We participated in a ‘Best Place to Work’ competition last year – and I’m happy to say that we won in our category. But some of the questions about what benefits we offer made me laugh. Have you ever seen an independent retailer with a beer fridge for employees, or an on-site gym?  Still, in today’s competitive hiring environment it pays to offer some benefits and perks to attract candidates, and to make your current employees feel appreciated.

Benefits are of course the big-ticket items such as health insurance, family leave, sick days, paid holidays, and retirement funds. Indeed suggests that you start by “understanding what employee benefits are commonly offered in your industry, what benefits your team members expect to receive and what your business can afford to provide.” It’s safe to say that we’d all like to provide more benefits than are feasible for a retail store.

Perks, on the other hand, need not be costly.  We recently started offering our staff members one free coffee drink or cup of tea at the locally owned coffee shop across the street, and they are loving this. We just keep a gift card behind their counter that we replenish from time to time. 

Our shop also has a small fridge for soda and sparkling water, and we sometimes have a basket of fruit or other healthy snacks.  If you don’t want to provide these for free, you could ask employees to pay on the honor system.

One of the most popular perks we offer is a staff discount of cost plus 10%. This is a great help in getting our employees familiar with our products.  Because we don’t want them using their discount to make purchases on behalf of others, each person receives two discount cards for 20% off that they can give to friends or family members.

In the summer we subscribe to a weekly CSA (community sponsored agriculture) box from a local farm, and our staff members each sign up for the week that they would like to be the recipient of the fresh vegetables.  Other stores encourage employee wellness by offering a discount on gym or health club memberships. Those working a full day should always be given a lunch break, and encouraged to take a walk if the weather is good.

We offer our staff free bus passes, which has the added benefit of helping the environment. There are also perks that benefit your community, for example by offering paid time off for volunteer activities, and matching funds for charity donations.  Check with your staff to see which ones would be most meaningful to them.

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder