Are perks the secret to associate job retention at retail?

Source: Lululemon recruitment video
Jan 24, 2022

Lululemon for the second year in row was the highest-ranking retailer on Glassdoor’s annual list of the “100 Best Places To Work,” coming in at the ninth spot. Like many other retailers landing on the list, perks were particularly called out in Glassdoor employee reviews of the company.

For full-time Lululemon employees, the perks include a 60 percent employee discount. Part-timers (under 25 hours a week) earn a 40 percent discount.

Another perk cited in reviews is Lululemon’s “Sweaty Pursuits” program, which provides associates with $250-per month to cover fitness and meditation classes in their local communities.

Finally, a “generous” benefits package was cited in numerous reviews, which includes mental health coverage, paid-time off and paternity leave.

The second-rated retailer on the list, Trader Joe’s, at 32, also received many reviews that highlighted employee perks, including its 10 percent employee discount and regular free food tastings. Similar to Lululemon, Trader Joe’s enhanced benefits, including a 401K/retirement plan, dental insurance and vision insurance, were cited in several employee reviews.

Many reviews of the other eight retailers on Glassdoor’s top-100 list — including H-E-B (ranked at 33), eBay (55), Apple (56), Wegmans (80), Vans (84), Madewell (88), Scheels (90), Costco (93), REI (95), and Malouf Companies (98) — also cited benefits and employee discounts.

Employee discounts include 40 to 60 percent at Madewell and 50 percent off regular priced items at Vans. Apple staffers earn product discounts (including some that can be shared with family and friends), tuition reimbursements, gym credits and stock purchase opportunities.

Costco and Wegmans don’t provide employee discounts but were praised in Glassdoor reviews for their benefits and other factors.

Beyond perks and benefits, the retailers making Glassdoor’s top-100 list all generally had in common strong culture and values as well as a positive and supportive work environment. Some retailers were commended for competitive pay, flexible scheduling (particularly for students) and opportunities for advancement.

According to LinkedIn’s “2022 Global Talent Trends” report, workers say their top priority in a new job is work-life balance, cited by 63 percent, followed by compensation and benefits (60 percent) and colleagues and culture (40 percent).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important are product discounts, free food, gym credits, tuition reimbursements and other perks in supporting retail employee satisfaction and retention? What factors are likely more important in ensuring a content store staff?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Perks are a nice add-on, but they won’t make up for a toxic culture, poor leadership, or lack of advancement opportunities."

Join the Discussion!

19 Comments on "Are perks the secret to associate job retention at retail?"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Paula Rosenblum

Of course perks make a difference. They’re not all created equal, for sure … but work-life balance, employee discounts (a perennial favorite) and tuition reimbursement are high on people’s lists. These are quite tangible. Career pathing is another good one.

David Naumann

Good points Paula. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as what perks appeal to one employee might be not valued by another. Offering multiple types of perks is a smart strategy. In most cases, the pay for retail jobs is on the low side and retailers that offer premium perks will be more successful attracting and retaining employees. But as others pointed out, though perks are attractive, management and team members need to foster a positive and fun working environment or the perks won’t be enough to retain employees.

Nikki Baird
As I watch my 17-year-old daughter’s journey through retail employment, I’m struck by a few things in this regard. She’s certainly not 100% representative of every retail employee, but as retailers open up to more younger employees, I have to say it feels like retailers have completely lost touch with what it’s like to be a teen employee. What she really wants out of her part time job is, as noted, a solid discount, a “fun” work environment — as work takes a bite out of her social life (yes, I’m rolling my eyes too), she expects work to be almost as much fun and engaging as she would have on her own. I think she would be thrilled to rack up a long-term bonus that could be counted as a scholarship or money towards college. But other than that, what has the greatest impact on her motivation is when she has a bad/mean manager and/or when a non-productive coworker is not being held accountable. So my advice is, before you run off and throw… Read more »
Paula Rosenblum

For me, tuition reimbursement was a huge perk. That’s how I got my MBA and the company stopped offering it the year after I finished. I’m sure there are others who don’t care about that …. but there are plenty of people who would NOT be able to go to college, or even community college without it.

That was a dumb perk to let go of, to tell you the truth. It would have moved things in interesting directions.

Lisa Goller

While perks add value, employees who feel valued and earn competitive pay are more satisfied and loyal. For content store teams, retailers can emphasize a common purpose, offer flexible schedules and welcome frontline feedback.

Bob Amster

For different strata of associates, retention will be based on different factors, and not always perquisites. For families struggling to make a living, higher wages and free childcare, company-sponsored transportation to and from work may the most important benefits. For professionals interested in quality-of-life issues, perquisites such as time off, membership to gyms, company time to explore their own products and concepts, and tuition reimbursement are most likely, very important. “One man’s ceiling is an other man’s floor.”

Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez
Director of Commerce
8 months 8 days ago

While the added perks are definitely a nice touch, being respected and valued for your work has always meant a lot more to me.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

The perks leaders are offering are all relative to their brand/brand values and a great way to provide incentives to employees. Perks are secondary, though, to solids wages and benefits and an environment with good managers and the opportunity for career skills and path.

Katie Thomas

I’d argue there’s a difference between perks (an employee discount) and benefits (a 401K). In general, this is an area where sometimes consumer surveys can backfire — perks are easy to mention as the reason why people are happy, but in reality, it’s far more complex — and usually ladders up to company culture, flexibility, and career pathing. These perks may attract/keep people for the short term, but they are happy for broader reasons than perks.

Gary Sankary

In this employment environment, retailers have to differentiate themselves to attract candidates. Given retail’s bad reputation, especially entry level roles, offering meaningful and valued perks is a great way to becoming an employer of choice and attracting talent.

Liza Amlani

Perks are not only the secret to job retention, it should be the standard.

As a former merchant, it was imperative we received a clothing allowance + discount so that we could represent the brand but also not break the bank. We are required to be brand ambassadors and representativeness the brand through product is critical for business. It’s the only way some of us could afford the brand without spending our entire paychecks on buying product — especially in apparel, footwear and luxury categories.

Perks outside of product are the key differentiators like training, education, wellness, and career pathing. Empowering and appreciating retail staff is exactly how you retain them.

Brandon Rael

It’s impressive and commendable to see retailers step up and drive far more significant employee benefits packages. While discounts and other incentives are welcome, especially at popular brands like Lululemon, the career growth incentivization benefits are the most welcome development.

It’s truly encouraging to see the paradigm shift, where retailers such as Walmart, Apple, and others recognize the importance of store associates and providing tuition reimbursement programs for advanced education. While this is a welcome development, a significant part of this evolution is that there needs to be a clear and transparent path for career growth. Retailers willing to offer invaluable tuition assistance and invest in the store associate’s development will be the winners in this space. In that case, there will be opportunities to rise the corporate ladder, and that commitment will work both ways with store associate retention.

Jeff Weidauer

Perks are a nice add-on, but they won’t make up for a toxic culture, poor leadership, or lack of advancement opportunities. Focus on the basics first.

Rich Kizer

I’m really not surprised, and I bet there are many others that feel the same that I do about the effectiveness of meaningful perks. Great working perks that mean the most are those that have big impact and continuous value to the associates on their life needs. Lululemon’s and Trader Joe’s stand as great examples.

Ken Morris

I think perks are critical to hiring and retaining staff. With so many job options open during the “great resignation” perks are a key tool to retention. The opportunity for advancement may be the big differentiator. If employees or candidates see a path to management, they will stick around. We seem to have lost the management training programs that were prevalent back a few decades ago. I believe we should resurrect these and hire from within.

David Slavick

Showing appreciation and having recognition, reward as well as rich benefits for your employees is essential to business success. Nike is brilliant at it. Living a healthy lifestyle and offering rich savings at the company store is a given. You have access to your own personal trainer who can also advise you on healthy eating habits based on your own unique profile/needs. You can walk away from your desk anytime to go work out, run, play soccer, basketball and more. Having been on-site at HQ, there is no better example of a company showing love for its associates and doing all they can to retain them.

Laura Davis-Taylor

You know what perks do? They make a clear statement that leadership cares. It gives them a platform to recognize that maybe they aren’t paying employees what they would ideally desire, but they are making up for it in some recognizable way. And when you’re living hand to mouth, every little thing matters. Working in restaurants to put myself through college, getting a shift meal often helped me make ends meet. I stayed at jobs that did this, and it didn’t cost them much. Every little thing—even if small—can matter to people more than we realize … and although better wages are ideal, these perks are better than what so many do: nothing.

Craig Sundstrom

Perks are just that: add-ons to the basic product. If that product is good, then great, the perks will make it even better, but if the core product is lousy….

Many of the things mentioned here have a clear cash value; if the employer can offer them at a discount then they make sense, otherwise I don’t see much point … higher pay would offer more flexibility.

Anil Patel

Perks are an extension of organizational culture and values. They are the resources that help embrace and deliver that culture. Perks are the most effective at satisfying store staff when they align with employees’ mindsets.

Therefore, employees should have a clear and concise view of the brand’s mission and vision before they join. It will help set the right expectation and ensure productivity. Perks will only work as a supporting actor to fill the minor gaps in the story.

"Perks are a nice add-on, but they won’t make up for a toxic culture, poor leadership, or lack of advancement opportunities."

Take Our Instant Poll

How important are product discounts, free food, gym credits, tuition reimbursements and other perks in supporting retail employee satisfaction and retention?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...