Sales assistant (general)

What they do

Retail sales assistants sell goods and services to customers in retail stores. They may sell all kinds of products, from clothing to electrical goods, flowers to cosmetics. A large portion of their work is serving and advising customers on the goods that they sell. They operate cash registers, take orders, display and price stock, and keep their store clean and orderly.

Working conditions

Retail sales assistants work in shops, outlet stores, department stores, supermarkets, warehouses, boutiques and grocers. They may occasionally work outdoors if they work at a car dealership or hardware and garden centre, but most work indoors. They frequently work on shifts during normal work hours, as well as on weekends and evenings. Their work environments are very public spaces, and can be incredibly busy and demanding during holidays.

Tools and technologies

Retail sales assistants use cash registers, EFTPOS and credit card machines, barcode readers, pricing label guns and small step ladders for stacking or arranging high displays. In some shops they may use specialised equipment for the particular product they are selling. Some may use scales and tape measures, others may use watering and gardening equipment, and some will use clip boards and brochures. Many retail sales assistants are required to wear uniforms.

How do I become one?

Education and training

It is possible to work as a sales assistant without any formal qualifications and get training on the job. However, entry into this occupation may be improved by obtaining a qualification in retail services, retail, or a related area.

The Certificate II in Retail Services and Certificate III in Retail are offered at TAFE colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Western Australia. Browse courses through Jobs and Skills WA and search on the My Skills website to find a registered provider near you.

You can also undertake a traineeship in retail (level 2 or level 3). The traineeships usually take 12 months to complete, and are available as school-based traineeships.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.