Despite Reported Decline, Columbia Retail Stores Say Staffing Is Strong

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COLUMBIA - Marcedes Hurd is a sales associate at Envy in downtown Columbia. She said that for the past year and a half, she noticed the staff of Envy would grow with each new season.

"We just got in a new batch for the fall, and we get new employees in fall, winter because of seasonal hiring, and spring and summer," Hurd said.

She also said she estimates that Envy has taken on a total of 20 new staff members throughout this past year.

But her observation may not be truly representative of the state of retail positions across the state.

According to recent statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Missouri has lost almost 9,000 retail jobs over the past year, the third largest decline in the United States. Only Indiana and Illinois have lost more positions.

Megan Hebisen is a manager at Elly's Couture in Columbia. She said that over the past year, she also has had to hire even more associates to deal with increasing traffic in the store.

"We have just been so much busier just because of Columbia and Mizzou entering the SEC, and game days have been crazy," Hebisen said.

She said she is surprised to hear that Missouri has lost such a large amount of retail jobs because they have been so busy in downtown Columbia, but cites the economy as reasons why she thinks larger cities might see a decline in retail positions.

"It's easy to cut part-time jobs for people. In retail, it's the easiest way to get new people in and out, it's easy to train someone in retail, so I think it's an easy place to cut," Hebisen said.

Hurd said she is not at all shocked to hear that so many jobs are being lost in retail across the state.

"With the economy being so low, and people not being able to buy as much, especially college students, it doesn't surprise me that stores cannot hold as much staff at a time," she said.

She also said she thinks the problem is hitting Midwestern states hardest because of fashion students' desires to move outside of the Midwest once they graduate.

"A lot of people are moving to other places for better pay and betetr retail jobs. People are going to places like L.A. and New York and Texas, and those places may have a higher cost of living, but the minimum pay may be higher," Hurd said.

When asked about whether a loss like this could be a sign that holiday hiring will also be down later this year, Hurd said she thinks the loss will trigger an even greater demand around November. What she wonders about, however, is whether those seasonal employees will be able to stay on as regular employees after the holidays.

Illinois lost the most retail jobs in the past year, with 13,700 jobs lost, followed by Indiana at 9,400.