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Eight unexpected graduate careers in retail

Elise Tornos

What does it take to keep a massive enterprise like Myer or even Coles running? We’ve brought together eight examples of graduate careers in the retail sector.

Think of retail jobs, and you’ll likely think first of the cashiers and retail assistants you’re likely to see when you enter a store. These employees perform a vital function and overwhelmingly constitute the majority of employees in the retail sector. However, it’s important to acknowledge the range of careers that lurk behind the scenes—what sort of professionals, you might ask, keep a massive enterprise like Myer or even Coles running? We’ve brought together eight examples of professional careers in the retail sector that are well-suited to ambitious university graduates.


Buyers perform one of the retail industry’s invisible and indispensable functions—deciding which products will appear in stores. This often gives them an immense amount of influence: being recognised by a buyer for a global luxury brand like Hermes, for example, can elevate a young fashion designer to instant celebrity status. Similarly, for the salespeople at FMCGs (fast-moving consumer goods), wooing buyers to get their products on supermarket shelves is a chief priority.

Buyers generally focus on a specific type of product (for example, fiction books or women’s apparel), negotiating prices with suppliers, ensuring appropriate stock levels are maintained at retail outlets, and trying to forecast which products will be popular in the future.

Legal counsel

It’s not uncommon for larger retailers to require legal counsel when negotiating contracts, expanding into new locations, acquiring businesses, shipping goods internationally, and more. For this reason, while some retailers retain outside counsel, others, such as Myer and JB Hi-Fi, have full-time in-house legal teams.

Human relations (HR) manager

For graduates who have studied business or commerce and wish to work in the retail sector, human relations positions may be a good fit. Retail businesses often have high staff turnover, hiring casuals during busy periods (such as the Christmas) and retaining only the best staff. They must also meet the same obligations as other businesses when it comes to their treatment of staff. For this reason, department stores and other large retailers invariably have HR professionals tasked with ensuring that staff members are happy, productive, and safe.

Marketing Assistant/Merchandiser

Marketing plays a vital role in retail, which relies on effective campaigns to gain the attention of potential customers and convince them to buy a company’s goods or services. They achieve this using a range of strategies, such as booking advertisements, developing effective presences on social media sites, establishing strong brands, and designing marketing campaigns. To learn more, check out a ‘day in the life’ of a Marketing, Activations and PR Graduate at major FMCG company, Kraft Heinz. Merchandising is a related speciality that focuses on the physical display of goods in stores and advertisements.

General manager

Successful retail businesses, whether they’re based in one location or spread across the globe, rely on the business acumen of people in various managerial positions. A general manager is responsible for the operations of an individual store, with their primary goal being to maximise overall profits while minimising losses. Of course, there’s significant room for upward mobility in larger retail organisations—a general manager might report to, and ultimately hope to join, a board of C-level executives.


‘Earn more than you spend’—that’s the basic goal of retail, and it’s accountants who are most responsible for ensuring the goal is met. By running various business reports, accountants help business decision-makers make informed decisions about what a company should do next. Accountants also ensure tax compliance, evaluate business deals, perform audits, and manage a business’s financial records.

Business analyst

A board games manufacturer has experienced three consecutive years of declining sales despite overwhelming evidence that board games are more popular than ever—what’s going on? This is the type of question that would fall within the purview of a business analyst, who, by analysing the business’s processes, use of technology, and so on would seek to root out and resolve possible inefficiencies. Business analysts deal with issues such as business competition, market-entry, organizational behaviour, and market sizing.

Web developer

The world’s two fastest-growing retailers, Amazon and Alibaba, conduct most of their business online, their success due in large part to the convenience demanded by modern consumers. Aware of this, retailers from Woolworths to Dan Murphy’s have invested in web development teams dedicated to ensuring that their products too can be purchased easily without customers ever needing to enter a store.