Retail Salesperson

Retail salespersons are responsible for describing the details of merchandise to customers in order to persuade them into making a purchase. They quickly and politely determine the needs and desires of a customer, and then use their knowledge of the product to explain how the product may meet these needs and desires. They may write sales checks, take cash and credit card payments, give change and receipts, take care of returns and exchanges, and keep work areas neat and clean. They operate computer terminals that register sales, adjust inventory figures, and do simple calculations. These computers save time and allow them to focus more on the needs of the customer. They may also help with simpler tasks, such as ordering merchandise, stocking shelves or racks, marking prices, taking inventory, or preparing displays.

Job Skills

Retail salespersons need to have good computer skills and, often, the ability to bend, lift, and stretch in order to arrange, store, or display products. They must have stamina, strength, and flexibility. Salespersons may often have to put up with impatient and rude customers, and those salespersons who travel must often be willing to deal with inclement weather. In order to close a sale or handle a complaint, they need to have extremely high levels of tact and patience.


Retail salespersons' earnings have an extremely high range of variance. They may earn anywhere from minimum wage to $50,000 per year, or even more. While some are paid only a fixed salary, most earn a salary plus some type of commission on each sale they make. Commissions vary with the type of merchandise or property being sold: jewelry salespersons earn higher commissions than salespersons in discount department stores.

Training and Education

Candidates for retail salesperson positions who have a high school education, good communication skills, an outgoing personality, and a clean and neat appearance usually qualify for most jobs. Most positions do not require any specific training. However, some positions require detailed knowledge of the product, and others require knowledge of the history of an item, such as with furniture, antiques, or artwork. Some positions require candidates to have specific skills, such as carpentry or interior design. College graduates can apply for sales positions through their campus placement office, since many retail chains recruit employees on campuses. Most employers provide some sort of on-the-job training, usually covering sales techniques, store policies, sales recording, and store operations. A college education is usually vital for advancement to assistant manager, department manager, or regional sales manager positions. Advancement opportunity in small stores is often limited because often the owner completes most of the managerial work. Visit this page about retail management courses for more information on advancing your career and becoming a retail store manager.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of sales worker supervisors is expected to grow about as fast as the average. This will be due to the high rate of turnover in the occupation, which creates many job openings. Opportunity will be best for those with an associate's or bachelor's degree. However, the occupation will continue to offer great opportunity to high school graduates who lack work experience.