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Working as a retail cosmetics salesperson

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Walk through the fragrance and cosmetics section of most department stores and it's hard to miss the smiling sales professionals eager to share the latest fragrance or provide a complementary make-over. A successful cosmetics salesperson knows what it takes to make customers feel important and is looking to build long-lasting relationships with her clients.

"Great service equals a sale that should result in a customer for life," says Nicole Frack, Estée Lauder regional sales director for southern California. Estée Lauder owns leading cosmetics brands such as M.A.C., Bobbi Brown, Clinique and Origins. Frack notes that experience isn't always needed when applying for a cosmetics counter position: "All you need is a passion for talking to others, a willingness to learn and an understanding of your goals."

What they do

A career in retail cosmetics provides numerous opportunities for advancement. In department stores like Macy's, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, most entry-level positions start as counter sales representatives or beauty advisors. This job is to provide professional service to customers by selling and demonstrating cosmetics, as well as to contribute to the overall success of the department through achieving personal sales goals.

As she builds experience and a client base, the counter sales rep can move up to counter manager and oversee other advisors. "Gaining valuable point-of-sale experience is critical to better understanding the consumer mentality, shopping patterns, and daily activities of the sales staff to drive retail sales," says Gigi Kane, an Estée Lauder account executive based in Chicago, Ill.

From counter manager, the next move may be a department manager within a store or account coordinator responsible for multiple brands in various locations. The account coordinator acts as a liaison between the vendor and retailer.

Kane says, "The account coordinator could be promoted to an account executive or education executive for a brand. At this point, she is employed by the vendor and will work with a retailer group in many capacities, from hiring/developing staff, to planning and executing marketing calendars, to driving special events and strategies."

What they need

"A person interested in pursuing a career in retail cosmetic sales should already possess some skills in sales and service. It may not be necessary for them to have cosmetics experience, but it is always desirable for an individual to have experience in an industry that is service-oriented, to better understand consumer needs," says Kane. Strong relationship-building and communication skills are also needed.

Frack adds, "Three attributes that are especially important in building a career in cosmetic retail sales are a service-first attitude, resiliency and profit orientation. You need to be great at giving the best service no matter who your customer is that day. I tell my team members, 'service a customer first, then the sales will happen.'"

What they earn

Cosmetics salespeople typically earn hourly wages and receive commissions as a percentage of their sales. Many also receive awards and bonuses tied to sales and special promotions. According to, the average annual salary of a cosmetics clerk is $27,003. The 25th and 75th percentiles are $21,932 and $36,962, respectively. A cosmetics manager typically earns between $31,773 and $57,370, with an average salary of $41,245.

Last Updated: 05/07/2011 - 2:36 PM

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