Retail food jobs will drop even as population grows, study says

People gotta eat. But that doesn't mean retail job growth in the food and beverage industry.

In fact, the latest 10-year forecast for the food store industry sees 26,000 fewer jobs than 2008 despite a growing population, says a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Food Institute, an industry think tank.

Don't blame the usual suspects: online shopping, immigration or outsourcing.

Credit continued chain consolidation, more efficient technology in transportation and warehousing and the spread of self-service checkout. By 2018 the study sees 270,000 fewer transport and product handling jobs and 6,000 fewer cashiers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees 10 percent more jobs for health care technicians and practitioners by 2010, many of them at in-store clinics.

The startup St. Petersburg Bowl is no more after Beef 'O' Brady's, the Tampa chain of 265 chicken wing restaurants, acquired naming rights.

The chain, which has an annual ad budget of $5 million, won't say what it's paying bowl owner ESPN. But it is a back-end-loaded, two-year deal with options for escalating fees should Beef's exercise each of three annual options after that. ESPN values free media mentions of the bowl name at $7 million a year.

The deal was signed just before this year's game at Tropicana Field, so this year it was the "St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef 'O' Brady's." In 2010 the name changes to the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl before the option years start.

In the next chapter of McDonald's elbowing into Starbucks turf, the burger giant is adding free WiFi service at most U.S. restaurants.

McDonald's makes the switch in mid January at all 186 McDonald's stores in the Tampa Bay area south to Englewood.

Starbucks gets $3.99 for two hours of AT&T WiFi unless you sign up for a Starbucks card.

For non-AT&T customers, McDonald's has been getting $2.95 for two hours of AT&T service — about the price of a Big Mac — in stores with WiFi.

McDonald's McCafe upgraded and sped up its premium coffee offerings. But it remains to be seen if Mickey D's can become a hangout for traveling laptop types who kill time on free WiFi at spots like Panera Bread.

Your move, Starbucks.

• • •

Two eyebrow-raisers among retailers doing decently during these hard times, according to Sageworks Inc., a Cary, N.C., research firm that creates industry performance benchmarks.

Revenue at rental centers — rent-to-own stores that charge a fat premium, usually to the credit-impaired — leaped 10.5 percent in 2009. That compares with a sales decline of 5.5 percent at furniture stores and 3 percent at appliance and electronics retailers that sell the same stuff.

Also persevering: independent grocers, those mom-and-pops with annual sales of less than $10 million that specialize in everything from natural and health foods to ethnic selections to gourmet specialties.

Despite declining food prices in 2009, small grocers raised their net profit margins in each of the past four years.

"Given that chain grocers saw their sales gains and net profit margin shrink in 2009, that's harder than it sounds," said Drew White, Sageworks chief financial officer. "And that makes it easier for small grocers to hold those profit levels as food prices start rising again in 2010."

Retail food jobs will drop even as population grows, study says 12/28/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 28, 2009 7:44pm]

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