Retail Sales Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers' payments.

Work Environment: Most retail sales workers work in clean, well-lit stores. Many sales workers work evenings and weekends. Some retail salespersons work part time.

How to Become One: Typically, there are no formal education requirements for retail sales workers. Most receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months.

Salary: The median hourly wage for parts salespersons is $16.47. The median hourly wage for retail salespersons is $14.00.

Job Outlook: Overall employment of retail sales workers is projected to show little or no change over the next ten years.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of retail sales workers with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a retail sales worker with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Retail Associate Jobs

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  • Retail Associate (Image/Stocker)-PT - Jackson Food Stores - Sparks, NV

    A Retail Associate (Image/Stocker) is a key member of the team who helps maintain our reputation of offering clean and well-presented stores. In this role, you will take pride in the way the store ...

  • OluKai Part Time Retail Associate- Koloa - OluKai-Kaenon-melin-Roark - Koloa, HI

    As the OluKai Part Time Retail Associate , or Huaka'i which means to lead, your kuleana (responsibility) is to welcome customers into the store and deliver a remarkable brand experience. We are ...

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What Retail Sales Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers' payments. There are two types of retail sales workers: retail salespersons, who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles; and parts salespersons, who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts.

Duties of Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers typically do the following:

  • Greet customers and offer them assistance
  • Recommend merchandise based on customers' wants and needs
  • Explain the use and benefit of merchandise to customers
  • Answer customers' questions
  • Show how merchandise works, if applicable
  • Add up customers' total purchases and accept payment
  • Inform customers about current sales, promotions, and policies about payments and exchanges

The following are examples of types of retail sales workers:

Retail salespersons work in stores where they sell goods, such as books, cars, clothing, cosmetics, electronics, furniture, lumber, plants, shoes, and many other types of merchandise.

In addition to helping customers find and select items to buy, many retail salespersons process the payment for the sale, which typically involves operating cash registers.

After taking payment for the purchases, retail salespersons may bag or package the purchases.

Depending on the hours they work, retail salespersons may have to open or close cash registers. This includes counting the money in the register and separating charge slips, coupons, and exchange vouchers. They may also make deposits at a cash office.

For information about other workers who receive and disburse money, see the profile on cashiers.

In addition, retail salespersons may help stock shelves or racks, arrange for mailing or delivery of purchases, mark price tags, take inventory, and prepare displays.

For some retail sales jobs, particularly those involving expensive and complex items, retail sales workers need special knowledge or skills. For example, those who sell cars must be able to explain the features of various models, manufacturers' specifications, different types of options on the car, financing available, and the details of associated warranties.

In addition, retail sales workers must recognize security risks and thefts and understand their organization's procedures for handling thefts, which may include notifying security guards or calling police.

Parts salespersons sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts. Most work in either automotive parts stores or automobile dealerships. They take customers' orders, inform customers of part availability and price, and take inventory.

Work Environment for Retail Sales Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Parts salespersons hold about 270,500 jobs. The largest employers of parts salespersons are as follows:

Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores 45%
Automobile dealers 21%
Wholesale trade 20%
Other motor vehicle dealers 4%
Repair and maintenance 4%

Retail salespersons hold about 3.9 million jobs. The largest employers of retail salespersons are as follows:

Clothing and clothing accessories stores 17%
Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers 13%
Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores 7%
Automobile dealers 6%
Electronics and appliance stores 3%

Most retail sales work is performed in clean, well-lit stores. Retail sales workers spend most of their time interacting with customers, answering questions, and assisting them with purchases.

Workers often stand for long periods and may need permission from a supervisor to leave the sales floor. If they sell items such as cars, plants, or lumberyard materials, they may work outdoors.

Retail Sales Worker Schedules

Many sales workers work evenings and weekends, particularly during holidays and other peak sales periods. Because the end-of-year holiday season is often the busiest time for retail stores, many employers limit retail sales workers' use of vacation time between November and the beginning of January.

Some retail salespersons work part time.

How to Become a Retail Sales Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Retail Sales Workers near you!

Typically, there are no formal education requirements for retail sales workers. Most receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months.

Education for Retail Sales Workers

Although retail or parts sales positions usually have no formal education requirements, some employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent, especially employers who sell technical products or "big-ticket" items, such as electronics or cars.

Retail Sales Worker Training

Most retail sales workers receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months. In small stores, an experienced employee often trains newly hired workers. In large stores, training programs are more formal and usually conducted over several days.

During training sessions, topics often include customer service, security, the store's policies and procedures, and how to operate the cash register.

Depending on the type of product they are selling, employees may be given additional specialized training. For example, salespersons working in cosmetics get instruction on the types of products the store offers and for whom the cosmetics would be most beneficial. Likewise, those who sell auto parts may be instructed on the technical functions of various parts, in addition to sales technique.

Because providing exceptional service to customers is a priority for many employers, employees often get periodic training to update and refine their skills.

Advancement for Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers typically have opportunities to advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Some employers want candidates for managerial positions to have a college degree.

As sales workers gain experience and seniority, they often move into positions that have greater responsibility and may be given their choice of departments in which to work. This opportunity often means moving to positions with higher potential earnings and commissions. The highest earnings potential usually involves selling "big-ticket" items, such as cars, jewelry, furniture, and electronics. These positions often require workers with extensive knowledge of the product and excellent sales skills.

Important Qualities for Retail Sales Workers

Customer-service skills. Retail sales workers must be responsive to the wants and needs of customers. They should explain the product options available to customers and make appropriate recommendations.

Interpersonal skills. A friendly and outgoing personality is important for these workers because the job requires almost constant interaction with people.

Math skills. Retail sales workers must have the ability to calculate price totals, discounts, and change owed to customers.

Persistence. A large number of attempted sales may not be successful, so sales workers should not be discouraged easily. They must start each new sales attempt with a positive attitude.

Selling skills. Retail sales workers must be persuasive when interacting with customers. They must clearly and effectively explain the benefits of the merchandise.

Retail Sales Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median hourly wage for parts salespersons is $16.47. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.03, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.97.

The median hourly wage for retail salespersons is $14.00. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.50, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.85.

The median hourly wages for parts salespersons in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Wholesale trade $20.39
Repair and maintenance $18.65
Automobile dealers $18.05
Other motor vehicle dealers $17.48
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores $14.02

The median hourly wages for retail salespersons in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Automobile dealers $18.25
Electronics and appliance stores $14.45
Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers $14.27
Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores $13.74
Clothing and clothing accessories stores $13.46

Compensation systems vary by type of establishment and merchandise sold. Retail sales workers get hourly wages, commissions, or a combination of the two. Under a commission system, they get a percentage of the sales they make. This system offers sales workers the opportunity to increase their earnings considerably, but they may find that their earnings depend strongly on their ability to sell their product and on the ups and downs of the economy. Commissions are most common for retail sales workers selling "big-ticket" items, such as cars or electronics.

Many retail sales workers work evenings and weekends, particularly during holidays and other peak sales periods. Because the end-of-year holiday season is often the busiest time for retail stores, many employers limit sales workers' use of vacation time between November and the beginning of January.

Some retail salespersons work part time.

Job Outlook for Retail Sales Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of retail sales workers is projected to show little or no change over the next ten years.

Despite limited employment growth, about 594,400 openings for retail sales workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

See all retail jobs.

Employment of Retail Sales Workers

The increase in online sales is expected to continue over the projections decade, limiting growth in the number of physical retail stores and reducing demand for retail sales workers. Projected employment of retail sales workers varies by occupation.

Competition from e-commerce is expected to reduce demand for retail salespersons. However, brick-and-mortar retail stores may increase their emphasis on customer service as a way to compete with online sellers. And cost pressures may lead retailers to hire workers who can perform a broad range of tasks, such as helping customers find items, operating a cash register, and restocking shelves. Because retail salespersons provide this versatile range of services, and because many consumers are still expected to visit physical stores, retail salespersons should continue to be needed to help customers and to complete sales.

Demand for car parts and parts salespersons is expected to continue as growing numbers of older cars require repairs. Moreover, demand for ride-hailing services has shifted some public transportation use back to automobiles services, further adding to the need for car parts in upkeep and maintenance, which should support demand for parts salespersons.

Employment projections data for Retail Sales Workers, 2021-31
Occupational Title Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31
Percent Numeric
Retail sales workers 4,125,700 4,127,600 0 1,900
  Parts salespersons 270,500 280,100 4 9,700
  Retail salespersons 3,855,200 3,847,500 0 -7,800


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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