Top Skills for Retail Jobs

Woman designing front window of store
••• Paper Boat Creative / Getty Images

Have you ever thought about all the hours of planning that go into running a store and persuading customers to spend their money? This is the world of retail. Whether it's assisting customers at a department store or managing a bank branch, each role within the retail industry requires both hard and soft skills.

If you enjoy the idea of working in a place where people browse and buy products on display, you may love the world of retail. You might start “on the floor” selling products, then work your way up to managing an entire region of stores. And with more people shopping online, working in retail can also help you quickly develop a career in e-commerce.

What are Retail Skills?

Retail skills are skills that involve selling products to consumers. These skills are required for many different retail jobs, including cashiersales associate, retail associate, retail buyer, retail manager, retail sales merchandiser, store manager, buyer, and more. 

If you work in retail, you’ll need to be good with numbers, interact well with others, and be able to persuade customers to make purchases.

Top Retail Skills

Illustration by Ashley DeLeon. © The Balance, 2018

Attention to Detail

Retail workers need to focus on detail, whether it is making sure a customer receives the exact change, keeping items in the store fully stocked, or making sure that the products are properly displayed. An eye for detail is a critical skill when trying to attract customers to a product.

  • Inventory
  • Organization
  • Organizing Displays
  • Stock Checking
  • Stocking and Restocking Shelves
  • Time Management
  • Visual Merchandising
  • Window Displays

Business Awareness

Business awareness means having an understanding of how a company or industry operates. Retail workers need to understand the company they work for, the products they sell, and the types of customers who purchase their products.

  • Product Knowledge
  • Awareness of Trends
  • Business Awareness
  • Loss Prevention
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Merchandise Control
  • Merchandising
  • Operations
  • Ordering
  • Payroll
  • Product Rotation
  • Product Sourcing
  • Purchasing
  • Receiving
  • Shipping

Communication

Good communication skills are important for nearly all retail positions. People in retail need to be able to speak with customers, buyers, other employees, and employers. Having good communication skills means speaking clearly and effectively with people.

Good communication also includes active listening. This is especially important when working with customers. You must be able to listen to what a customer wants or needs, and help him or her as best you can.

  • Answering Customers' Questions
  • Greeting Customers
  • Communicating with Other Stores or Buyers
  • Explaining Products to Customers
  • Listening to Customers' Complaints
  • Order Taking

Customer Service

Customer service skills are important for almost all retail positions. Retail associates, in particular, need to be positive and friendly to help customers make purchases and resolve with any issues they face while shopping.

  • Customer-First Mindset
  • Customer Relations
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Customer Service
  • Greeting Customers
  • Listening to and Solving Customers' Complaints
  • Recommending Products to Customers

Basic Computer Skills

Many retail jobs today will include some use of computers and mobile devices, so it is important that you demonstrate some skill in technology when you apply for a job in retail. You might have to work an electronic register, credit card processor, or Point of Sale (POS) system. You might also have to use a management information system to analyze purchasing and other consumer trends. No matter what your job may be within the retail industry, knowing how to use a computer will likely give you a competitive edge at work.  

  • Analyzing Data
  • Assist Customers with Online Orders
  • Cash Registers
  • Cashiering
  • Point of Sale (POS) Systems

Interpersonal Skills

Working in retail involves constantly interacting with others, including customers, colleagues, employers, and other buyers. People in retail must be able to put on a friendly face, and be patient with frustrated customers. Here are specific interpersonal skills needed in retail:

Numeracy

Numeracy (making sense of numbers) is another important skill in retail. You need to do basic math, calculate prices, add up discounts, make change for customers, count inventory, and more. You may also need to calculate sales values or estimate stock needed based on trends in consumer data.

  • Cash Accountability
  • Cash Handling
  • Cash Management
  • Check Approval
  • Check Processing
  • Credit Approval
  • Credit Cards
  • Inventory
  • Math Skills
  • Price Markdowns
  • Pricing

Sales

Of course, to be a good retailer, you need to be able to sell products. Retail workers must be persuasive and persistent with customers, and convince them that certain products are worth purchasing. You will have to be able to clearly explain the company's products, and market them to customers.

  • Achieving Sales Goals
  • Advising Shoppers
  • Arranging Product Displays
  • Closeouts
  • Converting Shoppers into Loyal Customers
  • Conveying Product Features and Benefits
  • Demonstrating Products
  • Emphasizing Promotional Items to Customers
  • Encouraging Customers to Consider Accessories
  • Encouraging Use of Store Credit Card
  • Establishing a Quick Rapport with Customers
  • Exceeding Sales Goals
  • Explaining the Benefits of Merchandise
  • Frequent Shopper Programs
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Helping Customers Locate Merchandise
  • Persistence
  • Persuasion
  • Promoting Brand Loyalty Programs
  • Recommending Suitable Items for Purchase
  • Suggesting Alternative Items When Products Aren't Available

More Retail Skills

  • Product Performance
  • Developing Product Specifications
  • Analyzing Sales Patterns
  • Assessing Customer Preferences
  • Brand Identity
  • Trade Shows
  • Supplier Relations
  • Determining Product Carryover
  • Pricing Strategy
  • Disseminating Product Information
  • Evaluating the Competition
  • Learning and Utilizing Merchant Data Systems
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Negotiating Purchase Agreements
  • Obtaining Quotes
  • Inventory Control
  • Recommending In-Season Sales and Liquidations
  • Reviewing Data on Item Returns
  • Routing Merchandise to Retail Outlets Based on Geography and Demographics
  • Vendor Selection
  • Timing the Introduction of New Lines
  • Sales Reports
  • Creating Incentives for Sales Staff
  • Establishing Theft Prevention Protocols
  • Interviewing Prospective Staff Members
  • Learning and Utilizing Retail Management Software
  • Loss Prevention
  • Resolving Customer Complaints
  • Staff Retention

Review Retail Resume Examples

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: Include these terms in your resume, especially in the descriptions of your work experience and history. 

Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: You can also include these skills in your cover letter. Highlight one or two of the skills mentioned here, and give specific examples of instances when you demonstrated these skills at work.

Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: You can also use these words in your interview. Keep the top skills listed here in mind during your interview, and be prepared to give examples of how you have used each skill.