Become a Retail Sales Assistant

If you like the idea of making shopping more enjoyable for people and can get along with a wide variety of different customers, a sales assistant job could be just right for you. There are lots of places you could work as a sales assistant. You’ll find these mainly on your local high street or in a shopping centre. Most employers will be more interested in your ability to work with people and in your positive attitude than your formal qualifications. However, you will need to have a reasonable standard of maths as you will be handling cash and checking stock. To be a good sales assistant it is important that you are able to work as part of a team, and that you are helpful, friendly and polite. You also need to be reliable, honest and responsible.  

The work 

The places you could work include supermarkets, fashion stores and department stores, and you could be:

  • Serving and advising customers
  • Taking payment
  • Helping customers to find the goods they want
  • Advising on stock amounts
  • Giving information on products and prices
  • Stacking shelves or displaying goods in an attractive way
  • Arranging window displays
  • Promoting special offers or store cards
  • Ordering goods
  • Handling complaints or passing them on to a manager. 

Some stores, for example such as mobile phone shops, DIY or electrical goods stores, would usually expect you to have a lot of knowledge about their products before you apply.


In a full-time job you would normally work between 35 and 40 hours a week, possibly including weekends and evenings. Part-time work is often available and you may work shifts. You would spend a lot of time on your feet and may need to lift and carry items of stock. You would often wear a uniform.


Full-time salaries can be between £11,000 and £15,000* a year. Supervisors can earn between £15,000 and £20,000* a year. Many larger retail companies also offer benefits like staff discounts, extra pay depending on how much you sell (known as commission) and bonus schemes. 

*Figures are intended as a guideline only. 

Entry requirements 

Good customer care skills are essential and when applying for jobs, it will be helpful if you already have some experience of working with the public. Good literacy and numeracy skills will also be useful, for example; when handling cash. Many stores employ temporary staff at busy times such as Christmas, and this can be a good way of getting experience that can lead to a permanent job. 

Training and development

Most of your training would be done on the job however many colleges and private training providers offer retail courses. Your training may include the chance to gain qualifications such the Award, Certificate and Diploma in Retail Skills at Levels 1, 2 and 3. You could also choose to specialise by taking options, depending on your job. Options include:

  • Fashion Retail
  • Sales Professional
  • Visual Merchandising 
  • Retail Management

Larger retailers often have structured in-house training schemes, which you can follow as your career develops.  

You may also receive other training related to your job, such as food hygiene training, if you work with fresh foods.

What progression opportunities are available?

You may also want to start this career through an apprenticeship scheme or if you want to go further, you could take a higher level qualification like a foundation degree in retail. These normally cover areas such as retail operations, marketing, consumer law and management.

Skills, interests and qualities 

You would need to be: 

  • A good communicator 
  • Able to get on well with people 
  • Able to work as part of a team 
  • Friendly, polite and helpful 
  • Confident and tactful 
  • Energetic, reliable and responsible
  • Honest 

You will also need to have basic maths skills.


Jobs may be advertised in the local papers, Jobcentre Plus, on employers' own websites and in stores. Promotion prospects can be good, especially in larger companies that provide staff training. With experience, you could progress into management or merchandising. 

Download the Course factsheet

For further information contact Or telephone 01642 804000

Key Details

  • If you like the idea of making shopping more enjoyable for people and can get along with a wide variety of different customers, a sales assistant job could be just right for you.

Course Downloads


  • You would normally work between 35 and 40 hours a week.
  • Possibly including weekends and evenings
Apply Now