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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Competitive Strategies and Worker Outcomes in the US Retail Industry

  • Author(s): Carré, Françoise
  • Tilly, Chris
  • Appelbaum, Lauren D.
  • et al.

The retail industry is both the largest industry in the U.S. in terms of employment, and the largest employer of low‐wage workers in the U.S. Though over‐ all, women made up 49% of the retail workforce in 2007, just above the economy‐wide proportion of 47%, when we narrow our sights to part‐time, frontline retail workers (cashiers and stock clerks), the female percentage jumps to 64%, compared to only 33% in management.

Retail salaries are low, particularly for the many part‐time workers. Frontline grocery workers—cashiers and stock clerks—earn 57 percent of the average hourly rate across all private industries. In electronics, frontline workers do a little better at 85 percent of the average wage. Not surprisingly, this is at least in part a gender story. Half of all grocery store workers are female compared with just over a quarter (28%) of electronics workers. Among full‐ time, frontline workers the gender disparity between grocery and electronics is even greater.

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