The retail sector employs more than 15 million people, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Retail Federation estimates that retail and related employment, in sectors such as transportation and logistics, accounts for 42 million jobs. Workforce development organizations, retail businesses, and other partners have potential to collaborate to improve the quality of jobs for workers in entry-level positions, create pathways for advancement in retail and related sectors, and increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention. To expand opportunities for working people, leaders in these fields will need to build capacity, experiment with new and innovative strategies, and learn from their experiences.
In 2016, in collaboration with the Walmart Foundation, the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program launched Reimagine Retail, a project to explore ways to enhance job quality and improve mobility for workers in retail. We have selected six local partners from around the country to receive up to $200,000 each to participate. Over a two-year period, this diverse group of organizations, listed below, will grapple with important questions such as: What strategies best encourage improved job quality in retail? How do we support economic stability and mobility for entry-level workers? Who should lead these strategies? How do different economic circumstances and regional environments influence them?
EOP is working with participating organizations to support their efforts by conducting learning and research activities with the goal of highlighting approaches that improve job quality and opportunities for worker advancement in retail and related sectors. We look forward to learning alongside this group and sharing findings with a broader community throughout the life of the project.
Reimagine Retail is one of several interrelated projects supported by a $5.5 million grant provided by the Walmart Foundation to the Aspen Institute. The grant was awarded to the Institute as part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s Opportunity initiative, a five-year, $100 million sector-wide effort aimed at strengthening the transferability of skills of the US retail workforce and developing ways to make it easier for frontline workers to advance their careers.