Retailers are putting their hands in their pockets for better pay – and so they should.

Last June, this column considered the possible reputational damage to retailers which had – inadvertently, they claimed – failed to pay some of their staff the National Minimum Wage. The retailers in question were fined heavily, as well as being obliged to make up the difference to their workers.

Issues over pay always highlight a constant source of tension in the retail sector. Attend any retail PLC results presentation and you will eventually hear executives pay tribute to their dedicated army of retail workers; yet these same workers are not valued nearly so highly when it comes to their salaries.

Historically, retailers have treated shopfloor workers as unskilled staff, even when they love to boast about the amazing customer service skills their staff employ. So it is heartening this week to find evidence that retailers are, literally, putting their money where their mouths are and paying their staff better wages.


The Guardian: “Greggs staff to share £17.6m bonus as chain overtakes McDonald’s to become UK’s top breakfast take-out.”


Having achieved record profits, Greggs is to share a bonus pot worth more than £17m among 25,000 of its employees. The chain is also changing the working patterns for some of those staff, in recognition that the fast-growing time for sales is in the evenings. Time-pressed customers are apparently opting for dinner from Greggs on their way home from work.


Retail Week: “Co-op increases pay to £12 an hour in line with real living wage.”


The Co-Op meanwhile has made what it describes as its biggest-ever investment in pay, giving workers £12 per hour to meet ‘Real Living Wage’ demands, above the National Minimum Wage. Always a brand with a conscience, the Co-Op has also been vocal in its support for staff who are being afflicted by a rising tide of theft and other crimes. 


“Our store colleagues are the heart of our member-owned business and we truly value their dedication and hard work,” says Co-Op Food managing director Matt Hood.

“We’re proud to continue to be aligned to the Real Living Wage, which makes Co-op one of the top food retailers in terms of pay.


Retail Gazette: “John Lewis to boost staff pay with record £116m investment.”


Not to be outdone, John Lewis is reportedly set to announce a 10% boost to its minimum pay rates too, taking them to a level slightly below those of the Co-Op.


Retail Gazette: “Tesco gives store staff 9.1% pay rise in record £300m investment.”


Last, but not least, Tesco is putting an extra £300 million into its salary pot to give staff a rise.

All of these announcements show a retail sector finally proving what it has always claimed: that it values its staff highly. In truth, it might have little choice but to do so. The UK is suffering from a labour shortage and many retail staff can get a pay rise by moving elsewhere.


UK in a changing Europe: “What is behind the UK’s labour shortage?”


There are many reasons for the shortage. Post-war baby boomers are a large demographic in the UK, and they are retiring from work; Brexit has stopped the flow of workers from the EU, and some workers left the workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whatever the reasons, they are combining to spell rewards for retail workers. 

Banner EN