What’s Causing the Great Retail Worker Shortage?

July 14, 2021

While Americans are rejoicing at the openness of everything and Gen Zers in particular relish the return of IRL shopping, retail workers are rethinking their employment in the industry, adding to a preexisting, pre-pandemic talent shortage.

A recent survey of 500 retail associates commissioned by retail operations platform Zipline found that those associates don’t feel their employers are putting enough energy into improving the workplace. In fact, 42 percent said they’re either considering or planning to leave retail after the pandemic.

“I think people are just worn down. They’re worn down, they feel tired, the pace of retail hasn’t slowed down, it’s continuing to speed up because they need to be more agile,” said Melissa Wong, cofounder and chief executive officer of Zipline, which counts Allbirds, Sephora and AEO Inc. among its clients. “It is so critical for organizations, especially [those] that are going through these huge critical change — which all of retail is now — if you’re implementing new technology, trying different ways of working, the field has to do more with less and there’s a labor shortage, which makes it even harder. So you need to align the organization on what the key initiatives are, why you’re doing it and what success looks like.”

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