Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

Posts about Retail

Retailers report slight hiring burst in October

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: November 8, 2011 - 1:46 PM

Holiday hiring bounced to a relatively strong start last month with retailers adding 141,500 non-seasonally adjusted jobs in October, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. That nearly matched the 144,100 retail jobs added in October 2010.

"The first month of holiday hiring both this year and last represent vast improvements over the recession years of 2007 through 2009," said CEO John Challenger.

From 2007 through 2009, retailers added just 57,200 seasonal workers for the entire month of October.

The year 2008 alone proved the worst holiday-hiring season in 22 years with retailers only adding 38,600 seasonal workers in October and 324,000 total workers from October through December.

For now, all eyes are on retail activity this month. “November will give us the best indication of how 2011 stacks up when it comes to holiday hiring. That is usually when we see the highest number of jobs added,” Challenger said.

He and other sector watchers, however, said that this holiday season faces some head winds as consumer confidence remains brittle and burdened by weak job gains nationwide and continued signs of anemic economic growth. That affects retailers decision to hire. 

While holiday hiring helps, there are still nearly 14 million unemployed Americans and another 12 million or so who either stopped looking for work or are working part time jobs because they can't find full time work.

“Even if retailers dramatically increase hiring in November, it will not be easy to find a job for those seeking seasonal positions,’’ Challenger said.”People who may have never considered working in retail in the past may now be willing to do so in light of long-term unemployment.”

Consumers still buying. Just not flowers.

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: September 28, 2011 - 11:36 AM

 Sick and tired of all the bad news, research firm Sageworks decided to do a little snooping and found some fun facts that you won't see in any of the economic reports due out this week.

The Consumer Confidence Report came out Tuesday with sad news that consumer shopping remained as weak as bland tea in September, even after falling to depression-era lows in August. 

Undaunted, the folks at Sageworks decided to find out just where the money's going. Turns out consumers ARE shopping their little hearts out. Just not where you think. Flowers are out and cars are "in."

After studying the financial statements from 10,200 CPAs and bankers , Sageworks learned a little bit about the taste of their clients.

Automobile dealers reported that sales are up nicely at 14.8 percent, while flower sales at florists fell half a percentage point in the last 12 months.

Gas stations saw a 14.26 percent uptick in sales over the last 12 months after seeing a pathetic 17 percent drop in 2009. Nice recovery.

All other categories of merchandise except flowers rose in the single digits.

Auto parts, furniture and clothing stores produced decent 8.43 percent, 7 percent and 6.8 percent rises, respectively. 

Rounding out the bottom of the list sat: depressed florists (-0.52 percent), lawn and garden centers (up 1.6 percent) , Beer Wine and Liquor (up 3.93 percent)  and Health and Personal Care Stores (up 4.01 percent). 

Surprisingly jewelry sales rose 4.8 percent in the last 12 months. Economists have noted that some luxury items such as jewelry do well during bad economic times. Maybe pearls and touch of gold can rescue the rest of us from financial  doldrums.   




Holiday hiring in question

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: September 19, 2011 - 10:59 AM

The stubbornly slow economy means retailers could shorten their list of 2011 holiday hires from last year, according to a new report out Monday by employment pros Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In a missive entitled “Slowing Recovery Threatens Holiday Hiring,” Challenger forecasts that seasonal job gains in the retail sector will be the same or lower than a year ago when employment grew by 627,600 jobs from October through December.

They admit that last year’s holiday hiring proved  “better than expected” with a (stunning) 27 percent leap from the dismal recession-burdened retail season of 2008. That year proved a “the worst showing since 1982.”

Fast forward to next month, and officials fear that consumers may pull back again given the recent weak economic news.

• Last week the U.S. Commerce Department reported that August retail sales failed to change from July and went further in downgrading July’s previous report. 

• Separately, the International Council of Shopping Centers forecast a 3.5 percent growth in retail sales for November and December. That’s below the 4.4 percent seen in 2010.

“The retail environment has improved significantly since 2008, when the recession was at its worst. However, retailers are seeing several signs that consumer spending is dipping just as they are beginning to make decisions about how many workers to add for the upcoming holidays. This does not bode well for job seekers,” said CEO John Challenger in a statement. “It would be surprising if holiday hiring exceeded last year’s level.”

He added that holiday employment gains will  “definitely” not reach pre-recession levels, when stores hired an average 720,000 seasonal hires from October to December.

In Minnesota, the home of behemoths Best Buy and Target, state officials noted last week that the Trade, Transportation & Utilities sector that includes retail gained 12,400 jobs between August 2010 and August 2011. The sector gained 4,100 jobs in August alone.

However, Steve Hine, director of Minnesota's Labor Market Information Office, credited those job gains to spikes in the wholesale sector, not retail.

Are you plannig to seek a job this holiday season? If so, contact



Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters