Sales, the heart of the industry...

"If you are a good listener, love interacting with different people and can communicate information effectively, then a career in sales may suit you."

male and female man and woman two customers looking at kitchen with sales person consultant kitchen applicances stove oven A career in retail sales includes positions like sales assistant, cashier, sales representative, team leader and stock receiver. These frontline positions are focused on retail's core business, serving the customer and generating sales. While these positions are usually seen as entry points into retail careers, some employees choose to spend their professional lives here, particularly those in high-end commission-based sales areas.

Sales assistants are often required to work flexible hours, including late nights and weekends. Most sales assistants spend long hours standing up and the job may involve lifting and carrying. However the shopfloor is considered a vibrant and exciting place to work with the opportunity to interact with customers on a daily basis. Passion for working with all types of people, flexibility, levelheadedness, problem-solving, and teamwork are important for working in this area.

Wholesale sales representatives sell goods to retail outlets and other business customers. They visit their clients to demonstrate products, show samples and take orders.

They generally take responsibility for clients within a single geographical area or "territory" or for a group of clients within one group of businesses such as a number of outlets of a single company. The specific tasks performed by a sales assistant will vary according to the retailer they work for. Common tasks performed by sales assistants include:

  • Assisting customers to locate merchandise and advising them on the price, use, and care of merchandise
  • Developing detailed knowledge of products and services offered by the store
  • Advising customers on the features and benefits of products to assist them to make a purchase
  • Assisting customers with returns of faulty or unwanted goods
  • Operating cash registers or point of sale terminals to accept payment
  • Wrapping and packaging goods for customers
  • Arranging delivery, installation, service or repair of items
  • Accepting deliveries and pricing stock
  • Maintaining merchandise displays and the general neatness and appearance of the store
  • Participating in stock takes and re-ordering and replenishing stock.

Many sales representatives are required to undertake extensive travel as part of their job, which may include visits to country and interstate locations. Sales representatives may perform the following tasks:

  • Making appointments and arranging a schedule of visits to buyers and/or stores
  • Work with sales and marketing personnel to develop a plan to promote products
  • Develop and update their knowledge of their own and competing products
  • Quote and negotiate prices and credit terms
  • Prepare contracts
  • Record and process orders
  • Provide sales reports and feedback on marketing of products to employer
  • Carry out formal and informal product presentations
  • Organise product displays and promotional material
  • Attend promotional markets and trade fairs
  • Be involved in telemarketing
  • Meet sales targets and budgets
  • Use e-business technology.

Louise Fay

Louise FayName: Louise Fay
Age: 23
Place of Work: Dymocks
Role: Special Orders Supervisor
Qualifications: Bachelor in Health Sciences, majoring in Pathology
Estimated salary range for this job role: $21-40K

I have worked in retail for nearly five years starting as a Christmas casual at a Myer department store. I often worked longer hours and more frequently over the university holidays. I was able to obtain a position with Dymocks via an ex-Myer colleague who had previously moved stores. Since I am an avid reader, being offered a position at a bookstore was something that was very hard to turn down!

I maintain customer special orders; reserving books so we can alert them when it arrives, or ordering books that we don't usually stock. I also maintain customer lay-bys and process sales and inquiries for in-store customers. It's a real buzz to order that book that a customer just has to have, or they really need to finish an assignment. However dealing with titles that have been delayed or cancelled can be troublesome as we often don't receive more than "sorry, that title has been cancelled" - passing such vague information on to the customer can be frustrating. Dealing with conflict with customers can often be intimidating, especially when you are a young female just starting out. Learning your company policies thoroughly is most helpful so you can stand your ground more confidently.

I've not had one single mentor, but I consider everyone I work with as someone that I can look to for help or guidance. Not enough people realise the work that goes on behind the scenes when they enter a shop. I would encourage anyone who is a people person with a desire to help others to enter the retail industry. There can be great joy in helping an appreciative customer find something that they really want.

Jenna Bruno


Name: Jenna Bruno
Age: 20
Place of Work: Target
Role: Sales Assistant Sound Department
Qualifications: Studying Human Resources at University
Estimated salary range for this job role: $21-40K

I have been in the retail industry for six years, after working in retail in high school as an after school job to get pocket money. Now I work full time while on a break from university.

I like dealing with people and there is always something new to learn and do. The industry is growing and expanding, especially working in the sound department there is always some sort of new technology I have to learn.

My role as a sales assistant includes customer service, telecommunications, liaising with reps, stock control duties, merchandise display and dealing with customer queries. There is also a lot of planning involved with merchandise displays and organising how to get the most out of the products. I work on a roster rotation during the week and some weekends.

The best advice I have had is that you should get to know the people you are marketing to and be willing to learn and try new things. Always work to your full potential - you need to be prepared to work hard, learn your products, understand customers needs and wants and stay focused.

I love the diversity in working with people on a day to day basis. It's not just a cash register; you get to expand on your knowledge and you can take this into not just work but also your personal life.