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Retail Industry Employment


Any establishment that sells a product to a consumer is considered a retail operation. There are a vast number of retail stores in the United States, but the most common stores are clothing stores, book stores, general merchandise, drug stores, grocery stores, auto parts stores, and department stores, among others.

A retail store typically buys its goods from wholesalers or manufacturers, and then sells them to consumers after increasing the price to make a profit. Most workers in retail stores are sales clerks or cashiers, and their job is to help the customer find the item(s) he/she is looking for, and then conduct the sales transaction.

Other common jobs in the retail industry are retail sales supervisors and managers.

Depending on the type of store, these management employees normally ensure that the cashiers or sales associates are providing good customer service and meeting sales goals.

Large department stores also hire stock personnel, whose job is to keep the store’s shelves stocked with the proper items. They may also add prices to these items, although the use of bar codes has decreased the need for this task in most stores.

Additionally there are buyers, who look at consumers’ buying patterns in the store and make sure the store doesn’t run out of popular items. It’s important to note that many jobs in this industry are part-time positions, and they can be seasonally driven, as well.

Here is a list of some of the most common retail jobs you’ll find today:

  • Cashier
  • Customer service manager
  • Customer service representative
  • Department manager
  • District manager
  • Floor supervisor
  • Guest services supervisor
  • Personal shoppers/assistants
  • Retail sales manager
  • Sales associate
  • Sales manager
  • Shift supervisor
  • Stock associate
  • Store manager
  • Stock supervisor
  • Supervisor

Here, you’ll get basic information about obtaining jobs at a retail store. They’ll give you a good idea of the future outlook for these jobs, the salaries you can expect, and what kind of education and training you need to be hired.

Employment Outlook

The demand for retail workers depends on store sales. Store sales are very dependent on the economy. During slow economic times, like the last few years we’ve experienced, retail sales are lower than expected, and stores cut back on employees. When sales are brisk, of course, more employees are needed. It’s also important to note that many stores earn more than 50 percent of their sales during the Christmas season, and so hire many additional employees to accommodate this busy season. These seasonal workers usually work from November through the first few weeks of January. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of retail jobs will increase by 11 percent by the year 2018.

Unfortunately, the number of retail supervisor and manager jobs is not expected to enjoy that same rate of growth. The Bureau says the number of these jobs will only increase by 5% by 2018.

Salary Outlook

The average hourly wage of retail workers depends on the type of store they work in, and their job level.

Sales clerks at jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores earn the highest average hourly wage, at approximately $14.00, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest paid sales clerks are those who work for clothing and general merchandise stores. These employees earn an average hourly wage of about $10.00 per hour.

Retail supervisors and managers are able to earn higher average salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these employees earn an average annual salary of approximately $35,000.

Education and Training Requirements

Retail sales employees are not required to have or earn a college degree. However, most are expected to have a high school diploma or GED. Some stores may prefer to hire candidates who have previous retail experience. 

Most retail stores require their supervisors and managers to possess a college degree in business or a related field. They also look for managers who have had some years of experience in the retail industry. Some stores hire supervisor trainees, who remain in that position for a year or longer, until they have fulfilled the requirements to become a supervisor.

Once hired, stores provide their employees with on-the-job training, especially those who will be handling cash.

Like other industries, the retail industry is people-intensive. You will spend almost all of your time working with customers. If you don’t like interacting with a variety of people on a daily basis, you will not enjoy working in retail. If you’re a people person and looking for a part-time job to earn some extra cash, retail sales may be the place for you.

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