All Articles Tagged "retail"
Not Just For The Holidays: National Retail Federation Clip Tells The Story Of A Career Retail Worker
Most people, when they think of working in retail, imagine a part-time job for college students looking to make some money for books, or temporary work around the holidays; something to do for a few weeks to make some extra money and get a discount on gifts.
But there are some people who make a career out of working in retail. That’s the focus of the National Retail Federation’s latest campaign “This is Retail.” On the campaign website, the group (the largest retail trade group in the world) wants to show the depth and breadth of professional opportunity across the retail industry. There are 42 million workers in retail, the NRF says, and not all of those people are “behind a cash register.”
So here we have the story of Claudine McKenzie, who says she started at Walmart when she was three months pregnant with her first child. After 17 years of winding her way through a number of stores and up the chain of command, she’s a store manager working towards a Master’s degree. Besides offering a glimpse at what’s possible in retail, the clip also acts as a bit of a love letter to Walmart — she refers a couple of times to the “support” she got from the retailer during both her pregnancies — who usually figures much more negatively when the talk turns to how they treat their employees.
Have you ever considered a career in retail? Does this clip make you think of retail differently?
After a layoff left her two years removed from the corporate world and unable to find a new job, Brittanie Yvonne took matters into her own hands. “I didn’t just want a job. I wanted something that was going to further my experience and help me gain the knowledge to eventually have my own business,” Yvonne tells MN Business.
All of this, she thought, was a sign that if she couldn’t find a job that would make her happy, she shouldn’t be working for someone else. “It was time for me to start my own business. So I did,” Yvonne said.
Capitalizing on a strong sense of style, she started EHVonnae, a New York-based brick-and-mortar boutique with a dual online component. Yvonne opened up her first location in trendy DUMBO, Brooklyn. And she did it without having a large amount of financial backing.
Her parents’ first reaction to the news that she wasn’t going to be working for anyone else any longer was, “Well what are you going to do? You have to do something.” To prove just how serious she was, she started with lots of research, reading about how to start a business from the ground up. She then wrote a carefully articulated business plan describing how she was going to make being her own boss work. “From then on my parents understood, and started to support the start of my business,” Yvonne said.
She used her unemployment money, help from family, and counsel from a business advisor to get all of her paperwork together. With the groundwork laid, she took the next big step of finding the perfect home for this business venture. “Having a budget was essential,” Yvonne said. She found a location within her budget and went for it. “It was the scariest thing to do, but no risk, no reward. It was the best decision I could have made,” Yvonne said.
She reached out to a friend who worked in real estate for help. “I was surprised to find out that there are some very affordable rental spaces in New York City due to the state of the economy and the unfortunate closings of businesses,” she said. “Some are even month-to-month situations. It all comes down to research and negotiation. Anything is possible.” Not only did Yvonne open shop in one of the most desirable addresses in Brooklyn. Her first shop opened in 2010.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, many college students are in search of seasonal employment to hold them over financially during their winter break. Much better than lying around catching up on Netflix! Here are a few suggestions to make a few extra dollars while school’s out of session. Be sure to pass this along to the story to those college goers in your life looking for ideas!
Things have gone from sticky to super sticky now that the New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman is involved with the discrimination cases against Barneys and Macy’s stores.
On Monday, Schneiderman’s office sent requests to both retailers requesting a long list of documents concerning policies for stopping, detaining and questioning customers based on race. They must comply by Friday. In a matter of one week there have been four reports of unfair racial profiling of customers who would otherwise have been enjoying a shopping experience.
“The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company’s commitment to that ideal,” Kristen Clarke, who heads the AG’s civil rights bureau, wrote to Barneys CEO Mark Lee and Macy’s Chief Stores Officer Peter Sachse. In the past Macy’s has been accused of racial profiling, settling a case in 2005 for $600,000.
Read more at StyleBlazer.com
Fifteen years ago, Alain Lafontant was an intern at BRAG (the Black Retail Action Group). On Thursday, he was accepting the organization’s BRAG Special Recognition Award in front of 600 guests alongside other awards recipients, Macy’s CEO and president Terry Lundgren, and Iman, supermodel and CEO of Iman Cosmetics, Skincare and Fragrances.
BRAG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing African Americans and other people of color into the retail and fashion industry fold. This year, they hosted the 43rd Annual Scholarship and Awards Gala, which was hosted by style expert Lloyd Benson and featured a special performance from Nick Cannon, who just recently launched a line of ties at Macy’s. In addition to the awards, the organization handed out 67 scholarships, more than double the previous year. The event raised more than $1 million, including $35,000 at a live auction during the event.
Since the days when Lafontant was working on his BRAG project focusing on the changes in retail on Harlem’s iconic 125th Street (today there’s a MAC, an H&M, a Starbucks, and an American Apparel steps from one another), things have changed in stores. But diversity continues to be an issue. Each year it seems, diversity gets attention around Fashion Week, when people notice how few models of color are walking the catwalk.
“Fashion Week always brings diversity to the forefront because it’s an easy visual to see the lack of diversity,” Lafontant told MN Business during a phone call. But for him, it’s not just about racial diversity, but a “diversity of background” that’s missing. And, just as important, is the lack of diversity at the upper ranks where decisions are made is an issue.
“This sea of sameness doesn’t promote evolving changes,” Lafontant added. “I’m interested in the diversity on the business end.”
To that end, it’s worth noting that Lafontant is the VP of business development and brand manager at Sean John, Diddy’s successful fashion line. This is his second time with the company. In between, he was the VP of men’s sales at Rocawear.
“In my career, whether it’s Shawn Carter or Sean Combs, they saw a void in the market and they filled it themselves,” he said. This is a model that other aspirants in the fashion industry should follow. “You don’t have to wait for the company to come and hire you. The industry is fueled by big dreamers.”
It also benefits from both diversity of culture and diversity of ideas. While the Ralph Laurens and Armanis of the industry continue to garner name recognition, there are others coming up behind them like Alexander Wang, who Lafontant noted for his “innovation in product.”
“Creativity is one portion of it,” Lafontant said.
One of this year’s BRAG scholarship recipients, quoted in information we received from the organization, may have listed the other components best: “Because of BRAG scholarships, we are given the character, confidence and education we need to succeed. To us, these scholarships not only represent funding for school, but it affirms our dreams, our hard work as students and our individual ambitions.”
Conservative holiday spending and a desire to keep costs down at retail shops around the country are expected to keep hiring numbers down this coming holiday season. Global employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says seasonal hiring at retailers across the country will be around 700,000, falling short of the all-time high reached in 2012 of 751,800. That number was up 14 percent from the year before.
In a sad bit of cyclical logic, analysts say that unemployment and underemployment are making people nervous about spending a ton of money on holiday gifts. As a result, there will be fewer jobs for people who are unemployed or underemployed. Sigh.
Seasonal holiday hiring usually goes from October 1 to December 31. The shopping season kicks into high gear on Black Friday, the big post-Thanksgiving shopping day. This year, there are only 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas, down from 31 last year. Sales this holiday season are expected to be up 2.4 percent over last year, but that’s less than the past couple of years.
Among the retailers that will be staffing up in greater numbers this year are Walmart, Toys R Us and Kohl’s. Walmart says it’ll bring in 55,000 workers this year, 5,000 more than last year. And Toys R Us says it’ll maintain last year’s figure — 45,000. They’ll start hiring this week with positions lasting through December. And the AP says 15 percent of 2012′s seasonal jobs turned into full-time positions. Kohl’s is looking for about 53,000 workers, a small increase from last year. The Kansas City Star also says FedEx and UPS hired 20,000 and 55,000 workers last year, respectively.
Target, on the other hand, will be seeking 20 percent fewer workers this year, or 70,000 workers.
Now’s the time to get those applications in. So if you’re looking for work, get cracking.
The U.S. shoe business is a $48-billion industry. And women spend $25,000 on stilettos and sneakers in our lifetime according to Glamour. Are women addicted to shoes? Some will answer a definitive yes. In fact, The Age says, “Shoes are fashion crack. Highly addictive they provide the user with an instant gratification high like no other.”
There are several theories why women love shoes—you can be fat, tall, skinny but you can most always find a shoe that fits and looks good. People have even put some actual study into it. “There’s some science behind it with experts agreeing that women can/do experience an absolute physiological response when shopping,” reports The Age. “The neurotransmitter dopamine is released into the brain flooding it with a feel-good high that intensifies all the way up to the actual purchase… which explains why some women occasionally swap relationships, food and even sex in favour of a pair of Jimmy Choos.”
That’s why retail outlets are taking notice and expanding their women’s shoe department—some even devoting an entire floor to women’s shoes. And they are raking in the sales.
“Barneys New York, sales of shoes are three to four times higher per square foot than in any other department. The average purchase in the shoe department there is about $850, among the highest in the city” reports The New York Times.
Over the past five years there was been sort of a shoe war going on, with retailers trying to show who has the largest shoe collection. Macy’s in New York introduced a 39,000-square-foot shoe department last year, which it claims is the “world’s largest.” Nordstrom, which has been a favorite among shoe shoppers for years because of its selection and service, plans to open a store on West 57th Street in Manhattan. All the high-end shops have impressive shoe departments now. Saks Fifth Avenue’s footwear department has its on vanity ZIP code, 10022-SHOE. And recently Saks debuted a 1,600-square-foot shop selling only Christian Louboutin handbags and shoes.
“Shoes are the one thing that you can wear regardless of your size,” Kathryn Finney, The Budget Fashionista, points out. “In a way, shoes are the great equalizer. It is capable of democratizing fashion. You probably can’t buy a Zac Posen dress if you wear a size 14, but you can surely buy a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.”
She argues shoes are a good investment because updating your wardrobe is possible by just buying shoes rather than an entire closet of clothes. “You can save a lot of money by dressing head to toe in Target, and up the style factor by pairing your bargain duds with a single, really great pair of shoes,” she explains. “Plus, no matter how much your weight changes, your trusty shoes will always fit.”
And, says Finney, you don’t have to spend a fortune on shoes. “Always check the clearance section for investment pieces at a fraction of the price. These shoe classics aren’t at the mercy of shoe fads and ‘New Arrivals’ trends, so never pay full price for them,” she advises.
How many pairs of shoes do you own?
After weeks (one could say years) of bad press and controversy over comments made by company execs and an overall exclusionary attitude, it looks like Abercrombie & Fitch is getting its comeuppance. The company announced that sales had dropped 17 percent for the first quarter of this year. According to The Huffington Post, the numbers were falling before the controversies erupted, but sales certainly won’t be helped by the scandals. The CEO of the company, Mike Jeffries, says a lack of inventory was the problem.
“It took a little bit longer than anticipated to flow in some of our spring deliveries,” Reuters quotes Jeffries, who spoke during a conference call on Friday. The company has cut sales forecasts for he year as well.
Just last week, Abercrombie issued an apology after teens protested outside the company’s Ohio headquarters. They asked the company to start selling larger sizes (above a 10 and a Large), to cut down on its racy ads, and to focus on anti-bullying and diversity efforts. The company’s statement, after meeting with the students, read, “We look forward to continuing this dialogue and taking concrete steps to demonstrate our commitment to anti-bullying in addition to our ongoing support of diversity and inclusion. We want to reiterate that we sincerely regret and apologize for any offense caused by comments we have made in the past which are contrary to these values.”
The question is, will it help?
Clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch has been the subject of salacious news headlines in the past. Now the retailer is caught in a maelstrom of gossip again as one of its brand managers made it known that their clothes are not made to be worn by just anyone. “Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t want to create the image that just anybody, poor people, can wear their clothing. Only people of a certain stature are able to purchase and wear the company name”, the manager stated.
In response to the controversy, company CEO Greg Karber released a statement, available on Clutch:
“I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offence. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values. We are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterisations or other anti-social behaviour based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics.”
For some, the statement isn’t enough. Writer Greg Karber created a campaign called @FitchThe Homeles that declares “Let’s rebrand A&F together.” If you have any unwanted clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch, you can donate to this cause, which will then provide the clothes to the homeless.
Given this most recent dust up, comments Jeffries made in a 2006 interview for an article on Salon seem prescient. At the time he said, “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
Do you shop at A&F?
Ever go into a store and just hate the customer service? You are not alone. According to a new American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, some of the country’s largest retailers have the worst customer service while, on the bright side, e-commerce retailers scored high customer satisfaction scores.
Recently, 24/7 Wall St reviewed the ACSI data to find the companies with the worst satisfaction scores in retail. On average, the traditional retail companies peaked at 76.6 on a 100-point scale in 2012. Internet retailers, however, had an average score of 82 last year. Out of the nine top retail companies with the worst ACSI scores, only one was an online retailer.
Here are the worst top three:
1. Walmart. Just because a company is a major chain doesn’t mean good customer service. In fact, it seems that the largest chains have the worst track record when it comes to satisfying customers. The $469.1 billion chain only received a score of 71 in the survey. For the purposes of the survey, Wal-Mart Stores was graded as a department and discount store.
When graded for customer satisfaction as a supermarket, Walmart’s ACSI score was not much better, at just a 72, reports the 24/7 Wall St. This was the worst in that category. Despite having a history of poor customer service, Walmart has not improved over the years. In fact, it has been the lowest-rated department or discount store in the nation every year between 2007 through 2012. And, it has been the lowest-rated supermarket every year since 2005. Even it’s e-commerce division doesn’t fare well. According to ForeSee’s E-Retail Satisfaction Index, Walmart received a grade of 78 on a 100 point scale during the 2012 holiday season, while rival Amazon.com led all e-retailers with a score of 88.
2. Netflix. This is the only e-commerce business that had poor grades. It earned a customer satisfaction score of only 75. The company, which makes $3.61 billion annually, was slightly up from 2011 when it received a score of just 74. Over the years it has been dropping in rank. Things got really bad in 2011 when Netflix enraged customers by increasing prices and announcing plans to separate its DVD rental and streaming platforms. But, writes the website, after a considerable hit to its image — consumers were outraged at the prospect of having to pay bills for two platforms that would not be coordinated — the company pulled the plug on the service split.
3. Safeway. Despite earning $44.21 billion each year, Safeway hasn’t put much of an effort in improving its customer service. The supermarket chain received a 75 on the customer satisfaction score. Safeway, which is among the nation’s largest retailers., has more than 1,600 stores. “In each of the past 10 years, Safeway has underperformed supermarkets as a whole in the ACSI,” reports 24/7 Wall St. Customers complain often about inaccurate pricing, which led the state of California to sue the company twice. In fact, a court order required Safeway to refund customers $5 or give them the product free-of-charge if they are charged more than the advertised price. Still, according to a report by CBS 5 in San Francisco the company still often overcharged consumers last year.
We wonder if convenience and affordability, at times, trump a retailer’s commitment to customer service. If you can find what you need at the cheapest price at one store, do you care if the sales associate says “please” and “thank you”? (Though that doesn’t explain what’s going on at Safeway.)
Do you shop at any of these stores? What do you think of their customer service?