New mall in Norwalk brings job opportunities

The job ad hit ZipRecruiter on Tuesday, with L’Occitane seeking beauty advisors for a boutique set to open in October at the SoNo Collection mall nearing completion in South Norwalk.

As for the dozens more retailers planning to open? Many others are still filling out their staffs as well, with a Tuesday hiring fair in Norwalk producing dozens of applicants, but companies searching for even more in the context of a statewide unemployment rate of just 3.6 percent.

A month in advance of the mall’s anticipated Oct. 11 opening date, developer Brookfield Properties organized a hiring fair Tuesday for SoNo Collection retailers at the DoubleTree Hotel on Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk. At day’s end, on-site recruiters said they collected dozens of resumes, while stressing plenty of open positions remain for interested applicants.

Not since the debut more than four years ago of Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods Resort Casino has Connecticut seen a mass retail hiring push anywhere near the scale of the SoNo Collection. The mall expects to support a retail workforce of some 2,500 people at full tenancy, compared to 900 for Tanger Outlets when the center opened in 2015.

In anticipation of the hiring needs for retailers, Norwalk Community College created a retail customer service certificate program lasting 10 sessions, with this fall’s program having started up last week.

Indeed, which has a major office in Stamford, lists nearly 3,300 open retail jobs in Connecticut.

Retailers with open SoNo Collection positions listed on Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter and other job boards include Nordstrom, which had more than a half-dozen staff on hand Tuesday in Norwalk; as well as Bloomingdale’s; apparel stores Abercrombie & Fitch, Chico’s, JJill, Victoria’s Secret and White House Black Market; the modernist furniture maker EQ3; and beauty outlet Sephora among others.

The hiring push comes amid declining employment in Connecticut’s retail sector, with the industry supporting about 175,000 jobs as of July, according to estimates published by the state Department of Labor, about 4,600 fewer positions than a year earlier. It was the sharpest contraction of any industry tracked by DOL, with the coastal Fairfield County area seeing a decline of about 700 retail jobs over that period, if DOL estimates are correct.

The SoNo Collection mall will open less than two weeks after Connecticut’s minimum wage rises by 90 cents to $11 an hour, the first of five annual increases that will lift the rate to $15 in 2023, amid a movement nationally to reset hourly rates to that threshold.

Lucero Cuevas, a store manager with Abercrombie & Fitch, said a number of candidates stopped by the company’s table at the Norwalk hiring fair, including for a separate Abercrombie & Fitch Kids storefront.

“We saw a lot of interest,” she said. “We still have openings — it’s an exciting opportunity.”; 203-842-2545; @casoulman