A closer look at retail wages

An often-overlooked fact about working in a retail store is the road to opportunity it can create. And we have statistics to back it up.

Look at Lowe’s, and the fact that 85 percent of its store managers and other executives started in a store, often at entry level positions. Or the fact that 44 percent — over 470,000 — of Walmart employees have worked at Walmart for more than five years, with many working toward advancement from within and often into management roles. Then there’s Macy’s, which boasts that 74 percent of its storewide, district and regional executive positions were filled internally last year.

These are important case studies that support the NRF Foundation’s new study on wages in the retail industry. Conducted by University of Georgia economist Jeffrey H. Dorfman, the report also sheds light on government statistics that are frequently interpreted to portray a misleading view of retail jobs. Dorfman’s analysis shows that the makeup of the retail workforce is markedly different from non-retail sectors. Retail employers have more part-time workers, more short-term employees and a younger workforce than most other sectors, which skews the government data on pay for retail workers significantly downward. When those workers are excluded from the data to create an “apples-to-apples” comparison, retail wages are clearly competitive with other industries and, in some cases, significantly higher.

The truth is, a closer look reveals that retail offers millions of Americans opportunities that many other industries cannot: the flexibility to work while pursuing a degree and the chance to attain valuable skills for success. And for many, seasonal or starting positions provide a clear pathway to management and even the executive ranks. This in-depth research begins to take down the myths that discount the potential of retail careers.