Thursday, July 7, 2022

Why Is There A Retail Labor Shortage?

Working my fun retail job has been eye opening.  Although fun, I venture to say shocking in some aspects. There are the long hours totally on your feet, rude customers, and uneven scheduling. Even some overworked co-workers are not nice to their peers. According to Businessinsider.com a retail information blog: " Retail won't tackle the labor shortage until it reverses decades of worker neglect and becomes a viable, long-term career again". 

Several weeks ago I received a call from an irate customer railing on the fact she had come into the mall the previous evening and found our store closed; "Why did you close early?" In an effort to nicely explain the issue, I stated we did not have the staff to stay open past 7:00 PM that evening and had to close. 

From there I had to listen to a litany of  complaints that everyone is lazy, no one want to work anymore, and all of you would rather stay home and collect unemployment. In my best controlled voice, I explained that she was talking to someone employed, and if she wanted to work long hours for less than a living wage, we had openings. She could start Monday. Silence and then she hung up.  If she came into the store later that day, I was not the associate that handled her online return.

Just this past week the real issue came to light. Next to my Soma store is one of my favorite mall boutique women's fashion stores. It is a national chain that specializes in seasonal casual wear at reasonable prices. The store manager recognized me from Soma and the fact I browse/shop there often. "Why don't you come to work for us? I see you are wearing one of our t-shirt and skit today."  So I applied online, was interviewed by the store manager last week and was offered a part-time associate position. ("For now, our top end for part time sales associates is below $14/hr.") Here is my response:

I personally am in a unique position of not needing an employer to pay me a living wage. A living wage of $15.00 seems to be an average number thrown around, although in Palm Beach County the accepted (1 adult) amount is $17.67. On my blog, I have written about the need for employers to recognize this basic need.

Retail is going through unprecedented upheavals. Corvid, the great resignation, and now hyperinflation. The demise of the mall and the now universal acceptance of online shopping have not helped.

Against the backdrop of a labor shortage, the number of big-name retailers paying hourly wages of $15 is growing; Amazon, Costco, Kroger, Publix, Walmart, Best Buy, Chipotle, Starbucks, Home Depot, Target, and even [my existing store] plans to have all employees at $14.75 starting this fall.

To morally support all the workers that need a living wage, I will decline your offer. I would not be staying at [XXX] unless they were making the effort for all part-time associates. When I started there, I had not worked retail in over 50 years and was unsure of my relevance. Today I enjoy the teamwork and especially the customer interactions.

Let’s stay in touch. I will not be a stranger in your beautiful store and do love your fashions. (I ordered a sweater over the weekend).

Again, thank you for the time interviewing and your effort to make an offer. I would love to join your team in the future. Rhonda Williams

From the above link Business Insider quoted Marc Perrone, president of UFCW, the US' largest retail worker union: "...and for many people in [retail], it is no longer possible to make a sustainable living."  Question answered.  



  1. People are beginning to decide its not worth working if they cannot make a semi-decent wage.The dirty little secret is there is no labor shortage in this country, only a wage shortage.Pay people a fair wage and good people will beat a path to your door.If you say you cannot pay a fair wage then maybe your business model sucks and/or you don't know how to run a business, which means you don't deserve to be in business in the first place.Sorry if I got a little "ranty". Just touching on a different angle that is rarely mentioned.I know a little bit about what I speak as I ran my own business for 25 years before retiring.Thanks,BTW love your blog!

    Retailers have realized long ago they dont have to pay a LIVING WAGE.
    Underpaid workers get their food, healthcare, and housing subsidized by YOU THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER.
    The strange part of this is YOU are subsidizing the LARGE CORPORATE PROFIT MARGIN, through your tax dollars, even if you DONT wish to shop with them.
    YES, This makes you a SOCIALIST to the benefit of the LARGE CORPORATION.

    Large employers, like 'Crap-Mart' have data sources (often the local Chamber of Commerce) to inform them of the prevailing 'base/minimum wage'.
    In spite of the news blab regarding 'starting wage' NOW $15.00/hr; if the local worker economy will support lesser wage, they wont budge on that number.