Shop assistant

A shop assistant advising a customer


Shop assistants work in shops where they perform assistance duties. The help shopkeepers in their daily work such as ordering and refilling of goods and stock, providing general advice to customers, selling products and maintaining the shop.

The duties of a shop assistant include, but are not limited to:

  • Keeping track of inventory levels to ensure that there is enough stock to meet demand
  • Arranging promotions such as sales promotions, end of season sales, and new product launches
  • Providing excellent customer service to customers by greeting them warmly and answering their questions about products
  • Providing personal attention to customers’ needs by assisting them in selecting items that best suit their needs
  • Taking orders from customers and processing payments for goods or services
  • Restocking items such as clothing racks, shelves, and bins with items that have been sold
  • Updating price tags on items as dictated by store policy
  • Operating cash registers to process customer transactions
  • Helping customers find items that they cannot locate on their own

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to shop assistant:

supermarket shop worker
outlet centre shop assistant
senior shop worker
trainee shop worker
garden centre shop worker
museum shop assistant
outlet centre shop worker
supermarket shop assistant
hypermarket shop worker
department store shop worker
filling station shop worker
garden centre shop assistant
senior shop assistant
filling station shop assistant
department store shop assistant
trainee shop assistant
hypermarket shop assistant

Working conditions

Shop assistants typically work in retail stores, assisting customers with purchases and answering questions about the products. They may also be responsible for stocking shelves and conducting inventory, as well as keeping the store clean and organized.

Most shop assistants work full time, and some may work evenings and weekends. The work can be physically demanding, such as standing for long periods of time and lifting heavy boxes. Shop assistants may also be required to work during holidays and other peak shopping periods. The work environment can be fast-paced and stressful, especially during busy times.

Minimum qualifications

Although retail or parts sales positions usually have no formal education requirements, some employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent, especially employers who sell technical products or “big-ticket” items, such as electronics or cars.

Most shop assistants receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts a few days to a few months. In small stores, an experienced employee often trains newly hired workers. In large stores, training programs are more formal and usually conducted over several days.

During training sessions, topics often include customer service, security, the store’s policies and procedures, and how to operate the cash register.

Depending on the type of product they are selling, employees may be given additional specialized training. For example, salespersons working in cosmetics get instruction on the types of products the store offers and for whom the cosmetics would be most beneficial. Likewise, those who sell auto parts may be instructed on the technical functions of various parts, in addition to sales technique.

Because providing exceptional service to customers is a priority for many employers, employees often get periodic training to update and refine their skills.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Shop assistant is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Shop assistant career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to shop assistant.

sales assistant
press and stationery specialised seller
medical goods specialised seller
second-hand goods specialised seller
ammunition specialised seller

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of shop assistant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of shop assistant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

visual merchandiser
shop manager
drugstore manager
garage manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of shop assistant.

  • Product comprehension: The offered products, their functionalities, properties and legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Company policies: The set of rules that govern the activity of a company.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of shop assistant.

  • Apply company policies: Apply the principles and rules that govern the activities and processes of an organisation.
  • Operate cash register: Register and handle cash transactions by using point of sale register.
  • Maintain relationship with customers: Build a lasting and meaningful relationship with customers in order to ensure satisfaction and fidelity by providing accurate and friendly advice and support, by delivering quality products and services and by supplying after-sales information and service.
  • Examine merchandise: Control that items put up for sale are correctly priced and displayed and that they function as advertised.
  • Provide customer guidance on product selection: Provide suitable advice and assistance so that customers find the exact goods and services they were looking for. Discuss product selection and availability.
  • Maintain relationship with suppliers: Build a lasting and meaningful relationship with suppliers and service providers in order to establish a positive, profitable and enduring collaboration, co-operation and contract negotiation.
  • Maintain store cleanliness: Keep the store tidy and clean by hovering and mopping.
  • Put up price tags: Put price tags on products and ensure the prices are correctly displayed.
  • Organise product display: Arrange goods in attractive and safe way. Set up a counter or other display area where demonstrations take place in order to attract the attention of prospective customers. Organise and maintain stands for merchandise display. Create and assemble sales spot and product displays for sales process.
  • Stock shelves: Refill shelves with merchandise to be sold.
  • Pack merchandise for gifts: Gift-wrap merchandise at the customer’s request.
  • Process refunds: Resolve customer inquiries for returns, exchange of merchandise, refunds or bill adjustments. Follow organisational guidelines during this process.
  • Carry out order intake: Take in of purchase requests for items that are currently unavailable.
  • Follow given instructions: Follow instructions to achieve goals and meet deadlines.
  • Package purchases in bags: Packet purchased items and place them in shopping bags.
  • Arrange ordering of products for customers: Order products for customers according to their specifications and provisions.
  • Provide customer follow-up services: Register, follow-up, solve and respond to customer requests, complaints and after-sales services.
  • Notify customers on special offers: Notify customers on new promotional actions and special offers.
  • Supervise merchandise displays: Work closely together with visual display staff to decide how items should be displayed, in order to maximise customer interest and product sales.
  • Direct customers to merchandise: Inform customers of where they can find the products they are searching for and escort them to their desired product.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of shop assistant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Sales promotion techniques: The techniques used to persuade customers to purchase a product or a service.
  • Teamwork principles: The cooperation between people characterised by a unified commitment to achieving a given goal, participating equally, maintaining open communication, facilitating effective usage of ideas etc.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of shop assistant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Operate cash point: Count the money; balance cash drawer at the end of the shift; receive payments and process payment information; use scanning equipment.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Monitor stock level: Evaluate how much stock is used and determine what should be ordered.
  • Identify customer’s needs: Use appropriate questions and active listening in order to identify customer expectations, desires and requirements according to product and services.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Process payments: Accept payments such as cash, credit cards and debit cards. Handle reimbursement in case of returns or administer vouchers and marketing instruments such as bonus cards or membership cards. Pay attention to safety and the protection of personal data.
  • Keep records of merchandise delivery: Keep records of goods deliveries; report discrepancies to control costs in order to maintain correct inventory levels.
  • Achieve sales targets: Reach set sales goals, measured in revenue or sold units. Reach the target within a specific timeframe, prioritise sold products and services accordingly and plan in advance.
  • Carry out active selling: Deliver thoughts and ideas in impactful and influencing manner to persuade customers to become interested in new products and promotions. Persuade clients that a product or service will satisfy their needs.
  • Process orders from online shop: Process orders from web shop; direct sales, packaging and shipment.
  • Demonstrate products’ features: Demonstrate how to use a product in a correct and safe manner, provide customers with information on the product’s main features and benefits, explain operation, correct use and maintenance. Persuade potential customers to purchase items.
  • Check deliveries on receipt: Control that all order details are recorded, that faulty items are reported and returned and that all paperwork is received and processed, according to the purchasing procedures.

ISCO group and title

5223 – Shop sales assistants

  1. Shop assistant – ESCO
  2. Retail Sales Workers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Shop Assistant Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  4. Featured image: By State Library and Archives of Florida –, Public Domain
Last updated on November 25, 2022

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