Monday, July 2, 2007

Better Wages, Jucier Perks

Pedestrians strolling around New York’s Union Square may notice something strange: Shoe Mania, Sephora, Babies “R” Us, The Children’s Place and Staples all have “help wanted” signs in their windows.

The hiring trend is hardly limited to that area. Sales managers across the city are scrambling to fill their rosters in time for the holiday season.

With a record number of retail jobs in the city, the demand for good help is rising. Chains are expanding, new stores are opening and bank branches continue to lure entry-level workers away from the retail sector. To compete, retailers are spicing up their hiring packages with better wages juicier perks and the promise of career opportunities.

The city counted more than 286,600 retail jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in August, up from the December 2000 record of 284,000, according to Jones Lang LaSalle. The trend contrasts with the national scene, where retail is losing jobs.

To attract salespeople and supervisors some New York retailers are simply increasing wages. Fishs Eddy, a dishware chain offers “above-average” pay to land experienced employees, reports owner Julie Gaines. Her floor managers earn as much as $18 an hour.

The median hourly wage for retail workers in the city hit $10.59 in June, up 2.7% from June 2005. Even so, the figure falls short of the $14.91 median hourly pay for all workers.

The fiscal realities of these jobs make them best suited to young people who need extra cash while they pursue a college degree or acting career. To entice this fickle workforce, employers are sweetening the position with steep employee discounts, flexible schedules and even health benefits for part-timers – a rare offer until now.

Original story published in Crain's New York Business

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