Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customer payments.
What they do
There are two types of retail sales workers: retail salespersons, who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles; and parts salespersons, who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts.
Retail sales workers typically do the following:
- Greet customers and offer them assistance
- Recommend merchandise based on customers’ wants and needs
- Explain the use and benefit of merchandise to customers
- Answer customers’ questions
- Show how merchandise works, if applicable
- Add up customers’ total purchases and accept payment
- Inform customers about current sales, promotions, and policies about payments and exchanges
The following are examples of types of retail sales workers:
Retail salespersons work in stores where they sell goods, such as books, cars, clothing, cosmetics, electronics, furniture, lumber, plants, shoes, and many other types of merchandise.
In addition to helping customers find and select items to buy, many retail salespersons process the payment for the sale, which typically involves operating cash registers.
After taking payment for the purchases, retail salespersons may bag or package the purchases.
Depending on the hours they work, retail salespersons may have to open or close cash registers. This includes counting the money in the register and separating charge slips, coupons, and exchange vouchers. They may also make deposits at a cash office.
In addition, retail salespersons may help stock shelves or racks, arrange for mailing or delivery of purchases, mark price tags, take inventory, and prepare displays.
For some retail sales jobs, particularly those involving expensive and complex items, retail sales workers need special knowledge or skills. For example, those who sell cars must be able to explain the features of various models, manufacturers’ specifications, different types of options on the car, financing available, and the details of associated warranties.
In addition, retail sales workers must recognize security risks and thefts and understand their organization’s procedures for handling thefts, which may include notifying security guards or calling police.
Parts salespersons sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts. Most work in either automotive parts stores or automobile dealerships. They take customers’ orders, inform customers of part availability and price, and take inventory.
Most retail sales work is performed in clean, well-lit stores. Retail sales workers spend most of their time interacting with customers, answering questions, and assisting them with purchases.
Workers often stand for long periods and may need permission from a supervisor to leave the sales floor. If they sell items such as cars, plants, or lumberyard materials, they may work outdoors.
Many sales workers work evenings and weekends, particularly during holidays and other peak sales periods. Because the end-of-year holiday season is often the busiest time for retail stores, many employers limit retail sales workers’ use of vacation time between November and the beginning of January. Some retail salespersons work part time.
How to become a Retail Sales Worker
Typically, there are no formal education requirements for retail sales workers. Most receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months.
Although retail or parts sales positions usually have no formal education requirements, some employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent, especially employers who sell technical products or “big-ticket” items, such as electronics or cars.
Most retail sales workers receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months. In small stores, an experienced employee often trains newly hired workers. In large stores, training programs are more formal and usually conducted over several days.
During training sessions, topics often include customer service, security, the store’s policies and procedures, and how to operate the cash register.
Depending on the type of product they are selling, employees may be given additional specialized training. For example, salespersons working in cosmetics get instruction on the types of products the store offers and for whom the cosmetics would be most beneficial. Likewise, those who sell auto parts may be instructed on the technical functions of various parts, in addition to sales technique.
Because providing exceptional service to customers is a priority for many employers, employees often get periodic training to update and refine their skills.
The median hourly wage for parts salespersons was $15.24 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.89, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $26.97.
Overall employment of retail sales workers is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029. Competition from online sales will lead to employment declines in brick-and-mortar retail stores.
Similar Job Titles
Car Salesman, Clerk, Customer Assistant, Retail Salesperson, Sales Associate, Sales Clerk, Sales Consultant, Sales Person, Sales Representative, Salesman
Concierge, First-Line Supervisor of Retail Sales Workers, Counter and Rental Clerk, Parts Salesperson, Hotel/Motel/Resort Desk Clerk
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
Magazines and Publications
- Retail Leader Magazine
- Retailing Insight Magazine
- Shopping Center Business Magazine
- Ancillary Retail Magazine
Whether they sit behind a cash register… stand at the ready on the car lot… or walk customers through a labyrinth of shelves… cashiers and retail sales workers are the face of many businesses. With more people employed in the field than in nearly any other job in the United States, retail offers workers the chance to learn skills that are essential for almost any workplace. Cashiers greet customers, ring up their purchases, and answer questions. They often handle product returns, sign customers up for rewards programs, and may stock shelves or clean up. Retail salespersons perform cashiers’ duties with an additional focus on helping customers find and choose items to buy. Items range from lumber, jewelry, clothing, books, plants, and electronics to furniture and cars. Sales positions may require specialized knowledge and training. Appliance salespersons, for example, must explain product specifications, financing, and more. Parts salespersons sell spare and replacement parts, especially car parts. They advise customers, take orders, and inventory supplies. Retail sales hours may be full time, though part-time hours are common, and weekends and holidays are often required. A friendly manner and the stamina to stand for long periods are important. In general, there are no formal education requirements for retail sales workers, and most receive on-the-job training. High school education may be required for positions selling more complex items.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org