Occupations in retail sales and customer care

As outlined on the Job Bank website, those working in retail sales usually apply one or more of the following skills:

  • Operate cash register;
  • Operate computerized inventory record keeping and re-ordering systems;
  • Provide advice about merchandise;
  • Prepare merchandise for purchase, rental or lease;
  • Prepare sales, rental or leasing contracts and accept cash, cheque, credit card or automatic debit payment;
  • Assist in display of merchandise;
  • Greet customers and discuss type, quality and quantity of merchandise or services sought for purchase, rental or lease;
  • Conduct sales transactions through Internet-based electronic commerce;
  • Estimate or quote prices, credit or contract terms, warranties and delivery dates;
  • Maintain sales records for inventory control.

Retail sales and customer care

The Job Bank website goes on to explain:

  • The retail industry has a significantly higher proportion of youth employees compared to the rest of the Ontario workforce. One-in-three retail workers are 15 to 24 years old. This is mainly due to low educational and skills requirements for many retail positions. The greater availability of part-time work also provides flexibility for youth to work outside of typical school hours.

The following occupations make up the large majority (about two thirds) of the retail workforce:

  • Retail salespersons;
  • Retail and wholesale trade managers;
  • Cashiers;
  • Store shelf stockers, clerks and order fillers;
  • Retail sales supervisors.

Retailing covers so many sectors, categories and sizes of merchants, that this article cannot go into detail on each type of opportunity.

The starting pay may be only minimum wage ($14.00 per hour in Ontario), but there are certainly opportunities for advancement, for those with sufficient English proficiency, a willingness to work shifts that may not be predictable and may include weekends and nights, and a good appreciation of customer desires. For others, this type of work, on either a full- or part-time basis, may simply be a stepping stone to other types of work, as English proficiency and training advance.

Some retailers, such as Adonis, Paramount Foods, and Starbucks, have been making a special effort to hire refugee newcomers in the GTA or have been very open to doing so.

For newcomers who do not yet speak English well enough to deal with customers, there may be warehousing, stocking, preparation, and production positions available. But for those with sufficient English, probably at CLB 6 or 7, starting opportunities also include customer service and sales and checkout.

Because of the high turnover rate in retail, newcomers should be encouraged to be persistent in applying for work, in order to stay top-of-mind and demonstrate commitment and interest.

Retail sales in some sectors is very seasonal and retailers may hire temporary help for just months at a time.

Value of English language proficiency

Generally, to be dealing with customers whose first language is English, a retailer in the GTA may require a newcomer to be at the level of CLB 6 or 7. However, for other positions within a store, CLB 4 may be sufficient (or even less if the owner or manager speaks the same language as the newcomer.)

Regulation and certification in retail sales and customer care

There is no specific licencing of employees in a retail environment (other than for food handling). Some training programs may award certificates, upon successful completion, but these are not required, in order to be hired by a retailer (assuming that no food is being handled).

Training programs for newcomers in the GTA

There are several training programs in the GTA for basic retail sales and customer care skills, some including or limited to operation of a cash register or food handling and they may also offer occupation-specific language training and initial job placement. Those currently offering such programs, which vary in length from just two or three days to 9 weeks, include The Neighbourhood Organization, ACCES Employment, and YWCA. An Ontario Works referral may be required. Please search our databases of Programs & Events on this website, filtering by “Retail” under “Sector”.

Job market outlook

The job market outlook for retail, in general, in the GTA, may only be fair, especially as online sales continue to grow significantly. However, due to high turnover rates, and in some cases, seasonality, retailers are constantly hiring new employees.

Stories in the media about newcomer employment in retail sales and customer care

The following stories, reported in the media, about employment of newcomers in the hairstyling sector, may be of interest:

Gas stations

Grocery stores

Restaurants and quick service