Don’t sell retail’s economic benefits short
Several pieces in various media lately have made negative comments about the types of jobs that the retail provides. In particular, with the Merrimack Premium Outlets opening last month, there have been references to the jobs not paying much.Quite frankly, these are the same old tired and misguided assumptions about pay in the retail industry that those without data and up-to-date information make. A recent report issued by New Hampshire’s Brian Gottlob of PolEcon Research helps to dispel those untruths and shows that retail provides good-paying jobs and opportunities for growth in a retail career.For example, the average wage of a middle-aged retail worker with a bachelor’s degree is significantly higher than the average of all other industries in the same age range, and only four other industries in New Hampshire employ more workers with a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, the PolEcon report notes, “Over the past 15 years, the percentage of workers in retail in New Hampshire age 25-64 that possess some level of postsecondary degree (associate degree or higher), has increased from 24 percent to 38 percent. More sophisticated inventory and management positions, greater use of research and analysis in retail management, and increasing use of digital media to target and sell are just some of the reasons for the increase.”The translation is that retail operations, particularly those on the scale of the Merrimack Premium Outlets, provide a wide variety of jobs that require advanced education, and thus well-paying jobs.Among workers without post-secondary education, retail provides better-paying jobs than other industries. In fact, retail workers aged 25-44 and without postsecondary education have better-paying jobs in retail than even the manufacturing sector.Perhaps the misplaced perception is due to the prevalence of part-time employees. The simple truth is that retail provides more employment opportunities for those who only seek part-time work — be they students, retired individuals, or those with family obligations.No other industry supplies those opportunities. Herein lies another benefit of the retail sector. We employ about 8,000 of the employed 16- to 18-year-olds in New Hampshire, more than one-third of all working teenagers in that age group. Without a vibrant retail sector, those opportunities for teens do not exist.The outlet mall itself will be a new draw for out-of-state and Canadian shoppers who will also eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, buy liquor at our state liquor stores, and buy gas for their cars, adding to New Hampshire’s business tax, meals and rooms tax and gas tax revenue. Those businesses benefiting from the additional shopper traffic will be adding jobs as well.The impact on New Hampshire’s economy from this new destination shopping center is going to be very far reaching.The bottom line is that retail provides good-paying jobs with a great deal of opportunity to develop careers and business acumen. Don’t let people tell you otherwise! Nancy Kyle is president of the Retailers Merchants Association of New Hampshire.