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Retail Store Sales Worker Job Description, Career as a Retail Store Sales Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training On-the-job training

Salary Median—$8.98 per hour

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Retail store sales workers sell merchandise to store customers. They work in a variety of settings, including department stores, drugstores, discount stores, and shops that specialize in everything from books and gourmet foods to plants, electronic equipment, or other merchandise.

Salespersons' duties vary from store to store. In some stores salespersons may act mainly as cashiers. When customers make purchases, salespersons typically scan merchandise price tags, total the order, accept payment, make change, wrap purchases, and issue receipts. They may also handle exchanged or returned merchandise, do stock work, unload merchandise, fold clothes, and arrange displays. Sometimes sales workers put price tags on new merchandise or mark down prices on sale items.

In other stores sales workers concentrate on selling merchandise to customers. This is particularly true of clothing stores. Customers who do not know exactly what they want tend to look to retail salespeople for help in making purchasing decisions. Sometimes salespersons demonstrate merchandise, explaining its features and uses. In department or discount stores sales workers usually work in just one department and become experts on the merchandise sold there. In small stores, however, workers need to be familiar with all items offered for sale.

Sales workers in specialty stores may need specialized knowledge. For example, furniture store salespeople need knowledge of interior design. Sales workers employed in an electronics shop need to know the equipment and features available in various price ranges.

Education and Training Requirements

Employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates for full-time sales positions. Some stores hire students for part-time, seasonal, or summer jobs. New workers are usually trained on the job. For jobs in specialty stores employers

A cashier gives change to a customer. Sales workers' duties vary, depending on the store. (Photograph by Kelly A. Quin. Thomson Gale. Reproduced by permission.)

sometimes prefer applicants with previous sales experience or specific knowledge of the merchandise. The owner of a plant store, for example, may want to hire an experienced gardener or a person who has taken courses in plant science.

Since many people judge a store by its salespeople, workers in retail sales must be neat, friendly, and eager to help customers. Sales workers must also be able to maintain their composure when dealing with irate customers.

Getting the Job

People interested in working as retail sales workers can apply directly to the stores for which they would like to work. Private and state employment offices may help candidates get jobs. Newspaper want ads and career sites on the Internet often list openings in retail sales.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Some retail store sales workers become department or store managers. Those who work for chain stores may be promoted to administrative jobs in the company's headquarters. Some use their sales experience to find sales jobs in other areas.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million people were employed as retail store sales workers in 2004. Employment of retail salespeople was expected to increase as fast as the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. Most openings will occur as experienced workers transfer to other occupations or leave their jobs for other reasons. New jobs will be created as retail sales continue to expand because of the growing population.

Working Conditions

Working conditions in the retail industry vary depending on the store. Most sales workers stand all or most of the day. For some the work may be repetitious, and most stores are hectic during rush hours and holiday seasons.

Retail store sales workers may work full or part time. Full-time workers put in forty hours or more each week. They generally work evenings, weekends, and even some holidays. Stores generally hire part-time workers for the busy periods of the day or during the weeks before big holidays when buying increases. Many workers belong to labor unions.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for retail store sales workers vary widely with location, individual experience, and the responsibilities of the job. In 2004 new retail workers started at minimum wage. That same year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly income for all retail workers was $8.98. The toppaid 10 percent of workers in this field made more than $17.85 per hour, either on straight salary, commission, or both. A commission is a percentage of the selling price of an item. The earnings of workers paid on commission depend on their volume of sales.

Where to Go for More Information

National Retail Federation
325 Seventh St. NW, Ste. 1100
Washington, DC 20004
(800) 673-4692

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
1775 K St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 223-3111

Many stores offer benefits such as paid vacations and holidays and health insurance to full-time workers. Stores usually offer discounts to all workers on merchandise purchased from the store.

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