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From the Editor: Stemming the Tide

With store workers leaving retail in record numbers, it’s time to recognize their role in the customer experience.

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RETAILERS AREN’T THE only ones reinventing themselves these days; retail workers are doing it too, and in record numbers. In fact, in what some are calling “The Great Resignation,” some 649,000 retail workers left their jobs in April alone – the largest number in any industry.

Last year, we chose essential retail workers as the winners of our VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year award as an acknowledgment of their personal bravery and dedication during the pandemic. Fast forward to today, and the term “rage quitting” is trending on social media as hourly in-store associates trade up for jobs with better pay, less stress and more upward mobility.

It seems that elevating the in-store experience – something we’ve all been touting as being critical for shoppers – is equally important for the frontline workers that enabled many retailers to keep their doors open during the pandemic. A tightening labor market means these workers have more and better options than ever before.

So what does that mean for the future of physical retail, and what can retailers do to stem the mass exodus? Consider first that hourly workers made up 58.1 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, so this is no small group of workers we’re referencing.

Retailers like Amazon, Costco and Target have taken a first step and raised their workers’ minimum wages to $15 per hour, and others like Walmart have followed suit, raising wages for more than 400,000 workers to a minimum of $11 per hour. Others Like Chipotle have turned to social media platforms like TikTok to reach and recruit Gen Z workers.

A 2018 study by Harvard Business Review found that considerations as simple as stabilizing employee scheduling by posting schedules two weeks in advance and eliminating “on-call” days had a significant effect on worker satisfaction. Logically enough, stores experimenting with stable scheduling saw a 7 percent increase in sales and labor productivity increased by 5 percent.

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Retailers have undergone a paradigm shift in the way in which they view the in-store environment in countless ways that we detail every month in these pages. Store employees are equally critical to a shopper’s experience with brick-and-mortar retail. Rather than viewing them a cost to be contained, it’s time to give them the recognition they’ve earned on the front lines and as the brand’s ambassadors interacting with the shopper day in and day out.

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Jennifer Acevedo
Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher, VMSD Magazine

Jennifer Acevedo is the editor-in-chief and associate publisher of VMSD magazine.

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