How C-Stores Can Become Employers of Choice

The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council releases an action plan.

February 14, 2024

Convenience retailers are transforming their forecourt and in-store offerings to keep pace with changing customer demands, often increasing their need for a more skilled frontline workforce. The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (NCCRRC) released a new report looking at the challenge of attracting and retaining frontline staffers. The report also outlines potential action steps for individual managers, companies and the convenience retail industry.

The report showed that the convenience retailing industry faces challenges in attracting, developing and retaining employees. Convenience retailers are competing for a limited pool of job seekers, making it crucial for them to stand out as desirable employers.

Despite the labor environment improving slightly in 2023, hiring costs remain a challenge. Hiring a convenience store manager costs an average of $3,242, according to the NACS State of the Industry Compensation Report of 2022 Data, compared to $1,633 in quick service restaurants (QSRs). The cost to hire a full-time associate averaged $1,196.

When amplified by the high turnover rates in the industry, that number becomes increasingly significant.

Many convenience retailers have addressed labor challenges through wages. Hourly wages for store-level associates have increased by nearly 70% over the past decade. With this wage growth, retention rates have not significantly improved. Turnover rates for store associates (full-time and part-time combined) averaged 141%, according to the NACS SOI Compensation Report of 2022 Data—an increase from 86% in 2013. Associate turnover has been over 100% since 2016.

The NCCRRC said these figures highlight the need for more systematic approaches to address complex, industry-wide challenges. NCCRRC research examined the root causes of the labor challenges and highlighted the realities of convenience industry jobs as seen by both current and past frontline staff. The findings highlighted four areas with opportunities for improvement: building a talent pipeline, fostering higher employee engagement, addressing disparities in roles and empowering career progression.

The NCCRRC research also showed that challenges in hiring are shared across the industry, calling for industry-wide action. Beyond individual retailer actions, the NCCRRC recommended that the industry pool resources and collectively focus on essential areas:

  • Invest in employee safety through technology, analytics and training.
  • Leverage government relations to remove regulatory barriers to employment and to toughen penalties for workplace violence in retail.
  • Invest in frontline training and development to expand the pipeline of talent and enhance long-term career opportunities across the industry.
  • Implement solutions that expand access to affordable, reliable transportation for workers—both personal and public.
  • Leverage media to improve industry perceptions.

Read the full report from the NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council.