9 Important Retail Assistant Skills and How to Use Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Retail assistants use many skills to perform their primary duties. Candidates with strong customer service skills and a desire to work in a fast-paced environment within a team can find a fulfilling career as a retail assistant. Understanding the different retail skills and how assistants use them can help you develop the skills to secure a retail assistant role. In this article, we learn what retail assistant skills are and why they're important and discuss nine retail skills and how assistants use them in the workplace and to what effect.

What are retail assistant skills?

Retail assistant skills refer to the skills and capabilities retail professionals use to help them fulfil their primary duties. These skills support retail assistants by equipping them with the qualities to interact with customers, work long shifts and present stores well for the public. Professional skills are an important contributing factor to a candidate's success in a job application process because they show a hiring manager whether a candidate can fulfil a retail assistant's primary responsibilities.

Hiring managers may list these skills as desirable on a job advertisement, so it's important for retail assistant candidates to develop these in preparation for their application. Retail assistants typically develop these skills through experience, but managers may provide in-depth training to teach candidates the importance of skills and good techniques. For example, candidates may undergo intensive customer service training to understand the correct tools to use when interacting with customers or persuading them to buy products.

Related: How to Become a Sales Assistant (With Top Skills)

9 retail assistant skills

Here are nine retail assistant skills and how professionals use them in a retail environment:

Customer service

Customer service skills refer to the overall quality of service that assistants offer to customers. This can include ensuring that the customers' in-store experience is positive to motivate them to buy products. Providing excellent customer service is important to a retail assistant because customers may review their store experience. Good reviews may encourage managers to promote retail assistants with strong proficiency in customer service.

Retail assistants with good customer service skills typically have a 'people-first' attitude and prioritise the needs of their customers before their own. This can include stopping tasks to help a customer locate an item or recommending an item to suit a customer's specific needs.

Related: Retail Skills: Definition and Examples

Teamwork

Depending on the size of the retail setting, retail assistants may work as part of large teams, splitting work between colleagues and taking responsibility for different store sections. Retail assistants in smaller shops may work as part of a limited team but still work collaboratively to fulfil tasks. Good teamwork skills help assistants effectively delegate tasks and work in partnership with their colleagues to complete their tasks quickly and to a good standard.

Effective teamwork skills help retail assistants foster positive working relationships with their colleagues, potentially increasing job satisfaction and retention. Retail assistants may also cover sizeable store areas, ensuring that assistants are always available to tend to customers.

Detail-oriented mindset

Retail assistants take primary responsibility for ensuring that shops are presentable and aesthetically pleasing to customers. This involves a detail-oriented mindset to market the products effectively and encourage customers to buy them. Paying attention to detail is valuable when designing store-fronts, folding and arranging clothes neatly, deciding on store colour schemes and layouts and ensuring that the store is clean and tidy. Retail assistants may organise stores according to company policy, meaning that they work from a brief and ensure that the store abides by strict presentation standards.

Ensuring that all retail assistants present their store well is important to providing good customer service as customers may appreciate clear walkways, easily identifiable products, accurate tags and hangers in an appealing environment. Paying close attention to detail is also important when retail assistants count money from tills and ensure that all customers pay, as managers require them to report any discrepancies regarding money shortages or crimes such as shoplifting.

Stamina

Retail assistants may spend long hours on their feet while conducting their primary duties. This may include travelling to different floors within a shop, restocking shelves and lifting heavy items from stockrooms. These tasks require a level of fitness and energy throughout the day. Stamina helps retail assistants remain friendly and high-energy while interacting with customers, answering their enquiries and guiding them to the relevant sections.

These professionals may undertake training on effectively lifting objects without overexerting themselves and lowering the risk of injury but can develop their stamina with experience. Stamina is also important for professionals who work extra shifts in addition to their standard shift pattern, as this can have an impact on their energy levels. Good stamina ensures that they have the mental and physical energy to take on multiple shifts in a week.

Verbal communication

Retail assistants communicate with large teams and customers constantly. Effective verbal communication skills help retail assistants relay important information to their customers, guiding them on the best products for their needs and providing them with information regarding discounts, memberships and company policies. Verbal communication skills are also important for persuading customers to buy certain products by providing clear information and employing the correct conversational and persuasion techniques.

Good verbal communication skills are also important for retail assistants when handling customer complaints. This helps them actively listen to customers' concerns and respond to them to improve their experience in stores.

Related: Types of Verbal Communication (With Importance and Tips)

Persuasion

Retail assistants use persuasion skills to encourage customers to buy products. Persuasion skills refer to techniques that prompt action and convince a customer that a product makes a significant difference to their life. Retail assistants use techniques like appealing to customers' specific needs. This is a common sales technique that targets the need for shelter, self-actualisation and self-esteem.

To contextualise this, retail assistants working in clothing stores may target self-esteem to motivate customers to buy clothing items. Some retail assistants may build a rapport with customers to persuade them to buy a product. This can break down barriers between assistants and customers, making them more comfortable and likely to make a purchase. Candidates may learn these skills through experience and undergo training and observation from more senior retail team members to learn effective persuasion techniques.

Patience and resilience

When facing confrontational customers or challenging complaints, retail assistants practise patience and resilience. These skills help assistants remain calm under pressure and provide constructive answers to enquiries and complaints. Retail assistants also interact with a large range of individuals in a retail environment. They may assist people who find retail environments stressful and require more patience than the average customer to bag their shopping. They also help customers who require additional help with walking around shops or more accessibility such as needing a wheelchair, bathroom and elevator.

Resilience helps retail assistants remain mentally strong after challenging situations with customers. For example, if a customer becomes aggressive, resilience helps assistants remain positive while continuing their shift without letting the situation affect them.

Problem-solving

Retail professionals use strong problem-solving skills when solving customer complaints, money shortages and other common retail issues. Problem-solving refers to a candidate's ability to solve complex issues via a clear and formulaic approach that benefits the customers and the store. Retail assistants use creativity to think of solutions that address customer issues and improve rapport and company image. This is important for creating a positive customer experience and motivating customers to continue buying from the store.

Problem-solving skills also help retail assistants repurpose excess stock and find clever ways to market items to customers before managers and head offices take them out of circulation. This may come in the form of unique discounts and engaging displays that motivate customers to buy stock.

Time management

Retail assistants typically complete their tasks within a designated time frame to ensure they can stack shelves, replenish stock and price items without inconveniencing customers. Time management refers to a candidate's ability to complete all of their tasks quickly but still to an exemplary standard. This is important because retail assistants may work in staggered shift patterns and have numerous tasks to complete before they leave the store.

Time management is key for stores with limited working hours, as retail assistants have less time to complete their tasks on certain days. These professionals may also multi-task, meaning they work on several tasks simultaneously. Good time management skills also enable them to delegate their time appropriately while managing their stress.

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