What Retail Sales Workers Do
Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments.
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 a Retail Sales Worker
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.
The median hourly wage for parts salespersons was $15.24 in May 2019.
The median hourly wage for retail salespersons was $12.14 in May 2019.
Overall employment of retail sales workers is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029. Competition from online sales will lead to employment declines in brick-and-mortar retail stores.
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.
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.
Parts salespersons held about 261,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of parts salespersons were as follows:
|Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores||43%|
|Other motor vehicle dealers||4|
|Repair and maintenance||4|
Retail salespersons held about 4.4 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of retail salespersons were as follows:
|Clothing and clothing accessories stores||20%|
|Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers||11|
|Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores||7|
|Electronics and appliance stores||4|
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.
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.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of retail sales workers.
For more information about the retail industry, visit
For more information about training for a career in automobile sales, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Retail Sales Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/retail-sales-workers.htm (visited ).