Retailers Cautious to Hire for Holiday Season

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Retailers Cautious to Hire for Holiday Season

By Stacy Straczynski - 09/17/2009
Long lines and poorly stocked shelves may well await holiday shoppers this season. According to an annual hiring report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement agency, retailers will be hesitant in adding seasonal employees to their staffs this year.

Despite some signs of economic turnaround, retailers will look to maintain margins in what is predicted to be a tough holiday season, said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger.

Recent data from the U.S. Commerce Department reported that August retail sales increased by 2.7 percent overall, with increases in apparel (2.4 percent), sporting goods (2.3 percent) and general merchandise (1.6 percent). However, the good news does little to offset the fact that retail employers already cut 89,242 jobs in the first eight months of 2009.

“The stronger sales figures heading into the holidays could boost seasonal hiring above last year’s meager activity. But the hiring surge may come later than normal this year, as many retailers wait to see how holiday sales are going before adding extra workers,” said Challenger.

Challenger forecasts that seasonal employment opportunities will be greatest at chain discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target as consumer seek savings. “The big-box stores need extra workers on the floor, but they also need extra workers in their shipping facilities and overnight stocking positions. Opportunities also exist outside of retail, in areas like catering and with shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that holiday employment between October and November 2008 increased by only 384,300 jobs. This was 46.7 percent less than 2007 figures and the lowest number since 1989.