California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Retail Salespersons in California

May also be called: Clerks; Customer Assistants; Design Consultants; Sales Associates; Sales Clerks; Sales Consultants; Sales Representatives; and Salespersons

What Would I Do?

Whether selling clothing, shoes, groceries, furniture, appliances, electronic equipment, or automobiles, Retail Salespersons help customers find what they are looking for and provide information on products’ features. To interest customers in buying an item, Salespersons may demonstrate its uses and promote its value. In addition to selling products, Salespersons often conduct financial transactions with customers. They receive payments by cash, check, debit card, or credit card; operate cash registers; and bag or wrap purchases. Some Salespersons may have to open or close cash registers; count the money in the register; and separate charge slips, coupons, and exchange vouchers. Retail Salespersons may also have to make deposits at a cash office or bank.

When Salespersons are not busy assisting customers, they may order merchandise, take inventory, stock shelves or racks, mark price tags, assist in housekeeping, and prepare window and floor displays. Retail Salespersons selling technical and specialized items must have specific and thorough product knowledge. For example, Salespersons at car dealerships need to explain the technology and features of various models, manufacturers’ specifications, optional upgrades, financing available, and the details of associated warranties. Some high-end retail businesses may employ Salespersons as personal shoppers. They provide personalized service to customers who may need customized assistance to build their wardrobe or find specialized and unique items. Retail Salespersons must also recognize and understand their store’s procedure for handling security risks and thefts, which may include notifying security guards or calling the police.

Tools and Technology

Retail Salespersons use a variety of tools in the course of their work. These may include bar code scanners, computerized cash registers, price guns, ladders, and magnetic card readers. Some may also use accounting, gift registry, human resources, spreadsheet, word processing, and point of sale (POS) software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Describe merchandise and explain use, operation, and care of merchandise to customers.Customer and Personal Service
Recommend, select, and help locate or obtain merchandise based on customer needs and desires.Oral Expression
Compute sales prices, total purchases and receive and process cash or credit payment.Mathematics
Maintain knowledge of current sales and promotions, policies regarding payment and exchanges, and security practices.Sales and Marketing
Prepare merchandise for purchase or rental.Information Ordering
Watch for and recognize security risks and thefts, and know how to prevent or handle these situations.Problem Sensitivity
Inventory stock and requisition new stock.Judgment and Decision Making
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Retail Salespersons generally work in clean, comfortable, well-lit stores since most businesses want to provide their customers with pleasant shopping environments. Salespersons generally have to stand for long periods and may need supervisory approval to leave the sales floor. They may also work outdoors if they sell items such as cars, plants, or lumber yard materials. Salespersons are on their feet all day, and they often have to bend, stoop, and reach for merchandise. Some may also be required to climb ladders as well as lift and move up to 50 pounds.

Retail Salespersons typically do not work a regular Monday-Friday schedule. Many work part-time, particularly during evening and weekend shifts, and during holidays and other peak sales periods. The end-of-year holiday season often is the busiest time in retail, as a result, many employers limit vacation time usage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Depending on the establishment, some Salespersons may need to work in teams. They are also expected to be well-groomed, neatly dressed, and some may be issued uniforms.

Most Retail Salespersons are not unionized; however, some may belong to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Retail Salesperson may appeal to those who enjoy working with people and have a friendly, persuasive, and courteous demeanor. Tact and patience are also necessary when providing service to customers with various needs and demands, especially those who may be rude or difficult to please. Salespersons should also be clear and effective communicators.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Top earners who sell high-end items such as automobiles, electronics, appliances, and furniture can bring in much higher earnings through commissions.


The median wage in 2017 for Retail Salespersons in California was $24,270 annually, or $11.67 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2017Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefits vary by employer, but are generally available only to full-time employees. These benefits usually include medical insurance, vacation, sick leave, and sometimes include other health insurance, such as dental and vision coverage, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Most job openings will be created by the need to replace Retail Salespersons who retire or leave the field for other reasons. Opportunities may be greater for Salespersons with more education or experience. Seasonal changes may increase the demand for this job temporarily. Additionally, like many occupations, employment may be sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. In tough economic times, many employers choose to hire part-time Salespersons over full-time workers to cut expenses since part-time workers usually do not receive health benefits or paid sick leave and vacation days. The trend toward more part-time workers in retail also reflects businesses’ desire to match staffing levels with customer demands.

Although online shopping is becoming increasingly popular, its impact on the employment of Retail Salespersons is expected to be minimal. Internet sales have not decreased the need for Salespersons since stores generally use their online presence to complement their in-store sales, and many consumers still prefer to purchase merchandise in person. Retail Salespersons will remain important in assisting customers, providing specialized service, and increasing customer satisfaction.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Retail Salespersons is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Retail Salespersons are expected to increase by 8.0 percent, or 36,500 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Retail Salespersons
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 3,650 new job openings per year is expected for Retail Salespersons, plus an additional 15,810 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 19,470 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Retail Salespersons
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Employers look for new hires to be at least 16 years old with good customer service and verbal communication skills. However, most employers require at least a high school diploma or the equivalent, especially for Salespersons who sell technical and more expensive items. A college degree may be required for management trainee positions, especially in larger retail establishments. Some employers may require drug testing of new hires prior to employment. Random drug and alcohol testing may also be given during employment. For a job selling high-priced items, the employer may also conduct a background check.

Generally, Retail Salespersons receive on-the-job training lasting a few days to a few months. In smaller stores, Salespersons are usually trained by experienced employees. In larger establishments, formal training programs may be provided to give new employees more in-depth training on company history, customer service, store policies and procedures, security, and cash register operation. Depending on the merchandise being sold, new employees may be given additional specialized training. For example, Salespersons working in cosmetics may receive instruction on the types of products offered and their various characteristics and benefits. To ensure Salespersons consistently provide good customer service, some employers will give periodic training to update and refine their employees’ sales skills.


Retail Salespersons jobs usually are entry-level positions requiring little or no previous work experience, although experience in retail, customer service, and cash handling will be helpful.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation should include courses in basic mathematics, bookkeeping, typing, and English. Foreign language classes may be helpful as the ability to speak more than one language can be an asset for employment in communities where people from various cultures live and shop. Some high schools and community colleges may offer retail merchandising classes.

Some Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) may offer introductory courses in general merchandise retailing. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Licensing and Certification

California does not require Retail Salespersons to obtain a license except in the specialized fields listed below. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Many certificates exist for Retail Salespersons, such as the National Professional Certification in Sales offered by the National Retail Federation Foundation. A certification can demonstrate to an employer that the Salesperson has additional skills and knowledge beyond his or her experience. Specialized certifications are also available such as the Accredited Wedding Vendor certificate offered by the Association of Bridal Consultants and the Automotive Sales Professional certificate offered by the National Automobile Dealers Association. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Retail Salespersons are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Clothing Stores19.9%
Department Stores12.7%
Building Material and Supplies Dealers8.5%
Sporting Goods/Musical Instrument Stores7.2%
Electronics and Appliance Stores6.5%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges and universities. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Retail Salespersons.

  • Car Dealerships
  • Clothing Stores
  • Computer and Equipment Dealers
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Department Stores
  • Furniture Stores
  • Home Improvement Stores
  • Wedding Supplies and Services

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Working as a Retail Salesperson is an excellent way to learn about a retail business. Opportunities for advancement depend on a Salesperson’s level of performance and competence, and the size and type of employing company. Since most stores prefer to promote their own workers rather than hire external candidates to fill advanced jobs, chances are good for hard-working Salespersons to become a shift supervisor or an assistant store manager. Large retail establishments generally prefer to hire college graduates as management trainees. Motivated and capable employees may be able to advance to administrative or supervisory positions with more experience or training.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Retail Salespersons with links to more information.

Counter and Rental ClerksProfile
Customer Service RepresentativesGuide
Driver/Sales WorkersGuide
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific ProductsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification41-2031
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Retail Salespersons41-2031.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ECS
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Floriculture/Floristry Operations and Management 010608
   Sales, Distribution, and Marketing Operations, General 521801
   Retailing and Retail Operations 521803
   Selling Skills and Sales Operations 521804
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Floriculture /Floristry010920
   Retail Store Operations and Management050650
   Marketing and Distribution050900
   Sales and Salesmanship050940