The fact that brick-and-mortar is struggling, and stores are closing and going bankrupt is not new news, however, the conversation has finally shifted to the result these closings will have on employment. Forbes recently compiled a list of 21 retailers that will close 3,591 stores in 2017, resulting in an estimated 50,000 people losing their jobs. Last week Business Insider published an article on this subject that included the thoughts of Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia Business School.
I agree with Cohen that the closing of all these stores will hit local economies and, as he said, “This is creating a slow-rolling crisis. The people that work in retail stores will lose their jobs, then spend less money in retail stores because they are no longer employed. That creates a cascade of economic challenges.”
Business Insider quoted the New York Times who reported, “More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry, which President Trump championed during the campaign as a prime example of the workers who have been left behind in the economic recovery.” I think most sane people can agree coal miners are not ever going back to the mines, and that they have found it difficult to find employment because they do not have a skill set that is easily transferable.
Cohen believes retail workers are in the same boat, telling Business Insider that, “Like coal miners, retail workers don’t typically have a set of skills that’s easily transferable to another industry. The coal miners are out of luck. Retail workers are in the same boat.” On this point, I could not disagree more. While Mr. Cohen has an impressive career in retail, if he would have ever worked on the sales floor I don’t think he would have made this comparison.
I started my career in retail and, while it was luxury retail, I ran into the same thinking when I looked for a job doing anything other than working on a sales floor. Eventually, someone took a chance on me and I guess you could say the rest is history. In the beauty industry, those “unskilled retail workers” are the most crucial part of the equation in a brick-and-mortar environment. Without them, we would all be out of jobs.
Personally, I believe retail experience has highly applicable skills across categories, and I look for it on a resume when hiring junior marketing talent. Let me list a few of the skills needed in any retail environment: sales, customer service, the ability to problem-solve in real-time, and listening. Employers who recognize this will have a competitive edge in the hiring game.
Scott Gurfein, Chairman of AllWork, believes jobs for retail talent in the beauty industry are a hidden job market, claiming thousands of these positions go unfilled every month. Moreover, retail talent is directly tied to the bottom line when you have the right talent in the right store at the right time, productivity increases.
This is not to dismiss the obvious loss of jobs that will result from all these store closings, but rather to show the story of the retail landscape and the value of those that create the experiences in-store and close the sales from another angle. For those in the industry who view the skills of retail sales talent to be as irrelevant as coal miners’, failure in the current retail environment will be their reality.
Read the full article at Business Insider.
Photo: Clark Young via Unsplash