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The Great Resignation forces retailers to boost pay and benefits

The news: The tight labor market is forcing retailers to boost pay and benefits as they seek to retain both corporate workers and store employees. 

The corporate end: The Great Resignation has driven workers at all rungs of the retail ladder to rethink their work.

  • The pandemic helped spur strong retail sales growth. Now, many of the companies that have benefited are attempting to scoop up talent as their businesses mature.
  • Amazon has seen a number of senior leader departures over the past year, including at least 200 corporate employees who defected to Instacart and Gopuff, per the Information. 
  • In an apparent response, Amazon more than doubled its cap on base pay cash compensation to $350,000 from $160,000, per The New York Times. 

The service-sector end: Retailers are increasing pay and benefits for store workers, as well as those who work in fulfillment and transportation. 

  • Apple plans to significantly increase the benefits it provides US retail store workers, per Bloomberg. 
  • Amazon in September boosted its average starting wage for fulfillment and transportation workers to $18 an hour along with comprehensive benefits worth an additional $3.50 per hour, per a company release. 
  • CVS last year boosted its hourly wage to $15 an hour, per a company release.
  • Walmart has made several moves over the past year to improve its employer-sponsored digital health benefits.
  • While retailers tend to lay off large swaths of seasonal workers in January, many did not do so this year due to the difficulties attracting and retaining service-sector workers. “Businesses are hoarding labor,” Mickey Levy, chief US economist at Berenberg Capital Markets, told The Washington Post. 

A broader context: The Great Resignation is making it difficult to hire and retain workers.

  • More than 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July, and that pace of resignations has continued. About 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of workers, quit their jobs in December, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • To retain workers, 14.5% of private-sector businesses have increased their base wages, per BLS.
  • Around 63% of brick and mortar retail tenants are currently in hiring mode, and about 71% of that group said it is harder to find qualified job candidates than in the past, per a Levin Management survey. 

The takeaway: The tight labor market is empowering workers. In addition to the fierce competition for top technology talent, retailers also have to pay heed to the consumer-facing workers who are the public face of their organizations. If they fail to find ways to keep their employees satisfied, they’ll likely lose staff, causing their customer experience to suffer.