past event
Employment and Jobs

What’s in Store: The Future of Work in Retail

Audio (MP3)

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About this event

Headlines warn that changes in retail will lead to disruptive job loss for frontline workers such as cashiers, salespersons, stock clerks, and order fillers. But there may be more to the story. New technologies, the rise of ecommerce, and shifting business strategies, marketing approaches, and customer expectations are altering the way businesses sell, customers shop, and employees work. How will these changes influence retail businesses’ employment practices and the shape of retail jobs? Will the response to these changes vary across segments of the retail industry, whether companies are publicly traded or privately held, small or large, brick-and-mortar or online, or local or multinational? What are the opportunities to create new jobs with potentially more productive, meaningful, and rewarding work? We invite you to watch What’s in Store: The Future of Work in Retail, a panel discussion on these questions as part of the Economic Opportunities Program‘s Working in America event series.


Event recap
Employment and Jobs
Rethinking the Future of Retail
November 22, 2017 • Sean McGovern


Featured speakers

Ellie Bertani @elliebertani
Senior Director of Associate Innovation, US People Team, Walmart @Walmart

Ellie Bertani is Senior Director of Associate Innovation within the Walmart US People team, responsible for delivering a value proposition to US employees that will allow Walmart to attract, develop, and retain the best associates for Walmart’s strategic needs. She works with the leadership team to develop Walmart’s long-term US workforce strategy and to execute multiple projects to transform its workplaces. In addition, she directs the Walmart US Change Management practice, heads the company’s Lifelong Learning program, and leads the company’s “Opportunity Agenda” in partnership with the Walmart Foundation. She has worked within the US People team since August 2014. Prior to this, Ellie was a Senior Manager in Walmart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative. Ellie joined Walmart in July 2013 after receiving her Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and her MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.

Tsedeye Gebreselassie @tsedeye
Senior Staff Attorney, National Employment Law Project @NelpNews

Tsedeye Gebreselassie is a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project and works on researching, developing, and promoting policies that raise job standards and expand workplace protections for low-wage and immigrant workers. She has appeared as a commentator in numerous outlets, including MSNBC, CNBC, and PBS, as well as NPR, Marketplace, and CBS Radio. She received her law degree magna cum laude from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar and articles editor on the Review of Law and Social Change, and she received her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Brown University.

Gina Schaefer
Co-Founder & CEO, A Few Cool Hardware Stores @Cool_Hardware

Gina Schaefer is the Co-Founder and CEO of 12 Ace Hardware stores located in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, and Alexandria, VA. Gina is a passionate entrepreneur who grew her company from one to twelve locations in a twelve-year period, and, with her husband, leads a multi-million-dollar small business that employs 260 people. Her motto — “you’re not a clone, why shop at one” — is evident in her passion for urban markets, small business, and the ability for women to succeed in all aspects of the hardware industry. Gina has tirelessly promoted Shop Local campaigns and community revitalization projects in Washington, DC, and other urban areas. This has resulted in partnering with many local entrepreneurs and creating a DC-based program to sell locally made goods from prime shelf space in her stores. She serves on the CCA Global Partners, Inc. Board of Directors, the non-profit boards of House of Ruth, Jubilee Jobs, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and is a member of the Ace Center for Excellence. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wittenberg University.

Sebastian Vanderzeil
Director & Global Thematic Research Analyst, Cornerstone Capital Group @Cornerstone_Cap

Sebastian Vanderzeil is a Director and Global Thematic Research Analyst with Cornerstone Capital Group. A financial services firm based in New York, Cornerstone Capital Group is an investment advisory firm that delivers both financial performance and positive social impact for its clients. Previously, Sebastian was an economic consultant with global technical services group AECOM, where he advised on the development and finance of major infrastructure across Asia and Australia. Sebastian also worked with the Queensland State Government on water and climate issues prior to establishing Australia’s first government-owned carbon broker, Ecofund Queensland. He holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.



Greg Ip @greg_ip
Chief Economics Commentator, The Wall Street Journal @WSJ

Greg Ip is chief economics commentator for The Wall Street Journal. He writes about US and global economic developments and policy in the weekly Capital Account column and on Real Time Economics, the Wall Street Journal’s economics blog. Greg comments regularly on television and radio, including CNBC, National Public Radio, and the PBS Newshour and has won and shared in several prizes for journalism. He was part of a team that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is the author of “The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World” (Wiley, 2010) and “Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe,” (Little, Brown, 2015). A native of Canada, Greg received a bachelor’s degree in economics and journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.


Related Resources

Background Info
Workforce Development
Background Information on the Future of Work in Retail
November 17, 2017 • Economic Opportunities Program

Retail Automation: Stranded Workers? Opportunities and risks for labor and automation by Michael Shavel, Sebastian Vanderzeil, and Emma Currier (Cornerstone Capital Group, 18 May 2017).


About this series

This event is part of the Working in America series, an ongoing discussion series hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program that highlights an array of critical issues affecting low- and moderate-income workers in the United States and ideas for improving and expanding economic opportunities for working people. For more information, visit


#talkgoodjobs with us

Join the conversation on Twitter by following @AspenWorkforce and tweeting with the hashtag #talkgoodjobs.

Event information
Fri Nov 17, 2017
12:00pm - 1:30pm EDT
The Aspen Institute
One Dupont Circle, NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036