It seems the “retail apocalypse,” as many have come to dub it, is not only bringing giant corporations to their knees, but the retail layoffs are disproportionately affecting women as well. Despite the industry seeing an overall decline of 54,300 jobs from October 2016 to October 2017, the mean total actually gained 106,000 jobs in that time, while female retail workers lost the difference–160,300, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of the December employment report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are many theories as to why the disparity exists. One is that there is a discrepancy between retail stores that have been harder hit where women are more likely to be employed–massive clothing and departments stores like Macy’s Inc (NYSE:M), for instance–versus other categories like home furnishings, building materials and garden supplies, motor vehicle part sellers, and other stores of that ilk, which have outperformed clothing and accessory stores, according to U.S. Census data released last week.
Most of the retail layoffs stem from cuts made in general merchandise stores, which let go of 161,000 female employees while adding nearly 88,000 males to the workforce over a 12-month period starting in October 2016. Car dealers, home improvement stores, and furniture retailers, alternatively, all saw job gains in that period, with those new hires skewing male as well.
Another theory as to why men are being hired on more than women has to to do with better performing departments in huge chain retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE:WMT) bringing on more workers in typically male-dominated areas, like home improvement, while typically female-dominated sections that have underperformed are looking to shed workers.
But others are more concerned with the study’s results.
“It’s alarming,” said John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based outplacement and career transitioning firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Why the impact is hitting women disproportionately is a mystery to me, or certainly cause for concern.”
Why women are being disproportionately affected by the retail apocalypse is obviously still in need of research and more discussion, but the causes of the retail apocalypse itself and the massive retail layoffs are well documented: the advent of online retail and the weakening position of malls in the American consumer’s shopping diet.
Malls, once central to many Americans’ shopping needs, especially at the holidays, have fallen from grace, with many people preferring to use online retailers in the place of brick-and-mortar stores. As that number continues to grow year-over-year and online retailers eat up increasingly bigger portions of the market, mass retail layoffs are simply the logical conclusion of the ever-decreasing revenues that traditional retailers find themselves fighting over.
“Women Losing Retail Jobs While Men Gain Them,” Forbes, December 18, 2017.
“Decline in Retail Jobs Felt Entirely by Women,” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, December 2017.