Employment in these stores is looked upon as desirable preliminary training for service in larger department stores. This is the general opinion held by those who hire the employees in the larger stores. The selling experience gained in neighborhood stores is looked upon as general, in that it gives an acquaintance with a variety of merchandise rather than an extensive knowledge of any line of stock. This experience makes the employee adaptable and resourceful. Another advantage of neighborhood training for sales people is the fact that they are brought into closer human relations with the customer and thus learn the value of personality as a factor in making sales.
Cleveland had in the fall of 1915 six large stores where nothing costing over 10 cents is sold. These belong to three syndicates or chains. To show the extent to which this business has developed it may be stated that the largest of these syndicates, which controls three of the six Cleveland stores, has 747 branches in different parts of the country.
The number of saleswomen in a single store ranges from 12 to 70. The total number in the six stores was approximately 226. The shift in this branch of retail trade is large, as there are continual changes in the selling force. One store reported the number of new employees hired in six months as being about equal to the average selling force.
The managers of the five and ten cent stores without exception stated that they preferred to hire beginners who were without store experience. The hours of work are longer and the conditions under which the work is done are more trying than is usually the case in the larger department stores.
The girl who expects her application for employment in the five and ten cent store to be accepted must be 18 years old in order that she may legally work after six o’clock. It is better for her to be without previous selling experience (unless in other five and ten cent stores), as employers in these stores prefer to train help according to their own methods.
The wages paid beginners in the department stores are fair as compared with other industries employing the same grade of help. Boys and girls when they first enter employment receive from $3.50 to $7, depending on the store where they get their first job. In addition to the salary most department stores give bonuses or commissions through which the members of the sales force may increase their compensation. The Survey Staff worked out comparisons on the basis of data supplied by the State Industrial Commission between the earnings of workers in department store occupations and those in other industries. Diagram 3 shows graphically a comparison of the wages of women workers in six different industries. An interesting point brought out by this graphic comparison is that retail trade constitutes a much better field for women’s employment as compared with the great majority of positions open to them in other lines than is commonly assumed to be the case. This is brought out even more clearly in Table 15, which compares, on a percentage basis, those who earn $12 a week and over, in all of the industries of the city employing as many as 500 women in 1914.