Focus on Retail: Where It’s Hardest to Hire, And What to Do About It

Record numbers of stores are closing. Ecommerce is disrupting storefronts. Retail is in trouble! Or at least, that’s what the headlines are telling us. But this grim outlook doesn’t do justice to the full picture, which is complex and involves a number of factors, including unmanageable debt and too much retail space.

The full picture also has bright spots. Retail companies are still major employers in the U.S. economy, with 4.6 million Americans working in retail sales and 3.4 million working as cashiers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Together, those two positions account for nearly 6% of all employment in the U.S.

So what’s really going on with retail? And what effect is it having on hiring trends? As traditional roles are evolving, talent needs are changing with them. We analyzed Indeed’s rich collection of job search data to learn more about how hiring is affected and what companies can do to attract talent in this rapidly changing environment.

Where is it hardest to hire retail staff?

Retail is known for having plenty of entry-level jobs, which is likely part of the reason the industry has traditionally been flooded with applicants. But in today’s low unemployment environment, securing talent—let alone top talent—is becoming increasingly difficult.

The above chart compares the ratio of retail job postings to the number of clicks for those positions in each of the selected metro areas, showing just how wide talent gaps can be in this industry. Although Denver, Indianapolis and Cincinnati are the worst affected, many other cities are feeling the pinch when it comes to hiring—from snowy Minneapolis to the warmer climes of Houston and Austin.  

While there are a number of factors behind these gaps, tech likely plays a significant role. When I’m talking to employers, they tell me about how tech informs nearly every aspect of the retail business, from supply chain to Point of Sale systems. In other words, all retail positions are becoming tech positions, which means candidates will need the skills to work with POS systems, scanners, tablets and even (at times) complex logistics.

According to a recent Indeed survey, these new requirements may be contributing to the skills mismatch. 70% of retail employers reported having difficulty finding in-store candidates with the appropriate technical experience, while 82% of retail employers expressed difficulty finding candidates with appropriate cross-functional experience.

Making matters even more challenging is the ongoing risk of attrition in retail. Of retail employees who told us they are planning to leave their companies, reasons like pay dissatisfaction, no strong career path and the feeling of being overworked were commonly cited.

Reasons to be optimistic

Even with these factors posing challenges to retail employers, the situation may not be as dire as the headlines might lead you to believe.

According to Indeed data, retail positions actually showed growth in 2017. True, there was less growth for in-store positions – such as cashiers, baggers, and stockroom employees….

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