly needs. Big Bazaar in Guwahati is one of the best performers in the eastern region of India which indicates the growing purchasing power of the city. Guwahati has retail outlets of Westside, ITC Wills Lifestyle, Pantaloon, Levi’s, Puma and many other brands. Shopper Stop will make its appearance very soon in the market. Believe it or not, Levi’s store in Guwahati is among the top five performing stores in the whole of India! This indicates both the purchasing power and also inclination of North-East youth towards denim fashion. Time is not far away when retail companies will touch base in other North-East States in their quest to tap the market of North-East. This can be seen in the form of retail outlets of Nike, Adidas, Converse, Reebok, Khadim, Peter England etc in Imphal and other cities of North-East Region.

Perception of working in a retail company

As the retail market sees the “Great Malling” of India dotting the Tier-I and Tier-II cities with new malls every month, we come across young boys and girls from North-East on the sales floor of the retail outlets, especially in the metro cities. They are well-dressed, well-groomed, speak English and have customer-centric approach while dealing with customers.

However, general people’s perception about these sales staff is that they fold clothes and do the selling. There is tendency among people to consider it as a temporary and low-paid job. However, I would like to differ and inform you that being on the shop floor, selling, maintaining stock, dealing with customers, working in the stockroom and carrying out money transactions in the cashier point, is the most necessary and important step in understanding retail management. Shop floor is the place where retail employees get to feel the pulse of the market. The primary information these people gather on an everyday basis while dealing with customers is more important than the excel sheet reports they get from the head office.

Once one has a reasonable experience on the shop floor, then one can opt to work in various functions such as retail operations, merchandising, visual merchandising, retail marketing or logistics. Retail operations look after the smooth running of retail stores. Merchandising is the function of buying and allocation of stock in the retails stores. Visual Merchandising is the function of making attractive display in the store which enhances selling. Then there are other functions of marketing, logistics, HR and Finance. The key point here is that there is immense opportunity and career growth after getting shop floor experience. If one has a passion for retail, he or she can rise up to be in the senior management of the retail company. Along with retail passion and shop floor experience, one gets accelerated and assured head start than others by undergoing formal retail education in well-known retail management institutes.

The gigantic career opportunity and job explosion

If you viewed that there is immense opportunity working in the aviation, telecom and hospitality industry, then probably more opportunity lies in the retail industry. The key point is with India’s growing economy and growing population, the projection is that more than seventy five per cent of the population is going to be within the working age bracket, which means a huge working population that is earning and driving the consumption meter of the country. Trade optimists call it the “Demographic Dividend”. Retail companies will expand to meet the growing needs of the Indian families and they will need quality talent to run their companies. A report by National Skill Development Corporation of India says that the country requires a whopping 500 million skilled workers over the next ten years. A huge portion of which is the fast growing retail industry. An industry where the demand for trained manpower has galloped far ahead of supply, resulting in acute shortage of retail talent, especially the managerial talent for middle and senior level positions. Indian retail industry will create 25 lakhs new jobs by 2013!

The need for formal retail education

For those with the formal education and training in retail, the career opportunities and growth prospects offered by the industry are virtually boundless. That is because formal education in retail empowers aspiring young students with the much needed theoretical understanding of the mechanics of the industry. And the practical assignments prepare them to take on almost any role with the confidence of a matured professional. Be it store operations, buying & merchandising, visual merchandising, logistics or marketing, giving them a head start over others, helping them perform better, achieve more and climb up the corporate ladder faster than the rest.

*The article is written by Niranjan Singh

*The writer is the Director of Jugeswar Centre for Retail Excellence (JCRE) in Guwahati. He can be reached at info@jcre.co.in

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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