How Do I Move from Retail into Corporate?

November 30, 2021

I talk to a lot of candidates looking for “growth”. Growth can come in many forms: promotion, learning opportunities, a career pivot, more money. But today I’d like to talk about a specific kind of “growth” that many candidates are looking for: from retail into corporate. If this describes your goals, please keep reading.




Some facts


As of November 2021, there were 703k Retail Sales, 358k Retail Management, and 144k Corporate Retail jobs available on Indeed. In other words, there is one corporate role for every 7.3 store roles.


About 70% of the store level employees that we speak with are interested in moving into corporate.




So how do you put yourself in the best position for a move from retail into corporate?



Start with outperforming your current role. Be sure your work performance is outstanding, that your clients are consistently happy, and you are making your goals. Build a strong working relationship with your managers and get to know their objectives. Learn about their projects and goals, and ask how you can help. Be a support to others. Do these things every day, and you will get noticed.



Achieve a store leadership role. Aside from Store Managers moving into Regional roles, the most frequent role that transitions into corporate is an Assistant Store Manager. This is because 1) you have demonstrated leadership ability, have begun to understand corporate functions, and are responsible for brand representation. And 2) all entry level corporate roles will earn less than Store Managers, and often less than Assistant Store Managers. It’s just less of a pay cut for ASM’s.


So if you’re in a sales role, work hard to get promoted into store leadership first.



Next, get to know your corporate team. When corporate partners are in your store, be sure to engage with them about your business, share feedback about store performance, and help them gain the insights they came to learn (they are there for a reason). Ask your manager if you can contribute to a company project. If you have the opportunity to visit the corporate office, introduce yourself to as many people as possible.


The key is to ensure that corporate partners know you, and see you as a strong representative of the brand, a partner in overall company success, and a resource for store insights/other support.




Start making your interest in corporate roles known to your company. (This step should not start until the first 3 steps have been executed effectively over at least 12 months.) Share your goals with your managers (all of them), your HR team, and your corporate relationships. Do this with tact and an understanding that making this move is difficult, and only possible if a role becomes available that fits your qualifications.



Since the move is difficult to make, create more than one path for yourself to double your chances! Perhaps Visual Merchandising or PR? Perhaps Merchandising or HR? Perhaps Operations or Store Planning? Whatever your vision, start building strong relationships with those departments by offering regular support, volunteering for “internship” or ”stretch” projects, etc.


The most frequent corporate roles from retail:

  • Visual Merchandising
  • Retail Operations
  • Human Resources
  • Admin
  • Regional Leadership (Store Managers)



A nice balance of patience and eagerness is the key to success. Remember: the company can’t just create a role for you, and that you will only have a path to roles that require skills that you have demonstrated. Keep focused and keep the faith!

About the contributor
William Brobston

William Brobston spent 15 years in the luxury retail industry, holding senior leadership roles with European and American luxury apparel & fine jewelry brands before launching Brobston Group in 2017.


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