The retail landscape has rapidly evolved over the last decade, with the proliferation of online and e-commerce retailers like Amazon, forcing traditional brick and mortar retailers to change tack. One way retailers have had to adapt is to build larger presences online, with more robust and user-friendly e-commerce stores.
Yet retailers haven’t forgotten about their physical stores; rather, they’ve dramatically rethought their brick and mortar strategies, adopting more creative and experiential in-store environments to draw buyers in and offer experiences you just can’t get online.
As retail continues to innovate and redefine itself, retail workers are playing a much more important role in helping and delighting customers. Retail workers are part and parcel of the in-store experience, and in today’s environment, highly skilled retail workers are more sought after than ever before. But where exactly are the best opportunities for retail workers?
Our analysis of the best cities for retail workers ranked 400 cities on their attractiveness for retail employees. Below, we highlight the 30 most attractive cities for retail employees, as well as the top ten small, medium, and large size cities for retail workers.
Best Cities for Retail Workers
1. Sherman-Denison, TX
The Sherman-Denison area in North Texas, located roughly sixty miles north of Dallas in Grayson County, and comprised of the cities of Sherman and Denison, was named the best city for retail workers in our study. Notably, President Dwight Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, and his birthplace has become a popular museum visited by many tourists. A few large retail employers in Sherman include the Midway Mall and the Sherman Town Center. The Sherman-Denison area had the 5th highest retail wages in our study, with an hourly average wage of $17.09, which was 52% above the national average wage for retail workers. This retail wage goes far in this city, as the Sherman-Denison area has a cost of living that was 17% below the national average. Additionally, this area has 16% more retail jobs per capita than the average U.S. city.
2. Saginaw, MI
Located about 100 miles northwest of Detroit, Saginaw, Michigan was an important automotive manufacturing center through much of the 20th century, hosting up to twelve General Motors auto plants. Retail employment in Saginaw is anchored by the Fashion Square Mall and the Valley Center, as well as the River View Plaza Shopping Center. Retail jobs are plentiful in Saginaw, as it has a location quotient of 1.85, meaning it has 85% more retail jobs than the average American city. Retail workers in Saginaw earn roughly 10% more than the average retail worker, and they also benefit from the 8th lowest cost of living in our study.
3. Watertown, NY
The city of Watertown, New York is located in upstate New York only 30 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border. Watertown had a strong industrial base in the early 20th century, and the inventor of the safety pin was born nearby. Today, Watertown has several shopping centers, including the Salmon Run Mall, the Seaway Shopping Center, and Northland Plaza. Retail employees in Watertown earn $14.16 per hour on average, which is 26% higher than the national average wage. Retail workers also benefit from a cost of living in Watertown that is 9% below average. There are also many retail jobs available in Watertown, with 66% more jobs available than the average U.S. city.
4. Wichita Falls, TX
Also in North Texas, located approximately 100 miles northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is Witchita Falls, Texas. Witchita Falls hosts the Sheppard Air Force Base, which includes the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot training program, with pilots from 17 European countries coming to the city to train. Major shopping centers in Witchita Falls include the Sikes Senter Mall and the Parker Square Shopping Center. Average retail salaries in Witchita Falls were $27,710, 19% above the average. Additionally, Witchita Falls was tied for the 2nd lowest cost of living of the cities in our study.
5. Brownsville, TX
A third Texas city rounds out our top five cities for retail workers. Located on the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border, Brownsville hosts an important deep-water port and facilitates substantial international trade. Major retail centers in Brownsville include the Valle Vista Mall, the Sunrise Mall, and the Sun Valley Mall. Brownsville was tied with Witchita Falls for the 2nd lowest cost of living in our study, and it also offers retail wages of $30,370 per year on average. The number of retail jobs per capital in Brownsville was 5% higher than the national average.
Since it may be difficult to compare cities of different sizes, we separated our study into three separate categories: smaller cities with populations of 100,000 people or less, midsize cities with 100,000-500,000 inhabitants, and large cities with 500,000 or more people. Here are our findings:
Top 30 Best Cities for Retail Workers
The data below reveals the cities offering the most attractive environments for retail workers. Review each city’s overall ranking as well as how each city scored in the three primary criteria.
|Rank||City||Average Salary||Jobs||Location Quotient||Cost of Living|
|3||Watertown-Fort Drum, NY||$29,440||2,040||1.66||91|
|4||Wichita Falls, TX||$27,710||2,340||1.33||77|
|6||Punta Gorda, FL||$26,580||2,940||2.02||100|
|7||Bay City, MI||$24,310||1,800||1.70||82|
|10||El Paso, TX||$27,100||13,320||1.42||83|
|11||Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC||$23,510||10,040||2.05||97|
|12||Hot Springs, AR||$27,140||1,740||1.58||90|
|15||Grand Junction, CO||$28,650||3,060||1.65||100|
|20||East Stroudsburg, PA||$24,950||3,140||1.81||96|
|21||Cape Girardeau, MO-IL||$26,850||1,890||1.42||87|
|22||Homosassa Springs, FL||$27,930||1,440||1.43||91|
|24||Rapid City, SD||$27,000||3,570||1.74||103|
|25||Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL||$26,160||5,920||1.78||102|
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Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Cities for Retail Workers
We used three main factors to determine the best cities for retail workers.
1. Average compensation for retail workers on an annual basis
The first criteria we used to rank cities in terms of the attractiveness for retail workers was the average salary that a retail worker earns in a year in a city. Cities with higher salaries ranked higher in our study. The salary data assumed that retail workers work an average of 2,080 hours per year or 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.
The average pay for retail employees nationwide was $23,370 per year, or $11.24 per hour. There were approximately 4,854,300 retail jobs in the U.S. in 2016, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 2% growth rate for employment in this sector.
2. Cost of living adjustments based on the relative expense of living in a city
In our study, we also adjusted the retail salaries using a cost of living index for each city. This adjustment is important because the living expenses in different cities can vary widely. Two retail workers earning the same wage, but living in different cities, may have very different lifestyles, depending on the costs of rent, transportation, groceries, and other necessities where they live. More affordable cities scored more highly in this study.
3. Concentration of retail jobs in the city
We used the location quotient to discover how many retail jobs were available in a city relative to the city’s population. In places where the location quotient is higher, it may be easier for a retail worker to find a job since retail jobs are more plentiful. The higher the location quotient, the more highly ranked a city was in our study.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook
 Sperling’s Best Places Cost of Living Index
 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics