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Retailing: Salaries

Salaries in the retail sales field are highly variable. Your starting pay in retail will usually not be as high as other jobs in marketing. This is because you start off in more of a "commodity" type job. That will change as you prove yourself. For example, we hear stories of managers at top chains like Target and Wal-Mart pulling down salaries (after bonus) of over a quarter million dollars in a good store! The perks can be good too. Cruises, trips to Singapore and the like are not out of the ordinary. No doubt about it, there is a significant premium paid for people with skill and a desire to work hard in retail. The following salary levels are representative of work in leading U.S. retailers as of 1999/2000:

Job Typical Salary
Management Trainee $20,000 - $35,000
Merchandise Buyer $25,000 - $80,000
Assistant Manager $25,000 - $55,000
Store Manager $35,000 - $170,000
District Manager $40,000-$180,000+bonus
Regional Manager $70,000-$200,000+bonus
Divisional VP $100,000+

More detailed Salary Tables for Retail Professionals from PriceWaterhouseCoopers Survey and Careers.WSJ.Com.

Market Intelligence: Most retail professionals don't think their salaries are particularly high. We recently spoke with a manager of a very successful sporting goods retail store. Her salary was approximately $35,000 per year with a small stock bonus (not horrible, but don't expect to get rich). She reports that the hours are long, there's lots of stress as people return products that don't fit, work or make them happy. Theft is a problem and employee turnover is high. The store itself generates more than $2 million in profits per year but little of that seems to flow to employees. This is the dark side. The bright side of the job is that there is lots of relationship building with customers, the work is dynamic and there are good promotion possibilities. That's to say nothing of free trips from time to time. The reality of jobs in retailing, however, depends greatly on the organization you work for. For example, a manager of a Target or a Wal-Mart can make well over $150,000 per year because these stores are highly profitable and because attracting and keeping good managers matters a great deal. So, in your quest for a career in retailing be sure to comparison shop on the salary front.

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