OPERATIONS

Kronos Retail Labor Index edges down

BY Staff Writer

Chelmsford, Mass. — The Kronos Retail Labor Index edged down to 3.8% in October 2011, following an upwardly revised 4.2% for September, which was the first reading above 4% since October 2008. Even with the small decline in October, the Retail labor Index remains well above the series low of 2.8% in January 2011.

The Kronos Retail Labor Index is a family of metrics and indices that characterize the current state of the demand and supply sides of the labor market within the U.S. retail sector. It is defined as the ratio of hires to applicants within a given month, expressed as a percentage. A level of 3.0% means that for every 100 applications received, three hires occurred.

“The decline reflected a 6.4% decrease in hires, which fell to 34,131 in October, from a three-year high in September,” said Chris Varvares, senior managing director and co-founder, Macroeconomic Advisers, which prepares the analysis and write-up for the index. “Even with the slip in hiring this month, the number of hires made by firms in the Kronos sample in October was 12% above the average in the first quarter of 2009, indicative of the solid improvement in retail job market conditions.”

The retailers representing 18,362 distributed locations across the United States that make up the Kronos data sample made 34,131 hires (seasonally adjusted) in October 2011, down 6.4% from a downwardly revised, but still solid, 36,474 hires in September 2011. The number of applications received by retailers in the sample rose 2.7% to 896,817 in October 2011, from a downwardly revised 873,160 in September 2011, all on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The 60-day retention rate, measured as the number of hires who remain employed for at least the first 60 days divided by the total number of hires made in that month, was nearly unchanged at 83.2% (seasonally adjusted) in June from 83.3% in May.

The Kronos Retail Labor Index is released on a monthly basis. Click here to access the full report.

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Deloitte: Consumers in good spirits about holiday shopping

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK— While consumers remain concerned about the economy, it is not enough to damper their holiday shopping spirit. According to a recent Deloitte survey, while two-thirds (67%) of consumers expect the economy to stay the same or weaken next year, nearly 3-out-of-5 people (59%) will put aside economic worries and spend the same or more this holiday season. This is a slight decline from 2010 but an eight percentage point increase from 2009.

Shoppers planning to spend less this year (42%) point to higher costs impacting their household budgets. Six out of 10 cite higher food prices (63%) and higher gas prices (60% as reasons for spending less this year. Roughly half (49%) point to higher energy costs.

“Lackluster employment growth, debt crises and stock market fluctuations have battered consumer confidence while inflation left many with lighter wallets this fall,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail & distribution leader for Deloitte LLP. “Consumers will be conservative this holiday season, but remain resilient and maintain a more positive interest in holiday shopping than we witnessed during the recession.”

The survey found that holiday shoppers plan to buy an average of 14.7 holiday gifts this year, down from 16.8 last year and continuing a four-year decline in the number of gifts they plan to purchase.

While all income groups plan to cut back on gift spending, as can be expected, higher-income households earning $100,000 or more annually expect to trim a mere 2% off gift spending to shell out an average of $812 on gifts this holiday season compared with a 26% drop to $291 on gifts among those earning less than $100,000.

Gift cards, which had a long reign as the gift of choice, has been ousted from its top spot by apparel.The number of consumers planning to purchase gift cards fell 11 percentage points to 45%, while clothing went up to 48%. The number who plan to hand out cash slid 7 percentage points to just one-quarter (25%) of respondents, Deloitte found.

The Internet continues to be a powerful tool for comparison shopping, with 68% of consumers planning to change the way they shop to save money, and more than 51% saying they will go online to find better prices. This represents a 10 percentage point jump from last year, while 46% plan to buy more items that qualify for free shipping.

Among shopping destinations, the Internet jumped 13 percentage points to join discount stores at the top of the list with nearly half (48%) of consumers planning to shop these two destinations for holiday gifts. While online interest climbed, discounters slid 10 percentage points from the 2010 survey.

Smartphones will also be an important shopper tool this holiday season, Deloitte found that more than 27% of smartphone owners plan to use their devices for holiday shopping to search for store locations (67%), compare prices (59%) and check product availability (46%). Additionally, 44% say they plan to use social media to seek discounts, read reviews and check family and friends’ gift lists.

Retailers counting on early sales are out of luck as more than half of consumers (53%) plan to begin shopping before Thanksgiving, but nearly three quarters (73%) intend to hold out until after this holiday to make the majority of their purchases.

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Toys”R”Us names leadership team for Asian businesses

BY CSA STAFF

Wayne, N.J. — Toys"R"Us has named the leadership team for its retail business operations in Southeast Asia and Greater China, following the recent announcement of its new joint venture agreement with Li & Fung Retailing. With this agreement, the existing Toys “R” Us business operations in the region, which had previously been licensed, are now majority owned and controlled by Toys “R” Us.

Monika Merz, currently president and CEO,Toys"R"Us, Japan has been named president, Toy “R”Us, Asia. In addition to providing ongoing leadership for the Toys“R”Us businesses in Japan and Australia, Merz’s role has been expanded to include oversight and further development of the company’s operations across seven markets throughout Asia.

Pieter Schats has been named managing director, Toys“R”Us, Southeast Asia and Greater China. Prior to this, Schats served as CEO of Toys LiFung (Asia) Limited, which previously operated the Toys“R”Us business in Asia under a licensing agreement. In his new capacity, Mr. Schats is responsible for all operations and business activities for the company’s 90 wholly owned stores in Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. He also provides support for the company’s 14 licensed stores in the Philippines and Macau. Schats reports to Merz.

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