Why Compensation is a Hot Topic in Retail

You guys love—looooove—our episodes on compensation (if your listens are any indication, at least). At first, we were struck by the seeming contradiction of these stats: compensation is a topic we’ve consistently struggled with, especially with retailers, for more than 10 years. Traditionally, retailers have been reluctant to competitively compensate their employees; retail was considered a low-level job, and the was compensation correlatively low.
We’ve always argued, on the other hand, that retail is actually a high-level job, necessitating advanced skills in communication, empathy, and awareness, not to mention continuing education, difficult hours, and technical knowledge. That means employees deserve competitive compensation.
It seems our words are finally clicking, and not just with our audience. According to a study by the National Retail Federation, retail compensation is on the rise. Here are the CliffsNotes:
  1. Entry-level retail associates are experiencing salary growth that outpaces inflation (meaning they’re actually earning a more substantial living, not just more dollars).
  2. The increase in salary in retail is comparable with that of other industries.
  3. Employees in retail are making more money based on tenure, not just on promotions.
  4. As more retailers are committing to “living wage” for all employees ($15/hour), employees in higher positions are experiencing comparative compensation increases reflective of the increase for entry-level employees.
  5. Part-timers in retail are more likely to receive benefits than employees in other industries.
First of all, we’re so proud of you! 😭 Second of all—how does this change the industry? Perhaps the most important takeaway is that poor compensation is simply no longer allowed. In order to stand up against other retailers, you have to offer compensation that is competitive. It’s how you recruit and retain talent, and if you don’t follow suit, you’ll lag behind and eventually fail.
Seem harsh? It is—but it’s the truth. Retail employees are taking a stand and the industry is listening. If you don’t too, your business is kaput.

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