From The Editor | October 3, 2013

Is Your Staff Ready For The Holidays?


By Bob Johns

Bob Johns, Robert Johns, associate editor

The holidays will be here before you know it. Retailers are finishing up their buys and planning their merchandising and promotions, some of which have already started. We will soon be inundated with holiday ads and requests to visit Santa. But, how much can retailers count on consumers spending this year, and are they ready?

The National Retail Federation (NRF) released its forecast of a 3.9 percent increase in sales this holiday season, to $602.1 billion. This is ahead of last year’s gains of 3.5 percent, but is still not outstanding. NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says, “Our forecast is a realistic look at where we are right now in this economy — balancing continued uncertainty in Washington and an economy that has been teetering on incremental growth for years.” He contuse by noting that retailers are optimistic for the upcoming holiday season, but have concerns over the recent partial government shutdown and looming debt crisis.

I have to agree. Retailers are adding holiday staffers at an excellent rate, and there is no shortage of applicants, whether from people looking for extra money during the holidays or people hoping to catch on permanently after the season. In WFM: Optimize Holiday Hiring, Ceridian SVP of Retail, John Orr, shows how retailers can use this holiday hiring to vet employees and find excellent long-term associates. So far this year, we have seen Amazon plan to hire up to 70,000 holiday workers, GameStop 17,000, Macy’s 83,000, Walmart 55,000, and Target 70,000.  With all of these announcements, it is easy to see why it appears retailers will be hiring at a near record pace.

Retail has been one of the few bright spots for job creation in this economy, adding 43,600 jobs in August, and they will be giving a needed additional boost this holiday season. “Retailers will add hundreds of thousands of valuable jobs to the economy this holiday season, including extra staff for their distribution centers, store managers, e-commerce and mobile positions and helpful staff associates,” said Shay. “Teenagers, college students and adults love working in retail during the holidays, especially with the perks of employee discounts and being the first to see what’s added to store shelves. Additionally, as we’ve heard from several companies, these holiday positions offer thousands of people the opportunity to turn seasonal employment into a long-term dynamic and thriving career opportunity.”

During this entire process, though, retailers need to ensure they are hiring the best candidates for the positions. Associates are the face of their company and have the most direct interaction with the customer. As the season becomes more hectic and the stores more crowded, it will be doubly important that associates are courteous and knowledgeable. Training and technology will be the keys. Mobile POS will be needed to keep wait times short and customers happy. Associates will also need to be able to place customer orders from mobile devices to take care of the customer before they leave the store.

With e-commerce sales predicted to rise between 13 and 15 percent by, we cannot forget all of the employees being hired for the distribution centers. Fulfillment becomes the single most important issue for online sales during the holiday season. If the item is ordered, it better arrive in the time specified and in pristine condition. Ensuring temporary employees are following procedures and properly picking and shipping items will save a lot of headaches throughout the season. Since most major retailers are selling both online and in brick-and-mortar, they need to realize the importance of hiring the best employees, no matter where they work.