Retail Salespeople Are Losing Their Jobs Twice as Fast as Stores Are Closing

Chances are you’re not the only one noticing a change in the way retailers do business.

From longer checkout lines to lagging sales, the industry is undergoing an exodus of salespeople, who are being cut from stores up to twice as fast as retailers are shuttering their doors. That’s according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, which reported that the number of store clerks climbed just 1.5 percent over the past decade despite population growth around stores increasing 12.5 percent in the same timeframe.

This decline can be attributed to technological advancements, such as the growing number of big-box stores implementing self-checkout lanes (think Target and Walmart), as well as a shift toward small-format stores — a strategy used by department store chains like Kohl’s and Nordstrom, for example. The WSJ also credited the hiring of full-time employees in place of two or three part-time workers.

Amid digital competition (particularly in the age of Amazon), shifting consumer spending habits and rising rents, many retailers that have traditionally built their businesses on brick and mortar are looking to other platforms and services to yield profit. While some have turned to experiential retail or revamping their loyalty programs, others are banking on headcount reduction to bring down costs.

Separately, a recent survey by retail consulting firm HRC Retail Advisory reported that 95 percent of consumers prefer to be left alone while shopping unless they require the help of a sales associate. Instead of the hands-on and personalized service traditionally associated with salespeople, the survey added that a majority of shoppers now look to in-store technology for customer service and rely on the opinions of their family and friends to aid in their decision-making.

However, a reduced staff can lead to slower movement on the sales floor, as workers are burdened with the restocking of shelves and the processing of returns, among other tasks — all of which can impact a company’s revenue. In a study last week announced by payment platform Adyen, retailers are losing a collective $37.7 billion in potential sales due to long checkout lines.

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