Developing a Career Path in Retail

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Introduction
‘Harrods of London’ is a British institution. It is probably the most well-known and respected retail store in the world. For 162 years, Harrods has built its unique reputation supported by its key brand values – British; Luxury; Innovation; Sensation; Service. Harrods employs approximately 5,000 people from 86 different nationalities who deal with up to 100,000 customers a day at peak times.

Harrods needs employees who can face the challenges that its reputation and standards bring. It needs people who are looking for an exciting and rewarding long-term career with responsibility and prospects. Its challenge is to find (and retain) employees with the right mix of skills and abilities, who can be developed to become the managers of the future.

To achieve this, Harrods has to counter some of the negative perceptions about working in retail. Working in a shop has traditionally been seen as low-skilled – with long hours, poor pay and little chance of promotion. However, because quality is key at Harrods, employees are well-paid, respected and have clear career paths open to them. Senior managers at Harrods have come from all walks of life and started out with various levels of qualifications. All have benefited from development opportunities provided by the company.

The importance of training and development

Training and development is vital to any business. Its purpose at Harrods is to better the performance of employees to enable Harrods to meet its business goals. For example, at Harrods the Sales Academy develops employees’ sales skills, leading to increased sales when they return to the shop floor. Allowing employees to acquire new skills, expertise and qualifications supports employee progression which leads to increased motivation. This supports Harrods’ retention strategies.

Training is about gaining the skills needed for a job. These may be learned at the place of work (on-the-job) or away from work (off-the-job). On-the-job training tends to be more cost-effective and relevant. However, off-the-job training is usually carried out by professional trainers. It also occurs away from the distractions of work. Training tends to have very specific and measurable goals, such as operating an IT system or till, understanding a process, or performing certain procedures (for example, cashing up).

Development is more about the individual – making him or her more efficient at a job or capable of facing different responsibilities and challenges. Development concentrates on the broader skills that are applicable to a wider variety of situations, such as thinking creatively, decision-making and managing people. In short, training is typically linked to a particular subject matter and is applicable to that subject only, while development is based on growing broader skills which can be used in many situations. Harrods employees come from diverse backgrounds and different nationalities. They have differing levels of competency, education and experience. Harrods offers comprehensive Learning & Development opportunities. These opportunities are offered at a variety of levels to suit the needs of all Harrods employees. These range from workshops for Sales Associates and Warehouse Operatives to developmental programmes for senior managers.

Amber is a Harrods Retail Manager who started as a Sales Associate at Harrods through an online application. Harrods has created a web site www.harrodscareers.com to enable candidates to apply for roles easily.

‘I wasn’t sure I would get the job but it seemed a really challenging role and I was keen to try. I had only a little background in retail and none at all in the luxury retail market. Mostly I had been working in the hospitality sector.’ Amber However, Harrods Learning and Development ensured Amber acquired the skills she needed to carry out her role. Development at Harrods is linked to the company’s Business Competencies which fall under four headings:...
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