Warehouse vs Retail Job: Why warehouse jobs are better

Warehouse and retail jobs are some of the easiest to get low-skill manual labor jobs out there.

Entry level jobs in either industry don’t require higher education and are therefore a first choice for folks who just need money to pay the bills, e.g. college students.

warehouse vs retail job graphic

There are a few things to consider when deciding which of these jobs you’d prefer and most boil down to personality.

Warehouse jobs are best for people who’d rather work without much social interaction while retail jobs would be preferable to you if you are an extrovert and would really struggle being by yourself for hours.

As someone who’s worked in both areas, I’d recommend warehouse because even though the job is physically harder, I don’t have to deal with overly rude and demanding customers as a daily part of the job.

Why warehouse is better than retail

  • Most warehouses pay above minimum wage due to increased competition for workers in recent years. Companies like Amazon and Sysco are offering insane hourly rates and sign-on bonuses for entry level warehouse jobs.
    • This is unlike retail jobs which pay minimum wage in most places with no pay bumps for years.
  • In many warehouses (e.g. Amazon), there are plenty of pathways for climbing up the ladder. You can be a trainer, supervisor, manager and many other positions.
    • In retail stores, on the other hand, getting promoted is very hard as they don’t have many openings in higher positions that can be filled by rank-and-file employees.
  • You can easily get fit working in the warehouse as you will be lifting relatively heavy items (occasionally up to 90 lbs) throughout the day. There’s also lots of walking as a daily part of the job which helps in cardio health.
    • Most retail workers don’t get to experience as much heavy work as those in the warehouse so chances of getting fit are slimmer.
  • Due to competition for warehouse labor, companies have been offering great benefits to their employees in areas such as education, health and vacations.
    • For example, Amazon and UPS have been offering great tuition benefits for their warehouse employees through the Career Choice and Earn and Learn programs respectively.
    • This is different from most retail outlets where benefits are fewer and not competitive.
  • If you’re introverted or customer service is not your strong suit, working in a warehouse is much better than retail since you don’t have to deal with customers all day long.
    • Many positions in warehouses, e.g. stowing at Amazon involve working alone and have very few interactions with coworkers.

With all that being said, warehouse work still has its disadvantages when compared to retail work.

Drawbacks of working at a warehouse as opposed to retail store

  • Warehouse work can be physically demanding. In many places, it involves lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects all day long. This might lead to soreness and back pain.
  • Warehouse work can lead to feelings of depression or isolation in places with toxic work environments.
  • Many companies have instituted labor tracking and rate monitoring on their warehouse workers. This puts a lot of pressure on employees to perform and can lead to stress.
    • Most retail outlets don’t have this.

Summary of differences between warehouse and retail work

Warehouse jobRetail job
Can be mentally and physically strenuousRetail is easier mentally and physically easier
Work by yourself or a small groupDeal with customers and coworkers
Better pay in most large companiesPays minimum wage
Get fit due to lifting heavy weights and walkingLighter load and less walking so doesn’t help with fitness that much
Many avenues for promotion in large warehousesDead end job in most places
Good benefits in health and educationUsually very little benefits
Constant labor tracking in many warehousesNo widespread labor tracking and rate monitoring

If you end up choosing either of these jobs, avoid temp work (especially through agencies) as much as possible.

With temp work, you will get no benefits most of the time plus no union representation in places that are unionized. That, and agencies also take a cut of your pay.

Jobs better than both warehouse and retail

If you want to make a career out of doing manual jobs, getting into trades is the best route.

carpenter using a tape measure

Skilled trades are a better alternative than both warehousing and retail jobs. They pay a lot more and are not as physically demanding as warehouse work.

Good trade jobs include electricians union, pipe fitters unions and carpenters unions.