September is barely behind us, but the retail industry is already prepping for the holiday shopping season. Sales are predicted to increase between 3.5% and 4.6% this year, according to projections from Deloitte.
Monster economist Giacomo Santangelo says, “Current reports reflect a proposed cutback in 2023 holiday hiring. A decline in holiday hiring suggests uncertainty on the part of firms and reflects reduced seasonal employment opportunities for workers. If some of these reports are to be believed, we could be looking at holiday hiring at a level we have not seen since the 2008 Great Recession”.
Holiday Hiring Strategies
If your business typically hires for the season, these strategies can help you manage that hiring in an uncertain economy.
Look Internally First
Do you need to fill additional shifts? Consider offering them to your current employees.
“They may want to pick up extra shifts to earn more for the holidays,” says Marina Vaamonde, owner and founder of online house marketplace HouseCashin. “If you’ve got enough people to cover the expected increase in workload, you might not have to look outside, or you would need to hire fewer temporary workers than normal.”
This may require training your staff on the art of the “holiday hustle,” says Eric Elggren, co-founder of leather accessories company Andar. “Upselling, moving quickly, and managing multiple customers at once are skills that all holiday retail workers need to have. If you have a staff that’s honed these skills, you may not need to hire, train, and pay many more workers for the holidays.”
Lean Toward More Flexible Positions
When you’re not sure what your needs will be — but you anticipate them being lighter than usual — you need the ability to be fast on your feet. Hiring part-time or temporary workers can give you the freedom to move workers around as needed.
“This will give you the flexibility to adjust your staffing levels based on changes in customer traffic,” says Arno Markus, founder of iCareerSolutions. If demand is higher than expected, you can increase hours for the part-time workers that want them.
This also gives you the opportunity to offer flexible work in an economy where “flexible” is what workers want. Ninety-four percent of workers want flexible hours, according to a survey from Future Forum, a consortium on the future of work.
When hiring for an uncertain spending season, you may need to have some tricks up your sleeve. For instance, consider hiring seasonal workers who can contribute in multiple ways.
“It may make sense to hire someone who has more experience in other areas of the company so that they can take on those extra responsibilities when needed,” says Kimberley Tyler-Smith of Resume Worded.
If you’re hiring fewer workers, it’s also imperative that you screen candidates carefully and make sure you hire well. “In a slower economy, there will be more people vying for seasonal jobs, so it’s important to be selective in order to find the best possible employees,” says Phi Dange, director of home service company Sidepost.
Don’t Skimp Too Much
Dropping your hiring too low can backfire when you don’t have the help you need. Target’s seasonal hiring goal of 100,000 is exactly the same as last year’s, and Macy’s will be hiring fewer people than it did in 2022.
“The holiday season is more about the experience and emotions attached to it, and seasonal team members are an important part of this and are also important to ensure businesses deliver customer needs,” says Adrienne Couch, human resources analyst with business site LLC.services.
Has Seasonal Hiring Been Adequate?
Consider, too, whether your seasonal hiring has been adequate in the past. “I’ve yet to find a retail store that needs to hire seasonal help [manage to] hire an adequate amount of them, leaving even the seasonal helpers overworked and regular employees downright drowning,” says Dragos Badea, CEO of hybrid workforce management company Yarooms. “Regular hiring patterns against slower demand might be a good thing in the long run, as you’ll experience a good deal fewer holiday attrition-style quitting at the peak of the season.”
An Economist’s Viewpoint on This Year’s Seasonal Hiring
During the holiday season, the retail sector is a driving force in seasonal hiring trends. Consumer behavior and changes in retail strategies affect retail during the holidays. Anything that affects them will affect firms’ hiring behavior.
Santangelo says, “One example of a “consumer behavior” that is influencing retail is “online shopping.” The rise of online shopping has transformed holiday hiring by creating new job opportunities in e-commerce, shifting the types of roles available, and influencing hiring decisions by both traditional retailers and online businesses.
Since anything that affects consumer behavior influences retail behavior, consumer confidence is also a huge contributing factor. Recent earnings reports from retailers (you know the ones) indicate consumers are a bit more hesitant as the holidays approach. This may stem from further concerns about inflation, financial sustainability, and the recent resumption of student loan payments, which will reduce disposable income during the holiday season and, unless consumers are willing to take on more credit card debt, will limit the amount of spending, meaning retailers will need fewer workers.