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Retail and Wholesale


The main activities undertaken include buying and/or selling goods to the general public (in Retail trade) or to businesses (in Wholesale trade), as well as the supply of products, information and health care services (in Community Pharmacy).

The goods exchanged can span various industries such as food and beverages, clothing, footwear and personal accessories, recreational goods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and toiletries. Trading is widespread across Australia, covering metropolitan, regional and rural locations, either in the form of bricks-and-mortar establishments and/or online shopping options.

Community pharmacies in particular can play a key role in regional and remote communities by optimising access to health and pharmacy services which can otherwise be limited due to distance and location.

The three areas together are sizeable, and Retail alone is the second biggest employing sector in Australia (after the Health Care and Social Assistance sector), with a workforce of approximately 1.3 million. The Retail and Wholesale industry hosts a multitude of occupations including Sales Assistant, Retail Manager, Visual Merchandiser, Merchandise Planner and Buyer, Warehouse Manager, Operations Manager, Supply Chain Manager, Store Manager and Pharmacy Assistant.

Technological developments have impacted the Retail and Wholesale industry significantly in terms of business operations and customer interactions. Emerging skills needs in relation to technology, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and social media have seen new roles related to digital marketing, e-commerce and analytics become more common across the workforce.

Overall, the industry is characterised by a highly competitive and open marketplace, attracting local and international players of all sizes. In Australia, the industry is predominantly made up of small and medium-sized enterprises, with fewer than 20 employees.

Nationally recognised training for the Retail and Wholesale industry is delivered under the SIR Retail Services Training Package.

For information on community pharmacies, see the Community Pharmacy page.

Information sourced from the Wholesale and Retail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Wholesale and Retail IRC (this industry was formally under the jurisdiction of the Wholesale, Retail and Personal Services IRC)

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment in the Retail Trade industry has increased since 2000, although there was relatively little overall change between 2008 and 2018. It is projected that employment in the industry will grow until 2023. The most common occupations in the Retail Trade industry are Sales Assistants (General) (34.3%) and Retail Managers (11.3%). Employment levels for all occupations involved in the Retail Trade industry are predicted to grow between 2018 and 2023. Shelf Fillers, currently 4.6% of the workforce, are predicted to have the largest industry employment increase of 8.6% by 2023.

Employment in the Wholesale Trade industry has been variable between 2000 and 2018, marked by peaks and troughs in 2013 and 2017, respectively. This industry is expected to see a slight decline in employment until 2023. Storepersons is the most common occupation within the Wholesale Trade industry, an occupation in which an increase of 1.4% in employment is predicted by 2023. Employment levels for most other occupations involved in the Wholesale Trade industry such as Sales Representatives and Importers, Exporters and Wholesalers are predicted to experience employment growth between 2018 and 2023. Advertising, Public Relations and Sales Managers are predicted to have the strongest employment growth of 9.8%. The only occupation predicted to decline is Technical Sales Representatives, by 1.7% during the same period.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments and completions declined in Retail and Wholesale-related qualifications between 2014 and 2016, but increased to over 53,500 in 2017 from the previous year (just over 49,000). Program completions peaked in 2014 at just over 18,000 and have since declined to just over 15,000 completions. The majority of training in Retail and Wholesale-related qualifications was at the certificate II and III levels, with less activity at higher or lower qualification levels. Training in these most popular qualification levels was mostly in the Certificate II in Retail Services and the Certificate III in Retail. The most popular intended occupations for this sector were Sales Assistant (General) and Retail Supervisor.

The majority of Retail and Wholesale-related qualifications were delivered by private training providers and enterprise providers (around 75%), particularly in the case of qualifications at a certificate III level and above. A significant proportion of qualifications at the certificate I and II level were delivered in schools (around 75%). The majority of training was Commonwealth and state funded for all provider types except for private training providers, which were funded almost equally by government and domestic fee for service. Nearly all school-based training was Commonwealth and state funded. Over 40% of students were from New South Wales, with Queensland and Victoria accounting for approximately 21% and 15% respectively.

Commencements and completions for Retail and Wholesale-related apprentices and trainees have drastically declined since 2010, though the level of both remained stable between 2014 and 2017. Most apprentices and trainees in the Retail and Wholesale sector have the intended occupation of Sales Assistant (General) or Retail Supervisor. In 2017, New South Wales reported a third of Retail and Wholesale apprentices and trainees, with Queensland reporting the next highest proportion at just over 20%.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, please visit NCVER’s VET Students by Industry.

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Industry Insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Wholesale and Retail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast the top generic skills for the Retail and Wholesale industry are:

  • customer service/marketing
  • communication/collaboration/social intelligence
  • learning agility/information literacy/intellectual autonomy/self-management
  • managerial/leadership
  • language, literacy and numeracy (LLN).

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers in Retail were communication skills and being energetic. The most advertised Retail occupations were Sales Assistant (General) followed by Retail Manager (General). The top Retail employers were Woolworths Limited and Coles Supermarket.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers in Wholesale were communication skills and organisational skills. The most advertised Wholesale occupations were Sales Representative followed by Advertising, Public Relations and Sales Managers. The top Wholesale employers were Chemist Warehouse and Schneider Electric.

The above Skills Forecast identified several challenges and opportunities currently impacting workforce skills in the Retail and Wholesale industry. Some of the main issues include:

  • Low attraction and retention – this is a significant issue, despite the sector offering unique and flexible opportunities for employment. Retail in particular has continually high job vacancy rates, and businesses are struggling to recruit individuals with the right skills.
  • Legislative changes affecting access to overseas workers – changes to visa eligibility conditions reducing access to overseas workers mean that employers need to use alternative channels for filling vacancies, including training pools of local employees with the right skills.
  • Heightened customer expectations – the customer landscape has been evolving in line with wider industry trends regarding technology, innovation and globalisation, and, as a result, the general public are now equipped with a wealth of product knowledge. Customer loyalty to brands and products is diminishing, and the ability to exceed customer expectations is now essential across all touch-points of the customer journey. Visual merchandising is a key skill which, when applied, can create a point of difference for retailers to encourage customers to visit and purchase. Advancements in visualisation and technology, both in the physical store environment and increasingly in the digital space, require a supply of workers with advanced skills in merchandise strategy and implementation.
  • Technology – technological advancements have had an enormous impact on the way in which customers and businesses interact, as well as the way in which businesses operate. Devices, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, online shopping and e-commerce are all prevalent, and the skills needs of the workforce have consequently been shifting to adapt to the digitalisation of functions. However, the adoption of new technology in the sector is varied, with small businesses in particular postponing its introduction due to a lack of understanding of its functions and benefits and a lack of workforce skills.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment, 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 1 digit Retail Trade Industry and Wholesale Trade Industry, employment projections to May 2023
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
  • 1311 Advertising, Public Relations and Sales Managers
  • 1333 Importers, Exporters and Wholesalers
  • 1421 Retail Managers
  • 2254 Technical Sales Representatives
  • 5911 Purchasing and Supply Logistics Clerks
  • 6113 Sales Representatives
  • 6211 Sales Assistants (General)
  • 6214 Pharmacy Sales Assistants
  • 6311 Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers
  • 7411 Storepersons
  • 8912 Shelf Fillers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 November 2018 <>

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 1 digit Retail Trade Industry and Wholesale Trade Industry, 2000 to 2018, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 1 digit Retail Trade Industry and Wholesale Trade Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training packages or qualifications:

  • SIR and WRR Training Packages
  • SIR10107 - Certificate I in Retail Services
  • SIR10116 - Certificate I in Retail Services
  • SIR10112 - Certificate I in Retail Services
  • SIR20207 - Certificate II in Retail
  • SIR20212 - Certificate II in Retail Services
  • SIR20216 - Certificate II in Retail Services
  • SIR20312 - Certificate II in Retail Fast Food
  • WRR20102 - Certificate II in Retail Operations
  • SIR30316 - Certificate III in Business to Business Sales
  • SIR30412 - Certificate III in Business to Business Sales
  • SIR30207 - Certificate III in Retail
  • SIR30212 - Certificate III in Retail Operations
  • SIR30216 - Certificate III in Retail
  • SIR30312 - Certificate III in Retail Supervision
  • WRR30202 - Certificate III in Retail Operations
  • SIR40207 - Certificate IV in Retail Management
  • SIR40212 - Certificate IV in Retail Management
  • SIR40316 - Certificate IV in Retail Management
  • SIR50112 - Diploma of Retail Management
  • SIR50116 - Diploma of Retail Leadership
  • SIR50107 - Diploma of Retail Management
  • SIR50207 - Diploma of Visual Merchandising
  • SIR50212 - Diploma of Visual Merchandising
  • SIR80112 - Graduate Certificate in Retail Leadership.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

SIR and WRR Training Packages apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2017 commencements
  • 2010 to 2017 completions
  • 2017 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2017 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Wholesale and Retail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2018, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2018, <>.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2015 and June 2018 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills/Occupations
    • Retail Trade.
  • Employers
    • 621111 Sales Assistant (General)
    • 142111 Retail Manager (General)
    • 611399 Sales Representatives nec
    • 541211 Information Officer
    • 621511 Retail Supervisor
    • Retail Trade.
Updated: 18 Oct 2019
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