February 3, 2009, 12:00 AM

Big retailers are shedding jobs, but specialized roles remain in e-commerce

Macy’s Inc. and other chains are cutting thousands of jobs, but the hiring market for some e-commerce specialists is robust, says Harry Joiner of EcommerceRecruiter.com. The roles most in demand: marketing and customer retention specialists.

With the economy locked in a deep recession and overall retail sales expected to shrink in 2009 after eking out a gain of just 1.4% in 2008, retailers are cutting jobs in droves. On Monday, Macy’s Inc., No. 28 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, announced job cuts totaling 7,000.

That’s on top of major layoffs at other retailers such as Home Depot Inc. (No. 42), which is also reducing its head count by 7,000 positions, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which is trimming 1,100 jobs, and Williams-Sonoma Inc. (No. 21) which is cutting 1,400 positions.

But even if more big retailers keep reducing their head count, there are still opportunities for seasoned and specialized e-commerce employees to land a new position or even move up within their present organization, says Harry Joiner, president of EcommerceRecruiter.com, a web retailing search firm based in Roswell, GA. “Hiring has become much more selective, but it`s still taking place,” Joiner says. “Many online retailers realize that the industry could grow to become an estimated $1 trillion market by 2020 and the growth potential is obvious. Hiring plans are still reflective of that.”

Today, e-commerce marketing specialists with skills in customer retention are most in demand. “Merchandising, loyalty and retention marketers are in stronger demand than last year, possibly due to online retailers` increased focus on cross-selling and up-selling versus acquiring new customers,” says Joiner. “New customers can be very expensive to acquire, and they convert at a much lower rate than returning customers.”

The positions retailers are still filling include jobs for vice presidents of online marketing and merchandising. Directors and managers of search engine and brand marketing also are in demand. “We have not seen the wholesale elimination of e-commerce positions that we have seen for other retail positions, but big brands are starting to require that candidates have at least some agency relationship management experience,” says Joiner.

Although some online retailers are still in a hiring mode, some companies are looking to acquire top talent for lesser compensation. Just one year ago a typical package for a vice president of e-commerce included an annual base salary of $175,000, a potential performance bonus of 20%, a sign-up bonus of $15,000 to $20,000 and reimbursement of up to $20,000 for relocation. Today, some retailers are offering reduced base pay of $150,000 to $165,000, a $10,000 sign-up bonus and only up to $10,000 in relocation help. “Companies are getting more stingy with their salaries and relocation packages,” says Joiner.

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