Sales Assistant Job Description - Skills, Duties, Responsibilities and Career
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What Does a Sales Assistant Do?
Sales assistants play an essential role in a shop, store or retail outlet, where their duties include welcoming customers, assisting them with their shopping requirements and selling products.
The goal of a sales assistant is to ensure that a store’s customers have the best possible shopping experience. Their specific tasks include welcoming customers into the store and providing them with help and assistance where required. This may include giving customers advice, suggestions and recommendations, illustrating the characteristics, specifications or features of the items for sale in the store and informing customers of any special offers or promotions underway.
Sales assistants are required to have a detailed knowledge of a store’s merchandise and know exactly where specific items are located as this will enable them to help customers find what they are looking for and answer any questions or doubts they may have.
For example, a sales assistant in a clothing store should be able to advise customers on sizes, colours and styles and suggest alternatives that are in line with customers’ tastes and preferences, while a sales assistant in an electronics store needs a knowledge of the latest technology, familiarity with the most recent market developments and an ability to illustrate the technical specifications of a device or piece of equipment.
Sales assistants perform a range of tasks connected with the general running of the store. These include retrieving boxed merchandise from the stock room, arranging items on shelves or display stands, attaching security tags to products, organizing and restocking the shop floor and keeping the store clean and tidy. Additional tasks may include monitoring customers to prevent loss, damage or inappropriate behaviour, operating the cash register, handling customer complaints, window dressing, stocktaking, and dealing with incoming and outgoing merchandise.
Sales assistants are employed by a range of retail outlets of all types and sizes, from mass merchandisers and supermarket chains, right through to small convenience stores and boutiques, and sell a vast range of products, including electronics, groceries, clothing, books, furniture, household appliances, mobile phones, make-up, perfume and many more besides.
The specific tasks of a sales assistant, the degree of autonomy they enjoy in their role and their career options all vary based on the type of product being sold and the size of the store. In smaller shops, sales assistants are more likely to perform additional tasks, such as cashier, stock room or window dressing duties, enjoying a greater degree of autonomy, but with fewer career options. In larger stores, meanwhile, there tends to be a greater degree of supervision and guidance, but there is more potential for career growth, with the possibility of progressing to a role such as section manager.
Since they spend most of their day on their feet, physical stamina is an essential quality for a sales assistant, while patience and an ability to deal with stress will enable a sales assistant to calmly attend to customers’ needs throughout the day.
The working hours of a sales assistant are usually organized in shifts to ensure full coverage of a shop’s opening hours, which may include evenings, weekends and public holidays. For those in search of a better work-life balance, job vacancies for part time sales assistants are also available.
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Duties and Responsibilities
The daily tasks of a sales assistant include:
- Welcoming customers and assisting them with their shopping requirements
- Understanding and meeting customers’ needs
- Carrying out sales
- Maintaining display of merchandise
- Replenishing products on shelves and display units
- Keeping store clean and tidy
- Monitoring customer behaviour
How to Become a Sales Assistant: Education and Requirements
To become a sales assistant there are no specific education requirements, as all the necessary training is provided on the job. However, candidates may be required to have the basic IT skills needed to use a computer, cash register, POS terminal or order/warehouse management software.
Familiarity with the type of goods a recruiting employer is selling may be a significant advantage, as this will enable aspiring sales assistants to give customers purchase recommendations and advice.
For example, a sales associate in a household furniture store should be aware of the latest trends in interior design, while a sales assistant in a sports shop should be familiar with the latest sports equipment on the market.
A knowledge of one more foreign languages is also an advantage and may even be a requirement for job vacancies for sales assistants in stores with an international clientele, for example those situated in tourist locations.
What Skills Are Needed to Be a Sales Assistant?
Sales assistants need to have the following skills and personal qualities:
- Knowledge of sales techniques
- Knowledge of product sector
- Customer-oriented attitude
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- Friendly, positive attitude
- Physical stamina
- Ability to cope well under pressure
Career Path and What to Expect
The career options open to sales assistants will often depend on the type of store they work for. In larger stores with more employees, sales assistants can progress to a coordinating role as a shift manager or section manager and from there to a role as store manager or supermarket manager.
Alternatively, sales assistants in larger stores may opt for a move to a different role or area, becoming a checkout operator, replenishment assistant (shelf stacker) or window dresser.
In smaller retail outlets, the standard duties of a sales assistant are likely to include a range of tasks, such as cashier, window dressing, merchandise arrangement, and stockroom organization. In terms of career growth, smaller stores are less likely to have intermediate layers of management, so promotion may mean progressing directly to the role of store manager.
Top Reasons to Work as a Sales Assistant
One of the main reasons people choose to become a sales assistant is the ease of access. There are no specific entry requirements for a career in retail, while job vacancies are both numerous and widespread, making it relatively easy to find work close to home.
Another advantage of working as a sales assistant is the flexibility it offers, with the option of part-time work.
Finally, a job as sales assistant also offers the opportunity to learn sales techniques and gain valuable customer service skills that may be useful in other areas of the sales jobs market.