Shop assistants, or retail assistants, are often the first point of contact for customers in a store. They are therefore responsible for the level of customer service the store offers. Their duties can involve dealing with everything from customer requests to handling money and payments.
A shop assistant will be expected to know about the prices of the shop's products and interact with customers with the aim of selling. In many shops the assistants will be expected to reach monthly sales targets, which can lead to a pressurized work environment. They will also be expected to know about various promotions on offer and help in ordering and arranging the delivery of stock. In more specialist shops, like TV and DVD stores, assistants will also be expected to have specialist knowledge about the products on sale.
There is no specific qualification needed to work as a shop assistant. Presentation and customer service skills are more valuable to employers and shop assistants should enjoy working with the general public above all else. The ability to work well as part of a team is also an essential quality, as is having a polite and helpful manner. Being numerate is important as shop assistants will be expected to use a cash till and deal with money on a daily basis.
The number of jobs available in the retail sector normally depends on the health of the economy. The healthier the economy the more abundant the jobs. However, the vast number of shops and stores in any country mean that if you look hard enough you are likely to find a job somewhere. Many of the larger shops advertise positions on their websites. Promotion can often happen rapidly given the large turnover of staff in the retail sector.
The hours a shop assistant will be expected to work will often match the hours the store is open. This may include evening and weekend work. Given the nature of the job, shop assistants spend a lot of time on their feet and often have to carry and lift heavy items, so a good level of stamina is required.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average salary of a shop assistant was $9.14 an hour in 2010. Assistants will often benefit from store discounts and have first pick of items during sales. The average salary of a store supervisor in 2010 was $34,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.