FAQ: What Is a Retail Job?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 29, 2021

For those with a passion for selling products, assisting customers and improving their business knowledge, a career in retail could be a great fit for you. A wide variety of retail jobs are available that could be well-suited for your preferred work environment and job responsibilities. There are several skills and abilities you must hold to excel at a career in retail. In this article, we review what a retail job is, the skills needed for one, the different types of retail roles available and how to get one.

What is a retail job?

A retail job is a role that consists of selling products to customers. Retail jobs are available in a wide variety of different stores, offices or businesses. Retail job opportunities can range from a retail sales associate in a small local store to a department sales manager in a name-brand retail business to an inventory specialist in an office. Roles in retail are a great way to learn more about a business' products and customers to advance in the role and make big-picture product and sales decisions.

What skills do you need for a retail job?

Many different retail jobs require you to hold skills to help you successfully assist customers and sell them products. The skills needed to excel in a retail job include:

  • Customer service: Almost all retail roles require you to have customer service skills to ensure you remain friendly, positive, patient and professional when assisting customers with purchases and questions about products.

  • Communication and interpersonal abilities: Retail professionals interact with several people throughout the workday, including customers, employees, supervisors or vendors. You should use these communication skills to speak clearly to others and listen to their needs, comments or concerns to effectively answer questions and solve problems.

  • Numeracy: Familiarity with basic numbers and mathematical equations can be helpful in a retail role to perform basic mathematical tasks like applying discounts, calculating price totals or counting inventory numbers.

  • Basic computer and technology skills: Basic computer skills can make it easier to operate computer and mobile devices, like credit card processors, electronic registers or point of sale systems. Higher-level roles may entail using management information systems to analyze customer and purchasing trends to more accurately price products.

  • Detail-oriented: Many tasks in retail roles require a strong attention to detail, such as providing customers with the correct change, stocking all store items and ensuring all product displays are in the right areas.

  • Business and sales knowledge: It can be easier to move up in retail roles if you grasp a strong understanding of how businesses and sales processes work. You can develop these skills by learning more about the company you work for, educating yourself on the products' features and studying the types of customers who purchase the products you sell.

  • Multitasking and time-management: Supervisors may assign you several tasks to complete at once throughout your day. Use time-management and multitasking abilities to ensure you're prioritizing the right tasks and are submitting them by their respective deadlines.

Related: Top 15 Skills for Sales Associates

Where can you find a retail job?

Retail jobs are available in any business that sells a product, good or service. The specific place to find a retail role depends on the work setting, industry and job duties you prefer. For instance, if you'd like to start out in an entry-level sales associate role, you can visit smaller stores nearby that are hiring. Smaller clothing or merchandise stores can help you develop your customer service skills and better understand how to effectively sell products.

If you'd like to work at larger corporations, you can search for retail positions online through popular job sites. You can search for the specific types of retail roles you're looking for and review available positions to find responsibilities that interest you. If you have certain companies in mind that you prefer to work for, you can typically find their available positions posted on their websites.

Related: 15 Retail Jobs That Pay Well

How do you get a retail job?

To get a retail job, you typically need to complete the application and interview process to determine if you're the best fit for the role and company. Follow these steps to successfully earn a retail job:

1. Visit local stores or research open roles online

To find a great retail role, you should first find open positions that appeal to your skills, experience and preferences. If you'd like to work in your area, you can visit local stores and meet with managers or owners to learn if they have any opportunities available. You can also visit job search sites or company pages to find roles online that fit your qualifications.

If you'd prefer to work in a specific industry, you can research open positions within that industry as well. Make a list of the roles that interest you. It can also be helpful to research companies you're interested in to learn if they offer perks, benefits or company cultures that appeal to you.

2. Review the job description

After selecting a handful of job descriptions, review each one carefully to learn more about the roles' specifications. Try to find keywords within the requirements, preferences and responsibilities sections. Keywords are phrases or words that mention a certain skill, quality or duty several times throughout the document.

Consider highlighting these keywords to ensure you include them in your resume. Most hiring managers look for matching keywords in resumes to ensure candidates have the specific skill set or capabilities needed to excel in the position.

Related: How to Use Keywords and Phrases in Your Resume and Cover Letter (With Tips and Examples)

3. List your retail skills and relevant experience in your resume

Try to match your resume to the job description by using similar keywords throughout all sections of your resume. You can mention your skills or experience in your summary or objective section and demonstrate how you'll apply them to the role. Your experience and work duties sections should detail the responsibilities you've completed that are relevant or similar to those mentioned in the job description. Include a separate skills section with your relevant retail abilities as well.

If you're applying for an entry-level role and have little to no retail experience, try to include skills, volunteer experience or association memberships related to the position. For instance, volunteer experience at hospitals or nursing homes can demonstrate your communication and interpersonal abilities.

4. Demonstrate these traits and abilities during your interview

During your interview, you should try to demonstrate how your background and skill set make you the best fit for the role. Try to tell stories and share examples of how you've used your capabilities to improve or bring value to the company. This helps hiring managers better picture how you can use your skills and experience to excel in their roles. Research the company online to learn more about their products and customers to effectively demonstrate your proposed strategy for selling their retail items.

5. Receive on-the-job training

Once you're hired, you can undergo hands-on training to learn how to perform effectively in the role to assist customers, sell products and improve the store's performance. Receiving on-the-job training helps you familiarize yourself with the company and its products and customers. You can continue undergoing additional training to improve your performance and eventually advance to higher-level positions within the company.

What are the types of retail jobs?

There are many different types of retail jobs that you can pursue based on your qualifications, skills and preferences. The different categories of retail jobs include:

Entry-level

These roles are ideal for new hires to pursue as they allow you to learn more about selling techniques, customer service abilities and the company's products. You can typically start out in these positions and advance into higher-level opportunities as you improve your performance, skill set and knowledge. Most of these positions involve working directly with customers and answering any questions they may have. Common entry-level roles include:

  • Sales associate: A sales associate can work in many different businesses and sell a wide-variety of products, like office supplies, clothing, merchandise items or jewelry. Their main duties include greeting customers, answering product questions and operating cash registers.

  • Cashier: In this role, cashiers primarily collect payments and purchases from customers. Other duties include recommending products, conducting price checks, scanning items and processing refunds.

  • Customer service representative: These employees assist customers with any complaints or questions about products or services. Their main duties are processing returns, communicating with customers in person, via email or over the phone and keeping records of customer interactions.

Related: Learn About Being a Retail Sales Associate

Intermediate and senior-level

After a few years of working in retail, employees can typically earn enough experience to advance to higher-level positions. Most of these roles can involve training entry-level employees, supervising staff members and making big picture decisions about the company's products. Common intermediate and senior-level roles include:

  • Product manager: These professionals oversee the development and enhancements of the company's products. Their main duties include evaluating customer experiences, determining product prices and establishing product feature requirements.

  • Department manager: A department manager oversees the productivity of an entire division of a company. Their primary responsibilities include recruiting, training and letting go of team members, managing the department's budget and evaluating employees' performances.

  • Store manager: In this role, store managers supervise the day-to-day operations of a store to ensure it runs smoothly. Their responsibilities are building business strategies, motivating sales teams and keeping the store compliant with health and safety regulations.

Buying and merchandising

Buying and merchandising roles within a company involve working off of the sales floor and in an office to effectively manage stock and inventory levels for a business. These professionals typically ensure the store has enough products that customers are interested in. Common buying and merchandising roles include:

  • Inventory control specialist: This role handles ordering, storing and distributing products, supplies and materials for a business. Their main duties are tracking inventory maintenance, creating inventory reports and forecasting upcoming inventory levels.

  • Visual merchandiser: A visual merchandiser creates appealing product displays to attract more customers. Other duties include strategizing display creations according to the target market, meeting visual design requirements with sketches and sourcing props or other materials for display designs.

  • Retail buyer: In this role, retail buyers select and purchase products to sell in a store. Their main duties include negotiating product prices with suppliers, processing purchase orders and analyzing market trends to purchase the most appealing products.

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