"Busy wives love the ease of shopping by phone," read a 1960s catalog for the country's biggest retailer. Sears can no longer lay claim to that title, and it discontinued its iconic catalog in 1993. But it remains a great American employer, with 3,447 openings last week alone.
Sears has been slipping since Kmart bought it in 2005. Its parent company, Sears Holdings, saw its sales drop by $9 billion in the last four years. It's been shuttering more than 100 stores, including all nine of its Great Indoor ones. Last December, Fitch Ratings downgraded it from a "B" to a "CCC." Last week, Daily Finance advised investors to sell, sell, sell. And last year, 24/7 Wall St. named Sears one of the brands that will probably disappear in 2012.
But the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company is still trucking along, and just last week opened its biggest ever Canadian outlet, which stretches an impressive 78,000 square feet. It's also hiring by the thousands, all across the country.
The jobs are primarily in customer service and sales roles, according to Sears spokeswoman Kimberly Freely, who says the pay and benefits are in line with their competitors. A sales associate at Sears earns an average of $8 an hour, according to Glassdoor.com, and raises aren't the easiest to come by, according to employees posting on the site. But Sears does let you contribute to a 401(k) and gives you health insurance, even as a part-timer, according to a Sears employee posting on Indeed.com. The hours are also flexible, and bonuses reward good work pretty well.
But some Sears employees are suspicious of the company's ongoing hiring spree. "They will hire at least two or three times the amount of people they need to for any sales department anytime of the year with these applicants hoping that something will stick," an employee in the electronic department at a Sears in Schenectady, N.Y., wrote on Indeed.com. Other employees say that turnover is dizzyingly fast, although Freely says the turnover is similar to the industry average.
"The problem is we don't get a protected territory, and many managers just keep hiring and hiring as many people as they can get because they don't have to pay us unless we sell ... kind of like a restaurant manager who hired 50 servers and then just gives each server 1 table," wrote a Sears employee in Madison, Wis. "The customer gets serviced the same, but the employees don't get the opportunity to make much of anything."
Despite these complaints about the pay scale, Sears employees on Glassdoor.com raved about their co-workers. One cashier said Sears "sorta becomes family."
And if you're a veteran, or the wife or husband of a soldier, then Sears will welcome you with especially open arms. Sears was one of the first three companies to partner with the White House on its Joining Forces project, and plans to hire 3,500 military veterans, reservists and military spouses this year, up from 1,800 in 2011. Sears also gave the largest single grant of all time -- $2.5 million -- to the National Military Family Association, to run summer camps for kids of deployed personnel. The retail chain has won awards from the Military Officers Association and the Secretary of Defense for its work.
The former king of American retail is now in 10th place, behind competitors like Walmart, The Home Depot, Costco, Target and Best Buy. But it does have two big things going for it, if you're looking for a job: it's an incredibly well-known and trusted 120-year-old brand, and it's hiring right now.
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