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Retail Sales Associate

Education and Training: No formal education required. High school diploma preferred.
Average Salary: $9.86 per hour
Job Outlook: Very Good

Retail sales associate’s work in retail stores helping customers make purchasing decisions on products and services. In addition to selling goods and services they provide customer service and perform financial transactions. Retail sales associates also perform general duties within the store such as stocking inventory, counting freight, balancing receipts, and creating displays. They also perform opening and closing functions at the beginning and ending of the day. The main goal of a retail sales associate is to persuade customers to make purchases in a casual and friendly manner. This end is done by describing the features and benefits of the product or service and displaying customer service skills.

Education and Training Requirements

No formal training is required to become a retail sales associate. On the job training is common once a new associate is hired. They usually learn skills under the direction of a store manager and existing retail sales associates. Some retail stores have formal training programs for associates who sell large ticket items that are technical in nature such as appliances, consumer electronics, and home improvement products. Many companies prefer retail sales associates have a high school diploma while others do not require it because they often hire high school students.

Getting the Job

Retail sales associate jobs are readily available through traditional means such as internet job web sites, job announcements at specific locations, classified newspaper advertisements, college job fairs, and company websites. Potential candidates often go through one or two interviews with a hiring manager or assistant manager. No previous experience is typically required for retail sales associate positions. The main requirements are an affable disposition, punctuality, and ability to communicate effectively. For many retail sales associates this is their first work experience.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Job prospects are abundant because of the constant turnover. Retail sales positions have some of the highest turnover rates of any job classifications due to seasonal employment and students moving on to other opportunities such as higher positions or college. Consumer spending effects employment outlook more than any other factor.

Students who work in retail sales often work at these positions during high school and college before moving on to higher positions. There are a number of workers who have limited skills and little to no formal education who work as retail sales associates for many years. It is typical that these individuals move on to management positions.

Working Conditions and Environment

Retail sales associates work in fast paced retail environments. 9-5 Monday through Friday hours are the exception. Retail sales associates typically work when most people are not working meaning nights and weekends are the main shifts. Shift stability for non-management retail sales associates is virtually non-existent. The position is not considered stressful but can become very fast-paced during peak holiday shopping. Every retail sales associate has experienced a difficult customer which can be one of the more stressful aspects of the job.

Salary and Benefits

Since no formal education is required retail sales associates tend to earn low pay. Many retail sales associate’s earn minimum wage but may earn bonuses if sales figures are reached. Bonuses and commissions are common in large department stores and electronics stores. Benefits including medical, dental and retirement are very rare. Sick and vacation days are also not common.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association for Retail Marketing
2417 Post Rd.
Stevens Point, WI 54481
Phone (715) 342-0948

National Retail Federation
325 7th St., NW, Ste. 1100
Washington, DC 20004
phone: 202-783-7971

Retail Industry Leaders Association
1700 N. Moore St., Ste. 2250
Arlington, VA 22209

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesSales & Marketing