Shaky Consumer Confidence Could Affect Seasonal Hiring

xmashireEven though merchants are gearing up for the additional hiring of seasonal employees this holiday, a new report has found that “shaky” consumer confidence and an increased in efficiencies in the retail space could prevent  seasonal hiring from hitting the great heights it did in 2012.

According to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. annual holiday forecast, in 2012 between October 1 and December 31 679,300 additional employees were hired. The report states that 2012 was the “heaviest holiday hiring binge since 2000” when 788,200 seasonal employees were hired the last three months of the year.

According to the report, the 2012 holiday total hiring was up 11% from 2011. As for 2013, there are several factors that could prevent the seasonal hires from reaching last year’s peak, according the report, including unemployment rates and consumer confidence.

“There are several factors that could keep holiday hiring from reaching last year’s level. While the economy and job market are improving, it has now been four years since the recession officially ended and millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive office of challenger, Gray & Christmas.

According to a recent report from ShopperTrak, retail sales are expected to rise 2.4% during this holiday season, beginning in November through December compared to the 3% increase in 2012, 4% increase in 2011, and the 3.8% increase in 2010. The report also found that store visits are expected to fall 1.4% during the upcoming holiday months.

“Price conscious consumers are doing more and more of their holiday shopping online, where they often find the best deals and can typically enjoy free delivery and no sales tax,” Challenger said.

“The ongoing shift to internet shopping could see some season hiring in this area, but the numbers will never match the employment gains seen in traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, primarily because there are not as many,” Challenger.

In 2012, Amazon announced plans to hire 50,000 season workers, Target added 88,000, Macy’s added 80,000, Kohl’s added 52,700, Walmart added 50,000, and Toys R Us added 45,000.

This year however, even though very few retailers have made their season announcements, Target is planning on adding 70,000, Walmart plans to add 55,000, Kohl’s plans to add 50,000, eBay is planning 2,000 season employees, and Eddie Bauer is planning 1,200.

Fewer workers, according to the report, will also be needed this holiday season because of the fact that “retailers are getting smarter about staffing. The era of Big Data has armed everyone with the information they need to more accurately predict the ebbs and flows in sales activity and adjust hiring accordingly,” Challenger said.

The decline in season hires at Target, according to the report, has nothing to do with sales expectations. “Fewer temporary workers will be needed due to increased efficiencies and a desire among its permanent, full-time staff to reap the rewards of extra holiday hours,” the report said.

Besides increased efficiencies and employees desire to work additional hours, the predicted decline in seasonal hiring, the report found, could also be attributed to stronger hiring in the early part of the year. Retail employment, according to the report, grew by over 480,000 between March and August of this year, which is 42% from the 340,000 added during that same time in 2012.

“Just as the holiday ads and decorations appear earlier and earlier each year, we may be seeing earlier holiday hiring, with enough flexible, part-time workers, retailers can handle the wide fluctuations that occur in the last half of the year, starting with back-to-school sales, followed by Halloween, and culminating with Christmas,” Challenger said.

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