The retail industry is composed of a number of interconnected functions which work together to get products from concept into hands of the consumer. While each retail company is unique, below are the critical roles which every retail company encompasses as part of its operations.

Buying/Merchandising: Buyers and Merchandisers play a critical role in any retail organization as they keep the flow of information between many different groups. They are responsible for selecting the merchandise for the stores, keeping in mind financial targets. They work with other teams to develop products, negotiate costs, purchase appropriate quantities and promote the items. The terms Buyers and Merchandisers vary by company but generally refer to the same core function.

Design & Sourcing: Designers are the creative force behind retailers’ products. They identify trends and develop concepts for products. For an apparel retailer, this could mean designing a dress that encompasses the style of a predicted trend. Or for a home goods retailer, it could mean developing a travel mug that has features desired by the consumer. Feedback is often provided by the Buying/Merchandising teams to enhance the product for market. The Sourcing team identifies factories who can produce the item, with consideration given to cost and lead times.

Finance & Accounting: Finance and Accounting roles are critical to any business, and the Retail industry is no different. These teams are responsible for overseeing the flow of money into and out of the organization. Others duties could include billing and setting guidelines to assure profitability.

Marketing: The Marketing team is responsible for upholding brand recognition while driving sales through promotions and advertisements. Marketers analyze their customer demographic and shopping habits to ideate compelling marketing tactics. Other functions which may fall under Marketing include Public Relations, Communications, Social Media and Advertising.

Online: The Online team, often times also referred to as the Digital or Dot Com group, maintains a retailer’s ecommerce site. Structures vary by company with many organizations choosing to mirror the larger company structure within online. For example, an online team may have its own Buying group. Online teams have the added responsibility of working with tech partners to continually enhance websites and apps as new technologies develop. With nearly 10% of all sales coming from online, this is a critical area of growth for many retailers.

Planning: Planners work closely with Buyers to determine the quantity of merchandise to purchase and also give guidance on pricing and promotions. They analyze past sales of similar items, keeping in mind the product mix and trends, to determine the appropriate quantity of items to purchase, down to color and size variations. As items sell, Planners develop promotions to move through items that are not meeting sales expectations.

Store Leaders: Physical stores are at the heart of the consumer shopping experience. Store leaders are responsible for assuring that the corporate vision is properly reflected in the store. This can include initiatives such as making sure that merchandise is organized and priced according to plan, down to how a customer is greeted when they enter a store. Store leaders are responsible for assuring sales goals for their area are achieved, which is accomplished in large part by training and inspiring store staff.

Visual Merchandising: Visual Merchandisers are responsible for the look & feel of a physical store in addition to the presentation of merchandise within a store. This can range from the color of the walls and the layout of the store, down to the window displays and mannequin outfits. They partner closely with the merchandisers to understand which products and categories need to be promoted within the stores.

These are just a few of the many opportunities available in the retail industry. If you have further insight, or are curious to know more, leave a comment below.

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