When retail goes wrong and stores close or whole chains liquidate, sales associates can get lost in the shuffle, tending to cash registers and stocking shelves as inventory is sold off at steeper and steeper discounts.
Now Hilco Global — one of the industry’s biggest liquidators — is helping to ease a difficult phase for both employees and retailers with CareerFlex, an outplacement service built with store associates in mind.
The cloud-based CareerFlex helps retail’s front line workers find new jobs by providing tools to help them write a résumé, prepare for an interview and more. The company, which was founded in 2017 and quietly bought by Hilco last year, also keeps a database of workers that is shared with hiring services and companies to help find them work home once the store goes dark.
Nick Keefe, cofounder and president of CareerFlex, said: “None of them have been fired. These are all qualified workers who are losing their jobs due to factors beyond their control, that makes them very desirable from a hiring standpoint.”
CareerFlex has worked with Topshop, Avenue, Gymboree, Charming Charlie and others as they closed down stores. Keefe said companies operating in the gig economy have been reaching out and looking to pick up workers transitioning out of retail.
“On demand labor, that’s becoming increasingly more important,” he said.
It’s a service that’s built for store associates, but is also intended to help retailers. And plenty more help might be needed. According to Coresight Research, the industry is on track to shutter a total of 12,000 doors this year — a trend hitting banners across the spectrum, from Barneys New York to Forever 21, both of which filed for bankruptcy.
Typically, liquidators bring in “supervisors” to lead the wind down process at a store — a task complicated as associates start to look more toward the horizon.
“We leverage that network that already exists in a traditional bankruptcy, store closing process and we use those supervisors as our advocates to get as many touch points as possible with the employee,” Keefe said. “Part of it is to create an environment that is much healthier. The supervisors are able to talk about something that is very positive, able to give employees a service that they didn’t have. Now these employees have access to an outplacement service, they have an outlet.”
CareerFlex also helps retailers keep employees on task in a difficult time by offering them a customized letter of recommendation for staying on as the store closes, which can then be attached to their resumes or otherwise used to help them secure a new job.
“This letter of recommendation has been a great thing for the employees; it’s probably the number one thing we get questions about from our employees,” Keefe said.