Retail assistant

 29 November 2012

If you work in jewellery sales, you will normally work in a high street, shopping centre or out of town location.

Retail assistants advise customers who are looking to buy jewellery. (Rose gold and enamel hearts by Tessa Holland.) Photo: Association for
Retail assistants advise customers who are looking to buy jewellery. (Rose gold and enamel hearts by Tessa Holland.) Photo: Association for

What do retail assistants do?

A vital part of your work as a retail assisant involves providing a very high standard of customer service to the public. You might:

  • work to targets to achieve or exceed the required level of sales
  • advise customers about the features and benefits of product ranges, including jewellery, watches, silverware and gifts
  • develop your product knowledge to enable you to answer questions knowledgeably and meet customer expectations
  • use Point of Sale (POS) systems for customer purchases, and handle cash, debit and credit card transactions
  • provide advice about the care of jewellery
  • maintain and organise attractive displays and handle stock
  • be very aware of security issues, as you will be dealing with high-value products.

What is the job like?

You might specialise in a particular area, such as diamonds, or undertake training in other specialist areas such as insurance policies. If you work in a pawnbrokers, as well as selling jewellery you will also provide advice about loans. 

Some large department stores have fine jewellery concessions (dedicated areas in the store belonging to a particular brand or company) where you could work.

In addition, many cruise liners employ experienced retail staff to sell jewellery to passengers.

There are good opportunities to progress within jewellery retail to supervisory and management roles, once you have gained sufficient experience.

How do I get into jewellery retail?

You will need a very high standard of personal presentation, as well as a strong interest in jewellery.

It's important to be a 'people person' and to enjoy working as part of a team. You also need to be numerate and literate, self-motivated and hard-working. Most of your work will be performed standing up, so you also need energy and stamina.

There are good opportunities to progress to management roles, once you have gained experience.

School subjects which could help with retail jewellery include English, maths and business studies. An interest in science is helpful for understanding and learning more about the gems and precious metals used in jewellery.

There is lots of competition for jobs in retail jewellery, and if you have previous experience in any aspect of retailing then this will help you. Voluntary experience gained in a charity shop is a good way of gaining experience for retail work.

Jobs are often advertised on company websites, but you could also send your CV and a covering letter to jewellery retailers in your area. 

What training and qualifications do I need?

There are no specific entry requirements to work as a sales assistant in retail jewellery. Most employers will look for a general standard of education, which would normally include a GCSE (A*-C) in English. Entry requirements can vary, and some employers may ask for at least four (A*-C) passes.

If you decide to go to college, then a background in business studies will be an advantage for retail jewellery. The following college courses provide a useful background for retail work in general:

In addition there are also many Higher National Diploma (HND) and degree courses in retail management which would provide a good background for retail jewellery.

The National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) offers a comprehensive self-study training programme for those working in retail jewellery. This comprises:

  • Jewellery Education Training (JET 1) – this course takes a maximum of six months to complete. You will study sales techniques, customer service and product knowledge. This will include precious metals, hallmarks, watches, clocks, silverware and gifts, anniversaries, chains, birthstones, carat sizes and diamond shapes. This course is assessed by assignments, and there are no written exams.
  • Jewellery Education Training (JET 2) – this course lasts for a year and looks at the subjects covered in JET 1 in more depth, but also includes other material. This includes security, the history of jewellery, designers, display, valuations, service and repairs, consumer law and consumer confidence. The course is assessed by assignments and a written examination.

Once you have successfully completed JET 1 and 2, you will be awarded the Professional Jeweller’s Diploma.

The NAG is setting up a new apprenticeship in retail jewellery for young people aged 16-18. For more information, contact them directly.

What can I earn?

Starting salaries in jewellery retail might be at the minimum wage, which is £3.68 per hour for under 18s, £4.98 for those aged 18-20 and £6.19 for those aged 21 and over.

It's important to be a 'people person' and to enjoy working as part of a team.

With some experience in jewellery retail, you might earn £13,000 to £15,000 per year.

Salaries for those with supervisory or management responsibilities range from £16,000 to over £30,000, depending on the size and type of store.

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