Retail

Changing Retail Is Changing Retail Workers

As checkout processes become more automated and the point of sale moves to a mobile-first approach, the role of the retail clerk is also changing.

Ringing up goods is giving way to customer service specialization and service offerings that digital retailers can’t match, according to a U.S. News and World Report.

Best Buy employees are leaving stores and arriving on customers’ doorsteps to help them pick the right products for their homes. Walmart workers are handpicking customers’ grocery orders as they move to fill digitally sent grocery lists that will be delivered curbside.

And while retail jobs are paying — and expanding in some cases — wages aren’t keeping pace with the new professional retail service staff. Moreover, while some workers like the new order in retail locations — even as automation is shrinking workforces — others are reporting “their jobs are a lot less fun.”

“You tell them everything, and then they look at you and say, ‘You know what? I think I will get it online,’” Bloomingdale’s saleswoman Brenda Moses told U.S. News.

Moses has seen her commission rate rise to 6 percent from half a percent, but her hourly wage has dropped from $19 to as low as $10 before it came back up to $14. The net result, she said, particularly with fewer shoppers in stores, is more active competition among workers for sales.

“Now,” Moses said, “you have to fight to make your money.”

The trend, according to Craig Rowley, senior client partner at Korn Ferry Hay Group, will persist, with as many as 60 percent of retail jobs either evolving into new types of roles or or revised duty lists. He estimates that number today is at about 10 percent.

Online shopping growth, the speed with which robotics and other automation-oriented retail tech develop and the shifts in minimum hourly pay will be the three levers that will determine what the rate of change will actually be, according to Rowley — but the change is certainly coming.

“Jobs for workers will get more interesting and be more impactful on the company’s business,” Rowley said. “But the negative side is that there will be fewer entry-level jobs and there will be more pressure to perform.”

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