Is working in retail a real job?
There was a time when it was not unheard of for lower-level retail employees to think about moving up in the company. Now, more often than not, they think of moving out and on to something different. Retail roles are often considered “starter jobs,” even as a huge population of adults rely on such work to meet their needs. This long standing perception of retail as a “gig” rather than a career may have an impact on everything from employee retention to customer experience.
Anecdotes indicate that today’s younger retail employees often do not look at their retail jobs as “real jobs,” a recent NPR article reports, but as a stopover while trying to find something else.
With the added stress of the pandemic, not just younger, new employees but long-time retail workers have been leaving their jobs with some saying that the increased demands and risk of illness since March of 2020 led to burnout. Around four percent of the retail workforce have quit their jobs every month since April of this year. While retailers have rushed to add perks like covering college costs to keep employees on board, such moves seem to offer tacit acknowledgment that retail is not a place to stay long-term.
Retailers have also had difficulty bringing new employees on in the face of this pandemic-era churn. Many workers are moving to other industries (or choosing to work at retailers that have adopted a higher base level of pay).
Working in retail, in some instances, has also grown more dangerous in the past few years, which may also be impacting how people view it when considering a longer-term career. Customer-facing staff have been more frequently subjected to violence from more aggressive shoplifters and, since the beginning of the pandemic, insults and attacks over enforcing mask regulations.
At the same time, the number of available retail jobs is also positioned to decrease dramatically.
Retail is projected to lose 500,000 jobs by 2030, according to a CNBC article. The economy as a whole is expected to add only 11.9 million new jobs this decade, a little more than half of what was added throughout the 2010s.
- Retail Jobs Are Treated As A Temporary Bridge To Something Better. But Why? – NPR
- Why are retailers falling short of their hiring goals? – RetailWire
- Who protects store associates when shoppers lash out? – RetailWire
- The 3 fastest-disappearing jobs in the U.S. over the next decade – CNBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What can the retail industry do to turn around the perception that working in retail is not a “real job”? What steps recently being taken by retailers make you think that there is a chance to change this perception possibly held by much of the American public?