Raleigh, NC (January 30, 2014) – Retail sales were higher than expected for December, and the outlook for 2014 is optimistic.  In fact, local economists estimate between 2.5 and 2.8 million U.S. jobs will be created this year.  In North Carolina, approximately 100,000 new jobs are expected and many of these will be in retail.Businesses estimate the strength of consumer spending because it helps in planning.  A solid forecast offers consumer confidence along with opportunities that strengthen communities.  In 2014, the NC Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) and its grocery division, the Carolinas Food Industry Council (CFIC), will support communities across North Carolina by helping high school and college students pursue their career goals.  The two organizations, through the Retail Consumer Alliance Foundation (RCA), will give away close to $90k in scholarships this year.

“When most people think of retail jobs, they think of front-line store associates. But the reality is that the retail industry generates 17% of labor income in the state,” said NCRMA President and General Counsel Andy Ellen.  “Retail powers North Carolina’s economy with both large and small employers, supporting over 600,000 jobs at headquarters and distribution centers.  It also works with education to reach the same goals, including a strong and sustainable job market driven by competitive innovation.  By supporting higher education goals, we can connect students to opportunities in the economy.”

Students across North Carolina will be one step closer to a career of their dreams by applying for scholarships through NCRMA.  Thirty-five awards valued at $2,500 each are being offered through NCRMA and its grocery division, the Carolinas Food Industry Council (CFIC).  The awards will be offered to high school and college students working in the retail industry or whose parents work in the retail industry to support the 2014-2015 academic year.  Unlike traditional scholarship programs that only reward the highest level of academic achievement, NCRMA and CFIC will recognize students whose academic credentials fall within an average to above-average range.  Applications and official transcripts must be received or post-marked by Monday, March 3, 2014.  For information regarding application requirements or to apply, go to: http://www.retailpaysforcollege.org.

Funding for the 35 scholarships is provided through the NC Retail Consumer Alliance, a nonprofit retail foundation that works with consumers to build strong communities.

On the national level, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is collaborating with University of Phoenix to award 20 full-tuition scholarships to people in retail who want to enhance their career through education. The scholarships are open to applicants currently working full-time or part-time for any retail or restaurant company, and the program allows recipients to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree while continuing to work and live at home. For more information, go to www.phoenix.edu/dreambig.

“The retail industry is a force for economic expansion, job creation, and business growth,” said Ellen.  “Locally, NCRMA’s primary mission is to serve the legislative needs of North Carolina’s retail industry. But we also know how important it is to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow, and many of these will be in retail.  Retail offers life-long career options that range from finance and engineering to design and marketing.  We never lose sight of the role education plays in a competitive economy.”

About the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) is a nonprofit trade association organized in 1902 to improve the business climate for retailers in North Carolina.  Over 100 years later, NCRMA remains the voice of the retail industry for North Carolina.  NCRMA represents the interests of individual merchants before the General Assembly and serves as a vital link to state government.  Its credibility lies in its longevity and commitment to serving the ever-changing needs of its members.  The Association’s membership includes more than 25,000 stores from across the state whose business represents 75 percent of North Carolina’s retail sales volume.  NCRMA serves both large and small retailers from multi-state chains to local “mom and pops,” and all types of merchants including antique, apparel, art, automotive, book, carpet, department, drug, electronics, floral, furniture, grocery, hardware, jewelry, paint and variety stores. For more information, visit http://www.ncrma.org/.

About the Retail Consumer Alliance Foundation

The Retail Consumer Alliance (RCA) was organized in 2008 to foster strong community partnerships between consumers and the retail industry.  Every year, the foundation funds an annual educational scholarship program that assists students who are working in the retail industry or students who have parents working in retail, by providing awards that pay for college tuition.  The foundation also contributes annually to the Feeding America Food Banks for North and South Carolina.

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