A retail sales associate is an individual who works in a retail store and is responsible for selling retail products to customers. A retail sales associate typically works in the front of the store and is responsible for helping walk in customers, as opposed to other types of sales which must sell to customers outside of the store. A retail sales associate must be quite knowledgeable of all products that are being sold, and should be able to help a customer get the products they are looking for as well as up-sell the customer into additional products.
Many retail sales jobs require or strongly prefer candidates who have earned a degree in business of a sales related field, especially for extremely expensive products. Check out the programs below which offer free information:
Beyond sales, retail sales associates are often given other responsibilities to help maintain the operations of the store. This could include managing a cash register, keeping the store front clean and organized, stocking the store front full of new merchandise, or completing a wide variety of other tasks that are required to keep the store running appropriately. Retail sales associates typically work up to 40 hours per week, and frequently are required to work nights and weekends when foot traffic inside the store is at its highest level.
Training and Education Requirements
Training and education required to be a retail sales associate ranges from store to store, but is typically fairly minimal. Many retail sales positions are filled by part time associates that are younger than 18 years of age and are still in high school. While many retail sales associates have high school education or less, there are others that have associates and bachelors degrees in fashion, merchandising, or sales. In many situations, higher end stores, which pay more money and offer better benefits will want their associates and their managers to have college degrees in one of those fields.
Most training that retail sales associates receive is on the job training. After being hired, a retailer will spend a few weeks acclimating a new associate to the processes and procedures of a company. This will include training and educating the associate on all of the products that the company sells. They will also learn how to effectively service a customer, as well as increase sales volume to customers that come into the store.
Salary and Wages
Salary and wages for retail sales professionals ranges significantly from one person to the next. Retail sales associates often work part time, and those part time employees earn salaries ranging from minimum wage up to $15 per hour. Full time retail sales associates have wide salary ranges. On the bottom end, retail sales associates will earn around $20,000 per year, but on the high end a retail sales associate, which earn commission as opposed to a base hourly wage, could expect to earn over $100,000 per year. In many cases, a retail sales associate may also qualify for corporate benefits including health insurance, paid time off, and retirement. The highest earning retail sales associates tend to work for high end fashion retailers or high end department stores. At these department stores, many sales associates work as personal shoppers and buyers for wealthy individuals. They typically are paid commissions on sales ranging from 5% to 10% of the sales price.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
In most situations, retail sales associates are not required to obtain any particular certification. However, there are some certifications that may improve their skills and bolster their resumes. The most popular and frequent certification available to retail sales associates is a certification in sales, which is sponsored by the National Retail Federation. The certification in sales, which can be acquired for less than $100, will require an associate to successfully pass a 75 question exam which tests an associates knowledge of how to sell, how to meet the needs of a customer, and how to create and implement a sales strategy.
Beyond the nation retail sales certification, many retailers will require their sales associates to obtain additional specialized sales certificates. These certificates are obtained after an associate successfully completes a employer sponsored training program. Other retailers may give additional levels of certification after an employee successfully meets certain sales goals or gives a certain amount of years of service.
Like many other professional industries, retail sales associates have the ability to join various professional organizations. For retail sales associates, the most popular organization is the National Retail Foundation (NRF). The NRF brings together thousands of retail associates across the country. Those who join the NRF are given access to networking opportunities, training and certification programs, and a large job board and career center. The NRF also works with many different colleges and universities to recruit employees for open positions.
Other professional organizations available to those in the retail industry include the Retail Benchmarking Association, the Professional Retail Industry Trade Association, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association. While retail sales associates may join these organizations, these organizations are designed for store managers and executives in the retail industry.