13 March 2013

Heritage venue shops need to be commercially successful. Some sites rely on retail for the bulk of their funding.

Providing good products, and good customer service, are important for a career in retail. Image: Imperial War Museum.
Providing good products, and good customer service, are important for a career in retail. Image: Imperial War Museum.

What do retail staff do?

Many heritage venues have a shop where visitors can buy souvenirs, books and gifts. The range available varies according to the size and type of venue. As in all retail outlets, heritage shops need to be commercially successful. Many heritage sites depend on their retailing to provide much-needed funds for their day-to-day operations and development projects.

As a retail assistant in a heritage venue, you are likely to:

  • deal with customers
  • answer customer queries (about the products in the shop and about the heritage site itself)
  • keep the shelves and displays tidy
  • check stock on the shelves or in the stockroom
  • take cash or card payments
  • operate tills
  • display merchandise attractively
  • contribute to sales targets.

In large venues you may work as part of a team of retail staff, with a supervisor or team leader.

There may also be a manager. A retail manager may deal with customers as well as taking responsibility for:

  • managing the staff
  • drawing up staff rotas
  • ordering stock
  • health and safety of staff and customers
  • meeting sales targets
  • new ideas for stock, displays, promotions, etc.

What is the job like?

In smaller venues you may be working alone. You may also be dealing with admissions and bookings and/or catering as well as working in the shop.

You will need excellent customer service skills and good commercial awareness.

Your working hours will be linked to the opening hours of the venue. They are likely to include weekends and bank holidays and possibly evenings. You could work full- or part-time. You may work shifts on a rota basis. There is seasonal work available.

You will be expected to dress smartly. There may be a dress code. You may have a uniform, provided by the employer.

Some heritage venues may not be near public transport links, so you may need your own transport.

How do I get into retail?

You will need excellent customer service skills and good commercial awareness. It may be useful to have an eye for design and visual displays in the shop.

It helps to have an interest in heritage generally and, in particular, in the heritage site you are working at. Visitors will expect you to show an interest in the place they are visiting and may ask you questions about it.

As in any retail outlet, you will also be expected to know about the products you are selling.

Some heritage sites are isolated and far from public transport links. You may need your own transport.

What qualifications and training do I need?

There are no set entry requirements for retail assistants. Generally, experience is more important than qualifications. Employers look for a good customer service attitude. If you already have some customer service experience this may be an advantage.

  • You will need a good level of literacy and numeracy.
  • Employers may ask for GCSE in English and/or maths and some IT ability.
  • In some jobs, it may be helpful to speak foreign languages.
  • There are apprenticeships in retail and customer service.
  • If you have already worked in retail elsewhere and have experience of sales and customer service, you may be able to apply for team leader or manager roles.
  • Although not essential, a qualification in retail or customer service may be an advantage when applying for a retail job.
  • There are qualifications in retail and customer service at all levels. You may be offered the chance to take qualifications, such as NVQs, once you are working in retail.
  • The Institute of Customer Service offers its own training courses and different levels of membership.

What will I earn?

As a retail assistant you may start at the minimum wage. You could earn up to £14,000. Supervisors or team leaders can earn £20,000. Managers can earn from £23,000.

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