Retail Careers: Options, Job Titles, and Descriptions

Shopkeeper explaining a selection of denim to customer in mens clothing boutique
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

If you are looking for a job in the retail industry, you should learn the job titles you can expect to see in listings. There are many different types of job options available for those interested in working in retail.

What is a Retail Job?

“Retail” means “selling to the public.” It can be a storefront, office, or online business. The retail business might consist of a single person with no employees, or it might be a small company where several employees each take on multiple roles. Or, it might be a large store or chain of stores with multiple departments and specialized positions.

Retail Career Options

If you have great customer service, organizational, or leadership skills, retail sales or merchandising might well prove to be your dream career.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, retail sales workers could command a median salary of $25,440 per year ($12.23 per hour) in 2019. No work experience or formal educational credentials were generally required in order to be hired for entry-level positions.

Retail Job Responsibilities

To some extent, your duties in a retail position depend on what product you are selling. In addition, knowing your customer base well will ensure that you'll reach your sales goal at the end of the month.

Retail staff must be familiar with both the products they sell and the needs of their customers.

For someone selling camping gear, for example, it is not enough to know the difference between types of sleeping bags. To give truly excellent customer service, it is also helpful to have tried both of them.

But all retail jobs, regardless of industry or market, are more alike than different. While there are exceptions, such as stocking clerks or some purely managerial positions, most retail jobs involve a mix of working the cash register and providing customer service, plus some subtle but effective loss prevention. Some jobs include upselling, but many do not.

Job titles tend to vary somewhat from one company to the next. The same job might be called a “front end associate,” a “cashier,” or a “checker,” depending on who the employer is. Conversely, duties might be divided differently at different businesses.

For example, in one store, cashier and sales associate positions might be strictly separate, while in another, the same person might fill both roles at the same time, or perhaps on other shifts. And yet, certain job categories tend to be consistent from one business to another, at least above a certain size.

If you have succeeded at one retail establishment, you will likely succeed with a similar title elsewhere.

Top Retail Job Titles

Entry-Level Positions

New hires often find themselves working as cashiers, stockers, or sales associates, although these can be long-term positions for some employees. Some people, for example, work as cashiers for years while earning regular raises and increased benefits. These are not jobs without skill.

Both cashiers and sales associates function as the public face of the company and provide most of the customer service within the store. Stockers might not interact with customers (some work while the store is closed), but they must be fast and accurate. These are entry-level positions because they don’t involve supervising anyone.

  • Automotive Parts Counter Person
  • Automotive Parts Specialist
  • Bilingual Retail Sales Representative
  • Cashier
  • Customer Service Assistant
  • Display Assistant
  • Inventory Associate
  • Inventory Taker
  • Order Entry / Processor
  • Order Filler
  • Order Picker
  • Paint Specialist
  • Product Demonstrator
  • Retail Customer Service Associate
  • Retail Personal Banker
  • Retail Sales Associate: Retail Sales Worker, Sales Clerks, Retail Clerks, Salespeople
  • Retail Sales Associate / Photographer
  • Retail Sales Consultant
  • Retail Sales Representative
  • Retail Security Officer
  • Retail Trainee
  • Stock Clerk
  • Stocker / Placer
  • Warehouse Associate – Material Handler
  • Wine Sales, Cashiers, and Stock Associates

Intermediate Positions

Floor leaders, team leaders, and similar positions do supervise other staff, but these are often peer-leadership positions. That is, the lead cashier is still a cashier, and might have no true authority, but acts to coordinate the work of the other cashiers, making sure everyone takes breaks at the proper time, and so on.

Customer service representatives may act as lead cashiers or lead sales associates in some stores. In other retail organizations, these positions are separate, but the customer service representative still has greater authority because they are empowered to handle agitated customers. None of these job titles are management, however.

  • Customer Service Representative
  • Department Manager
  • Floor Area Manager
  • Floor Leader
  • Floor Manager
  • Promotions Coordinator
  • Retail Administration Analyst
  • Retail Management Trainee
  • Retail Marketing Specialist
  • Retail Team Leader
  • Service Supervisor
  • Supervisor
  • Team Leader

Management Roles

In a small business, the manager might simply be the owner. In a large business, particularly one with multiple locations, there might be several layers of management. A department manager might be a team leader with an impressive title, the head of a department, but not part of management in a technical sense. Sales managers are true managers, responsible for training the sales team, setting goals and quotas, and making related decisions.

A store manager is responsible for an entire location in a chain, while a regional manager is responsible for several locations in a chain. Depending on the company structure, there may be other managerial positions. At each level, each manager may have one or more assistant managers. These positions seldom involve any customer contact. Some managers rarely even speak to entry-level associates. But an awareness of the principles of sales is still an important background for these positions.

  • Area Manager
  • Assistant Merchandise Manager
  • Assistant Store Manager
  • Associate Product Manager
  • Automotive Sales Manager
  • Customer Service Manager
  • District Sales Manager
  • Divisional Manager
  • General Manager
  • Global Logistics Supervisor
  • In-Store Assistant Branch Manager
  • Manager of Retail Strategy Communications and Processes
  • Meat Manager
  • Regional Manager
  • Retail Associate Store Manager
  • Retail Food Service Manager
  • Sales Manager
  • Store Manager
  • Warehouse Manager

Buying and Merchandising Roles

The various buying and merchandising positions within retail organizations are the critical “behind the scenes” jobs which allow a store to efficiently manage its stock levels, control its overhead costs, prevent loss, and present its offerings in attractive displays to customers. People typically become buyers or merchandisers after working their way up through entry-level roles.

  • Assistant Buyer
  • Associate Merchandise Buyer
  • Buyer
  • Buyer - Fashion
  • Buyer – Fashion - Clothing
  • Buyer of Cosmetics
  • Buyer of Girls’ Apparel
  • Delivery / Bulk Merchandiser
  • Delivery Merchandiser Trainee
  • Director of Merchandise Planning and Allocation
  • Display Manager
  • Display Merchandiser
  • Executive Merchandise Trainee
  • Footwear Buyer
  • Inventory Manager
  • Loss Prevention Specialist
  • Merchandise Analyst
  • Merchandise Buyer
  • Merchandise Manager
  • Merchandise Planner
  • Merchandise Supervisor
  • Procurement Specialist
  • Retail Buyer
  • Visual Merchandiser

How to Find a Retail Job

Here’s information how to get a retail job, a list of the retail skills you’ll need, what to expect in retail job interviews, and the top 10 best hourly retail jobs.