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Hourly Pay for Merchandise Associate Jobs

Updated on July 14, 2012

Merchandise associate, sales associate, sales clerk, sales worker and customer assistant are just some of the terms that refer to retail salespeople. They work in brick-and-mortar stores such as department stores and clothing shops to help consumers buy goods like shoes, clothes, TV appliances and cars. Their total compensation can combine a base salary and a commission on sales.


Merchandise associates determine what customers want to recommend merchandise. They answer customer questions, shows how items work, offer options, package and total the purchases, and accept payment in the form of cash, check, debit cards or credit cards. No advanced education is needed because salespeople learn on-the-job. However, some employers may prefer a high school diploma for expensive items such as cars or electronics. Retail salespeople averaged $12.08 per hour. The lowest-earning 10 percent made $8 per hour or less, while the highest-paid 10 percent received $18.51 per hour or more.


Merchandise associates work in stores that are clean, comfortable and well-lit enough to appeal to customers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2010, over a third of associates worked part-time. Evening, weekend and holiday schedules are common because these are the times that are convenient to shoppers. Because the busiest time for many stores is during the end-of-the-year holiday season, many employers limit vacation time for these workers during the holiday season between November and the beginning of January. The highest paying positions for merchandise associates was in other information services such as libraries and archives. Mean wages ran $24.67 per hour or $51,300 per year.


After some experience, merchandise associates who show management and organizational skills can advance to supervisory positions, where they may lead teams of salespeople. Mean wages for supervisors ran $19.53 per hour, with a low of $11.20 and a high of $29.52. They earned their highest wages of $45.95 per hour or $95,570 per year in insurance agencies and brokerages. With a bachelor’s degree and additional years on the job, supervisors could advance to sales managers in charge of departments, individual stores or entire chains. They earned a mean $56.18 per hour, with a range of $24.88 to over $80. Their highest wages were in securities and commodity exchanges, with means at $90.34 per hour or $187,910 per year.


The BLS predicts a 17 percent growth in jobs for merchandise associates from 2010 to 2020. This is slightly faster than the 14 percent expected for all U.S. occupations. Population growth and an expanding economy will provide much of the demand. Warehouse clubs and supercenters, which sell different types of merchandise in one location, will see the strongest growth. Following their overall decline in employment, department stores will hire fewer salespeople.


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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very interesting article. I have never worked retail but know that some people do it part time just to get the discounts on their purchases. Voted up and interesting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting article, alocsin! The U.S. pays some seriously good money for these positions. Retail here in Canada pays minimum wage or slightly above - nothing like the pay you have in the States! It's also very hard to get full-time positions in retail here so most people work two jobs just to pay the rent. No benefits on part-time either :(

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      Another well written article Alocsin. I was never any good at sales. I haven't tried it on a professional level though, just odds and ins. I guess if you have the right products, they will sale, supply and demand. Another useful article my friend. Voted up, useful, and interesting. Have a good weekend Alocsin and best to ya!

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I think a lot of people do retail, especially around the holidays, to get the discounts.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks Brett for pointing this out. I like to keep these comments alive, so people know it's a good idea to correct mistakes. I will return the favor if I spot anything.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Do you get commissions on sales, SuzieHQ?

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Good thing you got out of there CR Rookwood. That's a job that would scare me.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      It's a tough job, definitely, fpherj. Something I could never do.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That's a terrible thing to do in dressing rooms, Tammy. Glad you got out of there.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That's a good way to put it in perspective, Nell Rose. Prices seem high to an American visitor, but I guess they're high to you too.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      These jobs are great for those who need the money, but also does not allow you any flexibility in scheduling your personal time. My sister works retail and it is hard for her to arrange days off to spend time with her family. Good post and facts on this career.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 

      6 years ago from Asia

      P.S. you can delete this after, but thought you should know "fter some experience" is missing the A ... If you see any errors on mine, always feel free to tell me, as it helps with the big 'G' lol


    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 

      6 years ago from Asia

      Wow, again higher than I thought. The US must be doing well, as the rest of the globe is certainly not averaging this.

      Another interesting report. Shared, up and useful.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi alocsin, the one thing that I noticed was over there in America you seem to get paid much better wages than over here, allowing for the fact that a dollar is worth 60p over here it still works out the same really because your prices and wages are relative to your cost of living. What I am trying to say in my usual muddle way is that even though its a lot more expensive over here relative to both our money, we get paid a lot less. I am sure England is probably one of the most expensive places in the world and yet we get the minimum wage for virtually everything, unless of course you work in a high salary job such as management or government etc, I think I am going to come and live over there! lol! thanks for sharing! nell

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It does take time to make the bigger salaries at retail, especially since a significant number of people are part-time (as you say, one-third). This is good information here. I vote up.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Great, interesting read. I didn't know retail associates could actually make $18 an hour! But then again, when I did it, I made $8. Hehehe. This is an informative hub and a great read for those thinking about getting into customer service. Voted up and useful.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Intereating article alocsin, I have worked in Retail in various roles including Store Manager here in Dublin and overseas for 20 years.I actually love Retail for the most part and thrive on staff development and recognition along with providing high customer service standards.It is so under paid, here also sales assistants can be offered minimum wage, even if they are mature people with experience. Thanks for posting!!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 

      6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Hmmmm...Well it could be the part of the US where I live, but I did this for two years and never broke minimum wage, then I got laid off for not selling enough credit cards, which were a bad deal and NOT what the customers came in for. The hours were awful and it was high stress. They were chronically understaffed and the turnover was crazy.

      I was kind of glad to lose my hours. At 59 I don't feel good about doing things I think are wrong (pushing bad credit cards) and although I really enjoyed the customers and was very reliable, management was very unsupportive to the point of being abusive.

      When I saw my annual pay at the end of the year it was so bad I decided to just work at home. But $25/hr sounds great. Never saw a store that paid that much though. Still thumbs up. Good article, thanks.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Alocsin....In this neck of the woods, CSR jobs start pretty low.....usually minimum wage. It's terrible...because believe me, if you happen to be in Retail Mgmt....and Corporate headquaters sets the wage scale......when you hire GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR......not to mention the high rate of terminations for employee theft....which means constant turnover and money spent training.

      Corp greed gets in the way of good business and common sense.

      I have never seen nor heard of any of those HIGH hourly rates you mention for Not around here for sure!!

      Great hub though. It's all great stuff to know. Thank you. UP++

      It's a viscious cycle

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      I've working in retail settings before, and I agree with Angela - the hours and pay are killers. But gosh, I certainly took advantage of some great discounts during those brief stints! Thanks for this interesting hub!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My son just quit his job at Best Buy after two years there...topped out at $10 per hour and he is quite happy. I agree with Angela and of course I always agree with Tammy!

      Great job Aurelio!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      I used to always work two jobs and I did this job at night. It was insane during the holidays. I had to get out of this profession though. Customers were just nasty (even in an upscale store). We had public restrooms but people would urinate and "the other" in the dressing rooms. It was too much. Great hub with some promising statistics.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      6 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      I have done this job before. The hours are bad! The pay is bad. The discounts are great! :)


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