Some Hope for Retail Execs

By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com senior writer

cheers bartender NEW YORK -- The recession has already claimed hundreds of thousands of store jobs in the past 12 months. Now it's slicing into the ranks of retailing's other talent pool -- white-collar professionals.

These are store managers, district managers, all the way up the corporate ladder to vice presidents and higher from now-defunct chains such as Linens 'N Things, Circuit City and Fortunoff.

But one company's loss is another business' treasure.

Until a few weeks ago, Kevin Rigsby was a former district service manager with Circuit City. Rigsby, 27, handled home theater sales and installation for the Chicago metropolitan area and parts of Wisconsin.

In January, the electronics seller announced it was going out of business.

But don't feel bad for Rigsby. He's one of the lucky ones who has bounced back.

He's now a Snap-on franchisee. Snap-on operates mobile stores that sell high-end professional hand tools and power tools to independent repair shops, auto dealerships and industrial manufacturers.

Rigsby said the transition to Snap-on from his retailing background first as a Best Buy employee and then with Circuit City "made perfect sense."

"I got a thorough education at Best Buy and Circuit City. I learned about P&L (profit and loss) management, customer service, solution-based sales," he said. "In many ways, it was like a top notch four-year business degree."

His advice to others who've been laid off from a similar retail job to his is this: "Just because you've been selling electronics before doesn't mean you can't learn to sell something else," he said. "That's the first thing they teach you in retail."

Barrie Young, Snap-on's president of worldwide sales and worldwide franchising, said 40% of the company's new franchisees over the last nine months have held prior management jobs with merchants such as Circuit City, OfficeMax and Home Depot.

At the same time, his company has been courting these white-collar workers as well.


More From CNNMoney.com

"Our business requires people with certain professional skills," he said. "You can teach anyone about a product, but knowing how to service the customer is critical in any business."


Start-up Money

Besides their retail expertise, Young said these are also folks who have the financial means to invest in a franchise, which can be a pricey endeavor. The out-of-pocket cost for joining the Snap-on franchise can range between $16,000 to $25,000, he said.

Coming up with the money was a challenge for Rigsby. His starting investment was $10,000, which he managed through credit and his own savings. And he's worked out a 27-month lease for his Snap-on mobile store van for which he pays about $1,600 a month.

So far, his business is off to a steady start. "Some weeks are better than others," he said, adding that the economy has slowed down demand for premium services and repairs.

Still, Rigsby said he's "making more than enough to pay my bills and keep my family secure."

According to employment tracking firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, the retail industry eliminated close to 5,000 management jobs in 2008 and another 1,750 white-collar jobs just in the last month.

These numbers look relatively miniscule compared to the 81,621 total retail-related layoffs last year and another 72,727 industry jobs lost so far in 2009.

However, analysts point out that the loss of expertise and intelligence associated with these professional positions is a critical blow to an industry that's already reeling from the recession.

"It'll be a real shame if these people can't keep doing what they are so well trained to do," said Craig Slavin, chairman and founder of consulting firm Franchise Architects.

Store closings to date have resulted in $37 billion in lost retail sales. The reality is that these stores aren't coming back, said George Rosenbaum, chairman of retail consulting firm Leo J. Shapiro.

So as the industry continues to contract, it will also see loss of major retail talent and intelligence, especially at the managerial level.

"Some white-collar jobs are transferable to a non-retail industry like health care. But it's not going to be easy. The job market isn't robust right now," said Rosenbaum.

Still, three things that retail professionals have going for them is that they are "smart and highly employable" and know how to work with large groups, he said.

Also, retail managers typically don't earn as much as their counterparts in other industries, making them attractive to employers focused on lowering payroll costs.


'The history of retailing'

Jason Dilaura, 36, quit as store manager of a Big Lots store in California six months ago. He wasn't laid off, but given the unraveling of his industry in this economic downturn, he wasn't taking chances.

What's more, he was burned out and felt "underpaid."

"I was working long hours with nothing to show for it," he said. And giving up on a steady paycheck was a risk, he was willing to take it in order to spend more time with his two young daughters.

Dilaura is also a Snap-on franchisee. "I'm working for myself now. I have more freedom," he said. Although he's still working long hours, he has the weekends off. More importantly he's still utilizing his retail skills, albeit in a slightly different setting.

For now, Dilaura is hitting his breakeven point in most weeks.

Both Rigsby's and Dilaura's stories don't have to be the exceptions, said Stevan Buxbaum, retail analyst with consulting firm Buxbaum Group.

"Many retailers are going out of business because the concept doesn't work anymore or because of financial problems. It's not because people working for them were incompetent," said Buxbaum.

For his part, Buxbaum thinks recessions are actually good for the industry.

"Retailing is like a disease. Either you have it in your blood or you don't," he said.

"Many people will lose their jobs and go elsewhere, but many others will find a way to create a new business or become entrepreneurs," he said.

"This is the history of retailing. From the ashes a phoenix will rise. This is how two guys years ago created a company called Home Depot," said Buxbaum.

Next: Jobs That Pay $30/Hour >>

Find a Job

Search by Company | Search by Industry

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

74 Comments

Filter by:
Rsingsun

Now a days RetailCrossing.com have become the one only reliable site for retail jobs .Marketing jobs have become the most wanted job as the employment is not increasing with the growth of population. The people all over the world always think about the career in retail jobs . Because this supplies better salary and better facilities along with better accommodation system. RetailCrossing is job searching site which keeps track of all these retail jobs . They always view the marketing job descriptions and the job vacancies empty in the renowned companies. The site have researchers to analyze the best jobs from all the jobs which is helpful to its subscribers. And not only is it not a scam, RetailCrossing works. I mean it really works, and I would choose RetailCrossing again and again for all my employment needs to find retail manager jobs , fashion retail jobs , part time retail jobs etc.. I have recommended this website to friends in hope that they will be able to find a marketing job to make their career.Jobs like retail sales jobs and other jobs in retail are listed in this site so that anyone looking for sales jobs marketing job titles get the right information about retail jobs.

February 06 2010 at 9:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cornel

WHATTT "RECESSION"????



There is a "Famous" Quote that goes something like this, "The Major
Key To Your Better "Financial" Future Is YOU!"

If you are Open-Minded, a BIG Thinker and ready to get your "own"
(MBA)Massive-Bank-Account, CHECK THIS OUT!!!

What Do You Have To LOSE?>http://www.casshnurface.com

April 19 2009 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carl

Well starting your own business is always a risky proposition.A franchise should cut the learning curve but that too comes at a cost.I am a franchise and business broker.I see dozens if not 100's of businesses annually.I can say emphatically that there is a particular franchise that is small,tight,very selective and hioghly ethical with no failures to date of the 33 they have.They are also flourishing somewhat during this economy.
www.tristatebusinessauthority.com or 908-887-4959

April 16 2009 at 3:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Julio

That is why the best way to make money is to do something your good at and love to do.We have been in business three years now.We specialize in power window systems for domestic and foriegn vehicles.(POWER WINDOW"S IS OUR SPECIALTY)
www.cflwindowregulators.com

April 16 2009 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Curtis Bostic

Here is a site that does everything and even advertises for you with a one time fee not monthly like most others http://www.f5m-millionaires-club.com/freereport/?id=mc100crb

April 16 2009 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wes

These are great comments, and they all sound good. I get so many e-mails everyday telling me how to start my own business, I don't know who to believe anymore.One says, no start-up costs, and another says low costs, and after a while they all begin to look and sound the same.I would love to work from my home, I have a complete office set up, and all I need now is an HONEST chance. Any takers??

April 16 2009 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Barbara

Congratulations to the new Snap-on dealers. Great product, It's been around for a long time. I understand their new career tracks, as I was laid off as a nurse. Yes even the healthcare industry is cuting back. However, like the 2 gentlemen in this article, I decided to make my own path and control my future. I followed a little different path with less investment and minimal overhead. I will thankfully never have to rely on an employer again. Yes, folks in spite of our economic times, the U.S. is still the greatest country in the world, with the brightest minds. Here's wishing all prosperity in there futures. http://www.bign.com/bmarchant

April 16 2009 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Julie

Franchises aren't for everyone. If you want some FREE TIPS on building income check out: whynotnetworkmarketing.net

April 16 2009 at 1:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stallone

Exactly how much did SNAP ON pay AOL for this "Advertisement" I mean story???

April 16 2009 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
carman73

Snap-on Corporate does not care about their franchisees, they are only concerned about market share and dividends to investors. So many people have been sold a bill of goods, and then driven into bankruptcy. If it sounds to good to be true...it is!

April 16 2009 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

Week of Oct 26 - Nov 2
View All

Picks From the Web