By Christina Cheddar Berk
Retailers are looking to staff up ahead of the holiday shopping season, according to the findings of a recent survey that suggests that the industry is betting on stronger sales this year.
The majority of retailers surveyed by consulting firm Hay Group said they are planning to hire either the same amount or more seasonal help for the holidays.
Perhaps even more telling; about 43 percent are looking to hire more permanent workers and fewer seasonal workers, suggesting they feel more confident about consumer demand even after the holidays are over.
The survey polled 14 major U.S. retailers including Ann, Hot Topic, and Chico's FAS about their plans. Although fewer retailers were involved in the poll this year than last year, the opinions regarding the holiday season were more consistent with one another than last year, according to Maryam Morse, a national reward practice leader at Hay Group's retail practice.
Morse said the results were "more positive" than she expected they would be.
The bulk of the new hiring will be targeted to retail stores. That is a departure from last year, when many retailers were looking to bulk-up staffing at fulfillment centers that help service online shoppers. But this year, only minor staffing adjustments are needed there. On average about 74 percent of the seasonal hires will be in stores, and 12 percent in distribution centers, Hay Group said.
Another change versus last year involved the timing of promotions. Here again, retailers were more unified this year regarding the timing of promotions. About 58 percent of retailers will wait until November to begin their promotional blitz, but 42 percent will begin in October. Few were starting in earlier than October, which had occurred last year, but 31 percent said they were beginning their promotions earlier this year than they did last year.
Retail industry analysts have noted that retailers have been very cautious with inventory levels this year, and are keeping tight control over the amount of product they have on hand. This means the may feel less pressure to cut prices in order to move excess product off the shelves.
According to Morse, this also may be a sign that retailers have found strategies that work in the current climate.
"One of the lessons learned during the downturn was that stores need to be able to respond more quickly to shifting market conditions and consumer preferences," she said. "Now, inventory is better managed, the supply chain is more effective and retailers have a clear plan for promotions to move the merchandise."
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