Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Retail Sales Assistants

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for retail sales assistants are good. Retail sales are growing, and turnover among retail workers is high, so vacancies come up often.

With more than 104,000 people employed as retail sales assistants, it is one of New Zealand’s largest occupations.

How to become a retail sales assistant

What they do

Retail sales assistants help customers pick out goods, and collect payment for purchases. Over half of those employed in the retail sector work in supermarkets and grocery stores. Other sources of work include department stores, clothing shops, hardware, building and garden suppliers, and electronics goods stores.

Skills employers look for

According to the latest information from the New Zealand and Australian online job ads, some of the top skills employers look for include:

  • customer service and sales skills, particularly in merchandising and retail
  • good product knowledge, and the ability to set and achieve sales targets
  • good communication and team work skills
  • the ability to use Microsoft Excel.

 Source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight™ Real-time Labor Market Information tool

Qualifications needed

You don’t need any specific requirements to become a retail sales assistant. If you have a job as a retail sales assistant, you can study towards New Zealand Certificates in Retail (Level 2 to 4).

Cost of study

Many of the polytechnics with a New Zealand Certificate in Retail offer zero fees. Costs could include materials, textbooks, and accommodation. Some employers also offer this qualification as no-cost on-job training, allowing you to earn and learn. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Industry Training Organisation

The ServiceIQ, is the relevant Industry Training Organisation (ITO); its coverage includes the retail and wholesale sectors of New Zealand’s service industry.


Where to study

A New Zealand Certificate of Retail can be studied at a number of polytechnics and on the job training organised by ServiceIQ.

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing Level 3 retail qualifications has fluctuated significantly during the last decade. More recently, numbers of people completing their qualifications has been around 800 per year.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


In 2017, the average income for retail sales assistants was $34,500, but this figure reflects the fact that many retail assistants work part-time.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Retail Sales Assistants’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2021 2026
124,833 115,749 127,685 126,526
  -1.1% 1.6% -0.2%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Sales Assistants and Salespersons”.

The number of retail sales assistants declined from 2006 to 2013. This is projected to reverse, and a growth of 1.6% per year is expected until 2021 as the economy stays strong. From 2021 to 2026, employment is expected to be relatively stable.

Retail sales has been growing for the past few years. This should lead to increased numbers of jobs for retail sales assistants. But, changes in the retail sector (for example, self-service in supermarkets and on-line shopping) might affect the number of jobs available.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Retail sales assistants are not on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Since 2011, the number of online job vacancies for sales assistants has followed the overall trend for all online vacancies. In December 2017, the number of ads was about 60% higher than it was in December 2011.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Many jobs are advertised informally, and if you actively seek work with retailers, your chances of getting a job are improved.

Retail sales assistant job vacancies are also advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites. Retailworld Resourcing also advertises retail positions, and some large retail stores recruit directly through their websites.

Trade Me Jobs: 
Retailworld Resourcing:

Career path

Vacancies come up regularly, as people move on to other positions. Experienced retail sales assistants can progress to senior sales, supervisory, shop management or regional management positions.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entrylevel retail sales assistants.

  • Bank Worker
  • Betting Clerk
  • Checkout Operator
  • Demonstrator
  • Forecourt Attendant
  • Motor Vehicle Salesperson
  • Retail Sales Assistant
  • Sales Consultant
  • Service Station Attendant
  • TAB Operator

Other information


More information on retail sales assistant is available through Careers New Zealand, the New Zealand Retailers Association and "Just the Job".

Careers New Zealand: 
New Zealand Retailers Association:
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The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of retail sales assistants has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

552 – Financial and Insurance Clerks
5611 – Betting Clerks
621 – Sales Assistants and Salespersons
639112 – Sales Demonstrator