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Job Photographs

  • A woman is standing behind the counter of a bookshop.  She is using a computer.

    Using a computer system to order new stock.

  • Two women are standing in a shop.  One woman is holding up two jumpers, one white and one red, and the other woman is looking at them.

    Retail assistants serve customers in shops. They might help the customer to choose something.

  • A woman is standing behind a bookshop counter.  She is holding some children's books, and using a barcode scanner.

    Scanning barcodes to enter prices into the till.

  • A man is standing behind a shop counter.  He is counting money, and writing on a notepad.

    Some retail assistants cash up at the end of the day and prepare bank deposit slips.

  • A woman is removing a shoe box from a shelf containing many other shoe boxes.

    Finding the right size for a customer from the stock room.

  • A man is hanging a backpack up on a wall display.  There are many other backpacks hanging up.

    Arranging items on display in the shop.

  • A woman is standing behind a shop counter.  She is handing a credit card and receipt to a woman, who is standing on the other side of the counter.  There is a large red bag on the counter.

    This customer has paid by credit card. The assistant is returning it to her with a receipt.

  • A man is standing behind a shop counter.  He is speaking on a telephone, and looking at a computer.  Various small items are hanging from the walls all around the counter.

    Dealing with a customer enquiry by phone. The retail assistant is checking computer records to see if an item is in stock.

  • Sales Assistant

Sales Assistant


Sales Assistants work in shops or stores, serving and advising customers on the purchase of goods. They might order, price and display goods and operate tills, for example. Some have responsibility for stock control.

Also known as

  • Sales Assistant
  • Shop Assistant
  • Retail Assistant
  • Customer Assistant
  • Sales Associate

Video: - Cindy: Retail Assistant

Work Activities

As a Sales Assistant, you might operate cash tills, and take payments from customers for goods purchased. This might involve dealing with cash and credit/debit cards, and sometimes customer loyalty or discount cards and vouchers.

Goods might have to be weighed and packed, and sometimes gift-wrapped.

You might also maintain displays of goods and check that items are correctly priced. You can also advise customers on purchases or persuade them to buy.

A customer may sometimes ask queries or file a complaint.

You can also demonstrate how goods work or direct customers to the location of a product. You might answer telephone calls from members of the public, suppliers or other businesses.

You might be responsible for stock control, receiving and checking deliveries, renewing stock from a storeroom or warehouse, and keeping financial and stock records. You might use hand-held scanners to record stock information and generate orders from barcodes on product labels.

Duties might vary widely, depending on the type and size of shop or store, and the goods sold. In larger stores, you will often work in one specialist department. You will then build up in-depth knowledge of the products you sell, and advise customers on suitable items.

In smaller shops, you could be involved in all aspects of operations, including keeping the store clean, tidy and secure. Some Sales Assistants might also help to cash up at the end of the day and take money to the bank. Senior Sales Assistants might have some keyholder duties, locking and unlocking the shop and setting alarms if the Manager is away.

Some Sales Assistants have to wear a uniform.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Sales Assistant, you will need to be able to:

  • be approachable, confident, helpful, friendly and co-operative when dealing with customers
  • work quickly and accurately
  • cope with working under pressure at busy times
  • develop in-depth knowledge of the product(s) you sell
  • be on your feet for a long time, either standing in one place or walking around
  • work as part of a team
  • lift and carry heavy goods, depending on the store

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £14,500 - £15,500
  • With experience: £16,500 - £19,000
  • Senior Sales Assistants earn £20,500 - £23,000

Hours of work

Sales Assistants usually work 35-39 hours per week.

However, there are some Sales Assistants who only work weekends.

Many Sales Assistants are employed on a part-time basis and there are opportunities for casual work during busy periods such as at Christmas.

This career could include working on a zero hour contract. This may result in periods when you are out of work. To help with this, you may be able to claim Universal Credit.

If you would like some more information, take a look at our General Information Articles on:

  • universal credit
  • zero hour contracts
  • agency work
  • contract working

Where could I work?

Employers are a range of outlets - from small specialist shops and charity shops, to chain stores and large department stores.

Opportunities for Sales Assistants occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, on job boards and some large employers' websites, in stores, on Find a Job and at Jobcentre Plus.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

You can enter this career by applying directly to individual shops and stores.

An Intermediate Level Apprenticeship or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start. You may be able to take a vocational qualification, such as an NVQ, as part of your apprenticeship. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.


On-the-job training, sometimes through a work-based training programme, might be combined with part-time study for appropriate qualifications.

Work Experience

Previous experience within a retail or sales environment will help you to get you into this career.


Promotion opportunities, depending on experience, are available with most of the larger employers.

Sales Assistants could progress to Team Leader or Departmental Manager posts, for example.

Some Sales Assistants might go on to specialise in areas such as customer service, merchandising support or stock control. Sales Assistants working in fashion stores could become Personal Shoppers.


For direct entry as a Sales Assistant, requirements vary; some employers prefer applicants to have GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including maths and English. Sales or customer service skills will be an advantage.

Other, work-related, qualifications such as a BTEC or City & Guilds level 1, level 2 or level 3 qualification in retail or retail knowledge might be accepted for entry.

To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


You might be able to take an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship or an Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Retail.


  • 70% of people who work in occupations such as Sales Assistant work part-time.
  • 5% have flexible hours.
  • 6% of employees work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400



Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 9178000



Jobsite UK

Retail, fashion and hospitality industries

Tel: 020 8340 3366



National Skills Academy for Food & Drink

Sector Skills Council for the food and drinks industry



Tasty Careers

Food and drink careers



A Career in Retail




Retail recruitment


People 1st

Address: 4th Floor, 93 Newman Street, London W1T 3EZ

Tel: 020 7462 5060



Fashion Retail Academy

Address: 15 Gresse Street, London W1T 1QL

Tel: 020 7307 2345



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


Croeso i Gyrfa Cymru

Dewiswch iaith


Welcome to Careers Wales

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