The words "retail job" tend to conjure images of weekend shifts, meager paychecks and positions with scant potential for professional advancement. Plenty of businesses live up to that unfortunate reputation in the way they treat employees. Yet a handful of companies work hard to disprove the idea that an entry-level job as a sales associate or cashier can't turn into a full-fledged career.
At Great Rated!, we recently assembled a list of the 20 best employers in retail based solely on anonymous survey results from their team members. Among them, 82 percent say they're given the resources they need to advance professionally. At the same time, these companies report an average of 72 hours of annual training for full-time employees and 42 hours for those working part time. Distinctions like this might not be evident when you step inside a storefront, but some businesses feature pronounced differences from their competitors when it comes to employee development.
Take tuition reimbursement: More than half of the retailers with the distinction of making the great workplaces list help employees pay for college in amounts that range from $1,000 to $9,000 each year. East Coast grocer Wegmans, for example, pays half of its associates' tuition costs, up to $1,100 per semester for full-time employees and $750 for part-timers. Some have even shared stories about how the organization helped them work their way through college while offering the flexibility to schedule shifts around classes.
"The company will help you move up and succeed the best they can," says one team member. "The opportunities are endless! The Wegmans scholarship was a blessing all the years I've been with the company."
Likewise, team members at Sheetz say the company commits itself to people who want to get ahead. One of two convenience stores on our list of great retail workplaces, it too offers tuition reimbursement, plus an average of 100 hours of annual training for part-time employees. Hard workers in entry-level positions frequently move through an intensive training program and internship over the course of three months to become assistant managers, with similar programs set up for more senior roles.
Says one employee: "Although I have only been a part of this company for six months, I feel that I have grown immensely. I was offered a chance to move up and I took it. I start training for it very soon. I have never worked for a company that cared so much for their employees and their growth in the company."
These are just two examples of large retailers that offer a clear path to more advanced roles over time, proving that job seekers can and should find employers that offer professional development for all members of the team.