The holiday season is the perfect time to find a part-time job, especially if you’re retired. But not every retail store offers a fair wage. Retail sales and cashier positions often require patience and the ability to stay cool in stressful situations. Nevertheless, these employees are among the lowest-paid earners in America. Knowing this, it’s wise to take the time to research prospective retail employers before you apply.
The average full-time cashier earns $414 per week, according to 24/7 Wall Street. Based on a 40-hour work week, this comes out to earnings of $10.35 per hour. The retail sector employs 13% of all U.S. workers paid at or below minimum wage.
Before you apply for retail holiday jobs – or permanent work – it’s important to know which stores to avoid, and of course, which ones to target in your job search. We’ll start out with employers retirees may wish to avoid, for they are known for paying the least.
Next: Find out which retailer pays the least.
1. Dollar General
- Average sales associate salary: $7.87 per hour
A study was highlighted by Business Insider in May which illustrated the best- and worst-paying retailers in America. One of the lowest-paying retailers was Dollar General. Based on Glassdoor reports, the typical sales associate earns $7.87 per hour, although salary for the position could range from $7 to $9 per hour. Overall, employees rated Dollar General almost three of five stars on Glassdoor.
Low salaries aside, one positive aspect of working for Dollar General, however, just might be job security. Instead of closing stores (like many retail companies are doing), the retailer plans to continue opening locations across the country. The chain employees about 121,000 people nationwide and planned to hire 10,000 more employees in 2017. Those jobs, however, will be mostly low-wage ones. (Salaried managers at Dollar General stores can earn $40,000, but that often includes long hours without overtime compensation.)
Next: One perk of this low-paying retailer is discounts on shoes.
2. Foot Locker
- Average sales associate salary: $7.98 per hour
Another low-paying retailer is Foot Locker. The typical sales associate earns $7.98 per hour, based on 184 salary reports on Glassdoor – although some sales associates reported earning up to $11. Overall, employees rated working for the company at three-and-a-half of five stars.
For those considering applying to work at the store, an obvious con would be the low wages – with one pro expressed by employees on Glassdoor being a 30% discount on shoes. Entry level full-time employees reportedly receive 20 days off per year and health insurance.
Next: A national grocery chain is among the lowest paying retailers.
- Average cashier salary: $8.39 per hour
Kroger cashiers make an average of $8.39 per hour, placing the company in the Number 3 lowest-paying spot in the study cited by Business Insider. Overall, the company was rated just over three of five stars by employees on Glassdoor.
The company operates 3,600 stores in 30 states under about two dozen chain names. This includes some 2,460 supermarkets and multi-department stores. The company also runs 785 convenience stores under names such as Quik Stop and Kwik Shop. The company’s Fred Meyer subsidiary operates about 125 stores in the western U.S., where groceries, general merchandise, and jewelry are sold.
Employees reported receiving 10% off Kroger foods, 15% off apparel, and free check cashing. A flexible schedule was one of the pros cited on Glassdoor by employees. One big con identified by workers, aside from the low wages, was the lack of a fair work-life balance.
Next: One retailer known for low pay does give back to the community.
4. Ross Stores
- Average sales associate salary: $8.57 per hour
Ross Stores made the list of lowest-paying retailers. Sales associates are paid an average of $8.57 per hour, based on 330 reports on Glassdoor. Reported salaries for the position ranged from $7 to $12 per hour.
Benefits of working for the company include a 20% employee discount on all items, with a 40% sale offered to workers every three months. Health insurance is offered to full-time employees. Many employees reported a good experience with job training.
The retailer advertises 20-60% off department store prices every day. For those who like to work for companies that give back to the community, Ross has partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Next: One seasonal employer pays low, but may hire you on permanently.
- Average sales associate salary: $8.71 per hour.
Kohl’s cashiers earn $8.71 per hour on average. Overall, employees rated the company three-and-a-half out of five stars on Glassdoor. Employees get a 15% discount on merchandise, which can be stacked with other discounts. The company provides time off based on the number of years the employee has worked there, but associates can also reportedly purchase extra time. A con of working for the company reported by employees was poor work-life balance.
It was reported Kohl’s planned to hire 69,000 seasonal employees this holiday season, which is the same number it hired during last year’s holiday season. Employees may be eligible to stay on after the holidays. Last year, nearly 14,000 seasonal workers joined on as permanent staff.
Next: See a handful of others that pay Americans the least.
Big paychecks for CEOs, small paychecks for retail workers
- CEO salaries increased, while employee wages remained the same.
24/7 Wall Street published a study of its own in September 2015, in which it identified 10 companies that pay Americans the least. Retailers included on that list were Macy’s, Sears Holdings Corp., T.J. Maxx, Target, and Walmart. The study was published a month after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved a rule requiring publicly traded companies to document the ratio of their highest-paid employee’s salary to that of their typical worker.
Seven of the 13 companies listed in the study reported total annual compensations of their CEOs to be well over $10 million. The compensations of all but two CEOs increased, even as their employee wages did not.
For instance, the CEO of Macy’s earned a reported $16.5 million per year. The average hourly wage for a Macy’s sales associate was reported as $9.33 – about half the average for sales associates nationwide.
Target, also on the 2015 list, employed a workforce of 347,000. The CEO was compensated $13 million in 2015. Target recently raised the hourly wage for all workers to $11 an hour. By 2020, all Target workers will earn $15 an hour.
Next: These are the retailers you should target in your job search.
Study identifies top-paying retailers
- Top retailers pay up to double what the lower-end ones pay.
In its article “Best and Worst Paying Retailers in America,” Business Insider listed average wages paid by 29 companies. We already went over the bottom five. Now, let’s move on to the top-paying companies on that list. Some of the top retailers will pay you up to double what the bottom-of-the-barrel companies are offering.
It was noted that only four of the top-paying retailers on the list pay cashiers and sales associates wages at or above the poverty level for a family of four. (That figure is calculated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)
Business Insider stated that all of the data in its article was from a report conducted by investment advisory firm Cornerstone Capital Group.
Next: See the highest-paying retailer on the list.
1. Tiffany & Co.
- Average sales associate salary: $16.31 per hour
If you want to earn the most money in a retail job, get your hands on an application for a Tiffany & Co. jewelry store. Hourly sales professionals earn an average of $16.31 per hour. Overall, the company received just over a three-star rating out of five on Glassdoor.
Most commonly-cited employee perks included a reported 50% off on all silver jewelry and 25% off on all gold and platinum jewelry. One Glassdoor reviewer said she would “highly recommend working there for a season” and “purchasing as much as you can.”
Other pros of working for the company identified by employees include the health insurance, paid time off, and a positive work-life balance.
Next: See which company Forbes rated as America’s best employer.
- Average cashier salary: $14.17 per hour
At Costco, the average cashier salary is $14.17 per hour. Overall, the company was rated quite favorably on Glassdoor among employees, with four-and-a-half of five stars. Perks identified by workers include a 401(k) plan, health insurance, and vacation and paid time off. Part-time employees are offered health insurance.
Forbes named Costco America’s best employer in 2017. Forbes determined a list of top employers based on interviewing 30,000 workers at U.S. companies about how likely they would be to recommend their employer to friends and family. They also evaluated their employers in terms of atmosphere and working conditions. Costco scored 9.58 out of 10.
Next: A 116-year-old company pays its cashiers well.
- Average sales associate salary: $11.73 per hour
A Nordstrom sales associate makes $11.73 per hour, on average. The employer was rated three-and-a-half of five stars, overall, by employees on Glassdoor. Employees identified perks including a 20% discount, with 40% offered during special times twice a year. Full-time employees are offered health insurance and a 401(k) plan.
Nordstrom has been around since 1901, when it was founded as a shoe store in Seattle. Today, it operates 354 stores, including 122 full-line stores in the United, States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Next: High-paying retailer gives 5% of profits to the community.
4. Whole Foods
- Average cashier salary: $11.32 per hour
At Whole Foods, cashiers make an average of $11.32 per hour. On Glassdoor, the company was rated three-and-a-half of five stars by employees. Benefits include stock options, 401(k), health insurance, and a 20% discount on in-store purchases. Some employees reported a 30% discount is given to those who pass a health screening process.
Cons of working at Whole Foods include a lack of work-life balance – according to some employees. Others reported this being a healthy aspect of working for the company. Whole Foods reports it gives 5% of its profits back to communities each year.
Next: A home improvement store offers PTO and health plans to part-timers.
- Average cashier salary: $10.64 per hour
The average Lowe’s cashier earns $10.64 per hour. On Glassdoor, Lowe’s was rated just over three of five stars by its employees. Benefits include a 10% employee discount, with 20% reportedly given for the 10 days leading up to Christmas. The company provides vacation and paid time off for both full-time and part-time employees. Full-timers also are offered two to three insurance plan options. Preventative health plans are offered to part-timers.
Founded in 1946, Lowe’s operates about 2,365 home improvement and hardware stores throughout the country. The company employs more than 290,000 people.
Next: For perspective, know the federal minimum wage rate.
Federal minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2009
- Federal minimum wage: $7.25 per hour
Now that we have identified the five highest-paying retailers – and the five lowest-paying ones – we might point out that it also helps to know what the legal minimum wage is where you live. When job searching, especially for retail jobs which often do offer notoriously low pay, it is helpful to know the laws regarding wages.
The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. This number has remained the same since July 2009.
Next: Know the minimum wage in your state.
The highest state minimum wage is $11 per hour.
- Average state minimum wage: $8.49 per hour
As of October 2016, 29 states have a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. As of January, the states Massachusetts and Washington have the highest minimum wages in the country, of $11 per hour. The following 10 states have the highest minimum wage:
- Massachusetts: $11 per hour
- Washington: $11 per hour
- California: $10.50 per hour
- Connecticut: $10.10 per hour
- Arizona: $10 per hour
- Oregon: $10 per hour (rate varies between rural counties, non-rural counties and Portland area)
- Vermont: $10 per hour
- Alaska: $9.80 per hour
- New York: $9.75 per hour
- Rhode Island: $9.60 per hour
The states with the lowest minimum wage are those with $7.25, the equivalent of the federal minimum wage. These states are Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The states Georgia and Wyoming actually have minimum wages of $5.15 per hour. States with no official minimum wage are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Visit the National Employment Law Project for a full list of minimum wages by state.
Correction: An earlier version of this article included incorrect information about the salary earned by Target’s CEO and the company’s minimum wage.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!