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Retail Jobs Exist Despite Recession: Q&A With

A lot of the news of late is focused on retail layoffs, from Sam's Club letting go of 11,000 workers to The Home Depot (HD) cutting back 1,000 jobs. But one firm is banking on the possibility of a turnaround. Two recruiting-firm veterans are launching Feb. 1, which specializes in hiring professionals looking for work in the retail and retail real estate industries. Co-presidents of the San Diego-based company, Roberta Rea and Beth Silverman, recently merged their respective firms, Roberta Rea + Co. and Silverman & Associates Executive Search, to start the venture. Rea and Silverman spoke with BNET Retail about the current retail job climate and how it's faring in challenging economic times.

BNET: Why did you decide to launch this site now?
Roberta Rea: We decided that the industry needed a niche Web site just for it alone. A lot of others

have them, but the shopping-center industry didn't. We found that after asking some of the companies that we work with that they were posting jobs on several different job alerts and not getting responses because they weren't drawing from our industry. So we decided to merge our companies and give them a one-stop resource for executive search and job postings.

Beth Silverman: Roberta and I carefully timed this. We felt that hiring is picking up, and this is a good time of year to launch. We're starting to get momentum, and we're really excited about the increase in hiring activity. We didn't want to be standing on the platform as the train left the station.

BNET: What kind of needs in the job market does this industry have that are different from other real estate fields?
RR: Some of the skills are transferable but some others are not. As the industry has had it's layoffs, they're looking for the talent that can give them multiple skill levels in the industry, so there's someone who can bring more value to the company, like a manager who can do marketing or leasing as well.

BS: Our client feedback has been that they truly want a recruiting partner that specializes and has experience exclusively in the shopping center and retail arena. We do not just do real estate placements. If you're a retailer or a developer, we provide job placement all the way from the store level to the CEO level. They truly wanted a one-stop shop, a recruiting partner that understands their business and works exclusively in their world. We know the players, and we understand their needs.


BNET: Are you seeing any kind of consistency in the types of jobs that are in demand?
RR: What I've seen is mostly on-site management for shopping centers and marketing.

BS: What we're encouraged to see is that in the last 30 days we're seeing more acquisition and leasing positions come on line, so it's not just about managing the existing assets, which you have to do regardless of a recession. Most of the acquisitions positions are looking for someone who knows where the value is and is trying to figure out where the industry is going right now. They want to know what kind of value it would bring to a portfolio or property.

BNET: How are store closures impacting the job market? BS: On the retail side, what we have seen over the last year, even with the store closures, it just makes the hiring market tighter with respect to the level of talent. Our clients all have wanted to increase the benchmark of talent. They want the best players out there.

RR: The thing I've seen on the shopping center side is that with the vacancies they're looking more on the leasing side whether it be employees or contract people. They're a little bit more strategic in trying to find those hard-to-find tenants that are still out there looking to grow.

BS: The shopping center landlords are doing everything they can to maintain occupancy levels and not loose additional tenants.

BNET: Are you seeing more activity from the real estate side or retail companies right now?
BS: On the retail side, people are not hiring talent. If anything, they're still contracting. On the developer side, we're seeing a pick up in the hiring of leasing talent.

RR: And marketing and management as well.

BS: The feedback we get from our developer clients in terms of bringing on new leasing talent is, as the deals get tougher and tougher, and as they contracted last year and downsized in staff, the leasing people were handling too many centers and now there's an adjustment. Deals are tougher to do, and they need more talent to get it done.

BNET: Do you see a turnaround for the industry in 2010, or will retail feel more pain?
BS: We're seeing a definite upswing in hiring, but I don't think that the layoffs are over.

RR: The ones that made it through the first year are trimming back now but not as severely as last year.

BS: We're going to see an increase in hiring, but it won't be until 2011 when we see a real recovery.