Throughout the year, millions of Americans look forward to the heart-filled holiday known as Christmas. But as wallets and pocketbooks grow thinner, so do the jobs in our local area. Lauren Smith, a Bloomsburg University student, is facing losing her job just shortly after this Christmas season.
The Gap clothing store here in the Columbia Mall has seasonal meetings with their district manager. Usually they talk about different goals and targets they hope to assess each quarter, but this season’s November ninth meeting did not bring good news. The Gap crew found out the store will be closing as of January 26, 2009.
Smith has worked at the Gap here in the Columbia Mall for a little over a year. She started as part-time holiday help last year. She knew if she did an outstanding job, and proved her worth, that she would stay on permanently after the holiday season. After over a year’s worth of hard work and dedication later, she finds out she needs to start job hunting again. Smith has truly found her niche here; she loves retail, and it shows in her work.
Surprisingly, this is Smith’s first actual retail job, and she loves it very much and finds it hard to have to say goodbye. She loves the customer interaction and loves to see them smile. She strives to make customers feel good about their sales purchases.
The geographical location is perfect for her; it’s close to the University, and it’s close to her home in Elysburg when school is not in session. She fits the bill better than other college students, because she is available year-round.
According to Smith, the management has been great. The whole GAP crew works as a family, and the management does their jobs superbly. She believes the closing of their doors could not be due to poor management. She believes that the dwindling economy and the general poor location in a mall that sees little bustle the reasons. In Smith’s words, “the mall is dead.”
Smith intends to work up until the store closes. She hopes that finding a new job will be pain free, but she foresees issues happening as well. With experience in retail she sees how people don’t do much shopping in the months of January, February and March. With businesses having slow cash flow at these times, she sees a deficit in businesses hiring for these months. Fortunately, Smith has a possible job lined up at a downtown store called The Be Green Loft. It is a store that buys clothes and sells them at discount prices. She is looking for a job in the same area of work as she is in now, because that’s how much she loves what she does.
During the big meeting, no one was really angry about this close, but more disheartened than anything. The store managers already knew beforehand, so the biggest shock was for the employees. The employees were offered continual employment at another Gap location if they desired. They could choose to be transferred to a number of different Gaps in the area. These locations included Frackville, Susquehanna Valley, Lycoming, and Wilkes-Barre. But as a local resident and a college student, Smith doesn’t want to drive that far, ranging anywhere from 30 to 50 miles one way. Other options were also offered.
The store associates could simply leave the company on good terms, with possibilities of working for the company later down the road, or a complimentary pay package. This pay package includes two weeks average pay. Smith has stated that very few hours have been available lately. “Sometimes it is even so slow that they have to send us home early on our shifts.” She says the lack of business has caused a cut in hours, and sometimes she works as few as three to eight hours per week.
Rumors have been going around that “If Gap leaves, we are leaving too!” There may be a severe domino effect if this occurs. There are other college students working at Gap as well, and hopefully they have ease finding a new job to help them through the rest of their college years as well.
In a time of loving, caring, sharing, and hoping, it will take a world of change to bring life back to this Columbia Mall. “There is no real Christmas feel here at the Columbia Mall” says Smith. “It’s just not the same kind of Christmas magic you would expect. There’s no business here.