Behind the scenes specialist...

Most people are unaware of the myriad of support roles available in retail businesses. They include jobs in areas such as IT and e-commerce, finance, legal, loss prevention, maintenance and human resources. Roles can range from cleaner, clerk, customer service through to product specialists and a career in the wholesale area.

Product specialists manage the sales performance and market success for one or more products or brands for large suppliers. They contribute to product development by monitoring and predicting trends and assessing sales performance. This includes determining future production levels as well as how products should change and improve.
Female lady woman grey hair holding book in library bookstore
Product specialists also develop and implement marketing and promotional strategies to increase sales and the profile of the product or brand. This includes working on visual merchandising and product placement within stores. It can also include developing advertising strategies and campaigns.

"If you are observant, organised and analytical then most support roles would suit you."

The retail finance career area includes all accounting and finance functions like checking income, paying expenses, compiling and maintaining financial records, money management and cash flow control, banking, investment, and credit lines.

Information technology is involved from the moment an item arrives at the warehouse until it is scanned at the checkout. Technology careers are numerous and varied in the retail industry. There are e-commerce websites that complement most traditional stores, complex inventory systems, training programs delivered over the Internet, state-of-the-art cash register and credit systems, servers and network systems management - technology careers are continually growing in the retail industry.

Recruiting and hiring employees are the most obvious parts of human resources. But retail careers in human resources also include numerous other responsibilities such as delivering training; designing training programs; overseeing salaries and benefits and ensuring legal compliance in hiring and employment practices. Human resources staff liaise with employees on matters such as sick leave, promotion and career planning.

The loss prevention career area is responsible for safeguarding retail business assets and may include risk management issues, such as customer and employee safety. Loss prevention team members work together to prevent and handle merchandise loss due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors, and vendor fraud. Physical security of store and company buildings may also be included.

Tara Fisher

Tara FisherName: Tara Fisher
Age: 31
Place of Work: Pizza Hut (YUM)
Role: Franchise Business Coach
Qualifications: Currently completing MBA, Sydney Business, Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary), Bachelor of Management
Estimated salary range for this job role: $70K +

Put simply I'm the main point of contact for my group of 18 franchise partners and YUM. My current role involves coaching franchise partners to achieve sales and profit improvements, working with franchisees and their managers to ensure restaurants are maintained and developed to the highest standards of product quality, service and cleanliness and drive excellence in operational performance. The most enjoyable aspects are seeing a franchisee grow and improve their store.

I have been in retail for seven years, joining YUM restaurants firstly in the KFC brand and then moving through a number of different roles across both KFC and Pizza Hut. I stumbled across the retail industry and this career path partly by accident. Whilst unsure of the direction I was heading I applied initially for a PA role. I had already completed my Graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary) after initially completing a Bachelor of Management. The interviewers decided I would be better suited to the company's internal Graduate Leadership Program. This entails a series of rotations (eachapproximately a year in length) in different departments before being promoted into a training manager or area manager type role.

When joining YUM, I had to travel quite a distance, leave an office environment to work in store which is a tough environment working with large teams of mixed ages, food, cleaning and hardest of all the customer. This involved shift work, working nights and weekends and compared to prior to joining YUM, my social calendar took a beating as did my ego initially.

Many of my friends who work in professional careers as accountants, trades or office based roles struggled to understand my decision to move from an office based career to 'cooking chicken'. Clearly they didn't understand the longer term vision and career path that I was on. I've been given the opportunities to manage multi-million dollar businesses both at a micro and macro level, managed large teams of people and had the pleasure of seeing them develop and grow their own careers.

"The retail industry offers a huge range of experiences and gives you the ability to understand a business from the ground up. Whilst it's definitely not for the faint hearted, anyone with a bit of grit, determination and above all passion for what they do will be able to have a very fulfilling career in this industry. But remember, successful and enjoyable careers may not always be in the area that you think they will be."


Julie Tsaconas

Julie Spendless ShoesName: Julie Tsaconas
Age: 40
Place of Work: Spend-less Shoes
Role: National Sales Manager
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Diploma of Education
Estimated salary range for this job role: $81-100K

I have worked in retail most of my life, starting in a chocolate shop in 1983. Retail helped me pay my way through University.

“I have been a teacher but my true vocation has always been in retail."

I approached Spend-less Shoes with my resume, ready to learn and gained an entry level position then proved my worth with hard work and long hours. An opportunity to be the State Manager in Perth came even though I was only 26 and quite inexperienced I jumped at the role. Moving to another state alone and with no experience was hard. I had to overcome loneliness, self doubt, and lack of experience. In retail a lot of the learning that I did in those early days was on the job. So when you made a mistake (and I made plenty) it was always very public. That teaches you great humility!

My mentor showed me how to get better organised, how to be calm under pressure, how to inspire people to want to work hard for me without having to ask and how to forgive myself when I did make a mistake. It is always very valuable to have a person that you can talk to about the trials and tribulations of the day - to 'empty the trash' as they say.

In my current role I am responsible for all retail operations on the selling floor and act as mentor and coach to 15 Store Support Managers, monitor wage control, maximise sales potential, liaise with all back office teams and devise all training and development.

The best part of my role is motivating and training people to progress and grow. Coaching people to reach their full potential has so many benefi ts for the individual and for the company - it is not only the most rewarding part of my role for me, but also for the continued growth and success of the company. The worst part of my job is doing a lot of admin work - a necessary evil!

“While I started my retail career as many people do, out of necessity, I fell in love with the opportunities it offered and have not looked back since. "

Retail is one of those careers in which you can take on almost any speciality. I have learned about human resources, OHS, counselling and of course numbers, budgets and people, people, people. I have learned tolerance, grace under pressure, problem solving, and how to have fun at work. You can really shine in this industry. You can learn almost anything that you might be interested in. There are endless opportunities, from working as a salesperson to accountant to counsellor to recruitment person to the general manager. Your success is totally dependent on you. Your career can be as large as you want it to be and the opportunities are endless.

Retail has always been considered as a last choice career option, but people entering the industry today should rethink that old fashioned notion. I do not know any other profession in which you can be trained in so many areas of expertise and in which you can excel in so many fields with on the job training and development and endless opportunities.