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Work in retail sales can be rewarding, with potential advancement to store manager, but the hours aren’t the usual nine-to-five of the business world. If you enjoy working with people and sharing your product knowledge, make sure to emphasize those skills in your cover letter.
Job Responsibilities & Duties
A sales associate is often responsible for assisting the customer from greeting them when they enter the store to processing payment for the sale. In large stores, sales associates should have a thorough knowledge of the layout and where products are located, and in specific sales, such as an electronics store, they need product knowledge. Additional responsibilities include stocking the shelves, taking inventory and pricing items.
Retail store managers or assistant managers often work their way up from the sales floor. Responsibilities include supervision of staff, merchandising and budgeting. They hire, fire and train employees with the end goal of assembling the best possible sales team and are responsible for meeting sales goals and the smooth operation of the store.
Education & Training
A high school diploma or GED is usually the minimum educational requirement for a sales associate. Most retail sales workers are provided with training related to customer service, store policy and how to operate the cash register.
A bachelor’s degree in a business-related field is often required for a store manager position, but not always. Some organizations have their own managerial training programs and others promote from within.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for May 2012:
Retail salespersons made a median hourly wage of $10.15. The lowest 10 percent made less than $8.09. The top 10 percent earned more than $18.73. Depending on the store or department, some sales associates also earn a commission on sales.
Parts salespersons (auto parts) had a higher median hourly wage of $14.21 for the same time period, with the lowest 10 percent making less than $8.96 and the top 10 percent making more than $23.93.
First-line supervisors, including store managers, earned an average annual salary of $40,910.
Even if you don’t have actual retail experience, you probably already have experience interacting with and assisting others that you can mention. If you have specific product knowledge, include that too.