A peek into the future of Retail Industry: Covid-19 update & student careers advice

Guest blogger and Employer Relations and Development Advisor, Kalina Zlatkova, looks at some of the most important industry trends from 2020 and how students and grads interested in the Retail and FMCG sector can best grow knowledge and adapt to the industry changes.

perspective of a person with a shopping cart, looking at an array of items in the shelves of a shopTheme from 2020: From outdoors to inside the home

Despite the gradual reopening of economies around the world, with social distancing still largely in place due to national lockdowns caused by Covid-19, the focus of consumption in 2020 has broadly shifted to inside the home. Consumer preferences are shifting with an increasing demand for safe and healthy products, particularly in packaged food and beverages, putting wellness centre-stage with healthy habits now even more important, and since more meals are prepared at home, there is a greater focus on food and healthy ingredients. Thus organic, vegan, environmentally friendly and “free of” products are becoming more sought after and broadly available. This involves greater emphasis on buying local, socially responsible, and sustainable consumer goods.

For consumer goods companies, tapping into occasions in and around the home will be a priority. There will be a focus into creating authentic products and experiences; additionally, new ways to fill the extra time at home, such as celebration occasions, supporting new hobbies, skill-learning or work improvements will offer new avenues for retailers.


Themes from 2020: From commerce to e-commerce

Companies and retailers’ capability to operate across different platforms will become a more critical element of their competitive advantage. For higher-end retail (such as beauty, furnishings, and apparel brands) stronger e-commerce will also include more advanced inventory control, a more refined virtual customer service and online shopping experience, and tiered delivery options for a smoother shop or click-to-door sailing.  Innovation in product design and packaging to facilitate ease of storage and distribution will go a long way to help accelerate e-commerce.

Consumers have also increased the use of omnichannel services such as home delivery, chat features and virtual consultations, and are highly likely to continue using these in the future. These choices are giving even more growing space to pure-click companies, which are online-only companies that don’t have bricks-and-mortar-stores.


King’s students are invited to attend our exciting virtual career festival, the Graduate Jobs Festival, between 15 – 26 February. Encompassing a range of career options, you’ll be able to take part in engaging virtual activities, interact with industry professionals and learn what knowledge, attributes, skills and experiences you want to develop to build success in your career journey.

person holding a phone while surrounded by laptop, ipad and other items on his desk.

2021: New careers on the horizon

Let’s take a look at how the industry changes will create opportunities for jobs within e-commerce:

Interested in tech? You could contribute to building a brand’s website as a web developer, web designer, UX researcher or UX designer.

Interested in retail? You could have a direct influence on what is sold on the website by working as a retail buyer or retail merchandiser.

Interested in advertising? You could create engaging content and write accurate product descriptions to support the day-to-day running of the website by working as a digital copywriter, editor and writer.

Interested in marketing and social media? You could promote the company via social media and email newsletters. As well as social media marketers, SEO specialists are equally essential to increasing the visibility of the site in search engines and its number of visitors.

Interested in being a cyber security analyst/information security specialist? The growth in online shopping means that more and more people are submitting their personal details to websites and it is the responsibility of retail organisations to ensure that this data is safe from attack, which boosts job prospects to cyber security.

Interested in a career in logistics? You could help ensure that customer orders are delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner. Opportunities within the development of logistic services as well as new and alternative supply chains is seen as an important contributor to the future growth of the market.


Getting into the retail sector – graduate entry essentials

Most employers will accept a degree from any discipline with an application to their graduate programmes, accompanied by a 2:1 or in some cases even a 2:2 prognosis and qualification. However, it can be expected from all new joining entry level employees to have a varied working environment. Work settings can include local retail branches, head offices and distribution warehouses, or a mix of all, making one’s way from the shop floor to the office and online in rotations, in order to get a good grasp and understanding of how all areas of the business come together and depend on one another for a company’s success.


blue haired woman looking forward and scratching her head in thought
Photo by William Moreland on Unsplash

Tips from the labour market: what skills do employers value in this industry?

  • Critical, Concrete & Convergent Thinking – The capability to understand and predict consumer behaviours, trends in the market and build market profiles around them.
  • Self-discipline, flexibility and a serious approach to learning, as achieved within your Degree.
  • Commercial awareness and a general business acumen.
  • Knowledge of, and the ability to adapt to, new technologies and software.
  • Creative flair (for those working in web design, content creation and marketing)
  • Numerical and analytical skills (for those working in UX, SEO, buying, merchandising and logistics)
  • Interpersonal and Customer Service Skills – for those managing consumer or B2B relations.


Building work experience in 2021

While work experience isn’t essential it does demonstrate proactivity and understanding of a commercial environment. For sales, working or volunteering as a sales assistant in a high street store will be valuable. For a digital business, an internship in an IT department or experience of coding will be useful for aspiring web developers/designers.

For aspiring writers and editors, any time spent writing for your student newspaper or online platforms may be beneficial. If you’re looking into a career in marketing, the experience of running of a website, then a Youtube channel or a blog may be an idea to build work experience. Increasingly retailers, especially fashion companies, are using video technology to advertise their products, hence familiarity with filming equipment and the knowledge of video editing software may give you an edge.

Your online activity nevertheless demonstrates computer literacy and connectedness, and can help you network with employers and find employment opportunities. To learn about why companies use specific platforms over others, how they engage through them and what trends there are in the market for further growth, talk to employers at career festivals and follow your companies of interest on social media platforms.


We encourage anyone with any questions or comments about this blog content to add it to the Graduate Jobs Festival’s Padlet, at the bottom of the festival KEATS page.


Author: Kalina Zlatkova

Editor: Laura Patari