Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




The goals were: (1) develop an ethnographic description of career development in retail organizations, (2) develop a basis for a substantive theory of retail careers, (3) examine the relationship between educational background and retail careers, (4) compare careers in retail organizations with previously developed career theory. University graduates employed in retailing identified 161 midwest based retail executives as potential informants; 77 responded to a preliminary questionnaire; 42 became informants. The ethnography includes quotations of informants and descriptions and inferences that were triangulated from the preliminary questionnaires, ethnographic interviews, documents provided by employers, and fieldnotes. A Taxonomy of Retail Careers was developed through continuous comparison of career experiences including the divisions of responsibility, job titles, career levels, and the relationship of career levels between divisions;Retailing was described as a tough, competitive, numbers oriented business. There were more women at entry level and more men in top management. Jobs involve high pressure, fast pace, long hours, travel, and total involvement with the business. People who were happy in retail careers had a sense of urgency, a strong self-image, high energy level, ability to take risks, and were able to cope with intense involvement with people. Aspiring executives need to be able to communicate upward to their superiors, express their own ideas, and take action to make the ideas work. Critical factors for career development include mentoring, beginning a career with a firm that offers advancement potential, being promoted to jobs that provide growth experiences and visibility, taking advantage of past experience when changing jobs, and recognizing the necessity for self-marketing in the career development process;There was an apparent correlation between education and income though most informants said that educational background did not matter. Some retailers recruit only from four-year business programs, gradepoint average was a selection criterion, and internship should be a part of the academic program. Fashion merchandising graduates said that if they were going to repeat their education they would take business. Similarities were observed between previously developed theories of careers and careers in retailing. Many suggestions were made for further research.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Grace I. Kunz



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181 pages