Why I believe in the power of retail jobs

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay is optimistic about retail’s role in empowering the workforce of the future
President and CEO

The retail industry is a great place to start a career, and a great place to grow. It’s the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting more than one in four U.S. jobs — 55 million working Americans. 

We saw the power of opportunity in retail on full display last week at Walmart’s Opportunity Summit: Investing in American Jobs. The Opportunity Summit was a day-long conversation with employers, non-government organizations, labor and employer groups, federal agencies and elected officials about career pathways in retail and service businesses for Americans without a four-year college degree.

Retail's Impact

Retail supports more than 1 in 4 American jobs. Read the report and dive into the number of retail establishments, labor income, employment and impact on GDP across the country.

The Summit was hosted by Walmart U.S. President and CEO and NRF Chairman John Furner. He was joined by Ted Decker, chair, president and CEO of The Home Depot; Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald's USA; and Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, for a discussion about why investing in employees is good for business, and how to teach skills on the job.

The NRF Foundation provides access to education and opportunities needed for successful and fulfilling retail careers, and is leading the conversation on skills-based hiring with senior talent acquisition executives through its Talent Acquisition Group. Many of our members have been focused on skills-based hiring for years, and continue to review role requirements and career paths to remove degree requirements and strengthen upskilling opportunities for associates without college degrees.

Walmart and The Home Depot are among more than 20 retailers that collaborated with the NRF Foundation to develop the RISE Up training and credentialing program. RISE Up teaches foundational employability skills to help people land jobs and get promoted in retail and beyond. Upwards of 58,000 RISE Up credentials were earned in 2023, with the support of more than 3,500 training partners in all 50 states.

At NRF, we know retail offers good jobs with opportunities for advancement. In a survey from Lotis Blue, 65% of retail employees said they intended to stay in their current role; of those individuals, more than half plan to stay with their employers for five years or more. Another recent study shows that retail careers enable faster role advancement and greater career growth compared with other industries, with lateral moves or upward role progression occurring every 14.5 months. Retail workers receive a 15.2% average pay increase for each of these transitions.

The Value of a Retail Career

Retail is a growing industry where talent of all types and from all parts of the U.S. can start, build and accelerate a rewarding career. Read the report.

As Furner and Decker said in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “The American dream isn’t dead, but the path to reach it might look different for job seekers today than it did for their parents. We owe it to younger generations to open our minds to the different opportunities workers have to learn new skills and achieve their dreams.”

NRF is committed to being a part of the system that empowers workers to develop skills for first steps and fresh starts in their career, regardless of age or background. As the leading voice for retail, NRF will continue to advocate for workplace flexibility and economic growth for Americans, helping people build better lives and stronger communities.

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