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Retail Salesperson: Job Description & Career Info

There are no formal education requirements for a career in retail sales, although a high school diploma or GED certificate can be helpful. Read on to learn about useful skill sets, employment prospects and earnings outlook for retail salespersons.

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Career Definition for Retail Salespersons

Retail salespersons are responsible for interesting customers in making purchases and are typically employed at clothing, department and general merchandise stores; many salespeople also work at building material and supplies dealers and auto dealerships. Some workers also sell merchandise by traveling door-to-door. Their duties include helping customers locate items, highlighting product features, and explaining warranty terms.

Sales associates who work in retail stores may also be responsible for working the cash register and handling return or exchange requests. Those employed by auto dealerships explain financing options and process the accompanying paperwork. Retail salespersons are often evaluated by the number of sales they make in a given period of time.

Education No formal education required
Job Duties Interest customers in making purchases, assist in locating items
Median Salary (2015)* $21,780
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A formal education is not always required to obtain a job in retail sales; however, auto or electronics dealers may show a preference for high school graduates. Sales associates who wish to advance to managerial positions might need a bachelor's degree. College-level courses in sales, marketing, psychology, and visual merchandising can be helpful.

Skills Required

Successful retail salespersons are active listeners with excellent verbal communication skills and a friendly and sincere demeanor. They are familiar with the merchandise they sell, adept at anticipating customers' needs, and quick in making appropriate recommendations. The ability to maintain a moderate level of energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to help are also important.

Employment and Salary Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities in retail sales are expected to grow by a fast-as-average rate of 7% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual wage for retail salespersons working in all industries was $21,780 in May of 2015 (www.bls.gov). While those working in clothing, department and general merchandise stores had lower median wages in May 2015 ($19,770, $19,860 and $20,700, respectively), building material and supply salespeople earned $25,290 and auto dealership salespeople earned $37,440, according to BLS figures.

Alternative Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Cashiers

Cashiers who work for gas stations, grocery stores, or retail establishments use electronic scanners and cash registers to process purchases, make change, or authenticate checks. On-the-job training is usually required; additional requirements may include an understanding of basic math principles and a high school diploma. The BLS reports that the number job openings for cashiers will increase by just 2%, or slower than average, from 2014 through 2024. As of May 2015, cashiers earned median wages of $19,310 a year (www.bls.gov).

Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives work for banks, call centers, credit card companies, and stores, and their responsibilities can include answering consumers' questions and resolving purchasing problems. In addition to a high school diploma, entry-level requirements include on-the-job training. According to the BLS, employment prospects for customer service representatives will grow by a faster-than-average rate of 10% from 2014 to 2024. Individuals who were employed in this position as of May 2015 were paid a median annual wage of $31,720 (www.bls.gov).


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