Placements/internships in retail, buying and merchandising

Where can you find retail work experience?

Work experience is offered to university students by a range of retailers in the UK, including:

  • the big supermarket chains
  • department stores
  • online-only retailers
  • high-street fashion brands
Placements are available in a number of different career areas, but the main ones are:
  • retail management
  • buying
  • merchandising
  • fashion design
  • e-commerce, IT and technology
  • logistics
  • finance

Who can apply for retail work experience?

Most of these programmes are open to students of all degree disciplines, although some employers will specify which degrees they prefer. For fashion design, a fashion or textiles degree is almost always essential, even if it this isn’t strictly specified.

Some retailers also want their work experience students to be on track to achieve a 2.1 or above.

Retail internships and placements

The two types of work experience that retailers advertise are summer internships and placement years. Find out more about these opportunities with our guide to retail work experience.

You may also be able to find short-term work experience placements. These usually last one or two weeks, take place throughout the year and are typically unpaid. Short-term work experience tends to be aimed at school pupils rather than university students; however, there is no reason why you can’t apply if this isn’t specified.

Getting a part-time job in retail will also help you gain some relevant experience.

Which work experience opportunities can first-years apply for?

It’s never too early to start looking for work experience. While you might not be able to secure a year-long placement – these are typically advertised to penultimate-year students – retailers are increasingly accepting applications from first-year students for their summer internship programmes. Short-term placements and part-time jobs are both very good introductions to retail for first-year students who are interested in a career in this industry – and may lead to something more substantial.

The application process for retail internships and placements

The application process is very similar, if not identical, to that of a graduate job. Retail recruiters tend to use a sophisticated recruitment process, although each employer will create their own process to fit with the skills and qualities they’re assessing.

Based on our information about retailers’ application processes in 2018, you may be asked to complete:

  • an online application form, which usually involves answering motivational and competency questions. You may be asked to upload a CV and covering letter as well as – or instead of – this/li>
  • aptitude tests, often including situational judgement tests
  • a video interview, which will either involve a live conversation with a recruiter or recording your answers within a set time limit
  • an assessment day, consisting of a variety of exercises such as giving a presentation or taking part in a group exercise
  • a face-to-face interview, either on the day of the assessment centre or on a separate occasion

For help with the recruitment process, take a look at our retail-specific application and interview advice:

 

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