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Retail Industry Job Outlook

Clothing, accessory, and general merchandise stores will have many job openings over the 200818 period, fueled by the large number of workers who transfer to jobs in other industries and must be replaced. Employment growth will be steady and determined mostly by consumer behavior and preferences.

Overall, the number of wage and salary jobs in clothing, accessory, and general merchandise stores is expected to increase 11 percent over the 200818 period, on par with the 11 percent increase projected for all industries combined. Growth of this industry is extremely dependent on consumers' spending habits and the health of the economy. Growth will be the result of an increasing number of consumers and will keep in line with the overall growth of the economy. Many wholesale clubs and superstores will expand, creating numerous jobs in this industry, especially in sales and related occupations. Employment in full-service department stores will slowly decline as more people buy from warehouse clubs and superstores. Discount department stores, however, will continue to see growth..

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Alternative retail outlets, such as mail-order companies, home shopping, and the Internet, will continue to take some business away from traditional retail stores. However, this trend will be minimized as traditional retailers increase their presence in these outlets. Although online sales are expected to grow, sales at traditional retail stores are projected to continue to account for a major portion of total retail sales. Also, electronic commerce will increase job opportunities in other occupations, such as Internet sales managers, webmasters, technical support workers, and other related workers.

Many stores in this industry, particularly clothing and accessory stores, are highly sensitive to changes in the economy and to changing tastes of consumers. Guessing wrong on upcoming trends, especially several years in a row, or being unable to weather a recession can cause even large, well-established stores to go bankrupt or out of business. As a result, changes in employment can be volatile and may include periods of rapid increases and decreases in the number of jobs.

Worker productivity is increasing because of technological advances, particularly among clerks, managers, and buyers. For example, computerized systems allow companies to streamline purchasing and obtain customer information and preferences, reducing the need for buyers. In addition, RFID technology has the potential to consolidate many storage-room jobs. However, employment of workers such as retail salespersons and cashiers, who interact personally with customers, will not be as detrimentally affected by technological advances because direct customer contact will remain important.

Numerous job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave jobs in this large industry. Jobs will be available for young workers, first-time jobseekers, persons with limited job experience, senior citizens, and people seeking part-time work, such as those with young children or those who wish to supplement their income from other jobs. Persons with a college degree and computer skills will be sought for managerial positions.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition

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