Posted June 19, 2020

Re-Opening: What does it mean for Retail Employees?

By Grace Tino

COVID-19 has served as a disruption to life across the globe, especially for American workers who have experienced layoffs and a job search in a heightened landscape. While many industries have experienced massive cutbacks over the last several months, retail businesses have remained some of the few that have continued to hire. In March, large retailers across the country posted over 500,000 jobs. With case numbers now levelling off, many states are beginning the processes of reopening their businesses to the public. Retail has been a sector particularly subject to the impact of COVID-19, from e-commerce demand to restaurants and storefronts finding ways to keep business going while eliminating contact with customers. Numerous states have begun the process of reopening, and for many retail businesses, this means rebuilding their teams to prepare for returning customers.

As retailers cooperate with reopening guidelines, who will they be looking for to ensure a smooth transition on the front lines? Since precautions for employee and customer safety will still be implemented in open stores, teamwork will be more important than ever in stores. Retailers will need reliable workers to help clean, sanitize, and enforce social distancing. These extra responsibilities are opportunities. Undoubtedly, retailers will be looking for the right hardworking team members to ensure a safe and successful reopening. Additionally, retailers will be placing extra emphasis on customer service. To entice customers back to stores, creating a safe and welcoming environment for wary consumers is essential for sparking business once again.

Retail warehouse positions will still be in demand, given the impressive rise in online shopping and e-commerce. With numerous storefronts closed, as well as cautious shoppers, e-commerce has surged in all sectors of retail, from grocery to clothing to essential goods. Online shopping consumer habits are expected to continue post-pandemic, which means job opportunities in order fulfillment for retail workers. Recent research revealed that online sales made up 22% of all retail sales during the months of April and May this year. E-commerce sales increased tremendously by 92.7% in May alone. This success in online retail is expected to still see a projected 18% increase in the next month. Even with stores re-opening, retailers will address these digital consumer habits through e-commerce efforts, which means hiring for teams in retail shipping and warehousing will still be active.

Demand for e-commerce does not mean that brick-and-mortar stores won't be making a comeback and hiring for their teams as well. According to industry expert Bob Phibbs, "Bricks-and-mortar stores are going to come back. The near-term is focused on all the things big retailers are doing: making a big production of cleaning, sanitation, masks." The retail workers in-stores are going to be on the front lines of reshaping what the in-store consumer experience is; this job is important as ever to retailers. Phibbs notes that, "They're not going to have as many people in the store, so they're going to have to rely on those salespeople to drive sales." For retail job seekers, this means a great opportunity to leverage your sales and customer service experience to land an in-store position.

How can you prepare for the job competition during reopening? The first step is to update your resume, and tailor it to the unique situation retailers are now facing. As mentioned above, retailers are looking for employees they feel can successfully uphold not only the safety standards still in place but also top-notch customer service. If you have experience, even a few weeks, working during the pandemic for a retailer, this will be extremely important to highlight. Knowledge and experience with safety and sanitation procedures set you apart even as a potential leader for the store team. As mentioned above, customer service skills are going to be highly desirable. Highlight your various sales achievements and prepare examples of your customer service savvy to discuss in cover letters and interviews.

Retail job seekers should also practice and prepare for online or phone interviewing. Although stores are reopening, many retailers will still want to avoid bringing in extra people if it is not necessary, leading them to opt for a virtual interview over the standard in-person procedure. Since virtual interviews are uncommon up until now for retail positions, it is important retail job seekers prepare for them properly. If you are setting up for a virtual interview, make sure your surroundings are clean; a clean room speaks volumes to how you can keep your store organized as well. Remove distractions from the room, including any pets or other roommates or family, since quiet will allow both you and your interviewer to focus on the conversation. Finally, dress to impress! Wear the same clothing you would to an interview in-person and avoid wearing that sweat suit you have been using on repeat during self-isolation. Visuals, first impressions, and conversation carry just as heavily in a virtual interview as they do in person.

For the retail employee, things will still not quite be back to "normal" both in-stores and in the backend for the next several months. Despite the challenges that come with the process of reopening safely, retail work during these times is a rewarding opportunity and produces valuable experience that you will be able to discuss even at interviews years in the future of your career. Our hundreds of retailer partners are scouring our site for retail workers like you- get started with AllRetailJobs by signing up here.