The Job and What's Involved

Shopkeepers own, run and manage one or more independent shops, stores or retail outlets.

This is a hands-on role. Shopkeepers are involved in every aspect of the business, from ordering stock and merchandising, through to serving customers and balancing the books. It is important to understand how to run a business and handle profit and loss accounts, book-keeping and VAT.

Responsibilities vary, depending on the type of retail business, but are likely to include:

  • Planning the range of products and setting profit margins.
  • Ordering stock from wholesalers, manufacturers, sales representatives, agents and importers.
  • Managing staff, including recruiting, training and staff rota's.
  • Monitoring stock levels and product performance.
  • Setting sales targets.
  • Dealing with customers and providing a high level of customer service.
  • Merchandising stock and implementing local marketing activity.
  • Introducing standards for security, and ensuring that trading standards and health and safety regulations are met.
  • Keeping abreast of changes to the industry and market competition.

Retail outlets can be diverse and include small independents such as grocers, florists, fishmongers, fashion retailers, jewellers, newsagents, dry cleaners, butchers, bakers, booksellers and specialist equipment shops.

Independent shopkeepers may run concessions within larger stores. Some shopkeepers may purchase a franchise from a large company. This enables them to be their own boss and trade with an established and recognised brand. In addition, a franchise provides training and business systems.

Sales of goods over the internet have grown. Many shops have their own website to take advantage of this. Some also offer a mail-order service.

Shopkeepers do not work set hours. Generally they work long, irregular hours, often including evenings and weekends. Additional hours may be required, particularly in the run-up to Christmas and other peak trading periods, and for stocktaking.

Retail outlets vary in size, but are generally clean and pleasant environments to work in. At certain times during the day, they can be extremely busy. A driving licence may be useful.

Shopkeepers are expected to have a smart appearance and may wear a uniform. The work may be physical and involve lifting and carrying. There may be long periods of standing.

When starting out, shopkeepers may earn from around £15,000 a year but experienced shopkeepers can earn around £34,000 a year. Successful shopkeepers may have an annual turnover of £60,000 to £70,000. Some will turn over far more than this.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 293,000 retail outlets in the UK, employing just under three million people. There has, however, been a decline in the number of independent shopkeepers in the past few years. This is due to growing competition from multinational stores and supermarkets.

Retail businesses may be advertised in local and national newspapers, in trade publications and in Daltons Weekly. They may also be advertised on the internet on specialist sites such as and

There is a steady demand throughout the UK for people to take on franchises. Taking on a franchise usually involves an initial fee for the licence to use the brand name, initial training and setup, and the equipment required. Further information can be obtained from the British Franchise Association or Exemplas.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements. Most shopkeepers work as retail employees before branching out to open their own stores. Any sales and customer service experience is useful. Previous work experience can be gained from:

  • Running or working for a small, medium or large business, as an employee or as a manager.
  • Gaining expertise in a key area of business, such as senior management, marketing or finance.

Shopkeepers need their own finance to buy a retail business, or they need to be prepared to borrow the money from a bank.

Business Link and NFEA (the national enterprise network) provide guidance and support when setting up a business. This can range from helping to identify suitable premises through to writing a business plan.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Shopkeepers need to be self-motivated. It is their responsibility to identify their own training requirements. Relevant qualifications include:

Certificate/Diploma Level 3 in retail. Options include management, visual merchandising and sales professional.

Foundation degree in retailing.

Open University Professional Certificate in Management.

Local colleges, training providers and trade associations such as the BHF-BSSA group offer courses on subjects such as starting a business, VAT and marketing.

The National Skills Academy for Retail operates skill shops throughout the UK and they can provide a one-stop shop for information, advice and guidance on training and funding. They also offer short courses inspired by Mary Portas, retail-specific customer service and selling courses, national retail qualifications and training in legislative requirements. See the National Skills Academy for Retail website for further details.

Franchising companies support anyone who has taken on a franchise. They provide them with specific training about their job and the products they are selling. The franchising companies also hold seminars to upgrade skills. Subjects covered include product training and training in new technology, and courses in computing and running a small business.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A shopkeeper should:

  • Be motivated, dedicated and committed.
  • Have strong communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Be commercially minded.
  • Have excellent customer service skills.
  • Be a leader and work well in a team.
  • Be able to motivate others.
  • Have good time management skills and be able to multitask.
  • Have energy and enthusiasm, as the role can involve a lot of standing and talking to customers.
  • Be well presented with a smart and tidy appearance.
  • Be sales focused and creative.
  • Have good numeracy skills.
  • Understand tax and VAT.
  • Be aware of health and safety regulations and employment legislation.
  • Be IT literate.

Your Long Term Prospects

Shopkeepers may be able to develop their business by employing additional staff or by promoting their profile within the local business community.

They may seek to open further stores or create a small chain.

Get Further Information

British Franchise Association,
A2 Danebrook Court, Oxford Office Village,
Langford Lane, Oxford OX5 1LQ
Tel: 01865 379892

British Independent Retailers Association, 225 Bristol Road, Edgbaston,
Birmingham B5 7UB

Business Link
Tel: 0845 600 9006

Exemplas, Maclaurin Building,
4 Bishops Square Business Park,
Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10 9NE
Tel: 0845 6020101

The National Skills Academy for Retail,
4th Floor, 93 Newman Street,
London W1T 3EZ
Tel: 020 7462 5089

NFEA (the national enterprise network),
12 Stephenson Court, Fraser Road,
Priory Business Park, Bedford MK44 3WJ
Tel: 01234 831623

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