LONDON, United Kingdom — Last week, Sears Holdings Corporation filed for bankruptcy, prompting headlines on the “retail apocalypse” to be rolled out once again. But while the decline in retail footfall and rise in store closures across the globe continues to unsettle the industry, rather than signalling the end of retail, it signifies the end of retail as we know it.
Technological disruption and changing consumer behaviour are changing the face of retail — and the career opportunities within it. Retail is still America’s number one employer, accounting for over 4.8 million jobs and projected to grow by 2 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite e-commerce projected to overtake conventional retail sales in developed countries within 15 years, e-commerce companies are investing in retail space. From Farfetch’s store of the future to Ssense and MatchesFashion’s townhouse flagships, the store still holds its significance.
For every stalling legacy business, there is a savvy innovator, attempting to transform and optimise traditional stores to reflect current market trends. London’s Selfridges, which has built a reputation for experiential store events and continuing reinvention, reported an 11.5 percent rise in sales to £1.75 billion for the year ending February 2018. This follows a four-year £300 million refurbishment programme to innovate its London flagship store and its digital capabilities, including an app and Chinese language website — a modernised retail space for the modern-day consumer and employee.
However, some of the most exciting developments in retail have stemmed from vertically integrated luxury brands becoming leading retailers themselves. Gucci, for instance, has thrown out the luxury retail playbook to reflect the fact that, though internet-savvy, its millennial and Gen-Z customers prioritise in-store experiences. The brand's new Soho store in New York is designed to deliver an inclusive and immersive shopping experience. Gone are mainstays like the intimidating black-suited security guard on the street and the separate sections for accessories and pricier items like jewellery. In their place are “connectors,” store associates hired for their ability to tell Gucci’s story. Customers can listen to a house music documentary on custom-made cat-eared headphones or use augmented reality to design their own bag or shoe.
In every ending, there is a new beginning.
Here are the most exciting career opportunities in retail currently live on BoF Careers: