Also called clothing salespersons, clothing sales associates work primarily in retail stores, where they spend extended periods standing and helping customers. They tend not to work a traditional 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday workweek because many stores have longer workdays, which may include weekend hours and holidays. Most clothing sales associates work full time, but approximately a third held part-time positions in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
As clothing sales associates interact with customers while they consider purchases of clothing and possibly accessories, their main responsibility is to help increase the store's sales by providing customers with all of the information and attention they need. Salespersons may also handle financial transactions at the cash register or counter (for example, processing cash, check, credit card, debit card and gift card payments), help take inventory, prepare purchases for transportation by wrapping or bagging them, set up displays and stock clothing racks or shelves.
Employers prefer candidates with at least a high school education, although it's possible for applicants to find work as a clothing sales associate with less formal education. While the occupation generally has limited advancement potential, individuals with a college degree or extensive experience may be able to advance to a management position, especially at a large store. Clothing sales associates placed in departments that offer commissions or feature expensive items, such as apparel by prominent fashion designers, may require more education than those who sell general merchandise, such as ready-to-wear apparel.
Most clothing sales associates are trained on the job over several days to several months. Training covers relevant topics---such as cash register procedures, customer service, security and store policies--in addition to specialized knowledge for associates who sell specific or high-end products, such as bridal gowns or furs. Small retail businesses usually have experienced associates train new employees, while larger establishments may conduct formal classes in a department devoted to training.
In addition to an interest in clothing and fashion, clothing sales associates need strong communication skills and a courteous attitude to interact well with customers, colleagues and superiors. They should also have patience and tact to deal with problematic customers, as well as a tidy appearance to represent the business professionally. Some employers may require passing a background check, particularly when sales associates handle sales transactions or expensive products.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that sales associates working in clothing stores earned a median hourly salary of $8.94 as of May 2008, while those working in department stores earned slightly hire median wages of $9.14 per hour. Earnings are usually accompanied by employee benefits, such as health insurance, although small retail businesses may offer minimal benefits. However, most clothing salespersons receive store discounts that allow them to purchase items at a reduced price.