Retail is Booming. Retail is Dying. Which is it and What Does it Mean for Careers?

Retail is Booming.
Portrait Of Couple Running Coffee Shop Behind Counter

On one hand some will say that retail is booming. Amazon, the online retail giant sought to hire 175,000 additional workers during the Coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the latest 2020 jobs report showed that a total of 740,000 new retail jobs were added in June.  Some of those jobs were really retail workers returning to work after the initial layoffs due to the Coronavirus shutdowns.

However, despite those upticks, it appears that retail as we know it, is in for some serious changes. The Retail Federation cautions that despite these bursts, the retail sector is still in for a slow recovery given the nature of the pandemic. 

More bad news for retail came in the form of Fortune Magazine’s list of 20 biggest companies that have filed bankruptcies so far because of the pandemic.  Twenty percent of the list included retail companies. These include JC Penney Company Inc., Neiman Marcus Group, Stage Stores and Chinos Holdings (owner of the J. Crew brand).  Add Hertz, the largest of all the companies on the list, because of the retail nature of their operations, and we have a full quarter of the list that will impact retail workers.  Other well-known retail brands that visit college campuses every year to scoop up new graduates include Pier 1 Imports, Modell Sports, True Religion and Tuesday Morning.

Retail is Booming.
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Both the job losses and disappearing jobs will hit workers with the lowest incomes the hardest.  In a Federal Reserve paper, it was reported that more than 35% of all workers in the lowest wage group lost a job through mid-April compared to 9% of workers in the highest-earning group.

Some tips for those who have built their careers around retail:

Look for other industries that are growing where your customer service skills could add value. Examples include Telecommunication, shopping services like and or food delivery like Uber Eats, Grub Hub or Door Dash.

Build digital skills through learning opportunities either with your company or on your own dime. It’s your career and your livelihood, so be prepared to pay for what you need. Places like and have classes at introductory rates.  Register for community college or MOOC courses.

Strengthen your job search skills for the current environment. We have shared information on how recruiters are using artificial intelligence technologies and digital tools in recruiting.Get your resume current and practice your video interviewing skills.

Look for work from home opportunities for call center jobs that are not even in the state where you live. If the Coronavirus pandemic has shown us one thing, it is that it is possible to work remotely in all kinds of jobs.

Retail management skills can transfer across industries very easily.  Whether retail is booming or not, the management skills you have built can be transferred to other industries. The trick is to not wait to do it when everyone else starts to do it.  Think about being a first mover and start connecting to make that transition if you feel it is necessary.

Look around retail for other types of job roles.  If your expertise in retail is disappearing, then maybe look for a parallel role in a different industry.  For example, if your work has been in Human Resources in retail, there are plenty of other HR jobs in other industries.

Whatever your situation in retail, it is wise to always be scanning the environment.

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