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A Challenging Holiday Season for Retailers Looking to Hire


The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the national unemployment rate for the last couple of months of the year at 5.5%, a drop of nearly 50% from its post-recession peak in late 2009. In some parts of the country it’s even lower.

This is great news for the economy and the labor force, but retailers may have a tough time finding qualified help for the holidays.

Stakes are high when it comes to holiday hiring. Not only do better-staffed stores perform better when at crucial times, but seasonal staff additions can sew the seeds for finding your next high-level associates.

Overall, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement consultancy, expects seasonal employment gains to be about the same as last year, when retailers added 755,000 to their staff from October through December.

John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, notes, “Job seekers hoping to take advantage of seasonal hiring should be prepared to look beyond the traditional retail store fronts. Some of the best opportunities could be in the backroom, handling incoming and outgoing shipments. Job seekers should also look for positions at warehouses and shipping facilities associated with retailers and/or transportation companies.”

The most efficient way to search for holiday help is to narrow your focus. Retailers should use personal, targeted strategies that are site-specific to reach out to qualified candidates where they live. Depending on your target market for sales, checking local schools, churches, athletic tournaments and events could be the ticket to finding your ideal employees.

Besides offering store and brand discounts as an incentive to prospective employees who may already be brand loyalists, being accommodating and flexible in shift scheduling is another way to entice holiday help.

If you’re looking to draw baby-boomer employees into the retail fold, make sure to bring them up to speed on the retail of today vs. 20 years ago. It can be challenging, but the payoff will be great, if your brand or store’s target market is geared toward an older clientele who may be better able to identify with a staff who’s part of their peer group.

While some retailers may be more cost-sensitive, another retailer carrying high-end items may have to be particularly diligent and more wary of security issues and their target market, and thus be willing to take more time and spend more money to identify high-caliber candidates. Situations like these require a more sophisticated cost-benefit analysis when determining hiring policies and procedures that count not only during holiday times, but year-round.

Precisely because demand for seasonal help is higher, a stores’ review process may circumvent some of the standard policies and practices for screening, interviewing and vetting. When retailers feel crunched for time, they might not be as diligent as they would prefer, and they just might bite the bullet to make sure a shortage of staff doesn’t impact store operations. This makes a sound argument for leaving the whole hiring process to a Retail Recruiting firm.

With the pool of prospective employees dwindling, the best thing you can do is let a retail recruiting firm use their skills and resources to find the cream of the crop staff. While it may seem more expensive to use such services to staff your seasonal job openings, this approach will allow you to focus on making this holiday season a great one for your clients and customers. The money you will earn in repeat business should certainly help to offset this cost. 

TAGS: holiday hiring, retail, retail trends, retailers,
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