What's it really like?Fran Clixby is 20, and has been a sales assistant at the fashion and clothing retail chain Next for a year and a half. She tells us what it's really like. I have been at Next for about a year and a half - I started in July last year, and I have been working there when I am at home from university in the holidays. I had never been a sales assistant before, so this is my first job in the industry. A normal day involves lots of different things. At Next, there are two or three shop assistants working in the same department at any one time, so we all do different tasks to make sure everything is being looked after. Sometimes I will be working off the shop floor, processing new stock and getting it ready to be put out on display. In the store itself, I work behind the till and help in the fitting rooms. This involves making sure people aren’t stealing anything and also helping them make crucial decisions! One of the nicest things about the job is talking to customers, and the satisfaction when you help people find something they really like. I take the clothes people leave at the fitting rooms back into the shop as quickly as possible, so that other customers can see them too. Sometimes I can also be found at the front of the shop promoting new Next catalogues, or on the shop floor checking that the way the stock is displayed satisfies the guidelines that we are given by head office. It’s hard being on your feet all day, and some of the things I have to do are really repetitive. But the people I work with make it a really fun job. There is a really good team spirit, and the staff discount definitely comes in handy! One piece of advice I have for anyone who wants to be a sales assistant is to choose your shifts wisely - for example, try to spend your morning in ladies wear, and the afternoon in children’s wear. This keeps a bit of variety in what you have to do. Because I only work here in the holidays, I haven’t really thought about trying for a promotion. It is great having the flexibility to come here and work for shifts that suit me, and when you get promoted you have less flexibility about your hours and shifts. Once you have been working here regularly for six months then you will usually be promoted if you decide to apply for vacancies within the store. Next also provides a weekly bulletin with information about vacancies across the nation so there seems to be quite a lot of opportunity for career progression. Fran is paid £5.52 an hour, with double time on bank holidays and an increased rate on Sundays.
A sales assistant looks after customers when they are shopping. They are always ready to answer questions and find items for customers, to give advice and information, to keep the stock in the shop looking its best, and to handle payment for customers’ purchases.
SalarySalaries for junior and trainee sales assistants are £9,000 - £13,000 a year, reaching £11,000 - £15,000 once you are more experienced. Sales managers can earn up to £20,000 a year. Many of the larger retail companies offer their employees staff discounts on their products, often between 20% and 50%. There is often increased pay offered for shifts worked during Bank Holidays, Sundays and for overtime.
ResponsibilitiesA Sales Assistant must:
- Be attentive to customers’ needs.
- Give information about the features, quality and availability of different products.
- Help customers find products they are looking for in the shop.
- When necessary, be able to give in-depth technical advice about products.
- Handle the payment for any purchases.
- Arrange orders and deliveries of stock for customers.
- Advise the customer of information relating to their purchase, such as its warranty or how to look after it.
- Make the customer aware of any special offers.
- Make sure that all stock is on display.
- Be aware of what all the customers in the shop are doing, to guard against shoplifting.
QualificationsThere are no formal minimum entry requirements for a sales assistant. You should be able to show a good degree of numeracy and literacy, so GCSEs in English and Maths are useful.
SkillsSales Assistants have many diverse tasks and always need to be friendly and professional with customers. Key skills and qualities include:
- Good teamwork.
- Flexibility to do different tasks.
- Ability to be friendly and polite, even when tired, or under pressure.
- Ability to follow procedures correctly, such as using a till.
- Confidence in giving advice and information.
- Having enough stamina to keep going.