Clothing, Accessory, and General Merchandise Stores

Significant Points

* Sales and administrative support jobs account for 84 percent of employment in the industry.
* Most jobs do not require formal education; many people get their first jobs in this industry.
* Clothing, accessory, and general merchandise stores offer many part-time jobs, but earnings are relatively low.
* Many workers in this large industry transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force, so there will be numerous job openings.

Nature of the Industry
Goods and services.

Clothing, accessory, and general merchandise stores are some of the most visited retail establishments in the country. Whether shopping for an item of clothing, a piece of jewelry, a household appliance, or even food, you will likely go to one of these stores to make your purchase or compare selections with other retail outlets.

Industry organization. General merchandise stores sell a large assortment of items. Among stores in this industry are department stores—including discount department stores—supercenters, and warehouse club stores, as well as “dollar stores,” which sell a wide variety of inexpensive merchandise.

Department stores sell an extensive selection of merchandise, with no one line predominating. As the name suggests, these stores generally are arranged into departments, each headed by a manager. The various departments may sell apparel, furniture, appliances, home furnishings, cosmetics, jewelry, paint and hardware, electronics, and sporting goods. They also may sell services, such as optical, photography, and pharmacy services. Discount department stores typically rely more on self-service features and have centrally located cashiers. Department stores that sell large items, such as major appliances, usually provide delivery and installation services. Upscale department stores may offer tailoring for their clothing lines and more personal service.

Warehouse club stores and supercenters, the fastest growing segment of this industry, sell an even more eclectic mix of products and services to consumers, typically at reduced prices. These stores usually include an assortment of food items, often sold in bulk, along with an array of household and automotive goods, clothing, and services that may vary over time. Often, such stores require that shoppers purchase a membership that entitles them to shop there. They offer very little service and usually require the customer to take home the item purchased in lieu of delivery.

Compared with department stores, clothing and accessory stores sell a much narrower group of items that include apparel for all members of the family, as well as shoes, luggage, leather goods, lingerie, jewelry, uniforms, and bridal gowns. Stores in this sector may sell a relatively broad range of these items or concentrate on a few. They often are staffed with knowledgeable salespersons who can help in the selection of sizes, styles, and accessories. Many of these stores are located in shopping malls across the country and have significantly fewer workers than department stores.
Recent developments.

In recent years, many department stores in this industry have consolidated, seeking more efficient operations in order to stay competitive. Some clothing, accessory, and general merchandise stores also are moving toward obtaining goods directly from the manufacturer, bypassing the wholesale level completely. In addition, many large retailers try to reach as many different consumers as possible and so have added online stores, discount outlets, and, sometimes, high-end boutiques, the latter because many apparel and accessories shoppers enjoy designer and other high-society items. E-commerce also continues to be a popular way for consumers to shop and for stores to showcase all of their items for sale.

Some larger national retailers, such as superstores, have begun to institute radio-frequency identification technology (RFID) into their logistics and inventory systems. They have many different goods to keep track of, making RFID a cost-effective investment.

Source: bls.gov, keypointpartners.com, cooltownstudios.com,

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