HNC Retail and HND Retail Management

Higher National Qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers.

The retail sector needs managers and leaders who are open to change and who can adapt to challenges — including the rapid pace of technological development. The HNC in Retail (SCQF level 7) develops the necessary knowledge and skills in areas such as retail operations, understanding the retail customer experience and the retail environment, stock presentation, finance, and digital/IT skills. It also includes specialist areas such as visual merchandising and fashion merchandising.

The HND in Retail Management (SCQF level 8) builds on the knowledge and skills of the HNC and enhances knowledge and skills relating to retail corporate image and store design, marketing, current trends in the sector, consumer buying behaviour, and management.

This qualification is available through colleges. Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete and an HND takes two years.

Higher National Qualifications have been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, universities and industry - so employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The unit-based structure supports flexibility. A unit is typically 40 hours of timetabled learning.

There is a wide choice of optional units which will enable centres to offer courses tailored to meet local needs.

This HN provides progression routes to further study and/or employment.

The HNC Retail and HND Retail Management are suitable for a wide range of candidates including:

  • school leavers
  • adult returners to education
  • individuals in employment who wish to enhance their career prospects
  • people who wish to start their own business 


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre. Examples of formal entry qualifications include:

  • a National Certificate in a related discipline
  • a minimum of one SQA Higher pass (SCQF level 6) together with three National Qualifications at SCQF level 5 or above
  • an SVQ Level 5 or 6 in a relevant area
  • relevant work experience
  • equivalent overseas qualifications which are relevant to the award

For candidates where English is not their first language, it is recommended that they possess English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) level 5 or a score of 5.5 in IELTS.

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable.

Progression and employment

The HNC Retail and HND Retail Management awards allow articulation to several universities in the UK.

The awards allow direct access to the retail industry in job roles such as:

  • trainee manager
  • team leader/supervisor
  • trainee team leader

Learners who achieve an HNC Retail can progress to the HND in Retail Management.

Higher National Qualifications also provide the knowledge and understanding required for related Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs). For example, SVQs in Retail (Management), Retail (Sales Professional), and Retail (Visual Merchandising).

Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process.

Centres without devolved authority require to come forward for approval and should contact SQA's Business Development Team for guidance. 

Each individual unit specification gives detailed information on the evidence requirements and approaches to assessment for each unit.

Assessment support packs are available for this units within this qualification.

HNC Retail

Group award code: GM6G 15  (96 SCQF credit points)

HNC Retail at SCQF level 7 consists of nine mandatory credits (72 SCQF credit points) and three optional credits (24 SCQF credit points).

HND Retail Management

Group award code: GM6H 16  (240 SCQF credit points)

HND Retail Management at SCQF level 8 consists of 22 mandatory credits (176 SCQF credit points) and eight credits from the optional units (64 SCQF points).