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The Store Associate: New Roles, New Responsibilities

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Q3, 2020

Associates at ‘essential retail’ locations have had their roles redefined in 2020.

Essential retailers have been forced to reassess and redefine their operational processes during the pandemic. Many were forced to set up online, BOPIS / Curbside, and other protocols to manage the rise in demand. However, most retailers had to do so using the same operational and technology capabilities as before the pandemic.

Fewer associates per shift have to manage a greater number of tasks to ensure successful customer experiences.

43 percentof essential retailers said they have increased hourly pay.

Online grocery sales have surged as much as 200% this year, driven by the pandemic. In three short months, the grocery industry hit online sales projections forecast for 2025. Online sales have a direct impact on the role of the associate since the majority of the goods are fulfilled at the store level.

73.5 M

Online grocery orders were placed in May


New associates were hired by Walmart by the end of May 2020, with an additional commitment of hiring 50,000 in June.

As the industry adapts to the new environment, essential retail store associates face multiple issues:

New roles and responsibilities

Store associates are now responsible for managing social distancing, executing pick and pack for BOPIS and Curbside orders, and maintaining stringent cleaning policies.

Higher risk of exposure

Even with the most stringent safety protocols in place, store associates have a far greater risk of being exposed to the virus. This puts a strain on both the associate and management.

Pay not commensurate with risk

As the economy is reopening many retailers are terminating hazard pay and frontline bonuses in order to reign in costs. Associates may not find the pay is worth the risk of exposure and look for work elsewhere.