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Sales Clerk

Education and Training: High school diploma or equivalent preferred
Average Salary: $8-13 per hour
Job Outlook: Very good

A sales clerk generally works in retail, whether it is a clothing store, department store, auto dealership, or general merchandise store. Those who work in specialized stores, such as auto dealerships and electronics stores (or electronics departments in larger department stores) are generally expected to become very familiar with the technical details of the products they’re selling. Even sales clerks in clothing and department stores should have a basic knowledge of the products their company sells so that they can help customers find what they are looking for.

The main job of a sales clerk is to help customers in the store and to try to sell more products by describing different options to customers and generally promoting the store’s products. Many sales clerks are also responsible for the actual financial transaction and learn to run cash registers, take payments in different forms, pack the products customers buy, and keep records of all financial transactions. Many times, retail salespeople are also responsible, on some level, for taking inventory, tagging new items, setting up store displays, stocking shelves, and generally keeping their store or area tidy and presentable for customers.

Education and Training Requirements

While some stores will hire lower-level sales clerks who are still in high school, many managers prefer at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, especially in more technical industries, such as car sales and electronics sales.

Typically, training takes place on the job. Most companies offer a period of paid training that starts with theoretical training and usually leads up to a representative being mentored on the job by a more experienced sales clerk or manager. Continuing training on new products or cash register systems is usually required and paid for by the employer.

Getting the Job

A sales clerk job is a first job for many high school and college students. To apply, go in person to stores where you’re interested in working. They may be hiring even if there is no “Now Hiring” sign out front, though applicants may find jobs more quickly at stores that are actively hiring. Applicants should fill out an application in person and, if possible, introduce themselves to the hiring manager. Usually, interviews will take place during a hiring period, and some companies conduct group interviews for several potential employees at once.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Because retail sales have a high turnover and is staffed largely by transient college students and young adults, job prospects in this field are good. Prospects do depend on the economy, however, and major downturns will see companies cutting back on current employees or hiring fewer employees in the future. A sales clerk is most likely to find a job just before the busy holiday season, when many companies hire seasonal help for one or more months.

Advancement opportunities are different from one person to the next. Smaller companies have few advancement opportunities, but large chain stores will often promote managers and assistant managers from the ranks of their sales clerks. Those with degrees in business, human resources, and related fields may find their advancement opportunities in the field of retail are quite broad.

Working Conditions and Environment

Hours for a retail clerk vary, but most work at least some evenings and weekends. Typically, clerks are on their feet for an entire shift, as they work on the sales floor. In some industries, sales clerks work outdoors, even in adverse or very hot weather.

Salary and Benefits

This is typically an hourly wage job, though part-time and full-time options are both available. The average salary is between $8 and $13 per hour, depending on the minimum hourly wage in certain areas of the country as well as the industry in which a sales clerk works. Sales clerks in specialized industries, such as automobiles and building materials, may make up to $19 per hour.

Part-time employment may offer the option for employee-paid healthcare, but full-time employment generally comes with at least a minimal healthcare package. Full-time employees are likely to get paid vacation time, though part-time employees rarely do. Because the busy season for most retailers is around the end of the year holidays, vacation time during this period is usually restricted.

Where to Go for More Information

National Automobile Dealers Association
Public Relations Department
8400 Wespark Dr.
McLean, VA, 22101
(703) 821-7000

National Retail Federation
325 7th St. NW., Ste. 1100
Washington, D.C., 20004
(202) 783-7971

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