Most people interact with the retail industry on at least a semi-regular basis through their everyday shopping, and that means most people think they know more than they do about the business. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about retail, and it’s important for leaders in the industry to make the facts known. Here are 8 common myths about retail.
Myth #1. Retail Workers Want to be Part-Time: While it’s true that a lot of workers in the retail industry are there because they’re full-time students or otherwise need a part-time job, that’s not the reality for many people. Surveys show that as many as 13 percent of part-time workers in the retail industry would like to work more hours if they had the opportunity to do so. It’s ultimately managers, not employees, who set their hours.
Myth #2. Salaries Are Low to Keep Prices Low: In fact, salaries are a very small portion of a retail store’s expenses. In any successful store, there are dozens of purchases for every hour worked, which means a cost increase of a few dollars would be spread among many customers. A recent study, for instance, found that if Wal-Mart were to increase sales associates’ salaries to $12 per hour and pass the entire cost along to customers, the average shopping trip would cost only 46 cents more.
Myth #3. You Can’t Build a Career in Retail: While the retail industry is often associated with minimum wage, temporary jobs for students and the desperate, the truth is that many retail stores are eager to promote from within. Management, IT, marketing and other positions all need to be filled, and most owners prefer to fill those positions with people who have been on the ground dealing with customers. Moreover, the customer service and team-building skills that are so crucial in a retail environment make great training for a wide variety of careers.
Myth #4. Getting More Customers is All About Price: Price undoubtedly plays a role in customers’ shopping decisions, but it isn’t the only or even the most important factor that customers consider. When it comes to shopping at their favorite retailers, customers favor quality, innovative brands and great service. They understand that getting their money’s worth sometimes means spending a little more.
Myth #5. Retail Workers Don’t Care: There are slackers in every industry, of course, but the stereotype of the bored, disinterested cashier or sales associate simply isn’t true. It’s true that in many stores, employees aren’t able to provide great customer service, but that’s generally not because they’re lazy. Retail stores are often under-staffed, as managers cut costs by putting the bare minimum number of employees out on the floor. Moreover, some employees are under orders to sell a particular brand or get customers to enroll in credit cards or loyalty programs; they need to put the wishes of management above the interests of the customer.
Myth #6. Retail Workers are Young and Uneducated: While many retail jobs go to high school and college students, the average age of a retail worker is actually 37. These people aren’t just working for fun money, either; studies have shown that the majority of year-round retail workers contribute a significant portion of their respective families’ income. Moreover, almost a third of retail workers have attended college, and 15 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree. These more educated workers have additional communication, organization and technology skills that managers increasingly value.
Myth #7. Retail Workers Will Move On Soon: Retail is often viewed as an industry for entry-level workers, but it also represents 10 percent of all careers in the United States, and that percentage is growing. There just isn’t enough room in other industries for most retail workers to move on to other jobs. Indeed, more than half of retail workers say that they aren’t likely to change careers in the next year. The turnover rate is fairly high for individual employers, but most of those employees are moving on to jobs at other stores.
Myth #8. Social Media is the Future of Shopping: Plenty of consumers use social media to get information on stores and products, but relatively few do their actual buying online. For the great majority of customers, the physical store is still the final destination when it comes to actually buying things, and there’s no indication that that will change anytime soon. Social media is a powerful promotional tool, but retail stores still play a vital role in the industry. In short, retail isn’t dead, and it isn’t dying.