President Barack Obama looks for gifts for his family with salesperson Susan Panariello after stopping off at a GAP store in New York on March 11, 2014.
Larry Downing/Reuters

Obama does retail therapy in support of Gap raising wages

President Obama shopped for his family at a New York City Gap store Tuesday in a show of support for the company’s decision to increase wages for its employees.

“At the State of the Union, I talked about the importance of giving America a raise. Our corporate profits are doing well, stock market’s doing well, but for a lot of folks out there, they haven’t seen a raise in a very long time and their incomes are flat,” Obama told reporters at a Gap in midtown Manhattan. “I am continuing to push Congress to pass a federal increase in the minimum wage.”

He encouraged businesses, states and local governments to take the initiative to make sure full-time workers are “not living in poverty.”

Last month, the clothing retailer announced plans to boost the minimum hourly wage for its U.S. workers to $9 this year and $10 per hour in 2015 – a noteworthy move considering many other U.S. retailers have urged lawmakers to cling to the current rate of $7.25 an hour.

The president praised the Gap and other “companies that are doing right by their employees.”

“For a lot of folks who are just starting out, for them to get that little extra boost, it’s not only good for them and their families, it’s also good for the entire economy.” He added, “Keep in mind that these days in retail sales or fast food or in a lot of different occupations, the minimum wage is not just going to teenagers, the average age of somebody getting a minimum wage is 35 and a lot of them have family obligations, so I want to congratulate the Gap for doing the right thing.”

Obama also emphasized the benefits of investing in the labor market as a means to give back to the overall economy, starting from within. He said this environment breeds loyalty from employees, leading to greater productivity and, ultimately, more customers.

Gap. Inc CEO Glenn Murphy agreed, saying the decision to support employees helps the company in the long-term. He said in a statement last month, “To us, this is not a political issue. Our decision to invest in frontline employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over.” About 65,000 workers will benefit from this pay bump.

Obama recently signed an executive order mandating a raise in minimum wages for federal contract workers by 2015.

The president made the detour shopping trip before heading to fundraisers in the area. He didn’t walk away empty-handed.

After voicing some concern about a V-neck that “would slip” off his daughters’ shoulders, he settled on crew-neck sweaters; a light-pink one for Sasha and a hot-pink version for Malia. The president purchased a blue-colored zip-up workout top for the first lady Michelle.

Obama said, “I think the ladies will be impressed by my style sense.”

Minimum Wage

Obama does retail therapy in support of Gap raising wages