What is a Retail Consultant?

Ken Black

A retail consultant is an individual or agency that helps determine a retail strategy for stores or other types of retail businesses. Usually, the goal is to increase sales by driving more people to the store and attracting them to products once there. Someone in this position may deal with promotions, merchandising, store design, location and even some personnel decisions.

A retail consultant helps tailor a retail strategy.
A retail consultant helps tailor a retail strategy.

Being a retail consultant may seem like a very focused task, but in reality it is not. Marketing and promotions are much different than human resources or store design. Merchandising is also a specialized area. Therefore, many may believe the best strategy is not to hire one consultant, but rather several consultants that may have specific areas of specialization. Many consulting agencies may offer this as an option.

A retail consultant may work with clothing store owners.
A retail consultant may work with clothing store owners.

For those who are opening a new retail business, hiring a retail consultant will require some additional expense. However, the rewards may justify the expense. Setting up a retail business correctly the first time could be the difference between success and failure. Further, it is cheaper to set up stores correctly the first time, rather than having to remodel or significantly change things later on.

Retail consultants may have suggestions for improving customer experience.
Retail consultants may have suggestions for improving customer experience.

A retail consultant can also help with the geographical location of the store, as well as product placement inside the store. He or she is well versed in product placement and consumer behaviors that many may not be. For example, grocery stores often find it better to place milk in the back corner of the store, knowing it is a product nearly everyone will need. Therefore, making customers walk past other merchandise on the way there may encourage more sales.

Further, a retail consultant can help with staffing issues as well. Consultants understand how and when the busy times will be and know how to staff appropriately during those times. They also better understand what skills are necessary among the staff to be a success. For example, the skills required for a hunting store may be different than those that are required for a women's clothing store. Of course, some of those skill sets will also be the same.

When choosing to hire a retail consultant, there are a number of important things to keep in mind. First, asking for what results have been achieved by a particular consultant is warranted. Second, choosing a consultant with a great deal of retail experience is important. While it may or may not be necessary to have a degree, an applicant should have plenty of knowledge and quantifiable results to back up their desire to work for you.

Retail consultants may have suggestions on which products to feature.
Retail consultants may have suggestions on which products to feature.

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Discussion Comments


When I first started in retail, I had no experience in terms of fashion. All I knew was I had the drive to succeed well from years of networking (networking is synonymous with any business, and having excellent people skills) and being extremely organized. After four months of complete focus on wanting to know how to do my best, I was promoted to become a manager. Confidence is everything and thinking outside the box and not getting involved with gossip or wanting to befriend anyone to support you is the best advice. A driven and friendly enough personality helps in any career. Learning the best social skills, like reading pertinent books like "Persuasion: The Art of Influencing People" helps immensely. Doing the homework, so to speak, will help anyone excel and they do not teach you this in any school.


The reason why most retail stores have years of aged inventory is because of the strategy of positioning clearance in the back of the store. Stores need to display "value" where the customer traffic is most fluent; keep in mind not many customers put "clearance" on their shopping list so display plus value pricing equals incremental sales.

Lastly, stores literally make careers out of discontinued (clearance product) and than wonder why their metrics are failing.


If I owned a franchise and were looking to expand, then I would definitely use retail consulting services. If I were to rely on my own intuition, I might be responsible for the failure of the new stores, because I know very little about what these people have studied and worked with for years.

I know that it might seem like common sense, but sometimes, people put restaurants in areas that have high traffic, but they fail anyway. Maybe they placed them too close to other restaurants offering the same sort of food, or maybe they put them in a neighborhood where people have different tastes.

A retail consultant would do plenty of research into things like this. They would consider all aspects, from projected customer base to the history of restaurants in that area. They would make sure that the restaurant had plenty of potential to succeed before telling me to pour my resources into the location.


@lighth0se33 – My sister is a retail consultant, but before landing that job, she had to spend several years working in customer service and sales at a department store. She started out as a cashier, but within the year, she had moved to the customer service desk and was assisting customers with returns and layaways.

After spending five years at that job, she decided to apply for a retail consultant position she had seen advertised in the newspaper. Her previous experience is what caught the eye of the employer, and he hired her during the first interview.

No one with actual retail consultant experience had applied for the job, and my sister was the candidate with the most sales experience. So, working your way up the ladder is usually the way to go when you are fresh out of college.


Finding a retail consultant job seems like it might be hard for new graduates. This is the type of career where proof of results and experience are necessary qualifications for finding work, and how are you going to get that without first landing a job in the field?

Hopefully, some colleges help find jobs for their soon-to-be graduates. Without some sort of internship or job placement program, I don't see how a prospective retail consultant could ever get his foot in the door.

Is anyone here a retail consultant? How did you get started in your field?


I have often noticed that in clothing stores, the clearance items are usually placed all the way in the back. Now I know that the retail consultant was responsible for this.

The most trendy and most expensive dresses and other garments line the windows and racks near the front of the store, so that is the first thing customers are drawn to when they approach the store. Many stores keep some lights on inside at night, and customers can peer through the windows to see these clothes. I think it is the hope of the retail consultant that this will make them come back when the store is open and buy the items.

It's a subtle but effective method. Many people probably never even think about this strategic placement of items, even though they are affected by it.

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