Today there is no doubt that the retail sector is going through a period of change and disruption. As a result, the stories we read in the media are often very dramatic. We’ve all heard about the store closures from major retailers such as JCPenney, Radioshack, Sears and Macy’s. Spooky photos of abandoned shopping malls have become media staples.
But there is also good news. At the Annual Global Retailing Conference, Goldman Sachs reported that 76% of retail companies it surveyed had earnings that beat out their second quarter estimates. And while some traditional brick-and-mortar stores are facing challenges, e-commerce powerhouses like Amazon are making the online retail experience easier than ever before.
Meanwhile, retail continues to provide millions of people with jobs. In fact, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail salespeople and cashiers jobs account for 6% of all US employment—8.1 million people in total. And as more of the retail sector moves online, the types of jobs we find in the sector may change, with a stronger emphasis on warehouses and fulfillment centers.
So in this time of change, which retail companies offer the best experiences to their employees? Our data scientists analyzed Indeed’s database of more than 15 million employer reviews to find out the answers. Here's what they found.
Texas supermarket chain H-E-B leads a diverse list of stores
So who places first for retail? It's southwestern supermarket giant H-E-B, which operates hundreds of stores across Texas. But the rest of the top 15 features a wide array of firms, including a toy store, sports retail and even coffee.
The Texas-based grocery store H-E-B leads our list of the best retailers to work for. In general, grocery stores make a strong showing, with Costco Wholesale at #5, Wegmans at #6, Trader Joe’s at 8 and Publix at #10. Convenience stores also fare well on this list, with QuickTrip at #4, Wawa at #14 and KwikTrip at #15.
However, while firms offering customers an affordable shopping experience do well we also see some niche retailers or sporting brands on the list. For instance, Build-a-Bear workshop places third, while Lululemon Athletica, a Canadian athletic apparel retailer appears at # 7 and VANS comes ninth.
Dive deeper: Check out our 2018 focus on retail.
These top companies also have headquarters located across a fairly even geographic spread. Lush Cosmetics and Lululemon Athletica are both based in Canada, HEB and Fossil are based in Texas, and Vans and Trader Joe’s both have headquarters in California. In the northeast, we see just Wawa and Wegmans, while the midwest wins out, with Minnesota-based Maurice’s, Wisconsin-based KwikTrip, and Missouri-based Build-a-Bear Workshop. Depending on how you classify the geographic location of Oklahoma, Quiktrip might even be included as well.
Who’s not on the list? Large department stores like Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney, as well as other well-known department stores that have fallen on hard times.
And if you think you’re seeing double, you’re not completely wrong. QuikTrip, a convenience store chain with locations throughout the South and Southwest, snagged the number 4 spot, while KwikTrip, another convenience store chain operating in Wisconsin and Minnesota finished out the list at number 15.
Keep reading to learn more about the best of the best in retail.
The best of the best: what the top 5 retailers are doing right
HQ: San Antonio, Texas
No. of employees: 10,000+
Retail workers often face demanding, rigid employee schedules. But at H-E-B, a grocery store with locations in Texas and northeastern Mexico, the management’s ability to be flexible with employees and treat them fairly is just one of the reasons why H-E-B captures the top spot on the list.
“They were very flexible with my schedule,” says one employee, who adds, “If more companies provided the service and management that H-E-B does, more people would love their jobs.”
H-E-B ranked second for job security and advancement opportunities, third for compensation and benefits and fourth for management among retail stores.
“Upward mobility [is] attainable,” another employee adds, also praising the company’s generous bonuses and raises as well as their dedication to helping employees grow.
One employee summed up the experience very simply: “Best company I've ever worked for.”
HQ: Vancouver, Canada
No. of employees: 5,001 - 10,000
A cosmetics company that sells all-natural beauty and bath products (including its famous fizzy bath bombs), Lush Cosmetics earned the top ranking for best culture among retail companies. So what makes this beauty company so special?
“This is unlike any other retail job,” one employee says. “The company is a big family and pushes the limits with awesome campaigns and ethical practices.”
Other employees point to a culture based on honesty and integrity. “It was a refreshing experience to work with such clean, fresh, and honest products,” says another review. “The employees were helpful, fun, professional, and an all-around pleasure to work with.”
And while the training can be quite extensive, one employee saw this as a benefit.
“Realizing what an awesome opportunity you have to make a person’s day by interacting with them in a genuine way makes it worthwhile.”
HQ: St. Louis, Missouri
No. of employees: 1,001 - 5,000
Known for giving kids (and fun-loving adults) the experience of assembling their own stuffed bears, Build-a-Bear places first on the list in terms of management and work-life balance ratings.
“They go out of their way to make sure all of their employees are happy, comfortable, and knowledgeable,” says one employee. “They give all employees hands on one-on-one training to make sure they are at their potential.”
And it doesn’t hurt that employees spend their days helping make children happy.
“Whether I was greeting the family at the front of the store and showing them all the bears there were to choose from, or working the cash register and getting their bears ready to take home, it never failed to put a smile on the child's face.”
HQ: Tulsa, Oklahoma
No. of employees: 10,000+
As its name suggests, QuikTrip gives drivers a place to stretch their legs, fill up their tanks, and purchase snacks and drinks - all in a snap. What about the convenience store chain makes it a great place to work at? Among our retail list, QuikTrip ranks number one for job security and advancement.
“Being an employee comes with many benefits including competitive pay, adjustable hours, opportunity to grow, and an overall great work environment,” said an employee.
However, if you’re not a fan of fast-paced work that keeps you on your feet, this might not be the company for you. But if you’re up for the challenge, many employees say working at QuikTrip is worth the effort.
“The culture for excellence at QT is found in very few companies,” concluded one employee.
HQ: Issaquah, Washington
No. of employees: 10,000+
You know this membership-only warehouse club for its low prices, bulk offerings and delicious food samples, but employees know the company for its exceptional compensation and benefits, as well as a refreshingly democratic culture and management style.
“The benefits and compensation cannot be topped by any other business in the industry,” one employee said.
But what might be more impressive is the company’s open door policy. “if there is an issue, you can directly go to higher management and not have to ‘climb the management ladder’,” another employee adds.
These perks seem to be balanced by the company’s sky high standards for performance, but many employees will tell you that high expectations are part what makes the company great.
Said an employee: “I loved Costco and my time there. I still recommend it to anyone that asks.”
Methodology: Indeed has over 15 million company reviews. This list was compiled from retail companies with at least 100 reviews, and these companies are the most highly rated on overall employee experience.