Hobby Lobby increases its hourly wages

04/15/2011 12:00 AM

04/15/2011 6:53 AM

Hobby Lobby officials have raised the store's minimum wage for full-time employees to $12, the third $1 hourly increase in the past three years.

The Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts retailer with more than 470 stores in 39 states also is raising the minimum wage of part-time employees to $8.50 an hour.

"It's a very positive message," said Dave Freerks, co-manager of the Wichita store at 2120 N. Woodlawn. "It helps with the loyalty and the retention, certainly. And in terms of new employees, when you get to that pay for full-time work, it attracts more and more skilled employees."

About 13,800 hourly employees companywide will be affected by the wage increase.

Hobby Lobby has 12 stores in Kansas, including the Wichita store on Woodlawn and one at 665 N. Ridge Road. It has 45 full-time and 26 part-time employees in Wichita.

The company said the wage increase will affect 316 employees statewide. The minimum wage in Kansas is the federally mandated $7.25.

Hobby Lobby increased its full-time minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2009 and $11 an hour last year.

"Hobby Lobby has been able to grow steadily during a national recession, and we want to thank our employees for their hard work and allow them to share in the company's success," David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby, said in a news release.

Don Hackett, a management expert who teaches entrepreneurship at Wichita State University, said the move is good business and good employee relations for Hobby Lobby.

"It's wise," he said. "Retail is an area with high turnover, and if he's reducing turnover, he's reducing expenses all through his organization. It's an investment, both in his people and in the institution."

Training costs for new employees reverberate throughout a retailer's balance sheet, Hackett said.

"I'd assume he has some really good people he wants to retain," he said. "Obviously, there's a selfish motive to retain those people and become a more preferred employer by rising above this economy. A dollar or two is pretty good today."

Freerks, the Wichita manager, agreed.

"Training obviously depends on the person, but you invest a good deal of time and money in a new employee, and when you can retain them, it makes the store easy to manage and the customer shops in a better store with experienced people," he said.

Hobby Lobby said in its release that it plans to open about 35 stores nationwide this year, which will create an additional 1,400 jobs.

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