As a result of physical retail’s shifting fortunes over the past five years, the nature of a career in retail has changed significantly, encompassing new responsibilities to reflect new store experiences. Store staff could now be expected to: host in-store events and community experiences; offer service touchpoints for consumers’ educational and omnichannel needs; provide digital clienteling and style advisory services; manage distribution and online returns; even contribute to some brands’ social output.
Such responsibilities reflect the potential for more varied opportunities within a retail career path today — but they are increasingly foisted upon an employee cohort that already feels undervalued and underpaid. Consequently, many retailers are struggling to fill store roles or effectively retain those on their shop floor.
The quit rate in the US retail and hospitality sectors is among the highest in the country, outpacing the average US quit rate by more than 70 percent in 2022, according to McKinsey & Co. A report of over 1,500 British retail staff conducted by the UK charity Retail Trust last year found that 31 percent of people working for the UK’s biggest retailers are planning to quit the sector, citing concerns around finances, rising levels of abuse from customers and deteriorating mental health.
To stay competitive, some retailers are boosting their compensation packages to attract store associates: Macy’s, Walmart and Target in the US have raised their hourly wages; French department store Galeries Lafayette upped associate pay to meet the living wage; and Uniqlo’s parent Fast Retailing Co. announced wage hikes as high as 40 percent in Japan.
But financial pressure is rising again for retailers as the impact of inflation and a cost of living crisis is dampening consumer spending. BoF and McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2023 report found consumers are becoming more cautious about discretionary spending in most regions, with Europeans intending to make the biggest spending cuts on apparel, footwear, accessories and jewellery. Diminishing profits and more challenging sales are intensifying the need for highly engaged staff.
However, meeting the wide-ranging and nuanced expectations of retail staff today goes beyond wage hikes — and not all opportunities require deep pockets to action.
This BoF Careers white paper delves into how retailers can reimagine staffing practices to unlock growth, increase retention and improve the employer branding of retail careers as they become more critical than ever to success.
Featuring actionable insights and analysis from global retail and HR experts:
Chris Brook-Carter is CEO of the Retail Trust, a UK-based charitable organisation for retail workers. Prior to joining the Retail Trust, Brook-Carter was managing director and senior vice president of Retail Week and the World Retail Congress.
Sheena Butler-Young is a senior correspondent at The Business of Fashion (BoF). She is based in New York and leads BoF’s coverage of workplace, talent and company culture. She is the former deputy editor of Footwear News magazine and the recipient of Penske Media Corporation’s Journalistic & Creative Excellence Award for her coverage of diversity issues in fashion.
Frédérique Chemaly is director of human resources and sustainable development at Galeries Lafayette. She works on talent acquisition and management, learning and development, compensation, people management and HR policies at the French department store. She has also worked at Sephora, Canal+ and L’Occitane en Provence.
Steve Dennis is a strategy and innovation consultant, speaker, podcast host and author of “Remarkable Retail: How to Win and Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption”. Prior to founding his advisory firm, he was senior vice president of strategy and multichannel marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group.
Nykeba King is global director of inclusion, belonging and wellbeing at The Body Shop. They started as a shop manager at The Body Shop 10 years ago, and have also worked at Gap Inc. and furniture store Lowe’s Home Improvement in retail roles.
Adam Lukoskie is executive director of the NRF Foundation, the educational arm of the National Retail Federation (NRF). He oversees the organisation’s workforce development programmes to recruit and train the next generation of talent in frontline and corporate retail roles. Prior to working at NRF, Lukoskie spent 10 years in various leadership roles in education nonprofits and schools.
Christin Owings is a managing partner and member of the People & Organization practice at Boston Consulting Group. She leads the firm’s work in change management in the Western Europe and South America regions. Prior to joining BCG, Owings was an associate partner at Eden McCallum in London and an associate principal with McKinsey & Co. based in Copenhagen.
BoF Careers gives you access to a global community of career-focused fashion and beauty professionals, positioning your company to attract the best talent. Get in touch to learn how BoF Careers can transform your organisation — email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.