Article: Specialist Shops and Services


This article covers the following jobs:

  • Antique Dealer
  • Beauty Consultant
  • Builders' Merchant
  • Builders' Yard Assistant
  • Butcher - Retail
  • Car Salesperson
  • Computer/Software Sales Assistant
  • Dispensing Optician
  • Dry Cleaning Assistant
  • Fishmonger
  • Florist
  • Food Service Assistant
  • Hairdresser
  • Market Stall Trader
  • Petrol Station Attendant
  • Post Office Counter Clerk
  • Shoe Repairer
  • Tattooist
  • Travel Agency Clerk
  • Travel Agency Manager
  • Vehicle Parts Salesperson
  • Watch and Clock Repairer.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. It is recommended that you do further research on jobs that interest you.

Video: - Various: Specialist Shops and Services


As you walk through any town or city, or visit a shopping centre or large supermarket, you'll see specialist shops. They might be small independent shops run by the owner, or part of larger chains, or franchises inside larger shops.

No matter which specialist area they cover, in-depth product knowledge and customer service are the two essential factors for the staff working there. They will need good communication skills and also number skills if they are handling cash and giving change.

In some of these careers, you will need to use your hands in a skilful way. In others, you will be using computers to help you in your work. Some of the careers involve completing paperwork.

Here are just a few of the many different career areas you could work in.

Specialist sales work

Antique Dealer

Antique dealers buy and sell old and collectable objects to make a profit. Some antique dealers specialise in certain items such as silver, furniture or books.

They buy from other dealers, from members of the public, and at auctions. They sell antiques in shops, at antique fairs and markets.

Antique dealers advise customers on the age and history of the item, if known. They also tell them what it is made from and if the item has been repaired or restored, because this affects its price. Some antique dealers value items for customers who want to sell them.

Antique dealers need to combine an interest in old and interesting objects with business skills. They need a good eye for a bargain and good negotiating skills to get the item at the right price.

There are several ways to become an antique dealer. You could do a degree, or start collecting as a hobby, or join an auction house as an assistant, for example. There are no minimum qualifications required to become an antique dealer. Some employers prefer English and Maths at GCSE.

Beauty Consultant

Beauty consultants sell make-up and other cosmetic products for a cosmetic manufacturer. They are usually based in a department store, or a large branch of a chemist's shop where the cosmetic company has a counter.

They learn all about the different products that their company makes, so that they can advise customers on the product that would suit them best.

Sometimes a customer will want a consultation. This is where the beauty consultant gives advice on all aspects of make-up, often doing a full makeover for the customer so they can see the effect that different colours have on their appearance. Many beauty consultants also sell perfume, skin-care products and gift items.

Some trainee consultants have a background in beauty therapy or retail sales. GCSEs, including English and Maths, can be useful.

Builders' Merchant

Builders' merchants supply building craftspeople (such as plumbers, builders and electricians) with the items that they need to do their jobs. They also sell these products to members of the public.

Builders' merchants give advice on which goods to buy, such as the best type of tap to install or the correct kind of wood for a particular purpose. They also advise customers on which tools and fittings to use.

Most builders' merchants have access to a product database so that they can look up technical specifications for customers.

A good general education is required. Most employers prefer applicants to have GCSEs in English and Maths.


Florists select and buy flowers and plants from wholesalers and market gardens. They sell them to the public and make up floral displays to order. Florists take orders over the counter or by telephone; some florists deliver flower arrangements in their local area, and others arrange for delivery.

Florists prepare and wire together flowers to produce formal displays. These could be sprays, posies, wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths. They choose flowers that are in season and make up a display that has a good shape and balance.

Florists must be creative and need to be good with their hands to create displays. They need to be good at helping people, showing sympathy in times of family illness or when someone has died.

No specific academic qualifications are required to become a trainee florist in a shop. However, good basic standards in English and maths are needed. It might be an advantage to have studied subjects such as biology, and art and design.

Post Office Counter Clerk

Post office counter clerks provide a range of postal services, such as selling stamps, accepting and weighing parcels and giving advice to customers.

They also process a range of other services, for example, car tax discs, travel insurance, lottery tickets, passport applications and banking services.

As a counter clerk, you will need to have good customer service and number skills, and should be able to handle cash confidently. You should be able to pay attention to detail and keep your concentration while handling money and important documents. Accuracy is essential in this work.

GCSEs at grade C or above in English and Maths might be preferred.

Vehicle Parts Salesperson

Parts departments supply spare parts to:

  • mechanics in the workshop who carry out servicing and repairs
  • motor vehicle trade customers
  • the general public.

Vehicle parts salespeople take orders from customers over the phone, by email or in person, and advise them on the parts they require. They have to find out from the customer the exact model and year of the vehicle.

They identify the part number, usually using a computer, and select the parts from the warehouse. Parts salespeople issue invoices for sales, handle cash as well as credit and debit cards, and order stock.

To become a vehicle parts salesperson, you will need English and maths skills. Some employers ask for GCSEs at grade C or above in these subjects, together with Science and/or Engineering or ICT.

Computer/Software Sales Assistant

Computer/software sales assistants work in stores selling computers and computer-related goods, for example, printers. They help customers to choose products that best meet their needs.

Many customers will not have a detailed knowledge of computers, so the assistant might need to spend a while talking to them to find out their requirements.

Customers could be planning to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds, so they will expect in-depth information and informed advice. In many cases, the customer will also want the assistant to demonstrate the hardware or software concerned.

Business customers might have specific requirements for non-standard technical hardware or software that the sales assistant has to order from the manufacturer.

Requirements for entry to this work vary, depending on the company you apply to work for. It might be possible to enter with no formal qualifications, but some employers prefer applicants to have some GCSEs at grade C or above, including Maths and English.

Food sales

Butcher - Retail

Retail butchers cut, store and display meat in a shop, market or supermarket. They are responsible for using sharp tools and machinery safely and for keeping the tools and work areas clean and hygienic. They also serve customers, and some butchers deal with money.

Butchers often have to package the meat and poultry and prepare labels showing the weight and price. They display the meat in refrigerated cabinets, and monitor the temperature. They might also prepare processed meat products such as sausages, pies and burgers.

Retail butchers need to be physically fit and should not suffer from skin allergies. They should be able to cope with the sight of blood, and need a steady hand.

There is no formal minimum entry requirement, although applicants usually need at least basic English, maths and science. Some employers might prefer applicants to have some GCSEs.


A fishmonger selects and buys fish from a wholesaler and prepares it by hand for retail sales. This involves removing scales, skin and bones and gutting the fish.

Fishmongers advise customers about different types of common fish and shellfish and how best to store and cook them; they sometimes give out recipe leaflets.

They have to maintain strict standards of hygiene, and health and safety. Fishmongers use tools and equipment such as knives, tongs, fish slices, sharpening tools and pliers; these have to be cleaned and well looked after.

Many of the opportunities for fishmongers occur on fish counters in supermarkets.

Most employers prefer a good basic standard of education, including English and maths.

Food Service Assistant

Food service assistants are involved in various aspects of delivering food to customers, depending on the kind of place they work in. For example, many work in fast food outlets, preparing food, serving customers from behind a counter and clearing tables.

They might work in teams (sometimes called 'crews') and spend a couple of hours doing one task, before swapping over with another team member and doing something different.

Food service assistants are on their feet a lot of the time, so they need lots of stamina. When it gets busy, they have to work fast and stay calm.

To get into this job, personal qualities and skills are more important than qualifications. However, good spoken English and number skills are useful.

Careers where you might work outdoors

Builders' Yard Assistant

Assistants mainly work outside at a builders' merchant's yard. They check in, unload, move, stack and display goods, and keep the yard tidy and safe. They move goods in and out of storage, sometimes using trolleys, ladders, fork-lift trucks and other aids.

They might have to check deliveries against order lists, and make notes where items have not been sent correctly. They sometimes have to measure, weigh or cut articles to the size or quantity that the customer wants. After this, they might help to package the order and load it on to a van, a lorry or the customers' own transport.

There is no formal minimum entry requirement, although some employers prefer entrants to have GCSEs in English and Maths.

Car Salesperson

Car salespeople sell new and used vehicles to members of the public and to businesses. They work for dealerships, and the cars they sell are displayed in showrooms or outside on forecourts.

A salesperson takes a customer out in a car and allows them to test drive it. They negotiate a deal, work out how much the customer's own car is worth in part-exchange and sometimes arrange a loan from a finance company.

There are no minimum qualifications needed to become a car salesperson, though some employers might ask for GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Maths. You usually need a full driving licence.

Petrol Station Attendant

Petrol station attendants sell petrol, diesel and other products such as groceries, newspapers and lottery tickets. Some work from small kiosks while others work in forecourt buildings that are also shops or convenience stores.

Attendants log the amount of petrol taken from each pump, watching a computer screen. They deal with payments and sell tokens for other services, such as a car wash.

Attendants sometimes go on to the forecourt, to clean the pumps, clear up spillages or to help customers. They might deal with fuel deliveries by putting traffic cones around the tanker and checking fuel meters for the underground tanks. For these duties, the attendant will need to be outside in all types of weather.

If the petrol station is open at night, the attendant might have to serve customers through a hatch for security reasons. To work alone at a petrol station, you must be 18 or over to comply with petrol licensing regulations.

Some employers prefer entrants to have GCSEs in English and Maths.

Market Stall Trader

Market stall traders sell goods to the public. They spend most of their time standing at a stall, dealing directly with their customers. Market stall traders buy their goods from a wholesaler or manufacturer; they rent a market stall or space, and display the goods to attract customers.

Sometimes they have to set up their own stalls. Most markets have rules that traders have to follow, including the range of goods that can be sold. Casual traders travel around from market to market on different days.

Basic English and maths are usually required for this job. You'll need a driving licence and vehicle if you have to transport heavy or bulky goods. Traders selling certain food items will need to have a basic food hygiene certificate.


Dry Cleaning Assistant

Dry cleaning assistants operate the machinery used to clean and press items such as clothes and curtains. Dry cleaning is a special process used to clean things that would be damaged if they were washed using soap and water.

Many dry cleaning assistants work in high street dry cleaning shops. They take the item from the customer, and clean it using specialist equipment. Then the item is ironed, put on a hanger, and covered for protection.

When the customer comes to collect their cleaned item, the dry cleaning assistant takes payment.

There can be a lot of lifting and bending in this job. It's also a job that involves contact with chemicals.

To become a dry cleaning assistant, you don't normally need any educational qualifications. However, good maths and spoken English are useful. Training is usually on-the-job from another member of staff.

Dispensing Optician

Dispensing opticians supply and fit glasses, following the prescription prepared by an optometrist. They give the customer advice on different types of spectacle frames and lenses.

When the customer has chosen the frames they want, the dispensing optician carefully measures their face, so they can make sure the glasses will fit properly.

They write down the details of the prescription for the people who actually make the lenses (optical technicians). When the technician has made the glasses, dispensing opticians give them to the customer and make sure they fit properly.

To train as a dispensing optician, you will usually need at least five GCSEs at grades A* to C. There are various training routes - you can combine employment with part-time study, or complete a full-time course first.

Dispensing opticians need to pass the examinations of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians and have a pre-registration year in employment before they can register with the General Optical Council.


Hairdressers carry out a variety of treatments on people's hair. The customer usually has an idea of how they want their hair to look, and the hairdresser gives them advice on whether the style will suit them or not.

When the hairdresser and customer have agreed on the style, the hairdresser works out which treatments they need to carry out to achieve the required look. They usually wash and condition the customer's hair first.

They might then simply need to cut and blow-dry or straighten the hair, but there are treatments that will completely change the look of a person's hair. These include perms, extensions and colouring techniques.

Hairdressers often specialise after training in cutting either women's or men's hair and learn different skills depending on their speciality. To become a hairdresser, you train in the workplace with day-release to college, or you could study full-time at college.

Shoe Repairer

Shoe repairers mend all types of footwear. They operate from a specialist shop or from a site within a larger high street shop. Shoe repairers examine shoes and boots brought in by customers for repair.

They advise customers on the type of repair that needs to be done, and then use hand tools and machinery to repair or replace heels and soles.

Shoe repairers often sell accessories such as polish, dyes, shoe laces, handbags and belts. They also repair other leather goods, engrave metal and cut keys.

To be a shoe repairer, you should enjoy using your hands and be able to work quickly, neatly and tidily. Speed is very important because some customers want their shoes repaired while they wait. You should be fairly fit and also have good eyesight.

Good basic standards in English and maths are necessary for entry to this job.


Tattooists use artistic and technical skills to make permanent images on people's bodies. They use needles and tattoo pigments to do this. To be authorised by their local environmental health department, tattooists need to work to strict hygienic conditions.

The tattooist needs to find out what the customer wants. If they are doing an existing design, they'll usually use a basic transfer which is placed in position and used as a guide. Other types of tattoo are drawn freehand directly onto the customer's body.

The tattoo machine is set up ready for the type of tattoo that is being done. The needles of the tattoo machine make little holes in the skin and the pigment fills these holes. A tattoo is permanent because the pigment is applied to the base layer of skin.

Tattooists need artistic abilities and a good imagination to produce effective and eye-catching tattoos. You don't need any qualifications to be a tattooist, as skills are usually learned on-the-job. However, some tattooists do art courses before training.

Travel Agency Clerk

Travel agency clerks discuss what their clients want from their holiday. They show them brochures of resorts, discuss what is on offer, and help the client choose the right holiday.

They check the availability of tour packages by computer. They can make immediate bookings with travel companies, airlines, shipping companies, tour operators, bus, coach and car hire companies.

Clerks deal with cancellations, handle complaints and make refunds. They also advise clients about visas, insurance, vaccinations and foreign currency.

Most travel agency clerks work in high street travel agency shops. They normally work a 39-hour week and may be required to work on Saturdays.

To become a qualified travel agency clerk, you would work towards industry qualifications while in employment.

Travel Agency Manager

Travel agency managers are responsible for the smooth running of their office. They make sure that the agency makes a profit by selling holiday packages on behalf of tour operators, who pay them a commission for each sale. A manager's duties include:

  • planning and implementing policies to attract custom
  • co-ordinating the work of staff
  • organising training programmes
  • compiling financial accounts.

Entry routes vary. It is possible to work up to management positions after gaining the industry qualifications. There are also management training schemes for those with A levels or equivalent, HNDs and degrees.

Watch and Clock Repairer

Watch and clock repairers service, repair and restore clocks and watches. Their work involves inspecting, dismantling, cleaning and replacing worn or damaged parts and making new high precision parts to restore the clock or watch to full working order.

Watch repairers are able to repair all types of watches but may decide to specialise in mechanical or electrical work. Clock repairers may also specialise, for example, in repairing public clocks. Other areas of specialisation include restoring antique clocks and watches.

There is no formal academic entry qualification although, generally, GCSEs in English Language, Maths, and a science, technology or engineering subject are useful for this career. Of the sciences, Physics is particularly useful. Some course providers ask for higher qualifications.

New entrants usually study part-time, eg, by day-release, while working for an experienced watch and clock repairer.

Further Information

A Career in Retail




Retail recruitment


People 1st

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

Tel: 020 7462 5060



The Food and Drink Training and Education Council (FDTEC)

Address: PO Box 6404, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 6DX

Tel: 01525 371641



National Federation of Fishmongers (NFF)

Address: PO Box 9639, Colchester, Essex CO5 9WR

Tel: 01376 571391


Livestock & Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Lissue House, 31 Ballinderry Road, Lisburn BT28 2SL

Tel: 028 9263 3000


National Federation of Meat & Food Traders (NFMFT)

Address: 1 Belgrove, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1YW

Tel: 01892 541412



Scottish Craft Butchers

Scottish enquiries

Address: 8-10 Needless Road, Perth PH2 0JW

Tel: 01738 637472



Scottish Meat Training

Scottish enquiries

Address: 8-10 Needless Road, Perth PH2 0JW

Tel: 01738 637785



Builders Merchants Federation (BMF)

Address: 15 Soho Square, London W1D 3HL

Tel: 020 7439 1753



National Market Traders Federation (NMTF)

Address: Hampton House, Hawshaw Lane, Hoyland, Barnsley S74 0HA

Tel: 01226 749021



Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO)

Address: 199 Gloucester Terrace, London W2 6LD

Tel: 020 7298 5100



British Horological Institute (BHI)

Address: Upton Hall, Upton, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG23 5TE

Tel: 01636 813795



Guild of Cleaners and Launderers (GCL)

Address: 3 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3AR

Tel: 020 7843 9493




Address: Origin Way, Europarc, Grimsby, Lincolnshire DN37 9TZ

Tel: 01472 252300



British Antique Dealers' Association (BADA)

Address: 20 Rutland Gate, London SW7 1BD

Tel: 020 7589 4128



Seafish Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: 18 Logie Mill, Logie Green Road, Edinburgh EH7 4HS

Tel: 0131 5583331



How to Deal in Antiques

Author: Fiona Shoop Publisher: How To Books

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