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Retailers make more holiday hires

7:18 AM, Sep 25, 2012   |    comments
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Several retailers plan to hire more seasonal staffers than last year in preparation for an incoming flurry of holiday shoppers and expected increase in sales, according to merchants and at least two reports out this month from consulting groups.

While only a handful of retailers have announced specific holiday hiring plans, 36% plan to hire more seasonal employees than in 2011, shows a survey of 14 major U.S. retailers by consulting firm Hay Group; 57% will hire about the same as last year.

Walmart, Toys R Us and Kohl's are all hiring more holiday workers than last year. The overall increase in hiring is most likely due to a predicted increase in sales, says Maryam Morse, senior principal and retail practice leader at Hay Group. The Hay survey shows 75% of retailers predict an increase in holiday sales over 2011.

Kohl's will hire more than 52,000 seasonal workers, up more than 10% from last year. Toys R Us will hire 45,000 holiday employees, up about 5,000 from last year, in part to handle company initiatives such as the ability to buy products online but pick them up in a store, says Jennifer Albano, Toys R Us spokeswoman.

But seasonal employment is still below pre-recession levels, says a report released Monday by outsourcing firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

The firm's annual hiring forecast, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, says seasonal hiring could add almost 700,000 workers, up from about 660,000 added last year. But holiday employment grew by an average of more than 722,000 jobs each year from 2004 to 2007, the report says.

Still, the hiring rise shows the "low but steady growth" in the economy since the recession ended, says the firm's CEO, John Challenger.

Not everyone is on the hiring train. Target will hire between 80,000 and 90,000 employees for the holiday season, down from 92,000 last year.

However, 30% of its 2011 seasonal employees stayed on with the company in year-round positions, and like many retailers, Target accounts for availability and desire for more hours among current employees when hiring for the holidays, spokeswoman Jessica Stevens says.

This year, 43% of retailers say they have a higher ratio of permanent workers to seasonal workers in stores, the Hay Group survey shows.

More permanent workers indicates a strategic decision for many retailers looking to differentiate themselves based on customer service, Morse says.

"Someone who is a permanent employee is often more committed to retail and your brand," she says. "That's going to lead to a better customer service interaction and it's also going to lead to more sales."

USA Today

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