Skills for retail jobs

Woman retail workers in apron standing in front of some fruit


A job in the retail sector is a route to an interesting and varied career. Opportunities are diverse and can be very flexible. We take a look at the most important retail skills that employers look for.

Top retail skills

Retail is a popular option for people in their 50s and above for many reasons. It’s a chance to work with people from all backgrounds, and there are usually lots of shift options and part time hours available to suit those not looking for a full time job.

Because of that, though, retail jobs can be competitive and receive lots of applications. To be successful, you need to demonstrate that you have the appropriate skills for retail. It’s all about aligning your experience and abilities with the job description.

Here are 10 retail skills that employers will value in a job candidate.

1. Customer service

As the human face of your employer’s retail brand, creating a good impression is so important. Aim to show that you’re friendly and capable, and that you recognise your responsibility to make sure every customer has a positive experience.

2. Communication skills

Communicating well is key when you’re dealing with the public. From a friendly greeting to managing a complaint, the words you use and your approachability can make all the difference.

3. Team working

In retail you’ll usually be part of a varied team, and you may work with different people on different days. It’s key for everyone to work together well, sharing the load and ensuring everything is done correctly. Find ways to demonstrate your team skills and how you have previously supported colleagues at work.

4. Responsibility

Responsibility is an area where more mature workers tend to shine. Employers really value reliability and the ability to get the job done. Aim to highlight your appetite to go above and beyond your role on behalf of colleagues and customers.

5. Working under pressure

In retail work there can be challenging times. A store could be particularly busy, understaffed or there could be an unexpected issue. Again, staying calm under pressure is often a skill found among more mature workers. Try to demonstrate your experience in this area with prior examples.

6. Technology skills

Everything from tills to stock management systems are led by technology today. Training is generally given, but it can help if you can demonstrate a good understanding of technology by talking about systems you have used in the past.

7. Time management

Punctuality is an easy thing to get right, and one of the most important retail skills. Shifts are carefully aligned with customer demand, and everyone needs to work effectively to make the store run smoothly. Showcase your focus on time management in the job application.

8. Numeracy

Another one of the critical skills for retail. Numeracy is important in calculating prices and discounts, assessing stock and assisting customers. Make sure you highlight your maths qualifications and experience in working with figures in previous roles.

9. Sales skills

Sales experience isn’t needed for every retail role, but you will stand out by showing an understanding of how the sales process works and what customers expect.

10. Using your initiative

Employers love applicants who proactively seek out ways to add value. Highlight ways that you have used your initiative at work, or in other situations where you have improved or simplified a process.

Showcasing your retail skills should land you a successful career. To explore the types of retail roles available and the skills required, take a look at our retail jobs page.

Take time over your job application to bring out the skills for retail highlighted above. For more details, see our articles on how to ace an application form and how to write a compelling cover letter.

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