Retail sales clerks make up the largest occupational segment in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with more than 4.3 million jobs in 2012. This category includes clerks in many types of retail outlets, such as clothing and accessories stores and general merchandise retailers. Once clerks complete on-the-job training, their major responsibilities include serving customers, taking payments and keeping the store in order.
Giving Customer Service
As the first point of contact for most customers, sales clerks need an outgoing manner and superior customer service skills. Their responsibilities include greeting customers, asking if they need help and then helping them locate merchandise. Sales clerks also show different types of goods to customers and explain the advantages of each product. They help customers determine what is best for them, while at the same time trying to increase sales for the store. When selling complicated merchandise such as electronics, they explain or demonstrate how each product works. Clerks also answer questions about methods of payment, return policies and guarantees.
Processing the Sale
Retail sales clerks record and total up sales, typically in a computer or cash register, and accept payments by cash, check or credit card. For sales of larger items, such as automobiles or furniture, they may prepare a sales contract. If a customer wants an item that is out of stock, clerks may check the computer inventory or call another store to locate it. If necessary, they order items from a warehouse or supplier. In the case of large merchandise, such as beds, they arrange for delivery. They also keep any additional records of sales required by the store.
Doing Housekeeping and Inventory
Sales workers help keep the store in good order. When they aren't busy with customers, they tidy shelves, replace products on the shelves, set up displays and put price tags on merchandise. They sometimes help with light cleaning, such as dusting displays and shelves or sweeping the floor. Under the supervision of a manager, they count items, take inventory and order goods.
Performing Other Duties
Sales clerks must stay current with all store policies and procedures for returns, credit purchases and security. Depending on the employer and the size of the store, they may open the cash register, count money in the drawer and close out the register at the end of the shift. Their general duties also typically include helping to keep the store safe and secure. They watch for signs of theft or other suspicious activity and call security or the police as necessary.
Work Conditions and Hours
The responsibilities of sales clerks require them to remain standing for many hours during their shifts. Most of them work indoors in comfortable environments, although some work outside -- for example, in garden departments. The job often requires evening and weekend hours. Store clerks may work overtime and are usually especially busy during the holiday season that lasts from November to the start of a new calendar year. As of 2012, approximately one-third of sales clerks were part-timers, according to the BLS.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Retail Sales Workers
- O Net Online: Retail Salespersons
- CA.gov: Employment Development Department -- Retail Salespersons in California
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistgics: Employment and Wages for the Largest and Smallest Occupations, May 2012
- Photo Credit Plush Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images
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