Bureau of Labor Statistics

Retail Sales Workers

retail sales workers image
Retail sales workers help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments.
Quick Facts: Retail Sales Workers
2020 Median Pay $27,320 per year
$13.13 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2019 4,633,100
Job Outlook, 2019-29 0% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2019-29 -19,700

Summary

What Retail Sales Workers Do

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments.

Work Environment

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.

Pay

The median hourly wage for parts salespersons was $15.61 in May 2020.

The median hourly wage for retail salespersons was $13.02 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

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.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for retail sales workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of retail sales workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about retail sales workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Retail Sales Workers Do

Retail sales workers
Retail sales workers maintain knowledge of current sales and promotions.

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.

Duties

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.

Work Environment

Retail sales workers
Retail sales workers often stand for long periods and may need supervisory approval to leave the sales floor.

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%
Automobile dealers 22
Wholesale trade 20
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
Automobile dealers 6
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.

Work Schedules

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.

How to Become a Retail Sales Worker

Retail sales workers
A friendly and outgoing personality is important for these workers, as the job requires almost constant interaction with people.

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.

Education

Although retail or parts sales positions usually have no formal education requirements, some employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent, especially employers who sell technical products or “big-ticket” items, such as electronics or cars.

Training

Most retail sales workers receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months. In small stores, an experienced employee often trains newly hired workers. In large stores, training programs are more formal and usually conducted over several days.

During training sessions, topics often include customer service, security, the store’s policies and procedures, and how to operate the cash register.

Depending on the type of product they are selling, employees may be given additional specialized training. For example, salespersons working in cosmetics get instruction on the types of products the store offers and for whom the cosmetics would be most beneficial. Likewise, those who sell auto parts may be instructed on the technical functions of various parts, in addition to sales technique.

Because providing exceptional service to customers is a priority for many employers, employees often get periodic training to update and refine their skills.

Advancement

Retail sales workers typically have opportunities to advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Some employers want candidates for managerial positions to have a college degree.

As sales workers gain experience and seniority, they often move into positions that have greater responsibility and may be given their choice of departments in which to work. This opportunity often means moving to positions with higher potential earnings and commissions. The highest earnings potential usually involves selling “big-ticket” items, such as cars, jewelry, furniture, and electronics. These positions often require workers with extensive knowledge of the product and excellent sales skills.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Retail sales workers must be responsive to the wants and needs of customers. They should explain the product options available to customers and make appropriate recommendations.

Interpersonal skills. A friendly and outgoing personality is important for these workers because the job requires almost constant interaction with people.

Math skills. Retail sales workers must have the ability to calculate price totals, discounts, and change owed to customers.

Persistence. A large number of attempted sales may not be successful, so sales workers should not be discouraged easily. They must start each new sales attempt with a positive attitude.

Selling skills. Retail sales workers must be persuasive when interacting with customers. They must clearly and effectively explain the benefits of the merchandise.

Pay

Retail Sales Workers

Median hourly wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$20.17

Parts salespersons

$15.61

Sales and related occupations

$15.15

Retail sales workers

$13.13

Retail salespersons

$13.02

 

The median hourly wage for parts salespersons was $15.61 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.18, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.70.

The median hourly wage for retail salespersons was $13.02 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.49, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.43.

In May 2020, the median hourly wages for parts salespersons in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale trade $19.31
Repair and maintenance 19.21
Automobile dealers 17.58
Other motor vehicle dealers 15.82
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores 13.63

In May 2020, the median hourly wages for retail salespersons in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Automobile dealers $16.89
Electronics and appliance stores 14.16
Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers 14.07
Clothing and clothing accessories stores 12.43
Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores 12.33

Compensation systems vary by type of establishment and merchandise sold. Retail sales workers get hourly wages, commissions, or a combination of the two. Under a commission system, they get a percentage of the sales they make. This system offers sales workers the opportunity to increase their earnings considerably, but they may find that their earnings depend strongly on their ability to sell their product and on the ups and downs of the economy. Commissions are most common for retail sales workers selling “big-ticket” items, such as cars or electronics.

Many retail 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 sales workers’ use of vacation time between November and the beginning of January.

Some retail salespersons work part time.

Job Outlook

Retail Sales Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Parts salespersons

2%

Retail sales workers

0%

Retail salespersons

-1%

Sales and related occupations

-2%

 

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.

The increase in online sales is expected to continue over the next decade, limiting growth in the number of physical retail stores and reducing demand for retail sales workers. Online sales also are projected to affect specific segments of the retail industry to varying extents. For example, book and media stores are likely to see the most severe declines due to online competition. However, other retail segments, such as automobile dealers, have experienced much less of an impact.

Although online sales are expected to continue to increase, brick-and-mortar retail stores are also expected to increase their emphasis on customer service as a way to compete with online sellers. In addition, cost pressure may drive retailers to ask their in-store staff to do more. This means they may want workers who can perform a broad range of job duties that include helping customers find items, operating a cash register, and restocking shelves. Because retail sales workers provide this versatile range of services, they will still be needed in retail stores. In general, although consumers are increasing their online retail shopping, they will continue to do most of their retail shopping in stores. Retail salespersons will be needed in stores to help customers and to complete sales.

People are keeping their cars longer and are buying new cars less often. The need for older cars to be serviced more frequently creates, in turn, more demand for car parts and parts salespersons. Moreover, the growth in demand for ride-hailing services has shifted some public transportation use back to automobiles services, further adding to the need for car parts in upkeep and maintenance. However, employment growth is expected to be slowed by competition from online parts retailers.

Employment projections data for retail sales workers, 2019-29

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Retail sales workers

SOC Code
Employment, 20194,633,100
Projected Employment, 20294,613,300
Percent Change, 2019-290
Numeric Change, 2019-29-19,700
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Parts salespersons

SOC Code41-2022
Employment, 2019261,700
Projected Employment, 2029267,000
Percent Change, 2019-292
Numeric Change, 2019-295,300
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Retail salespersons

SOC Code41-2031
Employment, 20194,371,400
Projected Employment, 20294,346,300
Percent Change, 2019-29-1
Numeric Change, 2019-29-25,100
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of retail sales workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Cashiers

Cashiers

Cashiers process payments from customers purchasing goods and services.

No formal educational credential $25,020
Customer service representatives

Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives interact with customers to handle complaints, process orders, and answer questions.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,830
Information clerks

Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties, maintain records, collect data, and provide information to customers.

See How to Become One $36,920
Insurance sales agents

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance.

High school diploma or equivalent $52,180
Real estate brokers and sales agents

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,220
Sales engineers

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.

Bachelor's degree $108,830
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets.

Bachelor's degree $64,770
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations.

See How to Become One $65,420
Food and beverage serving and related workers

Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers

Food and beverage serving and related workers perform a variety of customer service, food preparation, and cleaning duties in eating and drinking establishments.

No formal educational credential $24,190
Sales managers

Sales Managers

Sales managers direct organizations' sales teams.

Bachelor's degree $132,290

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

Suggested citation:

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 July 04, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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