What’s holding retailers back from making workforce investments?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
When it comes to the retail workforce, everyone knows about management’s tendency to cling to the long-held notion that the industry must remain a low-wage, high-turnover affair. Nowhere is this more apparent than in RSR’s most recent benchmark report on what it will take to finally build a better workforce.
Within, retailers squarely lay the blame on employees being too needy, on customers holding unrealistic expectations, and in all but a few cases, on a model that simply doesn’t work well anymore. We are encouraged to see that in a few instances (“We’re asking employees to do too many things in stores” or “We expect our employees to learn on the job”) retailers accept a portion of the responsibility. But, by and large, they are far too eager to find excuses for why change has not and likely cannot happen in the present environment.
What’s more, the larger the retailer, the more likely they are to cling to these archetypal beliefs: 50 percent of mega retailers (those with more than $5B in annual revenue) say there is no budget to increase pay enough to be competitive with what potential employees expect; only 34 percent of retailers below the $1B mark say the same.
The report also identified a tremendous difference in what a workforce needs to be successful based on the primary product that retail segment sells. For grocery, the focus needs to shift from operations to selling. For apparel retailers, years of sweeping underinvestment in technology is coming home to roost. Those selling hard goods lack the budget to train their personnel to be experts. And for general merchants, they’ve fallen so far behind that they don’t even know how to prioritize the problems Amazon has hand-delivered them in just the past few years.
All of these inhibitors result from one simple fact: retailers have not faced the challenges specific to the products they sell in a meaningful way because they haven’t had to.
Will 2018 be the year to change all that?
- The Retail Workforce: In Need – RSR Research
- Retail Needs A Better Workforce: What Will It Take? – RSR Research
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think preconceived notions that retail has to be a “low-wage, high-turnover affair” is holding retailers back from investing in needed technology and worker salaries? Do you see signs that retailers are changing their attitudes about investing in their workforces? Is there an overriding inhibitor to investments in pay, training and in-store tech or does it vary greatly by channel?