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Small Business and Retail—Minimum wage hike goes into effect on New Years

Study Predicts Hot Sellers for This Holiday Season

The California Chamber of Commerce is reminding businesses throughout the state that the minimum wage will be going up by $1, starting Jan. 1.

In a compromise for employers reached Oct. 23, the Industrial Welfare Commission unanimously approved an increase in the state minimum wage to be phased in during the next two years, going from $5.75 to $6.25 and then to $6.75 on Jan. 1, 2002.

Labor representatives had sought much higher increases, trying to raise the state minimum wage as high as $14 per hour, said Julianne Broyles, director of employment issues for the California chamber.

During the approval process, the California chamber called for a gradual, prudent minimum wage increase, Broyles said.

“There will definitely be an impact on businesses that will have to make the increase work with little time to prepare. However, we were successful in convincing the IWC to not acquiesce to demands to raise the state minimum wage $8 an hour or more.”

In comments before the final approval vote, the labor members of the IWC expressed their opinion that the adopted increase was not enough, and that they would be back in two years to seek a much higher increase, she noted.

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‘Tis The Season: Expect scooters and electronic entertainment to top the list of hot gifts this holiday season, according to the 2000 Retailer Survey conducted by Chula Vista-based General Growth Properties.

Predicted top sellers include just about anything with the names Pokemon, Digimon, Harry Potter or Powerpuff Girls. Scooby Doo merchandise is back in this year, said Susan Lipp, spokeswoman for General Growth Properties.

Barbie, modeling trendy new clothes and chic haircuts, remains a staple with the young girls. Meanwhile, Razor Scooters are expected to be a huge hit, Lipp said.

Retailers are also expecting electronics to remain popular , about 10 percent of the gifts on the survey are electronic items. That list includes radio-controlled toys, robotic dogs, as well as Nintendo, PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast games, such as Zelda 2, Final Fantasy, Dragonball Z and NBA 2K1, she said.

For adults, cell phones top the list of electronic gifts, while other big-ticket items expected to sell well this year include DVD players, home computers, satellite systems and videos

Retailers are also banking on apparel, with the most popular clothing items being coats, jackets and sweaters. For both men and women, “soft touch” fabrics are the latest apparel trend, with every retailer’s window pushing suede, cashmere and fleece, she said.

Animal prints and “skins” are also expected to be big for the 2000 holiday, with leather, shark, lizard and snake skins on everything from clothes to shoes and purses. Both suit and sweater vests are also making a comeback and are popular with retailers featuring styles for both men and women, Lipp said.

More than 10 percent of the items on the hot gifts list are jewelry, with high expectations for watches, bracelets and diamonds. Jewelers are stocking up on engagement rings in the expectation of holiday proposals, she said.

Personal items are always popular as stocking stuffers, and this year Lipp expects bath and body products and perfume will do well, along with small collectibles like Beanie Babies and Boyd’s Bears, Lipp said.

This year, anything goes. Lipp predicts that teens will go in a big way for nostalgia items like lava lamps and black lights, along with brightly colored inflatable furniture.

This Mall Is For Employers: Small businesses have been struggling to offer employee benefits to keep them competitive in today’s tight labor market. But now there’s a new Internet source for businesses with as few as five workers, to provide them access to the same benefits as companies with 500 employees.

BenefitMall.com uses the Internet to directly link employers with brokers and carriers, creating an online exchange for small business benefits, including medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, said Bernard DiFiore, chief executive officer of BenefitMall.com.

BenefitMall.com provides free education, news, information, broker referrals and other tools to assist small business owners, including access to more than 9,000 insurance plans, he said.

Please send all small business and retail items to Lee Zion at lzion@sdbj.com or call (858) 277-6359.

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