Retail Reverie

Few industries feel the immediate effects of consumer spending patterns as strongly as the retail sector. Brick-and-mortar operations have been steadily losing ground to digital retail platforms, with department stores bearing much of the brunt.

But much of today’s ecommerce is still retail at its core, and job creation on the digital retail front since 2007 has added 355,000 new jobs, according to Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. Mandel points to higher average salaries for employees who support ecommerce as another factor in the employment boom.

Last year, retail employees earned an annual average salary of $22,900 working in a variety of subsectors including furniture, clothing, equipment and automobiles. Employees working in fulfillment centers and production related to ecommerce enjoy a slightly higher annual wage, at roughly $36,000.

Employment opportunities in the retail sector have been predicted to grow seven percent through 2024, generally as a result of high turnover. Employment numbers this year have trended down since their most recent peak in January. Even with a bump in positions filled during the month of April, general merchandise stores saw jobs shrink by an average of 5,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The notion that retail workers are undereducated and undertrained is one that the National Retail Federation hopes to dispel, by implementing a training and credentialing initiative called RISE Up (Retail Industry Skills & Education). RISE Up is designed to help employees develop skills that will help them progress in their retail careers regardless of education or economic background. The focus of RISE Up also reaches beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar model and includes efforts to improve retail service in the digital and mobile spheres.


Getting In On The Ground Floor
Retailers large and small want the same thing from promotional marketing—business. Approach clients with products that help carry their message while also being functional and embodying a high-perceived value. Asking the following questions will help you craft the most targeted message possible, ensuring a higher return on investment:

1 What does your client want to accomplish as a business, supervisor or employee?
2 Who will be your client’s primary audience?
3 What has your client budgeted for your program or project?
4 Is this a singular marketing event, or a reoccurring one?
5 What types of information must be included with the items?


Market Snapshot
15.9 million - Number of employees in retail jobs

7.9 million - Number of  women holding retail positions

3.8 million - Number of retail establishments operating in the U.S.

$2.6 trillion - Retail contribution to total GDP

98.6 percent - Percentage of all retail businesses employing fewer than 50 people


Professional Partners

• Association For Merchandise Planning and Allocation

• Association For Retail Environments

• National Retail Federation

• Retail Advertising and Marketing Association

• Association For Retail Technology Standards

• International Council of Shopping Centers

• Retail Industry Leaders Association


Campaign Collateral

Hardworking retail employees will appreciate receiving the Duet messenger bag as a thank-you gift. Features include a phthalate-free, two-tone PVC magnetic snap closure and an organizing panel under the flap, as well as a back zippered pocket and adjustable shoulder strap.
Vitronic / PPAI 114197 /




Outfit retail teams with the Cutter & Buck Shoreline Colorblock Overknit in men’s and women’s options. The athleisure styling is accented by sporty colorblocking and contour lines, and is made with 92 percent polyester and eight percent Spandex.

Cutter & Buck / PPAI 196156 /


Everyone’s a rock star when they pop open a cold one with this guitar-shaped bottle opener. It’s a perfect giveaway for music stores and beverage retailers, and the opener has a split ring attached for easy carrying on a keychain. Choose from several colors in a metallic finish, including blue, purple, orange and silver.
Essef Distributors / PPAI 383490 /





Outfit retail teams with the Cutter & Buck Shoreline Colorblock Overknit in men’s and women’s options. The athleisure styling is accented by sporty colorblocking and contour lines, and is made with 92 percent polyester and eight percent Spandex.
Cutter & Buck / PPAI 196156 /


Customers can carry purchases with confidence, even on rainy days, in a washable kraft paper grocery bag. With the look and feel of leather, this tote bag washes easily and lays flat to dry. The 21-inch web handle makes carrying it a breeze, and the tote can be screen printed for better brand awareness.
American Ad Bag Co. / PPAI 111067 /





A unique twist on a classic giveaway item, the shopping bag mint tin is a great way to keep breath fresh with a fashionable flair. This eye-catching container is a tote bag-shaped design complete with handles that replicate shoulder straps; it’s filled with 90 mints.
Chocolate Inn / Taylor & Grant / PPAI 1116912 /






Plant dreams about writing with customers of bookstores and stationery retailers with a journal bound in a seeded-paper cover. The Seeded Journal Note comes in three sizes and 10 colors. Perfect-bound at the top or side, the journal can be debossed or letterpressed with the client’s name and logo.
Okina Sales/Symphony Handmade Papers / PPAI 111397 /





Shoppers can stash their treasures in this nonwoven drawstring tote featuring two reflective stripes; it comes in five eye-catching colors. The easy-grip handles lets users carry it as a tote, and the bag is made from 20-percent recycled material. Add a full-color digital imprint for memorable brand awareness.
Aakron Line / PPAI 111082 /





Custom cookies are a sweet way to welcome guests at a grand opening celebration. These sweet grahams are decorated with an image of your client’s choosing and finished off with custom-color non-pareils and confetti. Order these individually wrapped with a bow for the ultimate touch.
Good Fortunes / PPAI 228504 /




Real-World Solutions
Case studies from the industry

Outfitted For Culinary Success
A new restaurant serving modern Vietnamese cuisine was the winner of a competition to occupy space in the Washington Square district of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and needed apparel for its staff. Kalamazoo-based supplier Edwards Garment offered to sponsor the start-up’s uniforms. Kate Geshay, merchandise manager for Edwards Garment, worked with the team at Pho on the Block to provide uniforms that were fashionable, comfortable and functional, says Gary Schultz, president and CEO of Edwards.

A number of uniform options were discussed to determine what garments would work best to convey the brand. Based on the restaurant design and type of service (i.e., counter and table service) it was determined that decorated chef apparel would be perfect for the team. “Decoration was critical to create their brand, and Edwards was able to decorate and deliver the uniforms in less than three days,” says Schultz. 


Tote-ally Appreciated
A retail association was holding a fashion show and offering a limited number of VIP tickets. The VIP attendees were given front row seats and a free gift, a leather Harper Canyon Tote from supplier Beacon Promotions that was filled with a fashion scarf, necklace, tissue packets, perfume samples, and other small tokens of appreciation, which the local retail stores donated. The recipients enjoyed the items and could purchase more at the local retail stores that provided the items.
Source: Beacon Promotions

Computer Repair At Your Fuzzy Fingertips
A computer repair store attended a local home show and wanted something useful but unique to attract attendees to their booth. They also wanted something that would keep their name top of mind when the recipient needed computer repair-work done. The Frizzy Finger Duster from supplier Beacon Promotions filled the bill. The 100-percent microfiber material is efficient for cleaning computer monitors, keyboards, telephones, etc., and is reusable and washable. The recipients loved the fun but useful product and kept it handy, and it served as a great reminder to them when they needed work done on their electronic devices.
Source: Beacon Promotions


Jen Alexander is associate editor for PPB.