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Retail Sales Assistant

Kaiāwhina Hokohoko

Alternative titles for this job

Retail sales assistants serve customers, look after stock items and process sales.


Retail sales assistants usually earn

$48K per year

Source: Retail NZ 2020 Wages Guide, 2020.

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 company they work for. 

  • Entry-level sales assistants usually start on minimum wage.
  • Senior sales assistants can earn more.

Source: Retail NZ 2020 Wages Guide, 2020.

(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:

  • greet customers and help them choose products
  • advise customers how to use and care for products
  • assist with customer purchases, price enquiries and special orders
  • carry out stocktakes and order new stock
  • check delivered stock against orders and ensure it is in good condition
  • price and display stock
  • handle customer complaints
  • keep the retail space tidy and clean.

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
  • good communication skills.

Working conditions

Retail sales assistants:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may also work evenings and weekends
  • work in shops or warehouses and may also work outdoors – for example, in garden centres.

What's the job really like?

Trishna Khadji

Trishna Khadji

Retail sales assistant

Lots of variety in retail

While studying for a diploma, Trishna Khadji began working part-time as a retail sales assistant for grocery retailer Farro Fresh. After completing her studies she was offered full-time work and has continued to enjoy the day-to-day activities in a busy retail environment.

“Most days I do a variety of things in the grocery and checkout departments. A typical work day includes receiving stock from our central warehouse in the morning, labelling and putting products on display and restocking shelves, dealing with suppliers, checking for expiring products, and also serving customers.”

Always opportunities to learn

Trishna enjoys the way that there is always something new to learn when working in retail. While there can be challenges, such as handling customer complaints if they arise, the many opportunities to learn make it all worthwhile.

“I like learning about new things. When I started I had no knowledge of working in a retail store but I've always had a passion for learning new things. There are so many products and things to learn about, so my love of learning has helped me a lot.”

Trishna suggests that if you stay motivated and focus on the work and opportunities to learn, retail can be a rewarding and enjoyable career.

Retail Sales Assistant video

Josh Owens talks about life as a retail sales assistant – 2.06 mins

My boss always says "The sale isn't over until they have walked out the door,
with the product". Hi, my name's Josh and I'm a client advisor.
I work at a menswear store. We do made-to-measure clothing,
we tailor clothes,
we sell off the rack and generally make men look good.
A client advisor assists people when they come into the store,
assists them with trying on clothes, recommending clothes.
An average day for me starts at 9:30,
making sure the store looks beautiful for the clients,
and then we open the doors to the public.
Young came in asking for a smart jacket that he could wear
to work, but also out to dinner. So this is a wool,
silk and cashmere cloth. [We] made this jacket half-lined,
so it's taken a lot of weight out of it.
You don't need any qualifications to work here. Personally,
I studied fashion design.
I came here with not having too much retail experience,
but having a passion for clothing.
The hardest thing about my job is probably juggling clients. So
we do lots of weddings, manage deadlines quite a bit,
their expectations.
So because we advise clients on how to look after their clothes,
we've got to look after the clothes in the store. So that's what I'm doing.
The biggest thing I've learned in my job is probably organisation skills and
planning ahead, to be friendly and be passionate about what you're selling.
My advice for somebody who would like to do what I do,
start with developing relationships.
If there's a store that you really want to work in,
just go in and meet the people who work there and find out about the
brand or the store. It will follow. If you have enough passion and enough drive,
everything else will follow.

Entry requirements

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

However, you can work towards a qualification on the job such as the New Zealand Certificate in Retail (Levels 3 and 4).

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but English and maths to at least NCEA Level 1 are useful.

Personal requirements

Retail sales assistants need to be:

  • good communicators
  • friendly and helpful
  • good at customer service
  • honest and reliable.

Useful experience

Useful experience for retail sales assistants includes:

  • cash handling
  • customer service
  • visual display and merchandising
  • 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 do heavy lifting.

Find out more about training

Retail NZ
0800 472 472 - -
Service IQ
0800 863 693 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

The retail sector has experienced steady growth in recent years

Vacancies for retail sales assistants are frequently advertised because:

  • it is a large industry with many roles
  • 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 better-paid roles.

According to the Census, 108,702 retail sales assistants and 1,464 pharmacy 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 also work for:

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


  • Harford, G, chief executive, Retail NZ, interview, July 2020.
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Retail NZ, 'Retail Radar Report: Covid-19 Special Edition', July 2020, (

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

Progression and specialisations

Retail sales assistants may move into senior sales, supervisory, shop management or regional management roles.

A retail sales assistant operates a checkout while talking with customers

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

Last updated 27 March 2024