Retail involves the sale of goods or services. It is a customer focused industry with businesses in shopping centres, light industrial areas, warehouses and online.

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Types of entry-level work

The retail industry has many different types of businesses. You could work in:

  • small or large teams
  • large retail outlets, a small business or something in between
  • in stores doing face-to-face customer service
  • working in a warehouse or a contact centre with online customers.

Work can be part-time, full-time, casual or weekend work. It can offer flexibility for study and childcare responsibilities. You might find it easier to get a job if you are able to work flexibly during busy times like holiday periods or weekends.

Your role could be:

  • retail assistance in a shopping centre or store (like grocery, fast food, clothing, electronics)
  • specialist sales like:
    • pharmacy assistant
    • parts interpreter for car and machinery repairs
    • telecommunications and utilities.
  • Retail services like:
    • hairdresser/barber
    • butchers
    • beauty therapy
    • pet grooming
    • tyre fitting and mechanical services
    • car washers.

People in sales roles do things like:

  • working with customers
  • cleaning
  • advising customers about the goods and services that are sold
  • processing payments
  • preparing orders
  • displaying goods for sale
  • keeping track of inventory
  • filling shelves.

Find out more about the people working in the retail industry on the Labour Market Insights website. Click on the links below to find out about the tasks they undertake, their pay, education level, employment locations, skills and interests.

Training for entry-level work

You can find subsidised training on the MySkills website. You can find courses to prepare you for entry-level work using these keywords:

Subsidised training and eligibility requirements may differ depending on the state. Select your relevant state and territory for more information.

If you want to work in a trade role (e.g. butcher, hairdresser) you will need to do an apprenticeship. Before you start trade training you need a job offer from an employer. You can find apprenticeship vacancies on Apprenticeship Network Provider jobs boards. You can also find retail trainee roles on these jobs boards (e.g. motor vehicle and vehicle parts salesperson, pharmacy assistant, pet groomer, beauty therapist). Traineeships can help you build the technical skills for specialised jobs.

There are many general entry roles that don’t need a qualification, apprenticeship or traineeship. You can build a career path in this industry through on the job learning.

Some literacy and numeracy skills are essential. There could be specific skills needed for trade qualifications. Check your literacy and numeracy skills on the Australian Apprenticeships Pathways website for work in the retail industry:

Possible career paths

You can progress your career from entry level roles in a few different ways. For instance:

  • Retail assistants can move into store or shift manager roles.
  • Some corporate retailers offer corporate management roles to store employees who demonstrate the right skills and attitude.
  • Creative people working in retail can move into merchandising and stylist roles.
  • Pharmacy assistants can take an education pathway and move into nursing, pathology or another kind of allied health job.

Retail workers develop transferrable skills such as communication and customer service skills. These skills make them competitive for roles in other fields such as finance and insurance, and medical and business administration.

The type of person who suits this work

This work suits people with the following values and attributes:

  • Good communication skills
  • Comfortable with customers from a diverse range of backgrounds
  • Able to work well in a team
  • Ability to listen to the needs of customers
  • Coordinating with others
  • Reliable and punctual
  • Neat and tidy presentation
  • Friendly and confident
  • Willing to learn
  • An eye for detail
  • Strong work ethic
  • Use equipment safely
  • Able to count and handle money and use online sales systems

Applying for jobs

Get free coaching on writing job applications, doing interviews and preparing for work:

Find out about common interview questions and get interview tips from business:

Note: Video transcript is available on request. This is a product of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

10 Top Tips for getting a job in retail – Slides presentation

10 Top Tips for getting a job in retail – Fact sheet

View this DEWR Jobs Showcase webinar to find out more about retail work and get job search tips from employers, workers and other industry experts.

Spend some time researching businesses that offer entry-level vacancies. This will help you tailor your job applications. Use retailer websites to find out about the business’ products, services, brand and the types of roles available. This will help you figure out what type of retail work is most interesting to you. The time you spend reading about businesses will help you prepare for job interviews. Employers will expect you to have a basic understanding of the kind of work they do.

Finding vacancies

Online job boards can make it easier to find a job. You can customise searches and apply with a few clicks. Find local businesses hiring by searching online jobs boards for retail roles.

  • Go to the Workforce Australia jobs board and from the industries drop down menu select: ‘retail’.
  • Look for hidden vacancies with recruitment agencies, labour hire firms and on apprenticeship jobs boards on Jobs Hub.
  • Find traineeships on Apprenticeship Network Provider jobs boards.

Large retailers usually advertise and recruit via jobs boards on their own website.

Lots of jobs are not advertised on the internet. These job opportunities are spread through signs on shopfronts, word of mouth or by speaking with employers directly. You can use an employer pitch to help find a job at businesses that do not have online advertisements. Find information on how to write a one page pitch and finding hidden vacancies:

Find out how to get that job in retail

Read employer insights about jobs in retail on the Job Jumpstart website:

Review the Department’s 2021 webinar series – ‘win that retail job’.

Webinar one: How to tailor your résumé for retail

Webinar one presentation (Job Jumpstart)

Webinar two: Win that retail job with online applications – handout

Webinar two presentation (Job Jumpstart)

Webinar three: How to ace that retail interview