When Gap Inc. announced last February that it was increasing the minimum wage paid to its entry-level workers, it was widely believed the move would boost the chain's image among job seekers. That is, in fact, what the company believes has happened as job applications across all its banners are up from the same point last year.
The number of people applying for jobs has increased at least 10 percent, the effect being most apparent at its Gap and Old Navy chains. In the case of Old Navy, higher wages has reversed the trend from declining applications to a double-digit boost.
The larger pool of applicants is giving Gap Inc.'s divisions the ability to attract stronger candidates as well, according to the retailer. "The customer is more educated, so the store associate has to be more knowledgeable," Lynn Albright, vice president for Old Navy stores, told Bloomberg News. Seventy percent of Gap Inc. customers research products before they come to its stores, Ms. Albright said.
More knowledgeable and engaged staff is a critical element of chairman and CEO Glenn Murphy's strategic plan for the company as a whole.
Earlier in the year, Mr. Murphy wrote in an open letter that Gap Inc. had benefitted from its investments in e-commerce technology. "Looking ahead, it will be the combination of innovation and people that will further set us apart," he added.
Do you see the market for retail employees becoming more or less competitive in the next several years?