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Retail Roundup: Specialty Stores Succeed, e-Bay Points Compass Overseas

Specialty apparel stores add new hires while department stores trim staff -- While department stores are feeling a heavy blow thanks to decreased consumer spending, specialty stores seem to be grappling their way through the dark economy without picking up too many bruises along the way. While department stores shed 10,800 jobs in September, specialty apparel stores added 2,600, according to the Labor Department. The shift in power is significant: For the first time in nearly 20 years, the number of people employed by specialty stores is greater than the number of people in the department store workforce. [Source: Footwear News]
e-Bay looks to expand overseas -- While consumers are holding onto their purse strings tightly, eBay has been on a buying binge, picking up two online classifieds businesses as well as the online payment-service company Bill Me Later. Bill Me Later is trumped in popularity only by PayPal, which is already held by eBay. eBay Officials predict Bill Me Later, which cost the company $820 million in cash and $125 million in options, will make checkouts easier for consumers. Meanwhile eBay officials hope the $390 million purchase of the Danish online classifieds sites bilbasen.dk and dba.dk will draw international customers to the online auction site while U.S. spending is curbed. [Source: Forbes]

Retail sites still making rookie mistakes -- Only 3 percent of Web sites passed Forrester Research's usability test during a recent study analyzing e-commerce. "The No. 1 failure, believe it or not, is text legibility," Forrester Vice President Bruce Temkin said, adding that a positive customer experience is vital for online retailers. Inefficient checkout processes that force customers to complete too many steps are among other common pitfalls, he said. [Source: Internetretailer]

Walgreens exec named to JCPenney's board -- Walgreens CEO Jeffrey A. Rein is set to join JCPenney's board of directors in December, according to a press release from the department-store chain. Rein, who started his career with Walgreens as an assistant manager 27 years ago, joins a board composed of established leaders from companies like Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, RadioShack, and Build-A-Bear. "Walgreens and JCPenney's core principles are strongly aligned," Rein said. "I look forward to working with the board to build on JCPenney's growth and success over the long term." [Source: Business Wire]

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