Glad Tidings for Holiday Hiring


The Grove at night during the holiday season
Retailers have high hopes for the 2012 Holiday Season (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Retailers may bring glad tidings for the 2012 holiday season; hiring plans indicate what many believe to be a year of new, more adaptive sales strategies.

Three fourths (75 percent) of retailers predict an increase in holiday sales this year, according to a study by global management consultants the Hay Group. Retailers also report optimism in their holiday hiring plans.

While 57 percent of are planning to take on seasonal workers at the same level as 2011, 36 percent will be hiring more, up from 10 percent last year.“Retailers are betting big on the 2012 holiday season,” according to Craig Rowley, Vice President and Global Practice Leader for Hay Group’s Retail division.

“After four years of economic turbulence, they have figured out how to operate in an uncertain business environment,” Rowley said in a press release. “(They) are calm and cool, rather than concerned, as they head into the holidays.”

Online shopping will also continue to have a big influence on the retail sector, with retailers having an even sharper focus on their e-commerce strategy in 2012. Last year, the holiday buying season had 10 days with over $1 billion in online sales.

Retailers say 12 percent of total seasonal hiring will be in staffing warehouses and fulfillment centers; 74 percent of seasonal workers will be in brick-and-mortar stores.

Talent pool is strong and competitive:

Although the retail marketplace still has a way to go to see prerecession levels, 75 percent of retailers maintain the supply of seasonal applicants stayed the same as last year.

Experience levels of holiday workers remain constant; 62 percent of retailers estimate the average experience level of seasonal employees is one year or less and 38 percent say it is from 2-4 years. However, pay rates for seasonal workers are expected to remain the same. Almost all retailers—92 percent—say that current hiring rates will be about the same as 2011.

Increases in full-time, permanent workers:

Forty-three percent of retail businesses say they will add more permanent workers and focus less on seasonal workers this year. This demonstrates hope for 2013, added by the fact businesses say they want to those employees to stay well beyond the holiday season.

Holiday Promotions are now a Business Strategy:

Slashing prices and hoping for the best have been the standard operating procedure for holiday promotions in the past, but things are beginning to change. Retailers have developed a more comprehensive sales strategy for the end of 2012.

The plan is to extend promotions throughout the season to generate more sales; 31 percent will begin holiday promotions earlier than in the past. While 58 percent of retailers will wait until November to launch their full holiday marketing blitz, 42 percent will begin even earlier, launching promotions in the weeks before Black Friday, the customary start of the holiday shopping season.

These strategies reveal retailers have more trust in the consumer. Few retailers (18 percent) feel the need to match online pricing, and half admit to holding off on giving deep discounts this year.

The trend of Black Friday-type overnight sales may be scaled back this year; only 8 percent plan to open for 24-to-48-hour cycles on specific days throughout the holidays.

Takeaways:

Hard lessons from the economic downturn have given retailers new insight in to maximizing the changing customer base. Businesses are willing to sacrifice outdated marketing tactics such as heavy discounts, and incorporate flexibility as part of their strategy; hiring plans are reflecting this trend.

Whether this new willing to adapt to the changing winds represents  a ‘new normal’ for retailers has yet to be known, but one thing is sure—after four years of economic darkness, a little optimism  (and holiday cheer) is a welcome sight.

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