Seasonal hiring will be the same if not worse than last year. That was the not so festive forecast from the employment services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas last week. And it's not surprising with our currently drab consumer climate. The U.S. Commerce Department recently reported anemic retail sales for August and downwardly revised July results. Best Buy Co. seems to confirm the news, recently announcing that it will almost halve its number of seasonal employees.
Last year, the largest U.S. electronics retailer hired 29,000 temporary workers for the year's final three months. This year, they're looking for 15,000, with the extra slack picked up by their regular "experienced and seasoned" staffers, in the words of CEO Brian Dunn.
Best Buy has been struggling in the last few years because of more frugal consumers, as well as competition from sites like Amazon and the popularity of discount stores like Walmart. The store's second-quarter sales were flat at $11.3 billion, less than expected, and second-quarter profits dropped to $177 million from $254 million last year.
"The consumer continues to be cautious," Dunn told The Associated Press. "That's not just a blip, that's the new normal."
Best Buy also plans to decrease its real estate, increase its online presence, increase tech support for customers, and offer more deals on goods below $100 to help lure in more shoppers and give profits a jolt.
There is some good news for those looking for seasonal work. Target and Macy's are hiring 92,000 and 78,000 new employees, respectively, for the holidays, a more than last year, and online retailer Zappos is giving 3,000 Americans temporary jobs -- a small dent in the country's unemployment numbers, but triple their seasonal hires in 2010. So while the big box store might be facing tough times, online retailers aren't looking so gloomy. Last year, 25 percent of all Christmas gifts were purchased on the Internet.
Meanwhile, it's important to note that doom and gloom coverage of Christmas spending might actually be a self-fulfilling prophesy, and make consumers as tight-pursed as the media say they will be.
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