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Everything you need to know about hiring for your retail shop

June 19, 2024 | Published by Faire

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You’ve opened a store of your own—congrats! It’s an exciting time, but as you know, a lot of work goes into making a new business a success. That means that even if you’ve managed everything alone so far, it’s time to hire some help. You might have learned this the hard way—being a founder, maker, salesperson, accountant, and so on just isn’t sustainable. With a good team behind you, you can sell more products, drive revenue, and give your customers more of what they want. 

However, finding the right staff members can be tricky. According to ManpowerGroup in 2024, 75% of employers report difficulty in filling roles. But we’re here to help. Below, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about staffing up, like creating job postings, interviewing tips, and the pros and cons of staffing agencies. 

Armed with these best practices, you’ll be able to build your dream team. Your business will run more smoothly and you’ll free up some time to focus on big-picture planning. Let’s get started! 

First, learn the rules

You may want to jump right to posting a job listing, but the first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the major laws of the Department of Labor. Sure, it’s not the most exciting thing to read, but knowing these rules is essential. They’ll keep you compliant with federal and state governments when it comes to things like fair wages and hours, workplace health and safety, and workers’ comp. Basically, these laws protect you, your business, and your employees.   

Figure out where you need support

When it comes to the type of support you need, you’ll have to figure out if you want full-time staff, part-time staff, or simply seasonal help. Here’s a quick rundown of the differences: 

  • Seasonal staff: Are you fine during the year but particularly strapped during the holidays? Then you may want to pick up a few hourly staff members just for the months of November and December to work the register, package orders, or help customers on the floor. 
  • Part-time staff: If you’re not quite sure you need full-time help just yet, part-time (meaning that workers generally come in for fewer than 30 hours per week) could be a good option. Part-time workers are paid hourly and receive fewer benefits than full-time workers, and since their schedule is variable, they may have other jobs, be partially retired, or be in school. 
  • Full-time staff: Full-time staff, on the other hand, have a set schedule of hours per week (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or something similar) and are salaried. They usually have more benefits than part-time staff.
  • Contractors: While they’re not considered part of the staff (and you don’t need to withhold any taxes from them), we’ll give contractors a mention here. Contractors generally have a specific skill set, whether that’s web design for your website, electric work for your store, or a stylist to put together outfits for mannequins. You’ll hire them as needed for a specific project and pay them per hour or by project. 

Now let’s figure out the type of staff you need: 

  • Retail associates: These hires will help at the cashier, work with customers to find what they’re looking for, address any customer service issues in person or online, organize and restock shelves, and help with any other day-to-day tasks. 
  • Store managers: Slightly more senior than a retail associate is a store manager. This is a person you can hand the keys to if you need to step out. They’ll do things like open and close the store and keep track of the data (like inventory management and sales). They might manage training and scheduling and supervise other employees. Ideally, they’re a team member you can quickly grow to rely on—even for tasks like hiring and training. 

Determine salaries

Retail businesses generally pay about 10% to 20% of revenue for labor, so be sure to look at your previous year’s revenue to help determine salaries for the year ahead. You also want to make sure that you’re paying at least minimum wage in your state and that you’re paying the market rate for similar jobs in your area. Check out local job boards to see how you compare. 

If you’re hiring full-time employees, you will also want to figure out what benefits you can afford to offer, like healthcare—though if you’re not quite there yet, you might incentivize employees in other ways, like store discounts, paid time off, or stipends for their commute.  

Create your job posting

Here’s a template you can use as a jumping-off point when you write your own job posting. Try to customize it as much as possible to suit the position you’re hiring for and your business. 

Job title: ex: Assistant Shop Manager 

Brief description of your shop: a few sentences on your shop’s location, what you sell, and your company culture. 

Job description: 

  • Main responsibilities
  • Working hours and shifts
  • Outline what a normal day looks like and if this person will work independently or with a team 

Qualifications: 

  • Years of experience in related field 
  • Education
  • Any other traits or skill sets you’d like to see in the hire, from soft skills like excellent communication or interpersonal skills to hard skills like the ability to use POS systems. Be sure to clarify if these qualifications are required or just a bonus 

Schedule: 

  • Be clear about the expected schedule and hours

Compensation and benefits: 

  • Use a range here and a breakdown of any benefits and holidays. If you have any flexibility when it comes to hours and holidays, include that here 

How to apply: Should people email you a résumé and a cover letter? Should they call the shop? Let them know how to get in touch and include the relevant contact information.

Something to keep in mind: According to an Indeed survey, 72% of job seekers say it’s extremely or very important to see details about company culture in job descriptions, so don’t skimp on details about what it’s like working at your shop. Help people visualize what it’s like to work with you and be sure to share your brand values. 

When it comes to previous work experience, remember that lots of skills are transferable. Perhaps a candidate doesn’t have sales experience, but they’ve been a restaurant host for two years. That tells you that they’re great with people and would do well at a sales counter. Maybe a college student who’s worked as a teacher’s aide at school would do well in customer service. 

That being said, if you’re hiring for a more senior position, you will want to find people who have direct experience with the skills you need so you won’t spend valuable time training them on the basics. 

Get the word out 

While it’s true that 60% of people looking for new jobs use job boards, you may find yourself with tons of candidates, some qualified and some not. If you don’t have time to sort through hundreds of applications, you may want to try looking locally first. Put a sign up in your shop window, post on local community forums (like Nextdoor or Facebook), put an ad in a local newspaper, and ask friends and family if they know anyone qualified. 

What about temporary staffing agencies? 

You may be considering an agency to help you staff your store. While that’s a good option for some, it might not suit everyone. Take a look at some of these considerations: 

Perks: 

  • If you don’t have the time yourself, an agency will find and onboard experienced staff members quickly when you need them most.
  • While it costs money to hire an agency, it may actually save you funds and other resources in the long run if you have to create the job listing, interview, hire, and train the employee all on your own. 
  • These temp staffers know their time is limited, so they won’t be surprised when their time is over after the pop-up shop ends or the holidays are done, and the rest of the full-time staff won’t be impacted. 

Drawbacks: 

  • Staffing agencies take a flat fee or percentage of the employee’s salary to cover their costs. Be sure to factor this into your accounting. 
  • Not all staffing agencies are the same. You’ll need to do your research about their pools of candidates and their standards. Do they run background checks? What do their candidates specialize in? How well does the agency know your market? 
  • When you put the time and care into hiring and training your own employee, that investment shows. Especially if you want someone to stay long-term, you may want to take a more hands-on approach. 

Review and interview

Applications are coming in! That’s great! Take some time to review them, focusing on relevant skills and experience (keep an eye out for those transferable skills we mentioned before too). Sort the candidates into a yes, no, and maybe pile, then reach out to your top picks for an interview. 

Keep your schedule organized by using a digital calendar, whether that’s Google Calendars, Calendly, or something similar. Once everything is scheduled, prepare for the interview. That’s right: You need to prepare too! 

Here are some example questions to ask, keeping in mind that you can pivot at any time if you want to know more, or if you feel like you’ve gotten the information you need. Better yet, make them as specific to your shop as possible. 

  • What relevant life and work experience has made you well-equipped to take on this role? 
  • How would you communicate with customers and/or suppliers? 
  • What are things you enjoy or find challenging about working with a team and/or working independently? 
  • What do you think you can bring to this role that others might not be able to bring? 
  • What would you like to learn here? 

If you want to see how the candidate might perform in a real-world sales situation, do a mock conversation with an unhappy customer and see how they do. Pay attention to their interpersonal skills and their problem-solving abilities. Do they seem excited about the role? Do they maintain their calm and find a solution? 

Once the interviews are over and you have candidates you’d like to make an offer to, you may decide to run a background check. Alternatively (or additionally), you can do a reference check with former employers or teachers.  

Make an offer

Now it’s time to make an offer. When you’ve found an impressive candidate or two with the right experience, you get to give them the good news! 

Prepare an offer email for the new staff member including everything they need to know, including: 

  • Job title
  • Start date
  • Responsibilities 
  • Schedule (even if it’s subject to change) 
  • Salary and benefits, if any
  • Time-off policy
  • Any other condition of employment
  • Any next steps the person needs to take to formally accept the offer 

For the candidates who didn’t get the job, the best thing you can do is reach out graciously and let them know you enjoyed meeting them and that you’ll keep them in mind for future work opportunities. This keeps the door open in case you do indeed need to hire more people down the line. 

Once your new hire accepts your offer, be sure they complete a W-4 and I-9. They should also fill out an employment contract, a direct deposit form so that they can get paid, and an employee handbook if you have one.  

This is the moment to really set expectations for the position, so be sure you have all the need-to-knows in writing, so no one ends up confused or surprised. 

Start training

Since you’ve spent so much time in the hiring process, be sure to spend time on training too. Onboarding new hires sets the stage for their time with you and ensures that they will do things the right way the first time, which saves you time and energy down the line.  

Depending on the position, you’ll want to make sure the staff member knows the basics, whether that’s how to use your POS system, how to open and close the store, workplace health and safety protocols, and what to do in case of emergencies. 

Beyond that, you’ll want to get them up to speed on what makes your store unique: Do they know your origin story? What about the principles and values that inform how your store is curated? Have they tried your products? Are they well-versed in what makes them special? The more you can teach them and get them excited about your store, the easier it’ll be for them to develop a passion for the job (and do a good job … at the job).  

A final note on turnover

Staff turnover is a normal part of retail. While the national average is about 15%, the retail industry rate is at a staggering 60%. While that may just come with the territory, it’s something to pay attention to, since high turnover can be costly. 

Here’s why you might want to retain your staff as much as you can: 

  • Avoid gaps in production or customer service
  • Sales might suffer when knowledgeable staff leaves
  • You may need to pay other staff members overtime to fill in the gaps
  • You might need to spend more to recruit new staff members
  • Onboarding and training new hires can be time-consuming and costly 

So how can you encourage your employees to stay? Well, money is always a useful incentivizer (so be sure to pay your staff fairly), but there are other ways too. According to McKinsey, 32% of retail employees leave their jobs for career development, so providing some education (like training sessions with more senior members of the team) might help team members feel motivated to stay. 

If that isn’t feasible, you can also make sure teammates feel heard by asking for feedback, and you can recognize their efforts with an Employee of the Month program. Always communicate clearly and consistently, and show respect for your staff members. A little kindness and consideration can go a long way.  

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