Retail workers sell goods or services directly to customers, usually in small quantities, as opposed to wholesalers who specialize in large business-to-business sales. These employees often work in a store of some kind, whether a mom-and-pop shop or a huge mall. But other retail workers reach their clients in some other fashion, such as telephone cold calls or door-to-door sales. How much a retail worker makes can depend upon the particular task he performs.
Salespeople comprised the largest number of workers employed in the retail industry as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the nearly 15 million people working in retail trades, more than four million, or 27 percent, are involved directly in sales. These workers earned an average annual wage of $25,140, or $12.09 an hour, according to the BLS. Clothing stores were the largest employer of these workers, paying 769,150 of them an average of $21,540. The best-paying industry for retail salespeople was insurance; although only a handful of workers were hired, they earned an average of $66,510.
The cashiers who ring up sales were the second-largest number of retail employees, according to the BLS. The nation's 2.7 million cashiers -- 18 percent of all retail workers -- earned an average annual wage of $20,340, or $9.78 an hour. The largest employer of these workers was grocery stores, which paid 831,770 of them an average of $21,310. The best-paying industry was rail transportation, which paid its few cashiers an average of $37,970.
Stock clerks and others responsible for keeping shelves stocked made up the third-largest number of employees in the retail sales industry. The nearly 1.3 million of these workers employed nationwide earned a yearly average of $22,370, or $10.75 an hour, according to the BLS. The largest employer was once again groceries, which paid 419,740 clerks an average of $23,650 a year. The best-paying stock clerk jobs could be found in the U.S. Postal Service, which paid 1,670 clerks an average of $53,800.
Somebody needs to oversee a retail sales operation, and those supervisors made up the fourth-largest number of retail employees. When you ask to speak to a manager, you may wind up with one of the 1.1 million workers who earn an average of $40,910 a year, or $19.67 an hour. General merchandisers were the stores most likely to have a supervisor on hand, paying 158,390 of them an average of $34,390 a year. The best-paying jobs were found at insurance brokerages, which paid 290 retail supervisors an average of $86,820.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Industries at a Glance -- Retail Trade
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Retail Trade
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Retail Salespersons
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Cashiers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Stock Clerks and Order Fillers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images