Share the Love: 10 Employee Appreciation Gifts to Give to Your Associates

This is a post by Alexandra Sheehan

Managing retail staff is tough. You’ve got schedules, payroll, hiring, benefits — the whole gamut. And it’s a time-consuming part of your business, especially considering retail’s high turnover rates. 

Turnover for assistant store managers in 2017 was 41%, and associates more than that. One survey run by Korn Ferry found that associate turnover is much higher, coming in at 81% in 2018.

What’s more troubling? These figures are on the rise. 

But there’s good news! It takes a little bit of intentional planning and action to reduce turnover in your business. Some employee recognition ideas include tangible gifts. Below, we’ve listed some clever ideas that go beyond the branded water bottle and tote bag. 

Employee appreciation ideas for retail associates

1. Money

Money talks, right? Though it may seem impersonal to gift staff with straight cash, it’s a great way to commend them on a job well done and show your appreciation for all their work. 

To make it more personal, add a nice note. Tell them specifically why you appreciate them, what they do well, and how much they mean to you and your business. 

2. Gift cards

Still not comfortable with cash? Try a gift card. You can choose a VISA or MasterCard type of gift card for them to use anywhere, or a gift card to a popular retailer like Amazon, Target, or Walmart. 

Grocery store gift cards are also appreciated, especially for employees who have families to feed at home. You can note your staff’s favorite stores and purchase gift cards there. Another fun idea is a charitable gift card, through a site like TisBest.

3. Time off

Chris Guillot of Merchant Method says sometimes employees just want some of their time back, especially during busy seasons. “It’s a nod to say, ‘You have a life outside of work, so thank you.’” 

It’s all about the context, too. “[Time off] could be thought of as employee benefits, but when you package it and you’re able to really give [time off] during peak time periods, then they really come across as a gift,” she says. “So no one would think that a half day of work is a gift, but during peak seasonality for someone who works a retail floor, that’s a true gift.”

4. Perks

Guillot also recalls being able to take advantage of her employer’s perks during high-impact times, like the holidays. Some ideas? “Special shopping hours, extended special discounts, use of customer perks employees couldn’t get,” she says. “I loved during the holiday season when my employer would let me use their shipping discount.” 

5. Something for a special occasion

There are special occasions in every person’s life: birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, babies, new homes, graduations — the list goes on and on. Celebrate these milestones to show your employees how much you appreciate and know them. 

These occasions can be in their personal or work lives. You might celebrate the anniversary of a staff member’s hire date, for example — or the anniversary of their marriage. 

Keep a calendar with important dates and set up notifications in advance so you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. 

6. Personalized gift

Cara Wood, digital marketing manager here at Mesa, spent many years working in retail. Her favorite gift? Ice cream. “My manager brought me my favorite grocery store dessert of all time, Edy’s Real Lime Fruit Bars, after I had a banner sales week,” she recalls. 

This was so impactful because it proved her manager listened to Wood when she shared personal details. It also demonstrated that her manager was paying attention to her performance and recognized it when she hit it out of the park. 

“While managers are expected to keep track of their employee’s stats, in my experience, they don’t typically say anything about them unless a stat is low,” she says. “So having a good week noted made me feel seen.”

She also notes that you don’t want to go overboard — the gift should be in line with what you’re thanking them for. “Gift giving comes with a great deal of societal expectations of reciprocity,” says Wood. “Because of that, you want to make sure your employees don’t feel uncomfortable with how much you spent on them.”

Personal gifts are exactly that — personal — so pay attention to your staff. Here are some ideas to get the wheels turning: 

  • Dog treats for their pup
  • Curated gift box with treats from their home state
  • A nice yoga mat for the budding yogi
  • Brewery tour for two for the recently engaged staff member

7. Food

In addition to grocery gift cards, you can also use food as a way to show appreciation for your employees. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Bring in a batch of your famous home baked goods (remember food allergies and dietary restrictions!)
  • Book food trucks to visit the store and feed your staff after a long shift
  • Buy free catered lunch — especially during peak times like holidays or all-hands-on-deck stock counts
  • Host a staff dinner and invite them to bring their families

8. Transportation help

While you can consider fee bus passes, designated parking areas, and other transportation initiatives as employee benefits/perks, they can also serve as a gift. If you know someone has a long commute, gift them with a gas gift card. Or, chip in on the bike another staff member has been eyeing for their daily commute. 

9. Company swag

Yes, we shunned the branded water bottles and tote bags earlier. But some company swag can be awesome. For example, I know someone who works for an employer that gifts employees with Patagonia jackets. They’re high-quality, expensive, and have a very small logo for the company that you can barely even notice. 

10. Spa day

Who wouldn’t love some pampering after standing on your feet all day? Working retail is tough on the body. You can show staff you appreciate all the hard work they do and encourage them to take care of themselves. 


Further Reading

Need more staffing tips and insights? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Training and Motivating Retail Employees, an in-depth resource packed with actionable takeaways for motivating employees and boosting staff productivity. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to empower your workforce to maximize happiness and productivity
  • What tools and methods to use when educating your staff
  • How to motivate your staff to bring their best selves to work

    Learn More

More ways to show staff appreciation

Staff appreciation starts Day 1. From training through management, it’s important to treat your staff as the humans they are. In a thankless job, a little bit of appreciation goes a long way. 

Here are some more resources to learn how to make your employees feel appreciated: 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.