OPERATIONS

Kronos: Retail hiring on the rise

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chelmsford, Mass. — The Kronos Retail Labor Index released by the company on Thursday showed that retail hiring is on the rise, even as fewer people seek jobs in the retail sector.

The Index jumped to 4.2%, up nearly 7% from last year, indicating a potential recovery in the labor market. The number of applications edged down 1.3% , which is down nearly 6% from its level one year ago, pointing to applicants seeking employment in other growing industries.

“Retail firms in the Kronos sample have faced modestly tightening hiring conditions in recent months, as the pool of applications for each hire made has contracted,” said Chris Varvares, senior managing director and co-founder, Macroeconomic Advisers.

February’s decline continued the downward trend in applications that began in the second half of last year, bringing applications to their lowest level since December 2007, right at the onset of the recession.

The Kronos Retail Labor Index, analyzed by Macroeconomic Advisers, is defined as the ratio of hires to applications within a given month, expressed as a percentage. A level of 3.0% means that for every 100 applications received, three hires occurred.

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OPERATIONS

J.C. Penney names top merchant

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — J.C. Penney Co. has promoted Elizabeth Sweney to the position of chief merchant, Women’s Wear Daily reported.

Sweney is a 12-year-company veteran. She served as executive VP and general merchandise manager of women’s apparel.

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FINANCE

Study: More than half of Americans struggle to afford the basics

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — A study released Thursday by WSL/Strategic Retail found that 52% of Americans are struggling to afford the necessities, and for many even that is a stretch.

The “How America Shops MegaTrends report, Moving On 2012,” revealed among its significant findings that the youth market, 18-34 year olds, has the highest percent of those who do not have enough money to cover their basic needs, with close to a quarter (24%) in financial turmoil.

Compared with people over 35, who were able to launch their careers 10 years ago, this group is a long way from recovery, compelling retailers targeting this group to seriously rethink their strategies, according to WSL.



The study also found that branded products may be threatened, as shoppers are placing greater focus on price. Two-thirds (67%) of women said that trusted brand names are not worth paying more for. More than a quarter (26%) admit that while they used to buy brand names they could not afford, they are no longer giving in to this indulgence. This figure is up seven percentage points from 2010.

Nearly 30% of Americans in the $100-$150K income bracket claim they can only afford the basics. Once considered affluent, six-figure income shoppers are now identifying themselves as middle-income.

“There is a huge fundamental issue when more than half of Americans can only afford basic necessities and people who earn up to $150,000 think they are poor,” said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail. “American shoppers are moving on and coming back to shopping, but at their own pace. As a result, retail sales are precarious and likely to fluctuate up one month, down the next. That’s not going to change any time soon.”

Among other findings, 75% of women now say it’s important to get the lowest price on everything they buy, up 12 percentage points from 2008 and up 22 percentage points from 2004. Methods to lower price include couponing, buying only on-sale items and searching online for discounts before shopping brick-and-mortar stores.

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