What Does a Retail Clerk Do?

Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
Sometimes retail clerks work as cashiers, processings sales and/or returns.
Sometimes retail clerks work as cashiers, processings sales and/or returns.

A retail clerk serves customers and supports the store’s daily operations, performing a wide range of tasks: selling products, processing returns, accepting payments, answering questions, and stocking shelves. In some cases, a clerk’s responsibilities may include marketing tasks such as arranging promotional displays and making recommendations to customers. Some clerks also sweep, clean, and organize the customer-facing areas of the store.

Did You Know?

  • Most entry-level retail clerk positions have no formal education requirements.
  • Median pay in the U.S. for retail clerks in 2019 was $12.23/hour, but wages can vary widely depending on the geographical location of the store.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 0% change in employment outlook through 2029.
  • Many employers provide on-the-job training for retail clerks.
  • There are tull-time and part-time retail clerk positions.

Is a Retail Clerk a Cashier?

High-performing sales clerks may be promoted to high positions selling computers and other big-ticket items.
High-performing sales clerks may be promoted to high positions selling computers and other big-ticket items.

In some stores, a retail clerk performs many of the same tasks as a cashier, but in other establishments, clerk and cashier responsibilities don’t overlap. For example, a retail clerk at Kroger receives training on cashier duties and may operate a register during times when the store is busy. Oftentimes, retail clerks in clothing or department stores also serve as cashiers, completing sales and returns. They may arrange seasonal displays of clothing and/or accessories.

A retail clerk in a clothing store may be responsible for dressing mannequins in seasonal outfits.
A retail clerk in a clothing store may be responsible for dressing mannequins in seasonal outfits.

However, some stores clearly separate cashier and clerk duties. Employers may not provide retail clerks with the necessary training to operate the sales register and handle cash and credit cards. In stores like this, a retail clerk may stock shelves, greet customers, give directions to specific products, answer questions, and assist customers in carrying their purchases to their cars. The cashier, on the other hand, generally stays at the register, completing transactions and balancing the cash register at the end of the shift.

What Does a Retail Associate Do?

A grocery clerk may assist customers in finding what they want and choosing the best options.
A grocery clerk may assist customers in finding what they want and choosing the best options.

In most cases, retail associate is just another term for retail clerk, so the duties are largely the same. Retail clerks or associates commonly work in grocery stores, department stores, clothing stores, drug stores, and entertainment venues. Other terms for a retail clerk include customer service assistant, retail store clerk, and shop clerk.

In some stores, retail clerks are also salespeople. A sales clerk assists customers in finding what they want and encourages them to make a purchase. Sales clerks may have authority to negotiate prices and/or offer customers additional products, such as extended warranties or service plans. Some sales clerks work on commission, but this is not the case in all stores.

What Are the Top Skills for a Retail Clerk?

Many employers don’t require their retail clerks to have formal education credentials, but there are some skills that are crucial for success. If you are looking for retail clerk jobs, here are some essential skills to focus on:

  • Clear communication
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Outgoing personality (especially for sales positions)
  • Conflict resolution
  • Customer service
  • Physical strength (for inventory stocking)
Retail clerks spend much of their time interacting with customers, so excellent interpersonal skills are a must.
Retail clerks spend much of their time interacting with customers, so excellent interpersonal skills are a must.

Most retail clerk job descriptions require standing, walking, and lifting. Because retail clerks often make sales and interact with customers, employers may provide training in loss prevention and cash handling. Clerks may have access to additional courses to prepare for promotion to higher positions, such as shift supervisor or store manager. Entry-level sales clerks who perform well may be promoted to advanced positions with the opportunity to sell electronics, jewelry, furniture, and other big-ticket items for higher commissions.

Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland is equally passionate about math and grammar, and she has incorporated both into her career. She spent several years as a signals analyst for the Defense Department, creating and editing reports for the intelligence community. After her two kids were born, she transitioned to a career as a freelance writer. When she isn't crafting content, she's usually reading, baking, or playing video games.
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland is equally passionate about math and grammar, and she has incorporated both into her career. She spent several years as a signals analyst for the Defense Department, creating and editing reports for the intelligence community. After her two kids were born, she transitioned to a career as a freelance writer. When she isn't crafting content, she's usually reading, baking, or playing video games.

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    • Sometimes retail clerks work as cashiers, processings sales and/or returns.
      Sometimes retail clerks work as cashiers, processings sales and/or returns.
    • High-performing sales clerks may be promoted to high positions selling computers and other big-ticket items.
      High-performing sales clerks may be promoted to high positions selling computers and other big-ticket items.
    • A retail clerk in a clothing store may be responsible for dressing mannequins in seasonal outfits.
      A retail clerk in a clothing store may be responsible for dressing mannequins in seasonal outfits.
    • A grocery clerk may assist customers in finding what they want and choosing the best options.
      A grocery clerk may assist customers in finding what they want and choosing the best options.
    • Retail clerks spend much of their time interacting with customers, so excellent interpersonal skills are a must.
      Retail clerks spend much of their time interacting with customers, so excellent interpersonal skills are a must.
    • Retail clerks will often help customers in places like electronics stores.
      By: naypong
      Retail clerks will often help customers in places like electronics stores.
    • Retail clerks are typically available to answer customers' questions.
      By: Robert Kneschke
      Retail clerks are typically available to answer customers' questions.