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Retail Sales Assistant

Kaiāwhina Hokohoko

Alternative titles for this job

Retail sales assistants help customers pick out goods, and collect payment for purchases.


Retail sales assistants usually earn

$39K-$45K per year

Source: Trade Me Jobs, 2015.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting work as a retail sales assistant are average, with regular vacancies but strong competition for the roles.


Pay for retail sales assistants varies depending on experience and the organisation they work for. 

  • New retail sales assistants usually earn the minimum wage.
  • Retail sales assistants with experience can earn up to $45,000 a year.

Source: Trade Me Jobs, 'July-December 2015 Salary Guide', 2015.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Retail sales assistants may do some or all of the following:

  • help customers choose products
  • tell customers how to use and care for products
  • ring up goods, and collect payment or arrange credit or laybys
  • carry out stocktakes and order new stock
  • check delivered stock against orders, and ensure it is in good condition
  • price and put away stock, and create displays
  • handle customer complaints.

Skills and knowledge

Retail sales assistants need to have:

  • sales skills
  • knowledge of the products they are selling, and how they are used
  • knowledge of the Consumer Guarantees Act
  • cash-handling and basic maths skills
  • knowledge of their employer's policies and regulations for operation and sales
  • ability to display stock.

Working conditions

Retail sales assistants:

  • can work full or part-time hours, and may also work evenings and weekends, and be on call
  • work in shops or warehouses and may also work outdoors – for example, in garden centres.

What's the job really like?

Kasturi Desai

Kasturi Desai

Checkout Operator

It is checkout operator Kasturi Desai's love of meeting different people that sees her developing a good relationship with customers.

“You have to be friendly with customers because you are the one representing the whole supermarket. When you serve a customer you have to serve them politely and make sure they are happy with your service.”

Dealing with customers in a professional manner

Even if Kasturi has an awkward customer she deals with them in a professional manner, stressing that customer service is one of the most important qualities needed for the job. “If I have a rude customer I try to see things from their point of view. If you get a faulty product or something, you would get grumpy too. So I try to understand them.”

There’s lots of room to develop in the retail industry

Already Kasturi has progressed to checkout supervisor and wants to progress further. “Before I started working as a checkout operator I was working in a pasta shop. That was when I first came from India and English was a bit hard for me. But as soon as I started working I gained confidence. I was made checkout supervisor after one month of working at Pak’nSave.

“Now I have started studying retail management. Work pays for my study. I want to finish the whole course and go to the next level in retail.”

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a retail sales assistant.

Retail sales assistants can work towards a qualification on the job, such as the National Certificate in Retail, or do other specialised training depending on the type of products they sell.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a retail sales assistant. However, NCEA Level 1 in English and maths is often preferred.

Personal requirements

Retail sales assistants need to be:

  • good at communicating
  • good at customer service
  • good at dealing with the public
  • friendly, helpful and polite
  • motivated and organised
  • reliable and honest.

You can't really be shy and even when you're working on days that you're not feeling 100 percent, you can't show that to the customer. Sometimes it is a bit like working behind a bar. You get to know your regulars and build relationships with them.

Sharon Harding

Retail Sales Assistant

Useful experience

Useful experience for retail sales assistants includes:

  • cash-handling
  • customer service
  • other work that involves helping people.

Physical requirements

Retail sales assistants need to be reasonably fit and healthy, as they spend a lot of time on their feet and may need to do heavy lifting.

Find out more about training

Retail NZ
0800 472 472 - www.retail.kiwi/contact - www.retail.kiwi
Service IQ
0800 863 693 - intel@serviceiq.org.nz - www.serviceiq.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Frequent vacancies but strong competition

The retail sector has experienced growth over the past eight years, which has led to an increase in the number of retail sales assistants employed.

Vacancies for retail sales assistants come up frequently because:

  • it is a large industry with many positions
  • the job is often seen as an entry-level position, and once people gain experience they move on to higher positions
  • wages tend to be low, so people move on to take up better-paid positions.

Despite this, getting a job can still be difficult as competition for these roles is often high.

According to the Census, 125,736 retail sales assistants worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Work flexibility and experience boost your chances

Chances of getting work as a retail sales assistant are best for those who:

  • have some retail experience
  • are flexible about their work hours (including working evenings and weekends).

Chances of finding work are also better between November and January, when retailers take on more staff to deal with the rush before and after Christmas.

Types of employers varied

More than half of those employed in the retail sector work in supermarkets and grocery stores.

Retail sales assistants can also work for:

  • department stores
  • specialist clothing shops
  • hardware, building and garden suppliers
  • electronics goods stores
  • motor vehicle and parts outlets
  • car rental firms
  • food and beverage businesses.


  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Stats NZ, 'Retail Trade Survey: March 2016 Quarter', accessed July 2016, (www.statistics.govt.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Retail sales assistants can progress to senior sales, supervisory, shop management or regional management roles.

They may also work in specialist roles such as:

Pharmacy Assistant
Pharmacy assistants advise customers on the most suitable health and beauty requirements and products to suit their needs, and assess when they need to be referred to the pharmacist for further advice.


A pharmacy assistant takes a customer's cash card

Retail sales assistants carry out a range of duties in shops, including serving customers

Last updated 4 May 2020