Why retailers need to be more generous to their staff.

Sadly, the news of imminent job losses at The Body Shop comes as no surprise. But it does highlight how perilous a career in retail can be.


The BBC: “The Body Shop to shut up to half of its UK stores”.


It’s not just the danger of unemployment that retail workers must contend with, although that is a significant risk. The Centre for Retail Research calculates that nearly 120,000 retail jobs were lost last year.


Wrexham: “Increase in retail crime is ‘truly shocking’, says North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner”.


Retail staff must also contend with physical danger, as reported earlier this month. Stores are subject to frequent robberies and shoplifting attacks, with staff often threatened or harmed.

Poor safety and low job security don’t combine to make retail the most attractive of careers. Certainly at shop floor level it is not especially well-paid either, which might be why retailers are exploring new tactics to make working for them more alluring.


Retail Gazette: “6 retailers offering a four day work week”.


Flexible working arrangements are currently being tested at a number of big retail chains. Wickes, Asda, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Dunelm and Superdrug are among the stores trying new working practices, with initiatives including the ability to arrange hours more flexibly, or work over four days per week instead of five. Some of these options are restricted to managers or head office staff, and some are available more widely. But all of these are valuable experiments towards making retail more appealing.

Flexible working can make a huge difference to staff. Whether it allows parents to organise childcare more economically, or simply provides a better work/life balance, having greater control over their working hours can be worth a lot to employees.

Flexible hours are quite common for office jobs, but less so in stores. But with the long opening hours of big stores, few staff are there all day. Why not allow them to arrange hours that better suit their lives? 

Modern HR software means that these schemes are far less complicated to organise than in the past. They offer the chance to provide a true incentive to stay with an employer rather than look elsewhere for better pay or conditions.


Retail Week: “Staff discounts: What do the UK’s biggest retailers offer?”


Meanwhile, retailers are also refining or improving other benefits, such as the discounts or other incentives that staff members can benefit from. Again, this can be an effective way to show employees how much their employers value them.

There is a limit to how much frontline retail staff can be paid. Businesses exist to make a profit, and pay is one of their major costs. If they are paid more, then customers have to pay more too.

But retailers also need to attract and retain the best staff available. Retail is an industry that relies on the standard of service it can provide. So flexible working, discount schemes, and understanding employers can go a long way towards making a real difference to the experience offered to customers.

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