Overcoming the Challenges of Today's Retail Jobs Landscape

Melissa Kress
Executive Editor
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ATLANTA — With unemployment in the United States near a 50-year low, there are more job openings today than there are unemployed workers. This makes it difficult to staff businesses, as convenience store operators know all too well.

In 2009, there were six workers for every job opening. Today, it is almost even at a one-to-one ratio, according to Aaron Rolka, recruitment evangelist, employee insights at, an employment search engine. 

The amount of workers leaving their jobs voluntarily is also at a 20-year high, noted Rolka, although the statistics don't apply across the retail spectrum, he said during the NACS Show 2019 education session titled "Navigating the Labor Landscape."

One million retail jobs are listed on the Indeed website, and 424,000 searches for retail are performed on the site each day, Rolka cited. However, "retail is changing quickly and, as a result, so are those talent needs," he noted.

Non-traditional retail jobs — such as technology, warehouse and driver — have seen 13 percent year-over-year growth on Meanwhile, 68 percent of retailers are hiring for traditional retail positions, such as store clerk or stocker. Of those traditional job listings, Rolka said 64 percent of them are open due to employee turnover.

So, why are employees leaving their jobs?

According to Rolka, the top reasons cited include:

  • Not enough money;
  • No career path;
  • Feel underappreciated;
  • Overworked; and
  • Not a good work/life balance. 

When it comes to recruiting, there are two common approaches that convenience store retailers can take: a centralized model or a decentralized model.

At Atlanta-based RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., it's the former. With 29 employees recruiting roughly 8,000 new people a year, the centralized model works for RaceTrac, according to Renzo Bassanini, the company's executive director of Field HR.

Benefits of the centralized model include a streamlined candidate experience and consistency. In terms of risks, Bassanini acknowledged that companies can end up working in silos, and the HR department can become a group of order takers.

To avoid the risks, it is critical for operations and human resources to communicate clearly and often about staffing needs. At RaceTrac, this is a weekly conversation.

It is also important to understand the business environment, he said, pointing out that 90 percent of RaceTrac's recruiters have worked as general managers.

"You may feel you are fully staffed until tomorrow," said Bassanini.

He advises fellow c-store retailers to realize that the labor market is everyone's to own. "If we work together, we can get far in being able to staff the stores," he said.

Across the country, Salt Lake City-based Maverik Inc. takes a more hybrid, decentralized approach to finding the right team members. With a six-person sourcing team serving 334 locations, it is not feasible to have recruiters in the field, Maverik's HR Director Ashley Ray told NACS showgoers. 

As with a centralized model, there are advantages and disadvantages with a decentralized model. The advantages include a shorter hiring process, a localized experience, a personal touch, and the feeling of empowerment among a store's general manager. Disadvantages, she said, include a lack of consistency and a lack of expertise.

"A decentralized model is a like a beehive — every store or business entity is going their own way. We give them the tools," she said.

The 2019 NACS Show was held Oct. 1-4 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.