Hiring for the Holidays: 5 Things Recruiters Should Know
It’s far too early to see holiday decorations in shop windows, but it’s certainly time to talk about the annual hiring surge. Like many industries, retail is seasonal, and in the U.S. the big push comes in late fall as shoppers prepare for another round of gift giving. That means retailers must be ready for the influx of customers, with staff on hand and online.
But while the holiday season is an inevitable annual event, holiday sales and therefore hiring needs are harder to predict. The economy has been growing stronger, unemployment has fallen, and e-commerce continues to outpace shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers must have the right mix of in-store personnel, online customer relations, and distribution fulfillment staff. The complexity of this mix can make hiring for the holidays difficult.
Not every retailer will approach hiring for the holiday season in the same way. But there are some interesting trends emerging that all retail recruiters should keep in mind. In this post we’ll explore those points, and look at some hiring strategies among big players in the retail industry.
1. Attracting and retaining seasonal workers may be more challenging in 2015
Just a few years ago, hiring for the holidays was a boon to many unemployed and underemployed workers across the U.S. But the labor market is in a different state today, and the national unemployment rate is 5.1%. That’s the lowest it’s been in seven years. Combined with the growing number of job openings in the U.S. this year, retail recruiters find themselves searching among a much tighter job market.
This comes at a time when many of the largest retailers–Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart–have built up national networks of warehouses and distribution centers. Their efforts to fulfill online orders as fast as possible may now hit a snag, as fewer workers will be looking for seasonal or part-time work in fulfillment centers. At the current rate of pay, same-day and overnight shipping might not be feasible if recruiters aren’t able to fill retail warehouses with enough workers. Perhaps something like Amazon’s drone-delivery program will offset that.
2. Holiday spending is projected to increase again in 2015
Just as retailers start to worry about gaps in their supply chains, spending during the holiday season is expected to grow. In November and December this year, retail sales in the US are predicted to reach $885.7 billion, an increase of 5.7% year over year. And the driving force behind this growth? Online shopping, which will make up 9% of total retail sales during the holidays, up from 8.3% last year. This could no doubt impact hiring for the holidays.
3. The hiring mix is changing between in-store and fulfillment thanks to online shopping
While recruiters may struggle to fill fulfillment centers with workers, they’ll likely have less to worry about when it comes to their company’s retail stores. When more shoppers switch to e-commerce, it leads to fewer sales staff in brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, overall hiring will likely be flat. Many retailers have already filled open positions earlier in the year, and others have allocated more resources to online shopping, reducing the need for in-person staff.
4. Low fuel prices could influence online shopping vs. in-store purchases
Gas prices have an interesting relationship with the retail sector. On the one hand, gas station sales are included in overall retail sales, and as oil prices drop, revenue from gasoline sales fall with them. But lower prices at the pump also mean higher bank balances for many Americans. The fall in crude oil prices last year led to more than $100 billion in annual pump-price savings, as of February 2015. But when you look at last winter’s holiday shopping season, year-over-year retail sales growth fell from 4.7% in November 2014 to 1.26% in March 2015.
So what did American shoppers do with their savings from the gas pump? It’s hard to say, but some expect more of those savings to be spent this year as lower unemployment and a strengthening economy calm shoppers’ nerves. Consumer confidence, which has dipped slightly in the wake of recent stock market turmoil, is still up 1.3% compared to the same time last year.
5. Companies are gearing up to execute on their massive hiring plans
With gas prices and empty warehouses in mind, we decided to see what some of the biggest retailers in the US are doing to gear up for hiring for the holidays:
- Macy’s will hire 85,000 temporary store workers, less than last year.
- Wal-Mart will hire 60,000 store employees, about the same as last year.
- Toys “R” Us will hire 40,000 temporary workers, less than last year.
- Kohl’s will hire 69,000 store employees, higher than last year.
- UPS will hire 95,000 temporary workers, about the same as last year.
- FedEx will hire 55,000 seasonal employees, slightly more than last year.
- Amazon hasn’t made an announcement, but during this time last year they hired 80,000 people.
Every retailer has different needs, but the most successful stores during the holidays do more than just carry the season’s must-have gifts. They combine high quality online and in-person shopping experiences with competitive prices and delivery options. And they all rely on friendly, local staff to deliver the best shopping experience possible.
What are your plans for hiring for the holidays? Let us know on Twitter at Jibe.
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