Why retail needs more mature age workers and fewer uni students 

| October 21, 2020

The retail sector is often seen an as ideal place for young people to gain work experience and earn money while at university.

As a retailer, I have hired students to work in my home organisation businesses – mostly as casuals and at busy times like Christmas.

I also have permanent staff aged in their 20s, who are excellent employees.

But when it comes to hiring long-term staff, my experience is that the most reliable and loyal workers are usually those who are older.

Among my most valued team members are two aged over 60.

One of them I employed only a year ago – when she was 64. Her previous experience running a similar business to mine, her product and industry knowledge and her positive attitude towards work have made her a real asset to my business. When I recently asked her to describe herself in one word, she said “loyal”. I couldn’t agree more.

A mutual contact put us in touch and I gave her a position the moment one came up. The truth is I would probably have created a role for her because it’s not easy to find someone like her who understands retail, is reliable and trustworthy.

My other over 60s staff member is one of the bubbliest members of our team and always comes in with a smile. Her personality is a plus in an industry in which good customer service is a big priority.

I also have an assistant manager who is 51 and my longest serving employee will be 50 next year.

Like me, they each consider retail to be a career and not an in-between job.

Retail workers officially make up around 10 per cent of Australia’s workforce and their average tenure in one job is a few months for younger workers and up to two years for older workers.

I often find mature age workers are more willing to learn and listen and they have more capacity to commit to set shifts. Having staff that you can rely upon to be available helps enormously with rostering as my store is open 362 days a year.

Unlike university students, my older staff members are also better able to relate to our core customers – middle-aged women.

Employers often prefer younger staff members as they can be employed at lower hourly rates, but I seriously question if that is really cost effective in the long run.

The only drawback I have found employing mature age staff is the physical demands working in retail places on some. Lifting heavy boxes and being on your feet all day long can be tough, but I’m fortunate to have a team who works well together to get the job done.

I strongly believe success in retail doesn’t just come from having the right products on the shelf, it also comes from having the right staff. In my experience, that should include older workers.

How does your business support mature workers?

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