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What Can the Retail Industry Do to Reduce Unemployment?

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Unemployment is always a pressing issue for the federal government. The pandemic and the closure of businesses has caused significant stress for workers and business owners. In the new world of stimulus checks, we can forget the financial significance of unemployment payments. Simply put, fewer people out of work means fewer people claiming allowances and a rise in overall disposable income, both advantages for the state of the economy.

Victoria’s Secret is a recent victim of the shopping mall. Falling sales meant that the lingerie company was forced to close over one-quarter of their 1,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada. The closure of popular retail stores is set to continue in 2021. Retail workers are now recovering from a 17.1% unemployment rate in April 2020, the highest on record. Today, the figure is double its pre-pandemic levels. However, a return to work is coming, intending to end uncertainty and recover from the unemployment caused by the pandemic. This is an opportunity to create a forward-thinking workforce beyond the pandemic. Successful retailers must do what they can do to reduce unemployment in the industry — but how?

Employment and Disability

In order to reduce the number of people who are out of work due to a disability, businesses should consider creating a “Disability Confident” employer scheme. Such schemes have been used by large businesses around the world to provide employers with the skills, examples and confidence to recruit and develop disabled employees.

Businesses can get help from the government using the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). The program helps companies create strategies for recruiting and advancing the careers of disabled employees in a variety of roles. Recruitment website Monster, named Walgreens as one of the best disability employers in 2020, proving that retailers can provide jobs for people of all abilities.

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Encouraging a Diverse Workforce

According to the Aspen Institute, women and other minority groups are underrepresented in retail management positions but overrepresented in lower-paying roles. Retailers should focus on broadening their selection process when it comes to the recruitment process. This can ensure that those who’ve lost a job in a retail position face equal opportunity when it comes to finding a new role. 

Encouraging diversity in gender and cultural background when hiring is not only beneficial for employees, but also for the business itself. Ultimately, when a workforce is representative of a customer base, it can lead to a better understanding of the target market and an improvement in business performance.

Charity Collaboration

Another way to reduce unemployment levels is to collaborate with charities that are there to help those who are struggling to find work.

Partnering with a disabled or mental health charity, for example, can help you reach those who are out of work because of a disability or health issue and encourage them to apply.

One example of this includes men’s shirts retailer CT Shirts. The company has a long-standing partnership with the Prince’s Trust that involves fundraising and a mutually beneficial relationship. This charity works closely with vulnerable young people who need a helping hand to get their lives back on track.

Like many retailers that The Trust works with, CT Shirts took advantage of one of their “Get Hired” days — a day of greetings and interviews with young people who have been through The Prince’s Trust Programs to get to know some potential employees.

Cross-Discipline Training

It’s true that for many retailers, while the jobs of their in-store employees may be at risk, often recruitment in their digital marketing and ecommerce teams is still growing. Therefore, an important consideration to make is whether retail employees should be trained in other areas of the business too— or at least whether their knowledge of the company and its products or services be valued, so that they’re allowed to progress in another area of the business after redundancy.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this idea, but it’s certainly something for retailers to think about before making mass redundancies across the business. Cross-discipline training can also encourage more loyal employees and therefore those who are more invested in the performance of the retail business as a whole.

As we can see, there is a range of considerations that retailers are currently making or should think about when it comes to reducing unemployment. As some companies pave the way, it’s down to other industry players to make big changes too.


Andrew Richardson is a writer at online marketing agency Mediaworks. He writes for a variety of sectors, including retail, financial services and technology at one of the Northeast’s leading agencies.

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