Management assistant for retail services – a key occupation in times of crisis
The societal importance of the retail trade and of the skilled workers employed in the sector has been brought into sharp focus by the present coronavirus crisis. Staff at retail companies in Germany are currently under considerable pressure as they seek to ensure that the population is supplied with foodstuffs and other everyday necessities.
Profile and main task focuses of the occupation
Management assistants for retail services offer and sell goods and services. They use their product knowledge to provide information and guidance, including in a foreign language if required. They collect payment and balance both the cash register and all transactions made in the shop. Management assistants for retail services also assist in designing the product range and in identifying which goods are required. They then procure merchandise, which they arrange and display within the retail space. They are also involved with advertising measures, with the acceptance and scrutiny of goods-in, and with the company’s logistics processes. They check and manage stock levels as well as label and store products. Management assistants for retail services evaluate key indicators and statistics for the purpose of monitoring success. They take into account aspects of sustainability whilst carrying out their occupational tasks.
The current crisis situation is creating particular challenges for management assistants for retail services in connection with tasks relating to the planning and organisation of work processes and to the scheduling of rotas in their own work area. In overall terms and at all times, the occupation is highly demanding with regard to working in a team, customer and process-oriented way and in respect of the application of information and communication technologies. Within the context of digitalisation and in light of the present situation, it is particularly important for management assistants for retail services to contribute to the implementation of a multi-channel strategy for their company.
The occupation offers various elective options and possibilities for specialisation. Trainee management assistants for retail services are able to acquire specialist qualifications in the areas of ensuring availability of goods, advising customers, cash desk system data and customer service, as well as advertising and sales promotion. Further elective opportunities exist in the fields of advising customers in complex situations, procurement of goods, stock monitoring and commercial management and control, marketing measures, e-commerce, staff management and development and preparation for entrepreneurial self-employment.
Occupational fields of deployment
Management assistants for retail services work in trade enterprises of different sizes, of varying types and with different assortments of goods, or they may run a business of their own. Sales activities form one of the focal points of the commercial tasks they perform. They also control product and data flow in assisted-service and self-service enterprises.
As is the case with all training occupations, there are no formal requirements in terms of school leaving qualifications for those who wish to enter training. Nevertheless, young people will need to make a successful application for a company-based training place if they wish to complete training in the occupation of management assistant for retail services. Important prerequisites include an interest in dealing with people, an understanding of and interest in working with figures and ideally an interest in the range of products sold by the company providing training. The current crisis situation is placing a particular strain on the resilience of staff in the retail sector. However, the ability to engage with people effectively and to cope with stressful situations is a fundamentally important attribute for the occupation.
Depending on the company, the current salary paid to management assistants for retail services is comparatively modest. Part-time work is also frequent. Discussions on how to bring about an improvement, particularly in remuneration, are ongoing in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Nevertheless, numerous advanced training programmes are in place to provide retail staff with very good career opportunities after completion of training. Particular mention should be made of the following.
- Certified senior trade specialist
- Certified business administrator for e-commerce
- Certified business administrator for retail sales
- Business economist in commerce (trade and technical school)
- Certified business administrator in trade and industry, business economist in general business administration (trade and technical school)
Many large retail companies operating in the sector also offer programmes which are particularly aimed at young people with the upper secondary school leaving certificate. These are generally of three years’ duration and enable trainees to acquire both a vocational qualification and an advanced training qualification (usually certified senior trade specialist, certified business administrator for retail sales or certified business administrator for e-commerce). There is a further option to obtain a certified trainer qualification. Such programmes offer outstanding professional prospects to upper secondary school leavers. Major retail chains also offer internal continuing training programmes, which enable staff to take up positions of greater responsibility. Another possibility upon completion of training is to progress to a course of higher education study in a field such as business administration. Self-employment represents a further option at this point.
Duration of training
Training in the occupation of management assistants for retail services generally lasts for three years. This period can be reduced to two years for trainees in possession of an upper secondary school leaving certificate or other higher school qualification.
Figures relating to training
In 2019, the training allowances based on collective wage agreements for management assistants for retail services in their first year of training was €847 in western Germany and €791 in eastern Germany. This rises to €935 (west) and €875 (east) in the second year of training and to €1,058 (west) and €985 (east) in the third year.
A total of 55,632 persons were undergoing training in the occupation of management assistant for retail services in 2018. 28,197 of these trainees were women. In the same year, 22,698 trainees successfully completed their final examination. This represented a pass rate of 90.2%.