Retail store job cuts deepen as more buyers migrate online


(Source: Manila Bulletin | 8 April 2017)

Retail stores in the U.S. are cutting jobs at the sharpest pace in more than seven years with combined 60,600 retail job losses over the past two months as Americans increasingly shop online.

Traditional stores, from J.C. Penney to Macy’s, have accelerated store closures and are experimenting with the use of fewer employees to staff the remaining stores. Moreover, a string of bankruptcy filings have bruised the industry, most recently from Payless ShoeSource is closing nearly 400 stores, nearly 10 percent of its fleet.

While job cuts in the retail industry are still a relatively minor burden for the overall U.S. economy, retail accounts for nearly one-third of first-time jobs in the United States, so a retrenchment by the industry’s employers can block access to the job market for many.

As shopping on the web has expanded, retail jobs have represented a declining share of the labor market. They now account for 10.9 percent of jobs, compared with 11.6 percent in 2000, says Michael Niemira, principal of The Retail Economist, a research firm. And experts expect more store closings — and job losses — in coming months.

“It’s principally about the impact of online shopping and how consumers are shopping differently than ever before,” Niemira said. “It’s harder for the industry to consistently do well and make money.”

Retail wages are not keeping pace as well. Average hourly earnings for retail employees, including managers, has inched up just 1.1 percent over the past year, compared with a 2.7 percent average increase for all U.S. workers.

Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics LLC, a research firm, says he expects earnings for the first quarter for the 113 retailers he tracks to drop 6.8 percent. That would be the worst quarterly performance since 2013.


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