Survey: Seasonal Hiring Expected to Drop

Discussion
Oct 09, 2008

By Tom Ryan

A survey of 1,000 U.S. managers who have responsibility for hiring seasonal workers found that each manager, on average, plans on hiring 3.7 seasonal employees this holiday season, roughly 33 percent less than the 5.6 seasonal workers they each hired during last year’s holiday period. This figure includes the 57 percent of managers who say they don’t plan on making any hires this year, which is up 8 percentage points from 2007.

The survey, sponsored by SnagAJob.com, found that managers who plan to hire at least one hourly holiday worker say they are looking to bring on nine seasonal workers on average, down 20 percent from the 11.2 employees they report having hired last year.

Of the 57 percent of managers who don’t plan on hiring this year, the factors for that decision include an expectation that current staff will take on the additional hours or workload (50 percent), that they have no money to hire additional seasonal workers (29 percent) and that they expect a slower holiday season this year compared to last (21 percent).

On the holiday outlook, 22 percent believe this year’s fourth quarter sales will be better than last year, 24 percent expect a decline, and 54 percent expect a holiday sales season in line with that of 2007.

Other
findings from the survey:

  • Thirty-nine percent of hiring managers expect the
    number of applicants to rise this year over last; 52 percent expect the number
    to stay the same; nine percent expect fewer applicants;
  • Most managers expect
    to wrap up their hiring duties in November (35 percent), with some finishing
    in October (20 percent) and others hiring as late as December (28 percent);
  • Forty-three
    percent of seasonal workers will work full-time, with the rest working an
    average of 20 hours a week;
  • The average pay for seasonal employees is expected
    to be $10 an hour.

Discussion Questions: How should retailers manage seasonal hiring this holiday season? If a strategy calls for fewer hires, what retail tasks should be most focused on? What are some cost-effective ways to maintain customer service standards with less sales help?

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10 Comments on "Survey: Seasonal Hiring Expected to Drop"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

Just because the economy is lousy doesn’t mean traffic declines. For some retailers, the traffic is still tremendous, but the conversion rate sags. So shoppers still mess up displays, try on clothes and then discard them, buy merchandise and then return more of it, ask more questions, use more coupons: in short, there can be even more work when sales are down.

And since when has temp holiday staff been productive? For many stores, the temp holiday folks offer worse at service than the worst of the year-round staff, a breathtakingly low standard. The stores don’t care to screen carefully, don’t train them, and supervision is minimal, anyway.

Lee Peterson
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

Since we all know the Holiday season will be one of the worst on record, we can also already count on the service being more preposterous than ever as well. Unfortunately, this is understandable. Right now, on the retail or service side, it’s much better to bet low and try to handle the overflow the best you possibly can, should that happen. It’s batten down the hatches time, kids.

Further reason to show online. Why fight the crowds, no inventory and over worked sales people? We predict it’ll be the best Holiday ever for e-commerce for these reasons.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 7 months ago

Seasonal hiring is down because we expect a lighter season this year. With that, we need more productivity from the fewer people we have on the floor. When hiring, customer service capabilities need to be paramount. Look for body language and communication skills from the instant the person drops of their resume or application. Multi-tasking and the ability to handle pressure are key elements when hiring for the retail world. I have reposted an article that I wrote on the subject. Click on ‘Quality Hiring for Customer Service’ to download the PDF. It can be found here: http://www.gocaptus.com/html/newsroom.html

Kevin Graff
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

While it may appear that the hiring of fewer seasonal staff foreshadows a slow Christmas selling season for some, maybe customers will be better served. I typically dread the experience of having to deal with a poorly trained seasonal employee during the holiday rush. Oh, they can smile nice, but few of them have been given enough training on products, service standards, procedures and most importantly–selling skills.

With fewer staff to hire, maybe more retailers will do a better job of providing more in-depth training to the temp staff. After all, these seasonal staff represent your brand on the front line. You’ll see hundreds of new customers in your stores for the first time this holiday season. The experience they have in your store now will dictate whether you see them again in 2009. The smart money is on ensuring all of your staff, including the seasonal staff, are playing the right game in your store.

Warren Thayer
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

No easy answers here. Traffic will undoubtedly be down. Idealism about customer service aside, you have to make the numbers. So I guess, I’d plan about the way the retailers are planning, knowing that if I had to, I’d be able to find a willing pool of workers as the season gets underway. And, since I’d be worried about the shopper experience with fewer workers on the selling floor, I’d also be promoting heck out of my website, trying to build business and hang onto share vs. competitors.

Dick Seesel
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

It’s a tough call in a very tough economy, but customer service is the last place stores should cut if their brand positioning depends on it. Obviously retailers need to project their store traffic and comp sales conservatively, and flex their payroll down accordingly. But this doesn’t preclude offering the same level of “CPC” (care per customer) that they have provided in the past. And smarter scheduling will go a long way toward dealing with peak traffic, even if it means hiring more part-timers with flexibility.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
13 years 7 months ago

As has been pointed out, if the season is better than they expect there should be plenty of worker availability at the last minute to fill the gap. While it is still a long time until the holiday season starts, (try to ignore the Christmas displays at your favorite store) I would think that most of us are expecting a poorer season for most retailers. This season will most likely be the last for many of the marginal retailers that have been just hanging on.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

Unfortunately, revenues are going to be down at a greater rate than traffic will be. Still, retailers can not cut back on customer service. Numerous studies have indicated that less customer service translates into fewer sales.

At any given time, labor is a fixed expense in a retail store. Fortunately, the labor pool should be bigger, more experienced and more flexible. The retailers must take greater care in the holiday hiring. They must be much more selective. They must opt for experienced on the floor personnel. They must demand scheduling flexibility to match traffic flow. They should take great care with their wage rates and not be afraid of paying for experience and flexibility.

Yes, we need people on the floor, but what is going to happen at the checkout? Many retailers already have lines that are too long. Oh, Macy’s! How productive would it be to have self-checkouts this holiday season!

Mel Kleiman
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

Expectations lead to reality. So let’s look at the expectations.

1. Retail sales will be down. (Does that mean all stores will have lower sales?
2. We will need less floor coverage. (Customers will be frustrated and walk out or buy less.)
3. We will work our full time people longer hours. (Many of these workers in retail have two jobs just to survive already and a lot of them don’t want more then 40 hours.

Solution: make sure you have the best, most well trained staff out there to serve the customer. Make sure and hire right and spend some up front money training them before you put them on the floor. Don’t wait until the last minute to hire. Since there should be a excess of holiday help available, develop a pool of potential workers.

If you want more on how to hire the best front line workers go to http://www.kleimanhr.com.

Brent Streit Streit
Guest
Brent Streit Streit
13 years 7 months ago

Stores shouldn’t be hiring at all. The traffic in the stores won’t warrant it. This economic downturn will be the Great Depression of our era. I believe the statistic was 25,000 square feet of retail per capita in the U.S. The commentators on CNBC’s special edition show tonight were speechless. Just remember the migrant workers in California’s central valley who were getting $700,000 loans and making $7 an hour. I really don’t need 5 Home Depots and 3 Lowe’s within 5 miles of me when I live in a fast growing area where the earth movers are rusting over. Remember, nothing to see here. Let’s start closing stores and focusing on basics like treating customers with respect and not another opportunity to open a credit card account that will never be paid off.

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