Staffing Shortages Remains a Significant Challenge for Retailers in Canada 

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Today, more than ever, it is vital to attract and retain the best talent as a core competitive advantage as consumers seek out experiences. A drastic shortage of skilled workers is creating significant challenges for retailers in Canada.

It has been proven that a successful brick and mortar store is invaluable to a brand. Many digitally-native stores are acquiring physical locations or popups as consumer trends shift towards an immersive, experiential shopping experiences.

However, as it stands, the Canadian retail market is struggling to find available and efficient talent to drive sales. Today the number of available jobs vastly exceeds the number of job seekers, proving that the situation is chronic and somewhat of an emergency as Canada is hit with a 40-year low of available and willing staff.


A a recent IDC/Telus study conducted last year shows that 47 percent of all retailers say staffing is a significant problem, higher than 44 percent across other industries. This dwindling talent pool is decreasing foot traffic and in turn greatly sabotaging sales.

Brick and mortar stores rely on the provision of exceptional customer service and educated sales associates. The retail industry is part of the service industry and brands are struggling to provide adequate service with the calibre of talent available to them, meaning many are failing in their field and no wonder ecommence is thriving.

Retailers and brands can pump investments into every other area of business, but without appropriate employment they run the risk of failing. Retail has to recreate its entire employment programs.

Obtaining staff is high priority and it won’t come cheap in a talent shortage market. Firms that don’t have professional retail recruiting support will find their sales negatively trend downwards.

Studies have shown that some stores are so understaffed that they are unable to adhere posted open times and are being forced to close early or sometimes close for days at a time. This is happening in both neighbourhood retail and major malls. Budgets for recruiting ads are sky-rocketing with lower-than-ever returns as retailers are at a loss as to how to entice new talent.


To make matters worse, turnover rates are around 80 to 90 percent annually, meaning that even after talent is secured, the odds of employees staying in their respective positions for over 12 months are very low.

Ironically, the current retail landscape sees consumers demanding more engaged customer service than ever before, while simultaneously retail is delivering on this demand less and less due to self checkouts and under-staffed stores. In 2018 Forbes reported on the Gladly Customer Service Expectation survey showing that 68 percent of all customers would pay more to get great service. The same survey reports that 92 percent of people would break ties with a brand that delivers poor service.

Studies have shown that a single vacancy generates four times the monthly salary loss in sales and productivity. In other words, one $3,000-a-month absent employee costs a retailer $12,000 a month in lost sales and productivity.

This retail staffing crisis can be traced to some demographic factors. Baby Boomers are retiring and the millennials taking their place are majorly avoiding the retail industry. By 2025 it is said that millennials will represent 75 per cent of the workforce, and with most choosing other industries, it wouldn’t appear that the crisis will get any better if the state of the industry remains the same.

What is the reason for this adverse reaction to the retail industry?

Research has shown that employees are especially attracted to retailers with a good reputation and they tend to stay longer at organizations who have a purposeful culture; where they feel their leaders create dynamic workplaces that allow employees to grow their potential.

But does the retail industry foster this work environment for its employees? In an industry where the word “innovation” has become ubiquitous, understanding the essential leadership qualities that foster new thinking is critical.

On March 24, 2020, the Retail Council of Canada is hosting the Retail Human Resources Conference, focusing on the HR issues such as unleashing the full potential of your workforce, attracting the new retail job seeker, winning with a positive culture, technology tools to scale the hiring process, and Canadian Retail Trends Survey Results – RCC research.

Set to include various talks from industry professionals, the Retail Human Resources Conference is designed by retailers for retailers and promises to talk about the topics you and your team want to learn about.


An example of a topic due to be covered is a Dare to Lead session, lead by Natalie Dumond. Dr Brené Brown, author of #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller ‘Dare to Lead’ has made a career out of exploring the connection between the ability to embrace vulnerability with the resulting impact being to lead with greater empathy and effectiveness. Dumond, who contributed to Brene Brown’s bestseller will lead the session specifically tailored to the unique ways these techniques can be applied in the retail workplace.

As retail teams all embrace the modern business realities, leveraging the creativity and power of their staff is essential. Learn more at the Retail Human Resources Conference on March 24, 2020.


Link to Agenda:



*Retail Insider has partnered with Retail Council of Canada on events. To work with Retail Insider, email:



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