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Retail Sales Careers, Jobs and Training Information

Retail Sales Career and Job Highlights

  • Opportunities for employment are expected to be plentiful due to the need to replace the substantial number of workers who leave the occupation for various reasons each year.
  • Salespersons commonly work evenings, and weekends, and may work long extended hours through the holiday season, during sales, and during other peak retail interludes.
  • Many people looking to supplement their income are attracted to this line of work due to the appeal of part-time and temporary positions. However, persons selling high-priced items usually have considerable experience and work full-time.
  • Although a high school diploma is preferred for most retail jobs, there are no formal education requirements. People who enjoy working with others, have the ability to communicate clearly, have tact, patients, and a tidy, clean-cut appearance will be most likely to impress employers and find success in this area of work.

Retail Sales Career Overview

Retail salespersons can work selling a vast variety of items. From shoes, to computer software, or even vehicle sales, individuals working retail provide assistance to customers interesting them in a various merchandise and helping them find what they are looking for. As part of their job salespersons may be asked to demonstrate a products use, to display a variety of models in various colors or to describe a products distinguishing features. In some situations, retail salespersons may need to acquire special knowledge or skills pertinent to the item they are selling. This is especially true for salespersons selling complex or expensive items. For instance, sales persons working in vehicle sales need to be able to point out the features of various makes and models, provide information about specific warranties, explain the manufacturer’s qualifications, and tell about various available financing options.

Millions of dollars are spent by consumers every day on different types of merchandise. And because consumers quickly form an impression of a store by the way in which they are treated, retailers fervently stress the importance of providing courteous and efficient service. Having high-quality customer service is essential in order for a business to stay competitive. Examples of good customer service include salespersons who check the stock room, call another store, or place a special request in order to locate an item not found on the sales floor that a customer is looking for.

Most retail salespersons, especially those working in department and apparel stores, do more than just promoting and selling products. Making out sales checks, receiving payments, bagging or packaging purchases, giving receipts. and handing back change are all duties a retail salesperson may have. Depending on their shift, salespersons may be responsible for opening and closing cash registers, which may include separating charge slips from coupons and exchange vouchers, counting money, and making deposits at the cash office. Often salespersons are held responsible for the contents of their registers, and are let go from their job should shortages repeatedly arise.

Returns and exchanges, as well as gift wrapping may also be handles by various retail salespersons. They may also mark price tags, take inventory, help stock shelves or racks, prepare displays, and arrange for mailing or purchase deliveries. Salesperson must keep up to date on upcoming sales and promotions. They must also be aware of security threats and know how to manage and prevent such situations. Salespersons are expected to keep their work areas neat, and to maintain a pleasant cheerful and helpful attitude.

Career Training and Qualifications

Beyond a high school diploma, there is generally no formal education required for this area of work. Instead employers base hiring criteria on people skills and an ability to deal with difficult customers tactfully and with patience. Other desirable characteristics of a prospective salesperson include an ability to communicate clearly and efficiently, a well-groomed appearance, and a sincere interest in sales work. Foreign language skills may also be looked-for in communities that are rich with culture. Some employers may conduct a background check before hiring a salesperson, this may be especially true for situations where high-priced items are being sold.

New employees working in most small store receive on the job training from an experienced employee or store manager and are instructed on operating cash registers, making out sales checks, and other occupational duties and responsibilities. During this time topics regarding customer service, store policies and procedures, and security issues may be discussed. Additional training may be given by product manufactures’ representative on certain items that may be new to the market, or complex in their design. For example, salespersons working in electronics may be given a briefing on how various items work and on their special features in order that they might be able to demonstrate their functions to interested customers. Salespersons working in cosmetics may also be given specialized training on the types of products the store is selling, and for which kinds of people various cosmetics would be most useful. Providing the best service possible is a high priority for many employers; as such, employees are often given recurrent training to revise and enhance their skills.

Advancement opportunities may be afforded to salespersons who have gained experience and seniority. With advancement salespersons usually move to positions of greater responsibility and may even get the chance to choose which department they’d like to work in. Advancements also bring potentially higher earnings and commissions. The highest earning potential is usually found in the selling of pricey big-ticket items. Such high-priced sales position often require the salesperson to have extensive knowledge of the product they are selling as well as an impressive talent for persuasion.

Advancement opportunities vary within small store businesses. Often chances for advancement may be limited because one person (often the owner) does most if not all of the managerial work; however some salespersons are still elevated to higher positions such as assistant manager.

Although it was previously common for salespersons without formal training to advance to management positions, large retail businesses now regularly prefer to hire college graduates as management trainees. This practice places increasing stress on the importance of a college education. Regardless of this growing tendency, motivated, accomplished, and competent employees lacking college degrees or formal training may still advance to administrative or supervisory positions.

When applying for sales positions applicants may find experience in retail sales to be an asset. This may prove especially true for contenders applying for positions at larger retail businesses or in other areas of the industry such as wholesale trade, manufacturing, or financial services.

Retail Sales Job and Employment Opportunities

Because of the ever present need to replace employees who leave this area of work each year as they transfer to other occupations or leave the workforce, employment opportunities for retail salespersons are expected to remain plentiful. It is expected that many new jobs will additionally be created for salespersons as the population continues to increase and consumer demands continue to grow. Employment opportunities for retail salespersons through 2012 are expected to grow along with the average for all occupations. Opportunities for part-time work throughout 2012 are expected to be largely available, and the demand for temporary workers during holidays and other peak selling periods is likely to remain strong.

As with many occupations, sales are dramatically effected during periods of economic downturn. During such times sale volumes plummet and the resulting demand for salespersons declines. Sales of high-priced items such as cars, furniture, and various appliances tend to be most drastically effected. And in areas of high unemployment consumers tend to place many gratuitous purchases on hold causing the sale of many types of goods to decline. Nevertheless, because the turnover rate within this occupation is so high, employers are often able to account for such losses by failing to replace those persons who leave.

Somewhat surprisingly, the need for retail salespersons has not been replaced or even dented by the growing interest in internet sales. In fact, many retail stores commonly use internet sites to supplement their in-store-sales and to advertise their products. Retail salespersons are expected to remain an important part customer service assuring customers that they will receive the specialized services and satisfaction they expect. The impact of electronic commerce on employment of retail salespersons, will therefore be minimal.