Retail Sales Associate

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To become a retail sales associate, you generally do not need formal education or even related work experience. Most employers can provide you with on-the-job training, in order to allow you to competently sell their products.
Some employers however, may require that you have related post-secondary education, and/or related work experience.
Although there is a relatively low barrier to entry for this career, not everyone is cut out to work as a retail sales associate. If you want to become a retail sales associate, you should determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits.
Does the following describe you?
• You are able to take direction from supervisory and management staff
• You are able to remain composed and calm when dealing with upset customers 
• You are punctual, presentable, and well-mannered
• You enjoy working with people, including the general public
• You enjoy having clear rules and methods for your work
• You have an interest and knowledge in the specific types of products you are selling
• You are interested in a career path that offers plenty of room for growth


Who is a Retail Sales Associate?

A retail sales associate is an employee of a retail store who facilitates the sales of that store’s goods to the general public by providing information to customers regarding the store’s products. Retail sales associates may sell retail merchandise (such as clothing, furniture and automobiles) or they may sell replacement parts and equipment (such as car parts).
Retail sales associates are responsible for assisting customers with the selection and purchase of merchandise. This includes helping customers find the products they want within a store, answering any questions they have about those products, and processing customers’ payments when they are ready to make a purchase.
Depending on the size and type of their employer, as well as the specific responsibilities of their job, retail sales associates may be required to help the store grow its customer base by soliciting new business, when they are not busy serving customers.
Retail sales associates may work in a wide range of retail stores, selling a wide range of products. They may work general department stores, or they may work in stores that specialize in certain types of goods. Either way, they may be responsible for selling the following types of goods:
• Electronics, software and computer hardware
• Clothing, jewelry and apparel
• Books and magazines
• Food and groceries
• Nutritional supplements
• Furniture and home décor
• Pet supplies
• Musical instruments 
• Sporting goods
• Recreational and hobby-based products
• Automobile and automobile parts
• Mechanical equipment
• Many other types of goods


Education Needed to Become a Retail Sales Associate

There are typically no formal education requirements for retail sales associate jobs. In some cases however, employers may prefer to hire candidates with formal education in an area related to the type of goods sold by the retail store.
A store that specializes in nutritional supplements for example, may prefer to hire candidates for retail sales jobs that have (or are working towards) a post-secondary education in nutrition, or a related field.
Candidates that have a related post-secondary education may be preferable over those who do not, because they have a demonstrated knowledge base related to the types of products being sold in the store. This will enable them to competently answer questions posed by the store’s customers, regarding the products they are purchasing.
Retail sales associates who sell expensive or complex merchandise may require special knowledge or skills, which may be acquired as the result of formal education. For example, those who sell computer systems need a basic knowledge of electronics and computer software and hardware to be able to answer customer questions.


Characteristics Needed to Work as a Retail Sales Associate

Taking enjoyment from your job is the best way to ensure you succeed at it. In order to enjoy performing the duties of a retail sales associate, you need to possess some key personality traits, including:
• You enjoy working with people and speaking to the general public
• You enjoy having clear rules and organized methods for your work
• You enjoy the idea of a career that offers room for advancement into different operational areas
• You enjoy work that allows you to be on your feet, sit down, and work with merchandise
• You are able to take direction from supervisory and management staff
• You are able to remain calm and courteous when dealing with difficult customer 


Who Creates Jobs for Retail Sales Associates?

Retail sales associates are hired by virtually any type of company, small or large, that sell general goods, or specific kinds of products (such as automobiles or nutritional supplements). According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industries that employed the most retail sales workers in 2012 were as follows:
• Clothing and clothing accessories stores - 21%
• General merchandise stores -19%
• Motor vehicle and parts dealers - 11%
• Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers - 9%
• Sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores - 7%
Many retail sales associate jobs are part-time, although there are also plenty of jobs that are full-time.  


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