By Claire Reilly

In the lead up to Christmas, retailers start to think about bringing on more staff to meet customer demands and help cope with busier stores. But the big question for retailers is how to retain staff, especially younger workers, once they've spent the time training them in their role. 

National Retail Association CEO Trevor Evans said retailers should invest in their staff in order to retain them and to demonstrate that retail doesn’t have to be a stop gap for that fills a temporary employment need.

“At the NRA we’re very keen to dispel the myth that retail is just a floating job between other things,” he said. “It is important to prove to young workers that retail is not just necessarily a stepping stone and a job on the way to something else, but that retail can be — and often is — an entire career path in its own right.

“Let’s face it: there are a lot of young leaders, young managers and young people with excellent managerial skills coming up through the ranks in retail, probably more than any other sector. My suggestion would be, if you’ve got excellent junior staff, sit down with those young future leaders and really map it out for them, give them a sense that there’s a plan going forwards, that there’s a place for promotion and advancement.

“Retail staff are probably called upon to give leadership and management skills a go much earlier in their career, and that’s a great thing. Some of the best stories around in retail are the ones where people started out on the shop floor and ended up being CEOs or directors on the retail board.”

Evans said recognition of young talent could come in many forms, not just commissions and success-based incentives to attract workers to stay.

“Retailers can demonstrate that they value their staff members’ contribution by undergoing some accredited training. Some governments offer a range of rebates and incentives to help retailers pay for the costs of such training, so sometimes it’s not actually an out of pocket expense. You can demonstrate that you are investing in the future of your staff and you care about their development.

“It’s a great win-win situation,” he added. “They get a qualification that’s accredited and that they can take to other jobs in the future, they feel valued, and you get an employee with better skills at the end of the day.”

But it’s not just young staff that can be an asset to a retail business. Evans said the industry attracted many workers from all different walks of life, all of whom have something to offer and something to gain from a career in retail.

“The retail sector employs one in 10 people in the economy,” said Evans.

“It’s often the first job for job seekers such as young students, it’s often the place where single parents or second income earners in families turn when they head back to the workforce, and, increasingly, it’s also the place where some mature-age workers turn if they get turned out of another industry or job, five or 10 years before their retirement.

“The thing that should make [bricks and mortar] retail different is the amount of customer service and customer care that you’re giving your customers on their path through to making their transaction. So having a whole lot of staff from very different backgrounds who can better communicate with all of your customers is what retailers should be thinking about.”

This article first appeared on