Retailing is a major economic activity and employs more people than any other Australian industry. This report describes the character of employment in the retail industry, how it compares with employment in other industries, how it has changed over time, and how it differs between large and small retailers. This information is placed in the context of developments in the economy as a whole. Changes in the characteristics of employment over time are related to changes in the structure of the retail industry.
The retail industry comprises a diverse and complex group with different requirements and expectations. The capacity to determine, organise, support and finance training is markedly different between small business and large national retailers. For example, the specific retail industry sector, as well as the enterprise's internal business processes and systems, may demand specialised skills and different training pathways. Hence the ability to meet the specific demands and expectations of retailers will continue to provide a range of challenges for those stakeholders, both government and private.
Retailing is a major employer of school leavers and 'returners' to the labour market. Much of retailing is seen as a low skill activity, though this undervalues the personal skills needed to sell in an enhanced service economy. Many tasks can be fairly routine and this, together with the hours of opening in retailing, makes the sector a prime one for part-time labour. This means many retailers focus their operational attention and staffing concern on the few weeks around Christmas and the New Year.
To a considerable extent retailing is numerically dominated by a relatively low-skill, low-paid, part-time workforce. This workforce is primarily non-unionised and labour turnover in sections of this workforce is high. Perceptions of retailing as a job are often not good and retailers find it hard...