Retail 101

Trends In Retail

27 Oct 2023

Retail's Hourly Workforce Today: A Comprehensive Overview

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Isabel Carter

Retail employees, who are often overlooked, are the lifeblood of retail establishments, ensuring smooth operations and positive customer experiences. In this comprehensive overview, we will take a deep dive into the current landscape of retail's hourly workforce, examining the challenges they face, the evolving role of technology, and the strategies retailers are employing to engage and retain their hourly employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the retail industry employed approximately 15.8 million people in 20221

The Hourly Workforce: A Diverse Tapestry

Retail's hourly workforce is a diverse tapestry, encompassing people from various backgrounds, age groups, and skill sets. From high school students looking for part-time jobs to seasoned professionals seeking a career change, these individuals bring unique perspectives and strengths to the industry.

  1. Generation Z and Millennials: Gen Z and Millenials make up a substantial portion of retail's hourly workforce. Their digital savvy, social media fluency, and desire for flexibility have reshaped how retailers approach scheduling and communication.

  2. Retirees and Second Career Seekers: On the other end of the spectrum, retirees and second career seekers are increasingly choosing hourly retail positions. They offer a wealth of experience and reliability to employers, challenging the stereotype that hourly work is exclusively for the young.

  3. Part-Time and Full-Time Workers: Retail's hourly employees come in various capacities. Some work part-time to supplement their income or balance other responsibilities, while others commit to full-time hours. This diversity is crucial for retailers in maintaining staffing flexibility.

  4. Temporary and Seasonal Workers: Many retail establishments hire temporary and seasonal workers to manage spikes in customer demand during holidays and special sales events. This "gig economy" aspect of retail employment has its own unique challenges and opportunities.


Challenges Facing the Hourly Workforce

Despite the diverse makeup of the hourly workforce, they share common challenges in the retail industry. These include:

  1. Job Insecurity: Hourly workers often face job insecurity due to fluctuating schedules, temporary positions, and the increasing use of gig work models. This insecurity can lead to financial stress and hinder overall job satisfaction.

  2. Low Wages: Retail positions are notorious for their low wages, with hourly employees frequently struggling to make ends meet. The fight for fair wages has gained momentum in recent years, with many advocating for a higher minimum wage.

  3. Limited Benefits: Compared to their full-time counterparts, hourly workers often receive fewer benefits, such as healthcare, paid time off, and retirement plans. This lack of support can have long-term implications for their financial stability and well-being.

  4. Work-Life Balance: The retail industry's demands for night and weekend shifts can disrupt work-life balance, affecting hourly employees' personal lives and overall job satisfaction.


 The median hourly wage for retail salespersons was $13.50 in May 2022


Technology's Role in Shaping the Hourly Workforce

Technology has played a significant role in transforming the retail industry and reshaping the hourly workforce. Key developments include:

  1. Workforce Management Software: Retailers are increasingly turning to workforce management software to streamline scheduling, improve labor forecasting, and enhance communication between managers and hourly employees.

  2. Online Training and Upskilling: Online training platforms have become more prevalent, allowing hourly workers to access on-the-job training and upskilling opportunities, which can lead to career advancement within the retail sector.

  3. E-commerce and Digital Integration: The rise of e-commerce has created opportunities for hourly workers in areas such as order fulfillment, customer service, and digital marketing, diversifying their roles within the retail industry.

  4. AI and Automation: Automation is changing the nature of retail work, with AI-driven technologies increasingly handling routine tasks like inventory management, allowing hourly employees to focus on more complex and customer-facing responsibilities.

Strategies for Engaging and Retaining Hourly Workers

Recognizing the importance of a satisfied and motivated hourly workforce, retailers are implementing strategies to enhance engagement and retention:

  1. Competitive Compensation: Retailers are reevaluating their wage structures to offer more competitive hourly rates, which attract and retain skilled workers while reducing turnover.

  2. Flexibility: Embracing flexible scheduling options can help hourly employees balance work with personal responsibilities, improving job satisfaction.

  3. Benefits and Perks: Expanding benefit offerings, such as healthcare, paid time off, and employee discounts, helps improve the overall job satisfaction and loyalty of hourly employees.

  4. Career Development: Providing pathways for career growth within the company encourages hourly workers to stay long-term and invest in their professional development.

  5. Employee Feedback: Retailers are actively seeking feedback from hourly employees to better understand their needs and concerns, allowing for more responsive management practices.

The Future of Retail Hourly Workforce

As the retail industry continues to evolve, the hourly workforce will play a central role in shaping its future. With the right support, equitable compensation, and opportunities for growth, hourly employees can contribute to the success of retail businesses while enjoying fulfilling careers in the industry. Retailers that recognize the value of their hourly workers and adapt to changing workforce dynamics will be best positioned for long-term success in this ever-competitive landscape.