Here's everything you need to know about graduate careers in FMCG & Retail

Katie Harrison
Campaigns Executive

If you're asked to consider a career in retail you might be forgiven for thinking of your part-time student job in H&M. But there are professional graduate roles out there in the retail industry - we take a look at some of them and what they entail. 

The long and complex journey from production line to store shelves in any FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) company is managed and monitored at every stage of the supply chain – and that's where graduates often come in. While each role will vary according to the company, we have collected three key areas found within any FMCG & Retail business that hold plenty of opportunities for skilled university leavers.




In-Store (Operations) – Retail Manager

From Harrods of London to your local high street, ensuring that everything is running smoothly on a day-to-day basis is, understandably, one of the most crucial tasks within any Retail business. From customer relations to managing stock levels and planning ahead for the upcoming quarters, a Retail Manager can be responsible for a range of duties that require quick thinking, strong organisation skills and a knack for negotiation.

The exact level of responsibility depends on the size of the business – for example, a Regional Director with several locations under their jurisdiction will have more influence than a Department Manager, who oversees a specific area of a larger store. Regardless of the scale, all Retail Management roles require a very similar skillset: you will be leading a team from the word go, so strong leadership skills are a must, as well as some analytical know-how to pick apart sales figures and use these to make keys decisions that will shape the success of the business.

These roles often offer a clear path for progression, and many who start with a company in an Assistant or Management scheme role can rise through the ranks to salaries of over £70,000.



Headquarters - Buying and Merchandising

Off the shop floor and away from the front line, these positions form an essential part of the Retail product cycle. As a Buyer, you will be responsible for liaising with vendors and designers and buying the perfect products for your company to sell to customers, keeping on top of market trends and managing budgets to meet customer demand. In the closely-related Merchandiser role, you will ensure that these products are then in the right places at precisely the right time, with an eye on sales figures, stock levels and delivery schedule to anticipate where your next star product will come from.

Expect to start on a £20,000 - £25,000 salary, supplemented by plenty of opportunities to travel (you’ll be meeting buyers from potentially across the world) as well as a generous product allowance, depending on the company.

Both roles require a similar skillset – numerical skills are must, so master your spreadsheets now, but equally you should be able to demonstrate confidence with negotiation as a Buyer and outstanding organisation experience to work as a Merchandiser. What will really make you stand out, however, is a passion for the Retail sector and the product sold, be it haute couture or high-street essentials. 



Retail Graduate Schemes

One of the quickest and most popular routes into roles like the above is through a Graduate Scheme. Run by larger Retail brands who maintain a regular intake of graduates each year, these structured training programmes provide the opportunity to experience a wide range of different departments on a rotation basis, spending a few months within each to learn the ropes and find where your strengths lie.

The departments themselves can range from Marketing and Sales to Human Resources, Supply Chain, Health and Safety or Site Management, depending on the programme, but regular reviews and guidance will help you to establish where your skills can shine, often leading to a permanent position within the company as a result. Salaries usually begin between £20,000 and £30,000, rising upon completion of the programme.

As well as the sheer variety of opportunities available on these graduate schemes, some global brands can also offer international positions and chances to travel around the world as part of your programme. As you may imagine, the competition is healthy to land a place, so ensuring that your CV stands out is essential to getting your foot through the door. They’re looking for grads who will make the most of the possibilities their grad scheme offers, so make sure you demonstrate that your skills and experiences can be applied to not just one, but a whole range of business areas – getting involved with running an event at university, for example, or managing finances for a sports team or society. If you’ve got the right mix of marketing know-how, people management skills and a drive to take the initiative, this could be the route for you.