Many people think of retail jobs as temporary, but Laura Britton isn't one of them.
In 1992, Britton was living in St. Louis, Missouri, when a neighbor told her that Macy's was hiring. She landed a role at the department store's South County St. Louis location with a long job title that she still remembers to this day, "sales manager of moderate sportswear, better sportswear, petite and dresses."
Today, Britton is a Group Vice President of Talent Acquisition for the company that first gave her that job 26 years ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are almost 5 million retail workers in the U.S. Macy's is one of the biggest retail employers in the country, with about 130,000 employees across the organization. In September, Macy's announced that it plans to hire 80,000 more workers over the holiday season alone.
CNBC Make It spoke with Britton to learn about how to get a job at Macy's and what it takes to thrive there. "It's really interesting how many people join us for the holiday season thinking they're going to have a holiday job and end up staying with us longer," Britton says. "About 37 percent of our entire stores population join us in October, November or December."
If you want a job for this holiday season, or you're looking to launch a career like Britton's, Macy's may be the place for you. Here's how to land a job at Macy's:
Retail work is no longer limited to the floor of a department store. Of the 80,000 people Macy's plans to hire this holiday season, 1,000 were hired for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1,500 will be hired to work at customer service call centers and 23,500 people will be hired to help with online orders at fulfillment centers. This emphasis on fulfillment centers reflects the industry's adaptation to the emergence of e-commerce, as well as the need to compete with employers like Amazon.
"It's an exciting time for anybody looking to work in the retail industry, because retailers are having to be more employee-centric, and that's not a bad thing," Britton says. "When you have that kind of competition, you always have to continue to reinvent yourself."
At Macy's, that means giving seasonal hires bonuses for meeting sales targets, giving workers flexible scheduling tools and providing free transportation to fulfillment centers. Every worker interested in a job at Macy's should carefully consider different kinds of positions that are available. According to Indeed economist Andrew Flowers, retail workers can earn higher wages at fulfillment centers.
"Average hourly earnings for retail workers were $18.96 as of October. Non-store e-commerce retail workers earned much more, $24.69 on average," he tells CNBC Make It, noting that retail employment growth in the U.S. is lagging behind overall job growth. "One bright spot is non-store retail jobs — effectively e-commerce — which are up 4.6 percent year-over-year."
The BLS reports that the median annual pay for retail sales workers is about $23,370. Job site PayScale estimates that the median pay for all retail workers is roughly $23,664, and that Macy's employees earn an annual average of $57,706.
Britton says that Macy's retail wages start at $9 an hour and average about $15.50 an hour, not including commission.
Workers can apply for a job at Macy's in a store or over the phone. The process moves quickly — most retail workers are hired within two days of applying. Britton says that the No. 1 thing that workers need to demonstrate during this process is that they have customer service experience.
Macy's hires people from a wide range of backgrounds, not just retail, so the key to landing a job at the retailer is demonstrating how your previous experiences have taught you customer service skills.
"We have a lot of folks who have joined us from other industries," says Britton, noting that many new hires are teachers, food service workers or retirees. The thing that Macy's is looking for, no matter what your professional experience, is the ability to work well with customers.
"One of the best things about working in retail is its very diverse workforce," says Britton. "We span the map on age range. Our employee demographics most often mirror our customer demographics — that makes things comfortable not just for our customers but also for our employees."
Working at Macy's means being part of a team, and the company's hiring managers look deeply at an applicant's ability to work well with other people.
"Are they friendly? Do they like to work with the public? Are they great on teams?" Britton says these are all factors that hiring managers consider about applicants.
Before applying for a job at Macy's, workers should think of ways to demonstrate that they get along well with others, be it a customer, colleague or manager. And if you want to truly succeed at a place like Macy's, Britton says that the biggest thing that workers can do is show enthusiasm.
"For those individuals who want to grow, we ask, 'Are they inquisitive? Are they looking to learn more? Are they volunteering to do more?'" says Britton. "Those are all indicators that people are interested and eager to grow."
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