Positions in retail serve as first jobs for many new to the workforce and lucrative positions for others. If you consider yourself to be a "people person" and pride yourself on a professional demeanor, retail may be the position for you. The earnings potential in such positions varies depending on industry, experience and education.
Typical Starting Wages
Retail salespeople who are new to their jobs with little or no prior experience often earn the federal minimum wage, unless their state's minimum wage exceeds this figure. Some sales jobs offer commission either in place of or in addition to hourly wages. Depending on the ability to generate sales, commissions can dramatically increase the potential earnings for sales associates as they receive a percentage of the sales they generate.
Wages by Industry
As of 2010, the average hourly wage for retail salespeople was $12.02 per hour with a median hourly wage of $9.94. Automotive dealers offered the highest average retail wages, paying over $20 an hour. Clothing and department stores account for the most positions in retail and offered more modest average wages of about $10.50 per hour. Building supplies and materials dealers paid mid-range mean wages of $13.31 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wages by Location
Similar to most jobs, wages fall along a spectrum based on geographic location. For 2010, states offering the highest average wages in retail sales included Washington, Colorado and the District of Columbia, all paying between $13 and $14 per hour. Metropolitan areas offering similarly high wages were White Plains, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Among the lowest paying areas were rural areas of Texas and New Mexico, averaging less than $10 per hour.
With some accrued experience and possibly a college degree, many sales associates can move up the ladder into management positions, where the national mean wage hourly wage was $19.18, approximately $40,000 annually, in 2010. Managers in the top 10 percent of earners made over $60,000 for the same year. Auto dealers and insurance-related retail jobs can average near six-figure salaries while clothing and department store managers earn around $40,000 per year on average.