Majority plan to match last year's hiring level of seasonal workers
Holiday shoppers, mark your calendars: Nov. 23; Nov.24, and Nov. 26, better known as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, the biggest shopping days of the holiday season. Too soon?
Not with a stubbornly stagnant economic recovery that Federal Reserve Chairperson Ben Bernanke called recently, “far from satisfactory.” For retailers, the holiday shopping season can represent up to 40 percent of sales, and as consumer spending comprises 70 percent of the economy, consumer confidence, or lack of it, can have a devastating ripple effect. The most recent index from the Conference Board Consumer does not foretell glad tidings with confidence in August at its lowest level since November.
But retailers are anticipating something of a holiday shopping miracle, according to a new report released Monday by the Hay Group. Three-quarters forecast an increase in holiday sales. Further, a majority of retailers (57 percent) plan to hire season workers at same level as last year. More than one-third (36 percent) say they will be hiring more, up from 10 percent in 2011.
Retailers hope to build on last year’s unprecedented 10 individual days with more than $1 billion in online sales by adjusting their e-commerce strategy, the Hays Group found. On average, retailers say that 74 percent of their seasonal hires will be placed in stores and 12 percent will be in distribution centers.
Retailers are also fine-tuning their promotional and inventory strategies. Almost one-third (31 percent) report they will start their promotions even earlier this year (which won’t be a surprise to those who have noticed Halloween displays in their local stores). A majority (58 percent) will hold off until November to begin their holiday shopping promotional blitzes, almost half (42 percent) will launch in October.
The survey found a surprising and seemingly cavalier attitude toward online competition. Only 18 percent said they feel pressure to match online-only prices, while 50 percent said they are looking to cut back on discounting overall. Just 8 percent will staff stores to be open 24 hours on key shopping days throughout the holidays.
Some brick and mortar chains are not taking their online competition lightly. Toys R Us, for example, recently announced it will waive its service fee and minimum purchase requirement for shoppers using its layaway program. Walmart, too, is expanding its layaway program. It will last a month longer than last year’s and will include a wider variety of items beyond toys and electronics. There is still a $15 fee and a minimum purchase requirement.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.