Skills You Need to Succeed in These Hot Retail Roles

Skills You Need to Succeed in These Hot Retail Roles - Style Nine to Five

If you are someone who loves fashion and wants to grow professionally in this industry, chances are you’ve contemplated a career in retail at some point! Simply put, working storefront is an excellent career move and learning experience with so much to offer.

You may be asking yourself “Where do I fit in here?” or “What role best suits my existing skill set?”. These are the kinds of questions Style Nine to Five’s founder Christie Lohr is asked all the time, so let’s get right into it! Here are 5 hot retail roles on the market right now – get familiar with these various roles and the skills you’ll need to succeed in each one to better navigate your career options!

Sales Associate

These friendly faces are often the shopper’s first point of contact when they arrive in-store. Apart from operating the cash register and answering customer questions, what skills make a great sales associate? It starts with customer relationship-building skills to help forge trust and keep them coming back for your excellent service! You’ve got to listen to the client to truly understand their needs and provide solutions to their problems.

In order to provide great solutions, the next skill all successful sales associates must have is product knowledge! The better you know the merchandise, the better you can propose the right products to the right customer and close that sale! One of the best ways to boost up your product knowledge is to engage with the product firsthand. Buy it or try it out for yourself, then share your experience and what you learned with your co-workers, friends and customers to practice how to best explain the product’s values and features.

Key Holder

Key holders are often sales associates with added responsibilities that may include, but are no limited to, opening and closing the store as well as inventory count. This often requires proven experience controlling inventory within a retail setting, and the ability to create, analyze and maintain inventory reports and procedures. Familiarity with inventory control software, such as Lightspeed or Fishbowl, is a huge plus as well!

To go from associate to key holder you’ve got to demonstrate that you are a reliable, trustworthy team player with a thirst for knowledge and growth.


In retail, you may be called to style clients for appointments or mannequins for visual displays – either way, all successful retail stylists have one skill in common: excellent trend awareness and research skills. This will take practice and consistency, so find two or three fashion news outlets to follow and make it a habit to read up on them every morning or so.

Creating and pitching mood boards to buyers, managers and visual teams is a huge part of the job of a stylist. You will need to demonstrate the ability to work both independently and collaboratively with a team. Stock management is also a crucial skill for retail stylists. Each of these skills can be strengthened by regularly taking on your own personal projects.


The role of a merchandiser often calls on previous experience within this capacity. Merchandisers, merchandise coordinators and merchandise managers all work hard to interpret market needs, trends and target customers. The individuals require a keen interest in and comprehensive knowledge of the fashion retail industry and luxury market. Again, staying up to date on retail industry news is key in developing this type of knowledge.

Visual merchandisers help generate foot traffic into the store and convert it into sales through window displays, signage, floor plans and styling. Merchandisers understand numbers and are able to perform competitive market analyses for product mix and pricing, sales analyses across regional stores, sales campaign reporting, etc. In other words, they are the masters of the merchandise. Most retailers offer visual merchandising training to in-store teams at some point during the fiscal year – this is the best way to learn your company’s merchandising practices and standards!

Store Manager

Finally, store managers ought to have a wholesome and well-rounded understanding of each of these roles in order to lead the team towards success. You need leadership skills and the ability to think strategically and analytically if you’d like to become a store manager.

Leaders are not made overnight, but there are some things you can do to come into your leadership over time. Being self-aware, actively listening to your co-workers and clients as well as celebrating others all goes into succeeding in the exciting world of fashion retail.

Is your old cover letter draft no longer doing it for you? You may be in need of Style Nine to Five’s Cover Letter Refresh! Book a session with Style Nine to Five Founder, Christie Lohr, to bring it up to date.

Anita Hosanna is a freelance fashion stylist and creative consultant with a love for community, fashion journalism and fashion tech.

Feature Image: Adobe Stock