Retail: Training & Continuing Education

Retail training and continuing education programs abound. Opportunities are available through national and state trade associations, community colleges, as well as through various education or management training websites.

Retail Apparel Industry

Though advancement in the clothing-sales business typically requires a two- or four-year college degree rather than a certificate, the proliferation of distance learning programs makes earning these credentials a relatively simple manner - especially for business owners or individuals already employed in full-time jobs.

Whether you are interested in becoming a fashion buyer, marketer or merchandiser, a good way to begin the process is to conduct some Internet research on the dozens of colleges, art schools and universities offering online degrees. Many websites provide extensive listings of the best educational resources for aspiring fashion pros, such as the following:

  • A window to a plethora of degree programs in all areas, available online courses in the retail industry include retail marketing strategy, sales, distribution and much more.
  • All Art Schools Fashion Career Center: This site offers descriptions of fashion retail specializations, as well as a searchable database of leading art and design schools with majors in merchandising, buying and marketing. The majority of listed institutions provide both online and on-campus opportunities.

Grocery and Retail Food Industry

Most national and state organizations involved in the retail food and grocery industries provide a variety of continuing education opportunities, via real-life classes, web seminars, workshops and annual conventions.

  • The National Grocers Association's Research and Education Foundation operates a Center for Career Development. The core of this is a training program for "at risk" youth, with school-to work internships and two to four year degree programs.
  • The Career Development Center also has partnered with Online Training Technologies to improve management and leadership skills for member company employees by offering online courses.
  • ServSafe. This National Restaurant Association affiliate provides retail food business owners and employees with up-to-date training and certification exam preparation and support in safe and hygienic food handling.
  • Many state alcoholic beverage control groups now require some proof of alcohol safe service training, and many state and local health departments mandate similar food safety training. ServSafe provides the texts, training and testing materials nationwide for these courses.
  • Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC). The WAFC sponsors a Food Industry Management Program and Food Industry Executive Program, both of which are offered at the University of Southern California. The 14-week management module is geared toward workers who show promise in leadership roles. The executive program is intended targets senior managers.

General Retail Industry

The retail industry's largest trade association, the National Retail Federation (NRF), provides training and continuing education opportunities through the NRF Foundation RISE UP program.

This arm of the NRF provides online training in a variety of disciplines, including customer service and sales, retail management, retail business and retail operations. Classes consist of instructor-led and self-study formats.

In addition, the Foundation offers scholarships to qualified applicants, and also posts job listings, news and additional training opportunities.