By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
While visiting with family last weekend, I stopped in for a few hours of shopping at Bellevue Square, where my retail roots began.
As I soaked in the holiday buzz from the surrounding shoppers, I thought back to how my retail sales jobs as a young adult had prepared me in so many ways for my professional career including my new role as President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association.
Last weekend’s Halloween shopping rush began the buildup of the sales momentum of the holiday season, the busiest time of year for most retailers. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that our industry will create as many as 550,000-holiday seasonal jobs nationwide between now and the end of the fourth quarter.
At Bellevue Square, I was surrounded by shops that will open up many seasonal jobs throughout the coming months. Whether these positions fill temporary employment needs or open the door for retail careers, they help build critical skills that will span the years of any professional career.
It reminded me of the important career-building skills I learned working on the sales floor: how to listen and offer feedback; how to market your merchandise; how to be flexible and productive when business is slow; and how to pace yourself through long working hours when the holiday crowds are out and the lines get long.
The retail industry represents more than salespeople and store managers. There are retail careers that specialize in freight mobility, sourcing new products, buying merchandise, marketing and advertising. Additionally, advances in computer technology have created demand for skills in data research, sales tracking and revenue forecasting.
NRF expects holiday sales to be up an average of 4 percent this year across the nation. We seem at least as well positioned in Washington State with the lowest unemployment rates in 15 years. The housing market is booming and consumer confidence is strong heading into the shopping season.
I felt that optimism and excitement once again.
Maybe more important, though, was being reminded of our evolving and diverse industry, the new careers it is spawning and the great life skills employees can acquire by choosing a career in retail.