Can a Change in Retail Hiring Practices Help Save America’s Department Stores?


In their early days, department stores were the epitome of innovation. Towards the end of the 19th century, Marshall Field was challenging the old-fashioned notion that shopping should be conducted purely out of necessity. By emphasizing customer service (his famous motto: “give the lady what she wants”), offering luxury amenities for his clientele and turning shopping into a full-blown experience, he truly revolutionized the retail industry. At the turn of the century, his protégé Harry Selfridge brought the mentality of “the customer is always right” from Chicago to London, further revolutionizing the industry through ingenious marketing stunts and a customer-first approach at Selfridges & Co.

Just one century later, the advent of the internet has once again revolutionized the retail experience – unfortunately, not to the benefit of most brick-and-mortar retailers. These days, shoppers don’t need to visit their local department store to purchase a new pair of shoes – thanks to the internet, they’re now spoiled with options in all kinds of colors, styles and sizes. Nowadays, we can purchase virtually any style of shoe from anywhere in the world at a competitive price point, and, for the most part, still receive fairly decent customer service.

Needless to say, the once rock-solid retail industry is experiencing an upheaval, with many beloved brick-and-mortar mainstays struggling to keep up with these changes. What’s a retailer to do?

Intrigued by the shifting retail landscape, the psychometrics team at Good&Co Labs used its proprietary data to demonstrate how recruiting tactics may help (or hinder) the business goals of some of America’s largest retail stores.

Walmart vs. Amazon

Our data shows that Walmart employees fall short on characteristics that lead to sales. Amazon’s employees may provide the competitive edge needed to overtake brick-and-mortar retail giants like Walmart, scoring higher on characteristics such as drive and enthusiasm – traits considered to be the basis for success in customer-facing sales positions.

How to hire for sales success:
Interested in improving sales at your organization? Seek out employees that exhibit high levels of enthusiasm, drive and energy. If you’re looking to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction while boosting sales, you’ll also want to seek out those with high levels of empathy.



Empathy and Innovation

Dillard’s is clearly getting their recruitment strategy right. Not only do they have the most innovative employees, but their workforce is also the most empathic – a trait which typically results in a higher level of customer service. Combined, these strengths can translate into increased revenues, giving Dillard’s a competitive edge over Nordstrom, Macy’s and Saks.

Hiring to improve customer service:

For many industries, customer service has become more important than ever. This is especially true for the retail industry, where a reputation for poor customer service can harm an organization’s brand and bottom line. Looking to improve customer service at your organization? Seek out employees who are empathetic, cheerful and energetic.



Macy’s vs. Nordstrom 

Nordstrom employees are well-prepared for the fast-changing retail landscape. Though Macy’s has more than twice the pull on the digital end of the market when compared to Nordstrom, it should not become complacent. Our data shows that Nordstrom’s workforce is 17% more organized, 12% more tenacious and a whopping 22% more competitive than Macy’s – all traits that will leave them better-prepared for the changing landscape of the apparel market.

Hiring for long-term success:
Who are the employees that will help pull your retail organization through tough times? Seek out employees who are persistent and competitive. For an added competitive edge, look for individuals who are highly creative, yet extremely organized.


Analyses are based upon the personality profiles of over 2,400 retail employees who are registered Good&Co users. Descriptive statistics are based on each company’s average score on specific personality traits that are highly relevant to the retail industry. Comparisons are made with Bayesian estimation. Click here to explore additional company insights.

To learn more about the science behind Good&Co, visit

Disclaimer: Good&Co Labs, Inc. is not affiliated with the retail organizations featured in this article.


Author Bio

Samar Birwadker is co-founder and CEO of Good&Co Labs, Inc., the world’s first and largest quantified culture graph. Using a proprietary psychometric algorithm, Good&Co helps companies leverage employee insights to increase employee engagement, reduce turnover and make better hiring decisions, while empowering millions of employees to make smarter, more informed career decisions.

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