The 10 Best Retail Stores to Work for in 2012

Retail Job

There are more than a few of these lists floating around on the web, but we’re going to look at working at retail stores from a bit of a different angle. Most lists such as these focus on factors like employee satisfaction, pay level, or even the “cool factor” (a store that’s the kind of place you love telling your friends that you work for).

With jobs being so difficult to get in general, this list is instead based on the following:

  • Benefits and perks. Some retailers offer benefit packages (including health insurance), as well as store discounts and other perks. With millions of people going without health insurance, this is no small selling point.
  • Geographic mobility. Retail tends to employ younger people, retirees, and people in career transitions, for whom mobility is often a factor. A retailer with outlets in most of the country can make the job portable—you can move to another city or state and work for the same company when you get there.
  • Training/preparation for other jobs or careers. This will be a major factor. Most people don’t stay in retail for very long, so the training or preparation for work in another field is more significant than we usually realize.

Why not use pay as a criteria? It’s no secret that retail isn’t the best field to work in if pay is your primary motivation. In fact, many retailers start their employees out at minimum wage or only slightly higher. If you’re looking for higher paying jobs, this isn’t that article. However, these are still great jobs based on the criteria mentioned above.

Here are the 10 best retail stores to work for this year. Let’s get started!

The 10 Best Retail Stores to Work For (2012)

1. Apple Stores

This store offers an opportunity to get a foot into the technology door, and that can have all kinds of future career implications. Not only are you working with Apple products, but you’re also gaining valuable experience talking and selling technology.

Apple Stores are popping up in malls across the country, so geographic mobility is excellent. The company offers employee benefits to both full and part-time employees.

2. AutoZone

Want to learn about cars without getting your hands dirty (OK, without getting them really dirty like a mechanic does)? Then AutoZone is for you. You can learn all about car parts, what they do, and what they really cost (versus what you’ll pay your mechanic for them). This could be a way to eventually move into auto repair or even auto sales.

The company is all over the US, and has an impressive benefits package that also extends to part-timers. And if job security is ever a factor in retail, car parts will always be needed, even during the worst recessions.

3. Best Buy

Very much like Apple Stores, Best Buy opens the technology door. Only with Best Buy, the experience is more complete since you’ll work with so many more products from many more manufacturers.

Best Buy is also a national chain, and has full benefits for full time employees. Most retailers have employee discounts, and Best Buy is no exception. But it’s the range and type of products that make this store more . . . interesting.

4. F.Y.E.

The exposure to the sheer volume of music, books, and entertainment that F.Y.E. provides has at least some future career potential. Since you will be well acquainted with products that have a solid secondary market, you may even parlay the training into a game, music, or DVD exchange.

Company locations are all over the map, they offer full benefits and a “generous” employee discount on all store merchandise.


If you’re considering a future as an interior designer, a real estate sales stager (someone who strategically rearranges household furnishings to maximize property salability), or in some niche in the specialty furniture industry, IKEA could be the place to start. They have a knack for making furniture exciting, and that opens up some possibilities.

The company has outlets in much of the country, and is rumored (the company website doesn’t disclose this) to have a full benefits package for its full-time employees.

6. Helzberg Diamonds

Do you want to go into the jewelry business? Helzberg Diamonds could be the place to get your feet wet. They pay an hourly rate, but also offer commissions on “every sale.” Not only does that offer a chance to earn more money, but you’ll also be learning sales and that’s its own career even apart from jewelry.

The company offers a full benefit package, including a “generous discount” on store merchandise after 90 days of employment.

7. Lowe’s

You can learn at least something about virtually any trade by working somewhere in Lowe’s—plumbing, electrical, carpentry, landscaping . . . it’s all there. Just learning what the various tools of the trade are and what they do, as well as pricing, measuring, and interacting with trades people could be the first step into a new career.

Lowe’s offers full benefits to their employees, including part-timers. And as far as geographic mobility, they have a store in nearly every community in the country.

8. Nordstrom

Nordstrom is one of the best examples of a high-end retailer. Many employees work on commission, which prepares you for a career in sales. You can move between departments until you find the one that works best for you, become an expert in that area, then take your sales skills and expertise just about anywhere you like.

Nordstrom stores are all over the country, and they offer full benefits for full-time employees, and there are also strong rumors that they provide them for part-timers as well.

9. Starbucks

Not only do you learn customer service and some semblance of the food service industry, but becoming a coffee barista (an expert in coffee preparation and in all things coffee) can be a career unto itself.

There’s probably no retail operation that has more stores in more places than Starbucks, so if you get tired of one location, there’s always another one to move onto. Starbucks also provides full benefits to both full and part-time employees.

10. Verizon Wireless

This is another entry point into technology, or at least the communications side of it. Employees work on salary plus commissions, which once again brings an exposure to sales and all the career possibilities that holds. The ability to take the technical and be able to relate it to non-technical people (customers) is a skill well worth developing. Verizon offers full benefits, including on-the-job training and tuition assistance.

Although we didn’t consider employee satisfaction, pay level, or the “cool factor” in this list, I think most people will find one or more of those qualities in any of these retailers.

Are there other retailers you want to add? Leave a comment below and give a “shout out” to your favorite employer!

Ready to Quit Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck?

Just click to join 163,000+ others and take our FREE email course to better manage your money, pay off debt, and save!

  1. Andrew

    Government. If anyone matches these companies with benefits and opportunities, it is the government. After losing my first job out of high school with Circuit City going out of buisness I soon learned that job stability was my primary focus. Government jobs will give you the most in educational benefits, health benefits, and earning potential. Once you make a certain amount of money, you do not drop below that amount of money you can only go up. Hard to get into the government? That’s because they first hire within! Once you are in, you are in. Switch agencies, switch countries, THAT’S portability. Want to get into the government fast? Join the military. After circuit city, an obsure Point-Of-Sale Sales position, and McDonald’s I joined the Air Force and 2 years later I am in the government civilian job. If history teaches us one thing it’s that the military will hire 17 – 39 (34-39 is Guard and Reserve only) and give them retirement in 20 years.

    • Kevin

      Hi Andrew–I actually heard tht comment about the military from a soldier who had just come back from Iraq. I met him in Target and we just kind of started talking, and he said, “there’s no unemployment problem in America–the military is always hiring!”

  2. Mary Kathan

    I learned a lot of info about power tools and home projects while working at Lowes.

    A lot of my co-workers were laid of construction guys or retired guys that were very smart. They were always happy to teach me all kinds of things.

    • Kevin

      Hi Mary–So even if you don’t get a better job as a result of working at Lowe’s, you’ve probably learned enough to save a lot of money!

  3. Savanna

    Just a quick note about FYE–

    I worked there for over a year, and I’ll admit, it was a great place to work. I got to talk to customers about the things I loved, and I had constant exposure to new music, movies, and video games.

    However, I lost my job due to company downsizing (they closed down our location and several others). I wasn’t the only one, lots of really good people also lost their jobs, people that had been working there for several years. Therefore, I’m not sure how stable a job with FYE is.

    Out of fairness, I will add that I loved working there, and I loved the people I worked with. The company offered severance to its employees, and a transfer for a few select employees that were okay with moving to another location.

    I just wanted to mention that the retail business isn’t always stable, no matter how awesome the company seems. I’m not saying “don’t work in retail”. What I am, however, saying is: “always be ready to find something else”.

    • Kevin

      Hi Savanna–Unfortunately your experience has become common throughout the job market. That’s why learning skills on a retail job is such an important criteria. You never know when the job will end, but if you’ve picked up some new skills, you may find a job elsewhere, maybe even a better one.

  4. Jonathan K

    Coming from someone who worked retail for 7 years I would say pursue a college degree or an aprenticeship instead. Once you get on in retail it’s just like any other industry it’s hard to get out. Maybe even more so than most industries with the exception of the food industry. I had to go back to to school and get a masters to jump-start my career into a serious job.

    My schedule changed from week to week. Not to mention I worked when people were off. This meant I missed most holidays with family and friends. Also, it was often like pulling teeth to get off on Sundays for church. If you do work retail and attending church on Sunday is important to you consider negotiating that upfront. It’s not unheard of to have Sundays off but it is not common.

    I’m grateful I was able to pay my bills and had gainful employment with no lay offs. However, in retrospect I’d pursue something else out of college.

    • Kevin

      Hi Jonathan–I’ve worked in retail myself, so I know what you mean. For most people retail is a transitory job, they’re usually college students or people between other jobs who are going to retail for a time. That’s why the emphasis on this post is on job skills, and not worker satisfaction or pay level.

  5. Anonymous

    I’m disappointed that you chose to include Starbucks. As a major retail chain, they also provide matching grants to their employers. One of the companies they support greatly through these grants is Planned Parenthood-the leading abortion provider in North America. Just like with Susan G Komen, many Christians are not aware of this support as it isn’t advertised very publicly. I am sure you were not aware when publishing this helpful article so I thought I would share what I’ve learned after years of working in Christian based Crisis Pregnancy Clinics.

    • Jonathan K

      In that case you would likely need to add Target and JCP to the list. Both companies are pro-homosexual lifestye.

    • Jonathan K

      To clarify by add to the list I meant Anonymous’s list of dissapointing retail stores that Christians should think twice about working for or shopping at.

    • Kevin

      Anonymous and Jonathan K–No I was not aware of their support for planned parenthood. But that being said, it’s difficult to find any employer who doesn’t support some charitable organization or activity we don’t agree with. (That’s a compelling reason to pursue self-employment, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

  6. S Porto

    Starbucks promotes the homosexual activism and tries to hire the most effeminate male employees to help advertise this.

    • Kevin

      Which could also make it fertile ground for witnessing the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

  7. SB @ One Cent at a Time

    is the list in some sort of order? Also like to know the payscale in a typical store job.

    • Kevin

      Hi SB–No, the list isn’t in any order, other than alphabetic. Pay range–as I said in the post, pay isn’t a compelling reason to work in retail. Some people do eventually make substantial money, but they’re usually in store management or higher.

      Another note on payscale–that can vary based on geography. If you assume minimum wage or a little above as a starting pay level, you shouldn’t be disappointed. Some of the stores that offer commissions can be a better arrangement though. But that will depend on your personal sales abilities too.

  8. Designer

    I do not agree with all that you say here. I have been around a long time and I have known people who have worked at some of these stores. It all looks good on paper, it not until you become employed that the truth is knwn. Best Buy may furnish insurance, but how do they treat employees daily. My experience, not good. I worked for Home Depot for some time when Lowes came looking to hire me. I went to Lowes, bad move. After 6 months I went back to Home Depot. The pay is much better, insurance is much better and most of all, they treat you like a person. I think it is important to find out details before starting work any place.

    • Kevin

      Hi Designer–That’s absolutely true. One of the inherent problems with working in retail is that number of employers and type of stores is so diverse that generalization is impossible. A company can be good, but if a local general manager is bad, the experience working there will be poor. Also, companies change policies frequently.

      If often comes down to individual preference too. For some Macy’s may be better than Nordstom, for others it’s the other way around. I’ve worked in stores that were good at the start, but after a time they become insufferable. It’s the nature of retail.

  9. BrandNew

    Starbucks has closed locations left and right. My mother worked there for a while, despite no opportunities for advancement and not enough hours. However, they closed so many locations and hundreds of them lost their jobs in her city alone.

    I’m praying that she finds something else; it’s been over a year since they closed her location.

  10. Wes

    I worked as a movie theater manager out of college. Was promised bonuses that never happened because the goals were unnachievable. Then spent time in retail after that. The retail company I worked for had a draw or commission payscale, pitiful turnover in management, never stuck to any one particular policy, treated employees like dirt, and treated customers (especially in service calls & deliveries) poorly. I hope I never have to work retail again.

    • John Frainee

      Retail is difficult, I agree, but I think it’s important to note that not all retail jobs are horrible. There are some good ones out there and these companies are a good place to start!

  11. Luke

    So I read the comments about Starbucks supporting planned parenthood, does anybody have a list of maybe what stores support what? Would it be possible to even find most of them out? just curious really.