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Working in Retail Sales


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Job Focus: Working in Retail Sales

Whether you're shopping a multi-level mall or a small boutique, the retail experience wouldn't be complete without the help of a salesperson. And thanks to our collective love of shopping, retail salespeople have one of the most in-demand occupations in the marketplace. While the job isn't exactly lucrative, employees can add to their salaries with commission (depending on their place of employment), and for many, the employee discount is an unbeatable perk.

What they do:

Retail salespeople sell a particular line or collection of merchandise in a boutique, store, mall or other retail organization. They answer questions about products, find anything you may need, offer insight and opinions and convince you of the product's value.

Some retail employees work the register, processing financial transactions, which include sales, returns and exchanges. Others close down the register at the end of the night, counting money, organizing credit card slips and checks and making bank deposits for the company.

Behind the scenes, retail salespeople keep an orderly stockroom, fill the shelves and displays with new merchandise, take inventory, price items, process outgoing and incoming packages and help configure visual displays. Overall, a retail sales employee is responsible for keeping the store clean and organized and ensuring that all customers leave having had a positive experience.

What they need:

Formal education is not a prerequisite for retail sales, but a high school degree can help secure a job and a college degree can help you advance into management. If you want to sell specialty goods, such as stereo or car equipment, previous training or employment is a plus but not necessary. Regardless of your background, stores usually hold their own on-site training classes, where new hires learn skills such as store product information, selling protocol, register operation, store policies and more.

Since retail sales involves communicating face-to-face with customers, employers look for someone with good interpersonal skills, a friendly demeanor and a polished appearance. As a rule retail salespeople are on their feet for most of the day.

As a retail salesperson, you won't work typical office hours. Evenings, weekends and holidays such as New Year's Day are prime shopping times, and employers may expect you to work or limit vacation time during peak shopping periods.

What they earn:

According to, the average salary for a retail salesperson is $28,786. The 25th and 75th percent of salaries fall between $21,296 and $38,102, respectively.

Job outlook:

Due to a growing population, many retailers expect to continue expanding around the world. Experts project that retail employment will grow 8 percent through 2010. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 374,700 retail sales jobs will open up during this time period, which is higher than almost any other occupation. Because this is an industry with large turnover, there are almost always employment opportunities available.

Last Updated: 08/12/2010 - 7:41 PM

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