It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for US retailers, but not if you’re a woman working for one. Company sales reports are coming in and so far they indicate the holiday season was a big success. At the same time evidence is emerging that the radical reordering of the retail landscape is hitting women hard, and there may be worse to come.
The retail sector has been the biggest loser of jobs for the last two years in a row in the US, as thousands of stores closed as shoppers moved online. It remains one of the US’s largest employers, providing 15.8m jobs, but the reordering of the retail landscape is having a profound impact on the nature of its workforce.
Between November 2016 and November 2017, the sector fired 129,000 women (the largest loss for any industrial sector for either sex) while men gained 109,000 positions, according to an analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). In the whole labour force women gained 985,000 jobs over the year, while men gained 1.08m jobs.
Retail remains a “hugely important” employer for women, said Heidi Hartmann, IWPR president, especially as a provider of part-time jobs for women who are looking to balance work with family obligations. “Women are very dependent on the nearby shopping center and retail outlets especially as they get back into the work market.” But the shift in how Americans shop – and in what they are buying – is having a profound effect.
Major retailers shut shops across the US last year. A record 6,700 stores shut in 2017, according to Fung Global Retail & Technology, a retail thinktank. Macy’s alone closed 68 stores and shed 10,000 jobs. Drugstore chain Walgreens closed 600 locations.
New jobs are being created in shipping, handling, back office and warehousing but traditional retail is being hollowed out with the loss of checkout and sales assistant jobs. “There are still jobs being created in retail but they are jobs with different skill sets,” said…