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Retail Association: Utah retailers need to start offering better wages

A Help Wanted sign is posted at a Designer Eyes store at Brickell City Centre, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Miami. Retail workers have been leaving in droves for other fields with better pay and benefits. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SALT LAKE CITY —  Retailers in Utah need to increase their wages if they want to lure workers out of their home offices where they have been ensconced during the past 15 months, according to a retail expert.

In April alone, nearly 650,000 retail workers gave notice they were leaving their roles, marking the biggest mass exit of employees in one month since the Department of Labor began tracking industry data more than 20 years ago, The Washington Post reported.

Dave Davis, president of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to talk about the importance of more competitive wages in the industry. 

Offer more competitive retail wages

“Are we seeing the same exodus of retail employees here in Utah that we’re seeing across the United States?” Debbie asked.

“The short answer to that, Debbie, is just ‘no.’ We’re not seeing it at the same level,” Davis said.

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“How do retailers do this? I mean what’s the selling point right now when they’re competing against jobs that are offering, not just 50 cents more an hour, but in several cases, several dollars more an hour?” Dave asked.

With Utah’s unemployment rate at 2.7% — essentially full employment — Davis said retailers need to be  more competitive with the starting wages they are offering.

Can’t wait tables from home

Because of remote-work aspect that evolved out of the pandemic, Davis added that retailers struggle to find workers who seem to prefer over traveling to and from the job site.

“Retail does not necessarily lend itself to very easily working at home if you’re a grocery store clerk or restaurant server,” Davis said. “I think that retailers are starting with that deficiency — that it’s difficult for their jobs to be done anywhere but at the worksite.”

Related: Keep up productivity to keep your work-from-home job, says state expert

Some need interaction with others

The producer of Dave & Dujanovic spotted a local retail boutique offering a job starting at $9 an hour.

“Here’s what bugs me,” Debbie said. “$9 an hour these days is somewhat of a joke.”

“You’re not wrong about that assessment. I think that, again, there are retailers that need to get more competitive with pay,” Davis said. “That being said, I think that they also need to spend more time marketing their jobs and highlighting the strengths of the of the jobs as well.

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“Believe it or not, not everybody does want to sit at home in their basement or in their home office and work from home,” he said. “There are people — and I think that we saw this quite a bit during the pandemic — that just crave human interaction. They want to see people. They get a lot of joy in their work in working with other people.”


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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