What Is Retail Work? (With Skills, Jobs List, and Salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 19, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Retail work entails a broad range of job opportunities that involve interacting with customers. If you have a passion for sales or business, consider exploring jobs in the retail industry. Learning about the various types of retail jobs and the skills necessary to succeed can help you make a more informed career decision. In this article, we explain what retail work is, describe the skills needed for a retail job, outline the types of retail jobs, and provide a list of eight retail positions.

What is retail work?

Retail work is any job that involves the selling products or services to customers. It typically involves assessing customers' demands and providing the required offerings to the right consumers. Roles in retail can help you learn more about business operations, such as handling purchase processes, managing customer interactions, and making better sales decisions. Retail jobs can be in various stores, offices, or online businesses. Here are common types of retail stores:

  • convenience stores

  • grocery stores

  • department stores

  • outlets

  • furniture stores

  • warehouse stores

  • discount stores

  • showrooms

What skills do you need for a retail job?

Here are essential skills retail professionals develop and use to be successful:

Time management

Retail employees often have a designated list of tasks to complete. Common tasks include stocking a certain number of shelves, calling a specific number of customers, or reaching a sales target. These professionals learn how to prioritize and manage time to complete tasks successfully.

Related: Why Is Time Management Important? And How to Manage Your Time

Attention to detail

Retail employees focus on details when performing tasks at work. It can be to ensure a customer receives their exact order, keep enough stocks in the store, or make sure to display products effectively. Being detail-oriented can help when trying to attract customers to a product. Retail professionals show attention to detail to avoid mistakes and increase job performance.

Math

Professionals in the retail industry often use cash registers to complete business transactions. Math skills help retail employees handle customer payments effectively. It can also help track sales goals to determine the exact amount of money to earn to reach the intended sales target. Retail employees also use math and numeracy skills to understand a business's price structure and calculate discounts and taxes.

Communication

Communication skills describe the ability to exchange information with others. Retail professionals use this skill to communicate effectively with customers, colleagues, and suppliers to maintain positive work relationships. Retail employees that work in stores use verbal communication skills to explain the details and benefits of products to consumers. Retail professionals working for online businesses use excellent writing skills to message or e-mail prospective customers.

Related: 7 Ways to Communicate Effectively (Plus Benefits and Tips)

Customer service

One of the major duties of retail employees is to provide excellent customer service for all guests. Retail professionals use customer service skills to help customers before, during, and after product purchases. This usually involves making connections with customers, understanding their needs, and helping them find their desired product or service. Retail employees focus on providing customers with a positive and memorable experience to increase their loyalty and improve customer engagement and retention.

Related: Tips on How to Provide Good Customer Service (With Benefits)

Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills describe your ability to develop solutions to certain problems. Retail employees use this skill to address customers' challenges and complaints. Good problem-solving skills can help you quickly analyze a situation, propose possible solutions, and resolve the issue to increase customer satisfaction.

Technology

Retail employees need computer and technology skills to operate electronic registers, credit card processors, point of sale systems, and computer and mobile devices. Retailers use these devices to track inventory, process customers' credit card information, and store transaction records. Higher-level retail positions may require using management information systems to analyze customers' purchasing trends and price products more accurately.

Types of retail jobs

There are different hierarchies of retail jobs you can pursue based on your preferences, skills, or qualifications. Here are the three distinct categories of retail jobs:

Entry-level positions

Entry-level positions are ideal for new hires as they require little to no experience. These roles can help you learn more about company products, customer service strategies, and sales techniques. You can start your retail career with these roles and advance to higher-level positions as you gain more industry knowledge and experience. Common entry-level positions include:

  • customer service representative

  • cashier

  • store clerk

  • sales associate

Related: 15 Entry-Level Jobs That Pay Well

Intermediate roles

Intermediate roles usually require a certain level of experience in the retail industry with increased qualifications. Employers may require candidates to have a degree to apply for a position. Employees may also get these roles by advancing from an entry-level position. Examples of intermediate retail roles include:

  • retail marketing specialist

  • inventory control specialist

  • service supervisor

  • sales coordinator

Managerial roles

Managerial roles require extensive industry experience and specific education or training. While employers can hire candidates for a managerial role based on their skills, qualifications, and experience, retail managers often get these positions by earning promotions from other retail roles. Common managerial roles in retail include:

  • store manager

  • department manager

  • regional manager

  • product manager

8 retail positions

Here's a list of eight retail positions with their average annual salaries and primary duties that you can explore:

1. Sales associate

National average salary: $15.90 per hour

Primary duties: A sales associate promotes a company's product or services by providing excellent customer service. They assist customers in searching for products and respond to their questions. Sales associates help increase sales through customer engagement, suggestive selling, and product knowledge sharing. A sales associate can also operate cash registers, manage financial transactions, and report sales to managers.

2. Cashier

National average salary: $15.06 per hour

Primary duties: Cashiers scan items to ensure the prices and quantities are correct and receive payments. They manage transactions with customers using cash registers and collect payments in cash, cheque, or credit. Cashiers also issue receipts, refunds, tickets, or changes.

3. Customer service representative

National average salary: $17.51 per hour

Primary duties: A customer service representative interacts with customers on behalf of an organization. They support customers by providing helpful information, responding to complaints, and answering questions. They address customers' issues and resolve them in a timely and efficient manner. These professionals handle returns or complaints and can review or make changes to customer accounts. They can also refer customers seeking help to supervisors or managers.

4. Visual merchandiser

National average salary: $17.79 per hour

Primary duties: A visual merchandiser plans, designs, and creates attractive visual displays for retail outlets. They develop visual concepts by combining a brand's goals with the customers' desires. Visual merchandisers also create floor plans for retail spaces and determine the ideal locations for displays to increase sales. They use their visual design and space utilization skills to enhance the aesthetic appeal of counters, walkways, in-store displays, and window displays. These professionals also use various marketing strategies with a creative approach to visually promote a brand's image.

Related: What Is a Merchandiser? Description, Skills, and A Day in the Life

5. Retail buyer

National average salary: $58,426 per year

Primary duties: Retail buyers research, source, and purchase products for companies. They identify and meet with suitable suppliers or manufacturers and select the best one with the right price and quality for the company. A buyer manages stock levels and negotiates quantities and prices. They also ensure timely delivery of products. Retail buyers pitch ideas to upper management and help create reports and sales forecasts. They identify customer preferences and monitor consumer trends.

6. Store manager

National average salary: $20.96 per hour

Primary duties: A store manager oversees and directs the daily operations of a store to ensure effective business operations. They motivate sales teams, create business strategies, and develop promotional materials to enhance a retail business's profitability. Store managers monitor inventory levels and order the items needed. They also prepare detailed reports on customers' buying trends, manage store budgets, and update financial records. Store manager duties also include training and supervising other employees to ensure they follow the operational and organizational standards of the store and comply with health and safety regulations.

7. Inventory control specialist

National average salary: $19.42 per hour

Primary duties: An inventory control specialist monitors inventory and stock changes, manages deliveries, maintains inventory records, and orders the required items. These professionals typically work in warehouses to track companies' parts, products, and items. Inventory control specialists create reports showing the available inventory or issues with inventory counts for upper management. They can also establish and maintain a backup source for high-demand items.

8. Product manager

National average salary: $88,481 per year

Primary duties: Product managers gather, handle, and prioritize consumers' wants and needs. They monitor a market and its competition to create effective offerings representing users' needs. A product manager defines the vision for a product while prioritizing its features and capabilities.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salary figures may vary depending on a hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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