Hiring great employees is essential to retail success. Our sales associates are the key to providing excellent customer service, and efficient “back of house” staff members are mandatory for the smooth operation of the store.  Although salary is not the only factor in attracting and retaining good employees, you want to make sure that your hourly pay is in keeping with other businesses.

The best way to gauge what the normal starting salary is for comparable work in your area is to check with other businesses.  If you don’t feel comfortable asking your colleagues, you could look on Craig’s List or in the classified ads to see what they are offering.  You might also have a space on your job application that asks what the pay level was a previous jobs, which will be useful information — especially if the candidate has worked in retail.

There is a national organization called SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) which does surveys of compensation practices, however you need to be a member to access their data.  They do offer a day pass, however, which might be useful if you are actively seeking information.  SHRM also offers numerous helpful free tools on their web site including sample interview questions and employee benefit forms.

I’ve also found a site call Glass Door that lists average sales associate figures for national retail chains such as Best Buy, The Gap and Macy’s.  These businesses are our competitors when it comes to attracting talented staff, so this survey may give you useful information. It does not, however, adjust for regional differences — and we all know that the cost of living in Boston is considerably higher than in Madison, WI.  The Glass Door site is free, but registration is required for accessing more in-depth information.

You need to differentiate, of course, between average salary and starting salary.  All of us start our new employees at a lower level hourly pay and increase it as the individuals gain experience.  We realize, however, that whenever we raise the level of starting pay in order to attract an enthusiastic new staff member, we’ll need to raise many of the other pay levels to reflect this new base.

Many stores offer a generous employee discount in addition to their hourly wage, and this benefit will not cost you much.  A flexible schedule is another benefit that is not measurable in dollars, but may make the job more attractive. Although retail jobs everywhere have relatively low pay levels, we need to do whatever we can to make these positions rewarding in order to attract the best possible employees.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder