For a second year in a row, hiring and retaining the necessary workforce topped a list of 15 challenges facing retailers today. It’s also the same percentage: 43%. Employee turnover/labor placed third, at 34%. No. 2 was economic conditions (39%).

Hiring is so competitive that White of Petroleum Marketing Group says he must address the issue as “hand-to-hand combat” rather than relying on the multitude of hiring platforms “that promise to get you job applicants.”

White requires his district managers in the field to recruit face to face, dropping business cards in hopes of luring employees to their 27 Henny Penny c-stores. “Recruiting people through the internet is not going to work,” he says.

“People may accept a position and then just ghost it because maybe they had some other offer."

With a shortage of store employees, Henny Penny has fewer labor hours to pay. However, this savings has been off set by the need to increase wages to keep and attract employees “because it’s so competitive out there,” White says.

To remain competitive, Pony Express has raised wages three times in the past year, Gutierrez Stone says.

However, it’s a constant battle. “Since we are rural, our hiring pool is limited. Every time we raise wages, they increase again, so we are constantly monitoring the market and can’t always adjust as quickly as it moves,” she says.

Survey respondents were somewhat split on what will most affect business in 2023.

Forty percent said the labor market will have a positive impact, 27% said no impact and 32% said negative impact—this last figure placing second only to inflation’s 35%.

Huff says he has no employee-shortage problems because he pays above the minimum wage and because his high-rise c-stores operate only during the “attractive” hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Conversely, it’s been somewhat of a struggle for White, who will hire someone who then fails to show on day one.

“Or we’re trying to get someone in for a face-to-face interview, and they don’t show up,” he says. “People may accept a position and then just ghost it because maybe they had some other offer. That’s the challenge. The norms are all off when it comes to hiring right now.”

White doesn’t see labor pool and hiring issues lessening anytime soon.