Category Archives: Collateral

Love and money

KALAMAZOO — Retailers are hoping more Valentine’s Day red this year — roses, wrapped gifts and boxes of candy — will mean more green.

Purveyors of flowers, jewelry and candy say they are expecting better sales this year versus last because of an improvement in the economy.

Some store owners who are not usually open on Sunday said they plan to be open to accommodate last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers.

“For the last few days, sales have been up a little,” Rosemary Herder, of Heilman’s Nuts and Confections in Kalamazoo, said Thursday.

Herder co-owns the business with her husband, Dan.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate and dark chocolate caramels are expected to help Heilman’s reach a 25 percent increase in sales this Valentine’s Day compared to 2010.

“I think a lot of people are seeing that the economy is getting better,” Herder said, “but Valentine’s Day encourages them to think about others.”

The average sale at Heilman’s thus far has been 1-pound and 1.5-pound boxes of chocolates or strawberries. Come Monday, Herder said she expects to be “real busy,” but she won’t be open on Sunday because that’s a day of rest for her and her husband.

Pam Porritt, owner of Plainwell Flowers, said she will open her shop on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to avoid the “Monday craziness.”

“There will be no deliveries, but we’ll be taking orders and doing cash and carry,” Porritt said.

While the economy may be getting better in certain areas, Porritt said she doesn’t think florists are feeling it just yet. She said she thinks many people still see flowers as a luxury item. But she hopes her shop will do as well as it did last Valentine’s Day.

“What we’re seeing with customers is they may not be able to afford or want to spend money on a dozen roses ($80 at Plainwell Flowers),” she said. “We’re seeing them order smaller arrangements between $35 and $40, and some people are coming in to buy a single rose or a box of candy.”

Fellow florist Charlie Schafer said he expects his average sale this Valentine’s Day to range from $50 to $75.

“Most people still love the red roses,” said Schafer, who owns Schafer’s Flowers on Stadium Drive. “Whether they buy one rose or 100, they’re still treated the same. For those who prefer something else, we’ve got over 200 varieties of flowers.”

Sales were up 3 percent last year for Schafer, who said he’s looking for a “good 5 to 10 percent increase” this year. He said his store will be open Sunday to take care of last-minute customers.

“We do half or more of our business during the last one or two days,” Schafer said. “It is one of the largest floral holidays there are.”

He said florists do better when Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday “because if it’s a Saturday or Sunday, people tend to go spend money on dinner or movie.”

For Elie Abou-Rjeileh, store manager at Medawar Jewelers, on South Westnedge Avenue, the day of the week makes no difference as far as he knows. Last Valentine’s Day, he said last-minute shoppers took numbers and stood in a line that snaked around his store.

On Thursday, Abou-Rjeileh said there had been steady traffic all day, and he expected an increase leading up to and on Monday. He said the store will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“Last year was an exceptional Valentine’s Day, but we’re already ahead of last year in day-to-day sales,” Abou-Rjeileh said.

Carrying exclusive rights to the Pandora jewelry line in the Kalamazoo area and the addition of Ice Watches to Medawar’s product lineup has helped boost the store’s sales, he said. While people are still willing to purchase an engagement ring for about $15,000 for their Valentine, Abou-Rjeileh said they can just as easily buy Pandora beads for $30 to $100 each to add to a bracelet.

Key designs are likely to be the big seller for Romantica Jewelers on Oakland Drive. Ray Carrie, owner of Romantica, said the pendants in the shape of a key are available in plain metals or metals set with diamonds.

“We’ve sold more key designs than anything with hearts in it,” Carrie said. “The last few years have been a little soft because of the economic uncertainty. I think we’ve bottomed out and things are starting to turn around.”

Carrie said he won’t open his store on Sunday, but he expects to do more sales this year than last Valentine’s Day, the majority of them between Thursday and Monday.

”Business has picked up and people are willing to spend a little more money,” Carrie said.

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Millennials and their Babyboomer parents

A speaker at Catalyst University (sponsored by Southwest Michigan First) said Millennials (between 15 and 30 years of age) value family and are very close to their parents. As the mother of a 15-year-old and 19-year-old and the stepmother of a 20-year-old and 18-year-old this was a wonderful thing to hear.

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Things Are Looking Up

As economy improves, more temp workers are being converted to permanent employees

PORTAGE — Barb Miner wasn’t looking for another career. She was searching for a job which would supplement an early retirement package she received when she left the former Pharmacia Corp., now Pfizer Corp., after 27 years there.

But after spending a year as a temporary employee with a Portage manufacturing company, Miner was hired as a permanent human resources administrator and receptionist.

More temporary workers are being given permanent positions, area staffing agencies representatives say. It’s a trend that may show that companies are feeling more secure about their future because they’re willing to ramp up hiring rather than relying solely on temporary workers.

“What we’ve seen for the last three quarters is significant growth in terms of hiring activity with our customers,” said Steve Beebe, vice president of WSI, the Kalamazoo staffing company that placed Miner with the Portage company.

“Within the last 45 to 60 days we’ve seen an actual increase in permanent hiring. I relate that to companies seeing work that is more sustainable and bringing on the work force to handle that work which is quite common.”

In 2008, WSI placed Miner with W.L. Molding in Portage as a temporary employee. One year later that company hired her in full time as their human resources administrator/receptionist.

Beebe said WSI’s business for contract hiring is up 200 percent this year compared to 2009. He said national projections indicate that most companies are planning to expand employment during the first quarter of 2011.

Miner said she thinks starting out as a temporary hire makes sense for people like herself who have experience, but lack the education so many employers require.

“I had worked my way up to a managerial job with Pharmacia, but I didn’t have the education so I knew it would be difficult for me when I looked for another job,” Miner said. “They (W.L. Molding) started recognizing and utilizing my talents and they offered me a full-time job.”

The majority of jobs which shift from temporary to full time employment are still in manufacturing, Beebe said.

Melissa Johnson, sales director for Advance Employment’s Kalamazoo office, said her agency has had an almost 60 percent increase from 2009 in terms of the number of individuals they have put to work. She said some of these jobs were trial hires, as opposed to temporary positions.

Last month, she filled a request for 80 positions, which came from a Lansing-based company that focuses on energy-efficient products and services.

“The outlook for 2011 is that we’re actually going to have sustainable jobs in Michigan for the first time since 2001,” Johnson said. “We were in a general decline beginning in 2001. Our best year since then is this year.”

Mark Lancaster, president and chief executive officer of Battle Creek-based Employment Group, said he noticed an improvement in his business midway through 2009. He said his customers’ hiring forecasts have gone from three days to three months and in some cases six months — an indication of increased confidence in the economy.

“Our customers are actually hiring in 2010 and willing to bring people onto their payroll,” Lancaster said. “My most recent numbers are that 811 of our temporary workers have been hired onto customer payrolls.”

Lancaster said sectors of the economy in Michigan which are hiring include aerospace, electronics, food, furniture, distribution, energy and the automobile industry.

“All in all it’s broad-based hiring,” Lancaster said. “The auto industry and auto suppliers are still driving employment in Michigan.”

General assembly jobs often lead to the creation of other positions necessary to support an increasing workload, such as clerical or administrative jobs, Johnson said, particularly for those companies that were able to weather tough economic conditions.

Companies that survived while watching their competitors go out of business now have a bigger share of the market, Johnson said, and the majority of them need to expand their work force to meet anticipated demand for their products and services.

“Certain companies that haven’t utilized us for two or three years are calling us,” Johnson said.

Many of WSI’s clients are telling Beebe that their hiring will be sustainable and continuous.

Beebe said he thinks now is a “great time” to be a contract or temporary employee because, “you can get in the ground floor in entry-level manufacturing.”

For those individuals in the hunt for a clerical, administrative or professional-level job, Beebe discourages waiting out the recession and said these individuals need to start applying and getting their resumes out.

“You don’t want to miss the boat,” Lancaster said. “Starting out as a temporary or contract worker allows you to see what the company’s workplace culture is like to make sure there’s a good foot and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door.”

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