According to a study by MarketWatch, 80% of US students have part-time jobs while they’re in school. Many of those jobs are in retail. Students are attracted to retail jobs for a whole slew of reasons – flexible scheduling and demand, for starters. But one of the things that makes many students fall in love with the work and pursue a future in small business is that there’s no formula for success. They have to learn to listen to their customers, observe their behaviors, anticipate their desires, and then buy, sell, and market accordingly. It’s not a multiple choice test; the work is delightfully nuanced. Small business success is all about instinct, education, and hard work. A little bit of good luck doesn’t hurt either.
There are two camps of students and/or prospective students who consider retail degrees as a part of their formal education: the novices and the seasoned business owners. Retail novices are those recently bitten by the retail bug and interested in pursuing it as a first career. The more seasoned variety are business managers and owners who are already actively involved in retail and want to improve the big-picture aspects of their work. People in both of these categories have unique needs and goals, and tend to be drawn to different area of study.
These are the high school and college students who take a part-time job at a small business to help ease the burden of tuition, and fall in love with retail in the process. They are the indigo children of the retail world, the ones store owners secretly hope might want to take over someday in the distant future. They’re the ones who are innately skilled with Facebook marketing, selfie tickets, and naturally take cues from global tech trends like Pokemon Go.
An all-around retail business management degree can be extremely informative for early-career students like these men and women. A business degree helps train those who are inexperienced or less-experienced in a retail setting about things like how to manage a staff, decision-making, and merchandising.
While the coursework for a retail management degree might feel redundant for a seasoned retail employee, for a newbie it’s a fast-track to understanding the inner workings of a business and culture.
It goes without saying that in retail, experience goes a long, long way. If a lifetime shop owner attended a class about retail management, they’d likely spend most of it nodding their head, rolling their eyes, and silently muttering, “Yup, yup, true” and “Got it.”
For a person already succeeding as a retailer, an entry-level college course wouldn’t be much more than positive affirmation and a few new tips. Most small business associations can offer as much, often for free.
But that’s the thing about education: there’s always more to learn. One just has to get creative about the avenues.
Big retailers like REI and Whole Foods are known for hiring people with MPAs, Masters in Public Administration, because they have excellent minds for policy and managing the various aspects that keep a business running smoothly. Online MPA degrees are a popular choice among nontraditional students — like store managers who want to become owners but can’t stop working in the interim — because it’s an online degree offered by some of the most reputable higher education institutions around. Traditionally, MPAs were thought to be exclusive to those who wanted to work for the government or nonprofits, but the retail world has already benefited greatly from the expertise that comes from an MPA degree.
It makes perfect sense really. No matter the size of a shop, it’s always a bit of a microcosm of social wellbeing. If the public is thriving, more people spend money. If the public is stressed-out and riddled with anxiety, retailers will encounter more difficult customers than usual.
When it comes down to it, any form of education is a good thing. A degree in the arts, while not generally considered one of the top money making degrees, will greatly benefit a student by refining the way he or she sees and expresses him or herself in the world. And a unique voice is a huge asset to small business. Business degrees have modernized. Students, whether they’re traditional students or online students, now have more freedom than ever before. And small businesses around the nation are reaping the rewards.
This article was contributed by guest author Katie Kapro.