Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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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, and although vacancies come up often, there is often strong competition.

With around 100,000 people employed in retail sales, 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.

Their tasks may include:

  • determining customer requirements and advising on product range, price, delivery, warranties and product use and care
  • demonstrating and explaining to customers the establishment's goods and services
  • selling goods and services
  • accepting payment for goods and services by a variety of payment methods and preparing sales invoices
  • assisting with the ongoing management of stock such as product inventories and participating in stocktakes
  • stacking and displaying goods for sale, and wrapping and packing goods sold.

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 2018, the average income for retail sales assistants was $35,500, 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 2023 2028
103,086 96,831 97,540 99,470
  -0.9% 0.1% 0.3%

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 0.1% per year is expected until 2023 as the economy stays strong. From 2023 to 2028, employment is projected to be rise even further.

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

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
8% 20% 2% 69% $51,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission
*Three years after completion of Bachelor Degree - Business & Management.

Three years after completing a L4 Certificate in Sales & Marketing, 69% of graduates were employed and 20% in further study and their median salarys was around $51,000.

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

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

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