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Retail Sales Clerk Duties and Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a retail sales clerk at a big-box store are likely to be different than those of one at a clothing boutique. Still, job postings show that many duties are common to retail sales clerks regardless of employer.

Customer Service Retail sales clerks aim to provide visitors with a positive experience. They offer friendly greetings, make themselves available for questions or help to find items, and resolve complaints quickly and politely. If a purchase needs to be retrieved from the stockroom, special ordered, loaded into the customer's vehicle, or delivered to a residence, retail sales clerks make the proper arrangements.

Sales Employers want customers to make purchases - it is why they are in business. Retail sales clerks are central to this process. People cannot buy what they cannot find, so employees work to get merchandise matched appropriately. Retail sales clerks also may point out the benefits of certain products or explain the differences that distinguish one item from another. They may suggest other purchases that would complement the one being made, such as glassware that goes well with a set of dinnerware. Employers oftentimes provide sales targets that they want their clerks to meet.

Promotions As part of encouraging shoppers to buy more, retail sales clerks may make customers aware of special offers. For instance, a bridal salon could run a deal where the bride receives a free veil when she purchases her gown by a certain date. A discount store might offer a percentage off of today's order if the patron signs up for the chain's credit card.

Payment When customers have finished shopping, retail sales clerks total the bill. This might include actions such as scanning items, putting them into bags, processing a credit or debit card, accepting cash and giving change, and providing a receipt.


Retail Sales Clerk Skills and Qualifications

If you enjoy interacting with people, being a retail sales clerk may be a good career option. But plan on being patient as customers try to make decisions. Other good traits for retail sales clerks to possess include:
  • Communication - listening carefully to understand customer needs and explaining options clearly are essential
  • Salesmanship - promoting your store's products and services in order to encourage purchases is at the heart of employment
  • Professionalism - to reflect well on the employer, retail sales clerks need to look and act appropriately
  • Attentiveness - perceiving what needs to be done to make the sale, such as physically walking a confused customer over to the correct aisle

Retail Sales Clerk Education and Training

While there are no formal educational requirements, retail sales clerks typically have a high school diploma or are in the process of obtaining one. New hires should expect a period of on-the-job-training where colleagues and managers teach them about store policies, customer service, the location of items, and checkout procedures. A background or interest in what you are selling can be helpful to securing employment. Some retail sales clerks start out as seasonal hires and parlay the experience into permanent employment.

Retail Sales Clerk Salary and Outlook

Retail sales clerks are usually paid by the hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national median hourly wage is $10.90. Retail sales clerks in the 10th percentile earn about $8.55 per hour, and the highest 10 percent make in excess of $19.90 per hour. Retail sales clerks may get a commission on items they sell, especially at places where purchase amounts tend to be large. Most employers offer their retail sales clerks discounts on merchandise sold at the store. Full-time retail sales clerks may be eligible for benefits such as healthcare and paid time off. The popularity of online shopping has decreased the number of brick and mortar stores. According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, job prospects for retail sales clerks should grow 2 percent between 2016 and 2026. However, some retailers are upping their game in terms of customer service, which creates jobs for retail sales clerks. And because turnover in this field is high, a good number of openings for retail sales clerks often can be found at any given time.

Retail Sales Clerk Resources

If you're ready to take on the challenges of being a retail sales clerk, the following books and organizations can be helpful.

National Association of Sales Professionals - learn how to increase your influence and make more sales through training and educational opportunities offered by this group

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping - people who understand customer behavior have an edge in the retail industry, and this book by Paco Underhill explores shopping habits in ways readers describe as "funny and insightful"

National Retail Federation - this professional organization is a go-to place for everything related to the retail industry, including hot trends and career advancement suggestions

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service - author Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World, offers universal wisdom gained from experience in a handbook described by reviewers as "easy to read" and "understandable, but profound"

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