Sears Canada Employees Face Options After Retailer Collapse

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By Mario Toneguzzi

Thousands of people across the country now find themselves out of work after Sears Canada shut down all its stores.

But a retail employment specialist says the prospect of future work for them really depends on what type of roles they had with the former Canadian retail giant.

 Suzanne Sears - President at Best Retail Careers International Inc.

Suzanne Sears - President at Best Retail Careers International Inc.

Suzanne Sears, of Toronto-based Best Retail Careers International Inc., which is retained primarily by retailers to do private searches to fill vacancies or key replacements from the CEO to sales clerk level, said most of the store level staff will be absorbed fairly easily with the only obstacle being the higher salaries of the long-timers.

“There’s a huge market for what we would call street level retailers. There’s a big shortage of them and Sears people are relatively well respected at that level. So I would assume that they would be absorbed rather quickly,” said Sears.

“The only caveat for them is since so many of them have been in those roles for so long and had the commensurate wage increases over the years they might not find the same levels of compensation available to them on a job for job basis. Many will get a sticker shock but they will find work. There’s no question.”

She said senior store managers making pretty close to six figure salaries will have a tougher time replacing those jobs at that compensation level. There are also quite a few district sales managers and home field district managers, who oversaw various home renovations, who will also take a little bit longer to find new employment.

“Where it really becomes challenging is to all the head office staff. Those who were in accounting, finance, IT, there’s still a significant demand for that talent. So they should find new positions probably pretty close to the compensation levels,” said Sears.

“What no longer exists are merchandising, inventory and buying jobs. All of the people in those categories are really going to be stressed to find comparable work. The reason for that is most of the growth in Canadian retail has been foreign be it China, USA or European brands and they pretty well manage their own buying, marketing, inventory, supply chain from outside of the country. So when you take that entire segment of supply chain management out of the market these are the people that are going to have a very difficult time because that category of jobs no longer exists at least not in retail.”

  (Capilano Mall in North Vancouver, BC, on Sunday, January 15, 2017. Photo: Lee Rivett) 

(Capilano Mall in North Vancouver, BC, on Sunday, January 15, 2017. Photo: Lee Rivett) 

 Sears Metrotown: Former Sears Canada CEO Ron Boire visited the Burnaby store in 2015 as part of his B.C. tour. Boire stopped to visit with Metrotown employees Joyce Chien, Vicky Hernandez and Bianca Leung. Photo:  LARRY WRIGHT/BURNABY NOW

Sears Metrotown: Former Sears Canada CEO Ron Boire visited the Burnaby store in 2015 as part of his B.C. tour. Boire stopped to visit with Metrotown employees Joyce Chien, Vicky Hernandez and Bianca Leung. Photo: LARRY WRIGHT/BURNABY NOW

If they were to find those types of jobs, most of them would be in Montreal or Vancouver and not so much in Toronto, she said, adding that most people would not be prepared to move.

“The other sad piece is how many are being turfed very near but not quite at the ends of their careers and sadly ageism exists,” added Sears.

If the more senior Sears people can adapt and adjust to the changing retail environment like taking a one-year consulting gig or filling in for a maternity leave, they will find opportunity in the marketplace.

“Their expertise is beyond doubt. They have those skills. But they may have to sell them somewhere to a market more in short-term contract work than ever-finding an entity like Sears to hitch their star to,” said Sears.

Some will also take the opportunity now to be self-employed.

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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