Continuing Education in Retail

07/01/2013

© panthermedia.net/Brad Calkins

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks – a saying that did not encompass today’s knowledge on lifelong learning just yet. Online, offline, full time, part time, alone or in a team: the possibilities for individual continuing education in retail are as varied as the product choices in the store. Most importantly: there is something for everyone.

Whether you went to university or whether you are an innkeeper – only he who has brains will climb the career ladder. However, brains alone are not enough. It also needs to be constantly updated, since retail in particular is currently changing drastically. Increasing online business, increasing use of mobile devices for shopping and the many technical innovations on the market render many things possible. But they also demand a lot from retailers and their employees.

The much hyped skills shortage also presents a serious problem for retail. Society is aging and the next generation is either not qualified enough or would rather go to college instead of embarking on an apprenticeship. Especially small companies suffer from this. To make sure they have enough trainees and to keep them committed to the company, it is advisable for retail businesses to combine their vocational training with subsequent specialized continuing education options.

Continuing education for employees

Competent employees are fundamentally important for success in retail. In the brick-and-mortar store as well as online, a company needs to exhibit the same perception of competence and service. After all, service is one of the few aspects retail can still score with in an environment where literally every article is just a click away. There are segment-specific training programs for retail, where employees are able to wow customers at the store with their competence and expert knowledge. Bachelor of Trade and Commerce, certified commercial assistant or certification programs such as CSR Manager and Microtechnology specialist are just some of the continuing education programs offered by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) for the retail sector.

Online retail is a future market

He, who misses the boat when it comes to the Internet, loses potential and sales. Online retail still increases at a dramatic rate. New markets, new jobs: many things are currently happening particularly online, and the online presence of retailers needs to be looked after and maintained. EuroCIS.com talked with Klaus Hartung, the Head of Continuing Education at the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) at the Gelsenkirchen facility, about the E-Commerce Manager certification program, which is particularly geared towards small and medium-sized companies and new founded businesses in the brick-and-mortar sector. ”It sensitizes participants about the opportunities and options on the Internet in terms of E-commerce. Aside from the basics of E-commerce, participants are making themselves familiar with the needs and organization of an online store.”

Yet the store itself also remains an attractive workplace for newcomers. During the upcoming winter semester, the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf will introduce the Bachelor of Arts in Retail Design degree program. It is a combination of teachings of applied design, where artistic and creative fundamentals are being taught, as well as applied spatial design projects in all areas of retail design – including online stores.

Studies and work 2.0: the all-rounder retail manager

”I want to better understand the complexity of retail operations and those of the company I work for.“ This is how Philipp Brämer describes his motivation to complete an advanced degree program in retail. He is one of the first people to embark on the eMAR management degree program (Executive Master of Arts of Retailing) at the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen. The degree program that was developed together with the EHI Retail Institute prepares prospective retail managers for their duties and tasks of tomorrow.

The course teaches current research knowledge from different retail areas. This includes innovation and technology management, business model development, purchasing and merchandising management, inventory management, marketing research, consumer behavior, multi-channel strategies, location strategy and service management.

In our interview, Philipp Brämer, who is a full-time project director in the technology product area at EDEKA, reveals how the study course is set up and how he perceives the combination of going to college and working at the same time:”Generally speaking, I have now doubled my workload, since I have to study for school after I am done with work. Since I often have to study during my leisure time and on weekends, my professional life and private life are overlapping.“ But this effort still pays off for Brämer:”What appeals to me particularly in my eMAR studies is that I have the chance to expand my knowledge and also to be able to directly apply my newly acquired skills in the company.“

Lifelong learning in retail

”Continuing education in retail due to the constantly changing requirements and the high demand for managers is increasingly important“, HDE Managing Director Wilfried Malcher points out in a press release on continuing education in retail. ”Continuing education options are a true competitive advantage for companies in light of the increasingly stiff competition for good employees. Opportunities for professional development are very important to employees“, Malcher continues.

You actually can teach an old dog new tricks later on in life. Whether it is in combination with vocational training, studying at night while you work during the day or through learning courses: employees are very interested in continuing education options in retail. And employers also benefit from the increasing skills of their own associates. Self confident and well-trained staff is a service that customers appreciate and that strengthens your own market position in the long run.

Elisabeth Henning; EuroCIS.com