Skill requirements in retail work : the case of high-end fashion retailing

Nickson, Dennis and Price, Robin and Baxter-Reid, Hazel and Hurrell, Scott A (2017) Skill requirements in retail work : the case of high-end fashion retailing. Work, Employment and Society, 31 (4). pp. 692-708. ISSN 0950-0170 (

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This article considers skill requirements in retail work, drawing on the example of high-end fashion retailing. It considers debates about the required ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ elements of skill for such work. Drawing on Cockburn’s typology – skill residing in the worker; in what is required to perform a job; and as a socially constructed political concept – it seeks to offer a more nuanced discussion of the nature of skills in retail work beyond the usual characterization of such work as being inherently low skilled. Data are reported from 37 interviews with managers, supervisors and employees in a range of high-end fashion retailing outlets. The article recognizes how this work was seen as skilled by the interviewees, particularly with regard to the desired product knowledge and selling ability required for such work. Lastly, it seeks to refine Cockburn’s typology in understanding skill requirements in retail work.