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Retail sales associates are responsible for all activities related to sales in a retail establishment. They provide a variety of services, from helping customers pick out items to ringing up purchases. A position as a retail sales associate is perfect for someone who likes working with the public and has a lot of patience when assisting difficult people. The most successful sales associates are outgoing, friendly, and enjoy interacting with customers. This position is great for students, those looking for part-time employment, or those with flexible schedules. Shifts can vary and usually include weekends and holidays.

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Retail Sales Associate Duties and Responsibilities

No two retail sales associate jobs are exactly alike, as specific skills vary from employer to employer. However, after analyzing online job postings, we identified serval core duties and responsibilities common to the job:

Greet Customers

The sales associate is often the customer's first point of contact when they walk into a retail establishment. Associates greet customers and let them know they are available to answer their questions and help them find what they are looking for.

Assist Customers

Retail sales associates assist customers and make sure their shopping experience is pleasant and enjoyable, so they make purchases and come back. This involves answering questions, helping customers identify the products they want, and suggesting products the customer may not know they need.

Provide Product Information

Being knowledgeable about a store's merchandise is key to providing customers the information they need to make purchasing decisions. The retail sales associate explains the benefits of products and helps customers identify and choose appropriately.

Upsell Merchandise

Making money is the name of the game in all business, and retail sales associates are often encouraged to upsell and offer pricier versions of the products shopper are looking for. They also encourage customers to purchase products related to the ones they've already chosen.

Stock and Clean Sales Floor

During downtime when there are few customers to assist, retail sales associates are usually expected to restock merchandise and keep the sales floor clean and organized.

Process Payments

When customers are ready to make a purchase, the retail sales associate assists them at the checkout counter. They ring up the purchases, process cash and credit card payments, and issue receipts.

Retail Sales Associate Skills and Qualifications

Retail sales associates should have energetic, upbeat personalities and enjoy assisting customers with a smile. Prior experience as a sales associate is not required. The following skills are important for success as a retail worker:

  • Customer service - in the world of retail, the customer is always right; the retail sales associate must interact with customers in a positive and friendly way while listening to their needs and helping them make decisions
  • Math skills - retail sales associates need to add up prices, calculate discounts, count inventory, and much more
  • Salesmanship - the retail industry is all about making sales, and sales associates are persuasive sellers able to explain products and benefits clearly to customers to achieve their sales goals
  • Communication skills - sales associates help customers see the value and benefit they're getting by shopping at the establishment. They also communicate with employers and other employees in a clear and effective manner
  • Persistence - making the sale requires a can-do attitude. Not every customer is going to make a purchase, and rebounding from losing a sale is a key part of this position
  • Interpersonal skills - working in retail involves interacting with others - most importantly the customers. Sales associates must keep a friendly face, interact with customers in a positive manner, and stay patient and cool with frustrated customers

Retail Sales Associate Education and Training

There are no minimum education requirements to become a retail sales associate, but a high school diploma or equivalent is usually preferred. Sale associates typically receive on-the-job training from management on company sales policies and merchandise, but experience in retail sales is helpful, as is computer literacy or familiarity using a POS system. A four-year college degree or certificate in business may be required for advancement to retail management positions.

Retail Sales Associate Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the national median salary for retail sales workers as $23,370 per year, or $11.24 per hour. The BLS projects the overall employment of retail sales workers to grow 2 percent by 2026, which is slower than average. Because many workers leave this occupation, it’s estimated there will still be plenty of jobs in this field in the next 10 years despite the low projected growth rate.

Some retail sales associates receive commissions and sales bonuses on top of their hourly wage, and some are eligible to receive benefits like healthcare and paid time off, depending on the number of hours they work per week.

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Helpful Resources

We’ve searched the internet for the best resources to help you explore a potential career in the retail industry. Here are some ways to find out if being a retail sales associate is a good fit for you:

"Land a Sales Job Without Experience"

this informative article by job search site Monster.comprovides everything you need to know about breaking into the retail sales field and getting your first job as an associate

The National Retail Association

this is a great resource for potential retail associates to learn about training programs, employment law, workplace relations, and industry news

"How to Answer Retail Job Interview Questions"

learn how to best answer retail job interview questions with insight from this Workopolis blog post

"A Career in Sales - Everything You Need to Know"

CareerSidekick's complete guide covers the ins and outs of working in the sales industry, from salaries and industry types to other important considerations

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