Supermarket News: 6 ways to successfully pay a living wage at retail

By Melaina Juntti
Supermarket News, July 10, 2019

Nobody’s going to get rich working at a natural products store. ... But at the same time, the cost of living keeps climbing and your staff have bills to pay and families to raise. For many of these employees starting at the federal or state minimum wage — or close to it — just won’t cut it. To make things work they will require at least a living wage.

Additionally, when employees feel more financially secure they are often less stressed and can perform their jobs better. They may also be motivated to work harder when they feel they’re being paid what they’re worth. All of these factors can boost team morale — and greatly benefit your store. ...

Cambridge Naturals in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, which raised starting wages from $13.50 to $15 in 2017, has seen similar benefits... “In the last few years we’ve started attracting candidates we maybe wouldn’t have before,” said Emily Kanter, second-generation co-owner. “Along with the health insurance and other benefits we offer, this increase made it possible for some who were otherwise unable to take this kind of job to do so.” ...

“Look at how much it would literally cost to increase wages, but also consider the hidden costs of not raising your wages,” Kanter said. “Are staff not making enough to afford their bills? Do they need a second job and therefore burn out or call in sick more often? Or will they need to quit working for you? There are many hidden costs to not paying well, and as retailers in the wellness industry, we have to pay attention to what keeps our teams healthy.” ...

In order to accommodate its pay raises, Cambridge Naturals did not have to make cuts elsewhere ... “Our payroll definitely went up, but our sales grew 11% simultaneously,” Kanter said. “We had sit-down conversations with staff to discuss why we were raising pay and that we needed to increase productivity and sales to balance out the raise. Everyone got on board, and we were able to make it work.” ...

“We made an effort to market the fact that we were increasing employee wages, promoting the wellness angle to our customers,” Kanter said. “Many were excited about it and wanted to support us even more because they felt we were a good company.” ...

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