Apparel Retail Certification & Licensing [top]
A business license allows prospective retailers to conduct business within a particular location. Without one, the local government can fine or even close the operation. Requirements vary by location, but, in most instances, the retail entrepreneur will need to obtain a license from the state, county and/or city. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) provides in-depth information and links regarding obtaining business licenses. Even if your retail business does not have a brick and mortar location, it can still be subject to government regulation, even if it is located in cyberspace. Special rules apply to online businesses. Applicants should also check with their State and local government offices for specific local regulations, such as obtaining occupancy permits, etc. Links to all State licensing divisions can also be found on the SBAWebsite.
In the competitive retail industry, certifications can show your competence and set you apart. Whether you are climbing up the management ladder or working on your sales skills, there are certification programs that can assist you in attaining your goals and enhancing your career. For the retail business owner, certifications can also be an indication of the most qualified candidate for the job or for advancement. Most certification programs are through industry trade associations and/or their educational affiliates.
The National Retail Federation trade association offers several retail certifications through its Educational Foundation (NRFF):
- National Professional Certification in Retail Management. This certification is designed to recognize knowledge and skills of retail management and is designed for potential and existing managers to enhance career advancement. Candidates must have a broad range of management and supervisory skills, including merchandising, human resources, operations, and finance. The certification is earned by successfully completing an online, proctored assessment.
- National Professional Certification in Customer Service. Designed for entry-level through supervisory level positions, this certification shows that the holder has the requisite customer service skills to interact with consumers, including product knowledge, ability to assess and meet the customer's needs, and ability to educate the customer, as well as provide ongoing support. The certification is earned by passing an online, proctored assessment.
- National Professional Certification in Sales. This certification attests to entry level through supervisory level sales skills, including how to prepare for selling, how to gain a commitment from a customer, and how to close a sale. The candidate must also know how to develop and implement sales plans and follow-up plans. Candidates for this certification must have already earned the National Professional Certification in Customer Service, and pass a proctored assessment.
- Direct Marketing Certified Marketing Professional (DCMP). This certification focuses on direct marketing skills for anything from direct mail or print to email or online. Candidates will study basic courses on customer sales, retention, satisfaction, and brand building; take additional intermediate and advance course on subjects such as such as using data bases and social networks, through in-person seminars or online; and pass a certification exam .
- Loss Prevention Certified (LPC). This program emphasizes the skills needed in the retail loss prevention area, otherwise known as retail security. Candidates will prove their knowledge of leadership, business, and retail issues in the loss prevention field, as well as best practices. To be eligible for certification, the candidate must have three years of loss prevention experience; or have completed the Loss Prevention Qualified exam and have three years of business experience or a bachelors or masters degree; and pass the LPC exam.
When a retail business involves the storage, handling and/or
sale of food, ServSafe Certification may be required. A division
of the National Restaurant Association, the ServSafe program
offers certifications for managers of retail food
establishments, so as to comply with state and local health and
food safety regulations.
- Food Protection Manager Certification. This certification covers sanitation (including personal hygiene, food contamination, and food borne illnesses), the flow of food in the operation (cross contamination, time and temperature control, storage, receiving, cooling and reheating, and preparation and serving of foodstuffs), and how to maintain sanitary facilities and properly manage pests. Certification is accomplished by meeting all state and local regulatory requirementsand passing an examination. Most jurisdictions require re-certification after five years.
- Retail Management Certificate Program. Developed by food industry and college professionals, this 10-course program offered through community colleges in western states emphasizes business essentials, including management, finance, and communication skills in the retail food industry. Courses can be taken online or at various locations in nine states.
Retail Industry: Training & Continuing Education [top]
Retail training and continuing education programs abound, often offered through national or state trade associations, community colleges, or through various education or management training Websites. Below are a few of the best, divided by industry.
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 that offer online degrees in these fields. Many Web sites provide extensive listings of the best educational resources for aspiring fashion pros, such as the following:
- Education Portal: A window to a plethora of degree programs in all areas, as well as school ratings/reviews and education news. One search for online "fashion merchandising" colleges returned 80 results.
- All Art Schools Fashion Career Center: 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, whether through face-to-face learning opportunities, Web seminars, workshops or annual conventions.
- The National Grocers Association's Research and Education Foundation has a Center for Career Development that has 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 affiliate of the National Restaurant Association provides retail food business owners and employees with the most up-to-date training, and certification exam preparation and support, in safe and hygienic food handling. Today, many state alcoholic beverage control groups now require proof of some sort of alcohol safe service training, and many state and local health departments require similar food safety training. ServSafe provides the texts, training, and testing around the United States for these courses.
- Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC). The WAFC offers a Food Industry Management Program and a 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 for senior managers.
General Retail Industry
The retail industry's largest trade association, the National Retail Federation (NRF), provides training and continuing education opportunities through several programs.
- NRF University Wired. This e-learning platform is open to anyone who registers on their website. Participants can sign up for online classes such as Introduction to Retail Management, Merchandising, and Strengthening Customer Relationships. New offerings include Customer Service Essentials and Payment Card Industry Compliance. Courses also provide preparation for the NRF Certifications.
- Retail Skills Centers. These one-stop career hubs provide both new and tenured employers in the retail industry tools for meeting their workforce needs. In partnership with shopping center developers, local retailers, colleges, and government workforce agencies, the Retail Skill Centers recruit, train, and place individuals in flexible job opportunities and long-term retail careers. They provide core customer service and sales education to prepare job-ready workers. In addition, these centers offer advanced training for employers and workers seeking higher skills, challenges and credentials from the industry.