3 ways retail will change in the next 5 years

Woman on Tablet while sitting in a mall
Written by Sheryl Posnick

Are you currently employed in a retail position or looking to find one? If so, and you’re in it for the long haul, you can expect to encounter some big changes across the industry in the next several years. This is due to a variety of factors—from technological innovation that’s reshaping how consumers purchase products, to changes in the global economy and individual spending habits.

1. Basic Industry Trends

Here are some of the basic trends that are expected in retail over the next several years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Retail employment is projected to grow at a rate of 2 percent. This is slower than average, but opportunities will be available, largely due to the high employment turnover that’s characteristic of the industry.
  • The greatest concentration of retail employment will be on the east and west coasts of the United States; the states with the highest employment levels will likely be California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.
  • Places with the highest annual mean retail wages will likely be the District of Columbia, Washington, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
  • Industries with the highest levels of retail employment will likely be general merchandising stores, clothing stores, building supplies dealers, sporting goods and hobby shops, and car dealerships.

2. Changes in Hiring Procedures

Do your memories regarding the retail positions you’ve held throughout your career involve walking into various stores, completing paper applications, and submitting it to an employee or manager? If so, then you can expect to notice a change in how hiring is done over the next few years. Expect the slow, old “paper and pen” application process, which often meant weeks of waiting for a response while mountains of applications were reviewed, to be replaced by a more computerized and efficient hiring process—from applying to onboarding and everything in between.

Many of the components of hiring are being automated and shifting to computers, allowing for a faster turnaround time. Savvy and progressive-minded companies are realizing that satisfied and well-adjusted employees (from day one, when they’re still candidates) are crucial to their success, and are focusing on improving the “candidate experience,” which means making the hiring process as easy, transparent, and confusion-free as possible. Some are even embracing artificial intelligence (AI) tools to screen candidates and keep them updated throughout the hiring process faster and better than ever before. The ultimate goal here is for companies to attract and retain the best available talent to staff their teams, which will ultimately benefit their bottom lines and long-term success.

3. Growth in E-Commerce

The shift in consumer purchasing and spending habits from brick and mortar stores to online shopping is undeniable—and has impacted every aspect of the retail sector, including job opportunities. As more people choose to shop online, expect to see less of a need for physical stores to connect with customers. As a result, we can expect to see a portion of the retail staffing needs of companies shift from in-store employment to online positions, including customer support, warehousing and inventory tasks, and more.

Therefore, tech-savvy candidates with computer skills under their belts will likely have the best chances of obtaining the retail jobs of the future. If this sounds like you then you should be in good shape, but if your computer skills need some work then it might be a worthwhile investment to get them up to speed.

There it is—a glimpse at some of the changes that you can expect to see in retail hiring and employment over the next 5 years. Use this information to help you prepare for the retail world of the future, and avoid any big surprises. Good luck!

About the author

Sheryl Posnick

Sheryl Posnick is an editor and writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She is the founder and president of Red Letter Content, an editorial company with a focus on educational, test preparation, and career readiness materials.