Retail Associate Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Retail Associate, or Sales Associate, is responsible for assisting customers as they shop within a store. Their duties include greeting customers, answering questions related to the merchandise and store policies and locating items for customers.


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Retail Associate duties and responsibilities

Typically, the main duties of a Retail Associate are helping customers find products in a retail store, answering questions and helping them decide which products to buy. Some of their other daily responsibilities include:

  • Welcoming and engaging with customers as they enter the store
  • Assessing customers’ needs and suggesting solutions to their problems
  • Working with cash registers and processing payments
  • Setting and attaining sales goals 
  • Giving customers advice about sales and promotions
  • Using upselling techniques to increase store sales
  • Recommending the best products to customers
  • Cleaning and restocking the store throughout the day, before opening and after closing


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What does a Retail Associate do? 

Retail Associates are typically employed in brick-and-mortar stores, where they perform a number of duties related to customer service and sales. Their primary role is to help customers find the merchandise they want or need and complete the transaction. Besides assisting customers, most Retail Associates also perform related duties like stocking and restocking shelves, cleaning and tidying the store, writing or delivering reports to managers and creating product displays to attract customers. Some Retail Associates work on their own, while others work as part of a team of Retail Associates and other related positions.


Retail Associate skills and qualifications 

Retail Associates need to possess a strong set of skills in order to perform their duties effectively, including:

  • Comprehensive understanding of the store products
  • Advanced customer service skills
  • Basic math skills
  • The ability to use a cash register
  • Strong level of professionalism at work
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Patience when dealing with difficult customers
  • Problem-solving and conflict resolution skills


Retail Associate salary expectations

Retail Associates make an average salary of $12.62 per hour. This pay rate may vary depending on the type of organization and the candidate’s education and level of experience.


Retail Associate education and training requirements 

Most entry-level Retail Associates don’t need a college degree. Employers typically hire candidates who have a high school diploma or a GED, though it is important for the applicants to have ample knowledge about the products in the retail store so that they can answer the customers’ questions. Training may be necessary depending on the type of merchandise sold in the store, though most training is done on the job. However, for stores that sell more technical products, like computers and electronics, employers may prefer candidates who have already been trained to understand how those devices work.


Retail Associate experience requirements

Depending on the merchandise sold in the store, some jobs may require Retail Associates to have more experience in the industry. For instance, Retail Associates working for a car dealership may need previous sales experience to do well in the position. Some employers may also look for candidates who have prior experience in similar positions, such as Cashier and Customer Service Representative. These candidates likely have experience using point-of-sale systems and handling customers, which is a plus.


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Frequently asked questions about Retail Associates


What makes a good Retail Associate?

Retail Associates perform important tasks for their employer. Often, they must serve as customer service liaisons and as salespeople. Excellent Retail Associates tend to share a set of attributes and qualities like these: 

  • Organization: Since Retail Associates ensure the store in which they work is neat and orderly while still assisting customers. Organization, both physical and mental, is vital. 
  • Empathy: Good Retail Associates are empathetic to their customers. Occasionally, customers may have strong feelings that require an empathetic response from the Retail Associate to diffuse and rectify the situation. 
  • Communication: One element of working as a Retail Associate is sales proficiency. Communication is vital in guiding a customer towards a sale. 
  • Literacy: Literacy in both language and numbers is key for a good Retail Associate. This position must decipher written instructions from vendors and managers and ensure proper accounting for sales and returns.


What is the difference between a Retail Associate and a Retail Manager?

Some of the job duties of a Retail Associate and a Retail Manager may overlap depending on the needs of the store, but overall, these positions have different responsibilities. Generally speaking, Retail Associates perform tasks like stocking shelves, ensuring the store is neat and clean and helping customers make purchases. 

Retail Managers, by contrast, oversee and manage the work of the Retail Associates. Often, they set work schedules, provide training and delegate tasks to the store’s Retail Associates. During particularly busy periods or if the store is understaffed, Retail Managers may perform the duties of a Retail Associate in addition to the supervisory tasks. 


What are the daily duties of a Retail Associate?

The daily duties of a Retail Associate are usually relatively consistent. In most cases, Retail Associates arrive shortly before the store opens to the public and take some time to ensure it’s organized and clean prior to opening. As customers come in, Retail Associates help them find the merchandise they want and assist them at the cash register. They restock shelves and clean the store as needed. After the store closes, Retail Associates often clean and restock before going home. 


Do Retail Associates have different job duties in different industries?

Some Retail Associates may have differing job duties depending on the specific industry in which they work. For example, Retail Associates in a fine jewelry store or electronics store may have to receive specific training on how to best protect their high-value merchandise and ensure it’s stored safely. Retail Associates at a grocery store or other food-based location may have additional duties related to ensuring the food on display is appropriately chilled or wrapped for public health and safety. 

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