Resumes & Cover Letters

Retail Skills: Definition and Examples

June 10, 2021

People working in the retail industry use a variety of retail skills to serve customers. Many of these skills transfer to other customer-focused sectors such as tourism, hospitality and sales. Promoting retail skills can help you secure work in retail and other customer-focused sectors. In this article, we define what retail skills are, their importance and some examples of retail skills with how to highlight them for a retail resume or a resume in a related field.

What are retail skills?

Retail skills are job-specific skills that help people succeed in the retail industry. Retail skills include customer-facing skills and retail maintenance skills. Customer-facing skills help retail employees assist customers. Retail maintenance skills make sure retail environments are presentable and well-stocked for customers. They make sure customers' experiences dealing with retailers are positive. Traditionally retail skills helped employees working in shops. However, with the rise of internet shopping, retail skills now also help people working for retailers selling online.

As retail workers need little formal education, most retail skills are soft skills. There are also some hard retail skills that employees learn through on-the-job training and experience, such as confidence using point-of-sale technology.

Why are retail worker skills important?

Retail skills help people interested in retail careers secure roles within the industry. Retailers often prefer job applicants with retail experience, as they can feel sure they have strong retail skills. People lacking retail skills may be more likely to secure a retail job if they have transferrable retail skills from other paid or volunteer positions. Most retailers also have training programs that help new employees develop their skills.

Retailers need employees with retail skills to make sure customers enjoy shopping with them. People typically return to retailers that deliver a positive shopping experience. They may also tell their friends about their shopping experiences. This positive word-of-mouth can increase a retailer's customer base and reputation. Happy and loyal shoppers help retailers increase their market share and profits. Many businesses in other sectors prize candidates with retail skills as most of these skills are transferable.

10 examples of retail skills

The skills retail employees have depended on their positions and whether they work for traditional or online retailers. Here is a retail skills list featuring common skills you might promote during your job search:

1. Customer service

Retail employees use customer service skills to help customers before, during and after they buy products. Employees with strong customer service skills are polite, friendly and helpful. They approach customers and ask whether they can assist them with their purchases. They may suggest products that meet the customer's needs and help locate them within the store. Once customers decide what they want to buy, employees use their customer service skills to make purchasing the products a pleasant experience. They continue using these skills if customers approach them for product refunds, exchanges or repairs.

Read more: 17 Customer Service Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. Communication

Communication skills help retail employees communicate with their customers and colleagues. Verbal communication skills are the most important for employees working in shops. They use these skills to explain products and their benefits to customers face-to-face or over the phone. They employ listening skills to learn what customers want and the tasks they should complete during their shifts. Retail employees working for online retailers also need strong written communication skills for emailing and instant messaging customers.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

3. Confidence using point-of-sale technology

Retail employees must feel confident using point-of-sale technology to process customer purchases accurately and efficiently. Common point-of-sale technologies for retailers include cash registers, barcode scanners, EFTPOS machines and receipt printers. If EFTPOS machines go offline, retail employees may need to use manual credit card swipe machines.

  1. Numeracy

While cash registers calculate purchase amounts, retail employees still need sound numeracy skills. These retail sales skills help them calculate the right change when customers alter their payment amount. They also use their numeracy skills when counting stock and counting the amount in their registers at the start and end of the day.

5. Business awareness

Retail employees must understand their employer's business and their products. They use their business awareness to answer customer questions about the retailer's products and policies. They also understand many processes that occur behind the scenes, such as loss prevention practices and merchandise control. Exceptional retail employees may use their business awareness to identify areas for improvement.

6. Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills help retail employees adapt to workplace challenges and keep customers happy. If products become damaged before sale, are out of stock or fail after purchase, they must find solutions that satisfy customers. If employees are unwell and need to leave work, they must take steps to cover their shifts. If customers become ill or hurt in the shop, they work as first responders and assist them until medical help arrives. When retail employees react well to unexpected circumstances, they help the retailer's reputation.

Read more: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

7. Time management

Retail employees often have a list of tasks they should complete during their shifts, such as sorting stock, assembling displays and cleaning the shop. Completing these tasks while serving customers requires careful time management. They must take advantage of quiet periods, serve customers efficiently and prioritise the most important tasks.

Related: Time Management Skills: The Importance of Including Them in Your Resume

8. Multi-tasking

Customers regularly approach retail employees when they're performing duties such as putting out new stock and cleaning the shop. They use their multi-tasking skills to support customers while still completing these tasks. They may also need to manage requests from several customers at once.

9. Self-management

Self-management helps retail employees meet their employer's and customers' expectations. It requires being punctual, staying productive and remaining calm at all times. They employ these skills before, during and after their shifts as they know they represent the business when they are in uniform.

10. Teamwork

Retail employees work as part of a team to deliver the best shopping experience to customers. They may liaise with people in different departments to answer customer questions or source products. They may work in unfamiliar departments or accept extra shifts to cover staff shortages. Good team players offer feedback to help others and apply feedback from others to become better employees. Retail employees with strong teamwork skills may earn leadership roles.

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to highlight retail skills during your job search

Highlighting your retail skills during your job search can help you secure a job in retail. If you are transitioning to a new industry, you should also highlight your transferrable retail skills. Once you gain relevant industry skills, you should highlight these rather than your retail skills. Consider what skills are the most relevant and promote them on your job application and during your interview:

Highlight retail skills on your job application

Mention your relevant retail skills on your job application when applying for retail jobs or jobs with transferrable skills, especially if you lack industry experience. Read the job description carefully to identify the most relevant retail skills. Your job application documents should mention any of your retail skills listed as essential or preferred in the job advertisement.

Your cover letter provides your first opportunity to promote your retail skills. Identify two or three retail skills relevant to the vacant position and explain how you have applied these skills in your career. For example, if you are applying for a checkout assistant role you might mention your customer service skills and familiarity with point-of-sale technology. When applying for jobs in industries other than retail, explain how you believe your retail skills will help you succeed in the vacant role. For example, customer service skills may help someone applying for an accountant's position support the firm's clients better.

Highlight retail skills during a job interview

A job interview provides the chance to discuss your retail resume skills and experience applying them in greater detail. Before your interview, think of examples of when you applied the retail skills listed in your job application. Your examples should convince the employer you would succeed in the role and become an asset to their company. It's a good idea to think of several examples for each retail skill, so you can confidently answer questions with the most relevant and compelling anecdotes.


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