The narrative surrounding retail’s ongoing decline has largely been focused on corporations and store counts, but a recent piece from Vox detailed the heavy human toll being taking by the downturn, particularly on women and people of color.
Citing a recent study co-authored by United for Respect and the Center for Popular Democracy, the story reported that the massive layoffs at companies like Toys R Us and Payless — 33,000 and 16,000 respectively — “have disproportionately affected women and people of color, who are more likely to work in the sectors most affected, including apparel and general merchandise.”
As Vox noted, the industry is “fairly evenly split along gender lines,” but women average just $26,000 in median annual earnings — nearly 50 percent less then men do in full-time roles — and make up 76 percent of that “most-affected” category, a breakdown that only “exacerbates the wage gap between male and female full-time retail salespeople.”
Meanwhile, Black, Latinx and Asian retail workers make up nearly half of the clothing and general merchandise workforce, but are “more likely to hold low-wage roles such as cashier jobs,” making them vulnerable on a number of fronts.
At fault, the story says, is both a shifting landscape and the ravenous retail appetites developed by morally dubious private equity firms, who “raised billions in order to buy retail business from Neiman Marcus to Wet Seal,” but who also have a “short-term focus on extracting as much cash as possible, as quickly as possible,” with little focus on the health of a workforce.
And with the presumed automation takeover, things are likely to go from bad to worse for store employees, as it’s highly unlikely that there will be any investment in restoring the low-wage jobs that are disappearing.
So, as the story said, while the “so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ may be overblown… the industry’s future is up for grabs — which means, ultimately, so are millions of workers’.”
You can read more about it at Vox.