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COVID-19 slows usual revolving door in Myrtle Beach's retail industry

Julie Yamtich, owner of Sparkles

Julie Yamtich, owner of Sparkles -- a girls' and young woman's boutique with shops at Broadway at the Beach and Tanger Outlets, Myrtle Beach -- holds up an item in this screenshot during a recent live sale event on Facebook. Yamtich turned to social media to move product, but also keep her 13 employees employed this year during the pandemic.

MYRTLE BEACH — Julie Yamtich opened her first Sparkles store — a young girls' boutique — in April 2009 at Broadway at the Beach so she is familiar with the cycle of retail workers in Myrtle Beach.

"People are at the beach, they quit because they want a day off, especially the age range we hire," said Yamtich, who opened her second Sparkles location at Tanger Outlets on U.S. 501. She said the age range she gets her employees from are typically high school- or college-aged girls. "But we’ve been able to retain our employees for a good amount of time.”

This year's job market along the Grand Strand has been tumultuous, mainly because of COVID shutdowns. Ironically, retaining employees, like the 13 Yamtich employs at Sparkles, has been easier than in previous years, mainly because of the uncertainty of employees finding a new job in a COVID market.

“We’ve always had a lot of turnover just being in a beach area,” Yamtich said. “But what we’ve noticed is we’ve really been able to retain our employees that we have now. Every employee I have on staff now has been there at least a year. That’s unheard of in Myrtle Beach, for retail."

Of the 19 industries that the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce tracks, retail trade was about the middle of the pack for turnover rate for the third quarter of 2020, behind Real Estate/Rental/Leasing, Administrative/Support jobs, and, of course, Accommodations and Food Services.

Melissa Traniello, owner of The Hot Honey Boutique in North Myrtle Beach, said she has a small staff of two employees who have been with her since opening earlier this year.

“I was lucky," Traniello said of finding the right employees. "I’ve had people ask to work here, so people are looking for part-time work.”

Workers between the age ranges of 25-40 and 41-55 represent the two highest groups of people still claiming unemployment in Horry County, according to a more detailed employment community profile released this week by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.

The department’s latest figures show Horry County’s unemployment in October dropped to 5.1 percent, down from 6.2 percent in September.

For Horry County, those between the age of 25-40 represent the largest group of unemployment claimants, followed by 41-55.

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The largest industry, by far, were those in the accommodation and food service industry with 227 claimants, followed by retail trade with 89 claimants.

The accommodation and food service industry is the largest in Horry County with 28,858 jobs in the market, followed by retail with 23,220 jobs, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages for the first quarter of 2020.

The top five occupational openings for October were registered nurses, retail salespersons, first-line supervisors of retail sales workers, sales representatives for wholesale and manufacturing (except technical and scientific products), and customer service representatives.

According to projections, the health care and social assistance industry is projected to grow the most in Horry County by 2030, followed by accommodation and food services, administrative and support, and waste management and remediate.

Unemployment in Georgetown County went down one percentage point from September to October, according to the latest figures provided by the S.C. DEW.

Unemployment was at 5 percent in October, which was right before Liberty Steel Group in the city of Georgetown announced it planned to permanently layoff 100 workers.

Notably, the number of employed people in Georgetown increased by more than 400 people from September to October and those unemployed decreased by 250 people.

Unemployment peaked at 15 percent in April and gradually decreased, for the most part, through 2020.

The largest age group of those unemployed were between the ages of 25 and 40. Retail, administrative and Accommodations/Food Service were the three largest industries for those who were unemployed.

Yamtich at Sparkles said she's lucky to have managers who have been with her for between six and eight years. She said she thinks COVID may have played a role in keeping her non-managerial workers for as long as she has.

“I really think COVID kind of helped keep the staff because I think people are worried more to not be able to find something as easily with the changing times," Yamtich said. "So, I think that that helped with retaining them and not having to hire again for the new season.”

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