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Korn Ferry: Many retailers having trouble finding seasonal employees

Amid still-high unemployment, not all retailers are having an easy time attracting holiday workers.

Nearly half (47%) of retailers said they are having a tough time attracting employees for the upcoming holiday season, according to a Korn Ferry survey of more than 50 major retailers. The study also revealed that 29% of retailers are offering incentives to new hires, such as bonuses, premium pay and increased employee discounts. 

“The need for talent varies greatly from retailer to retailer, with specialty stores such as clothing boutiques finding it difficult to compete against big-box retailers that pay better,” said Korn Ferry retail expert Craig Rowley. “The effects of last spring’s shutdown due to the pandemic are still impacting many retailers, as they laid off employees who didn’t come back when stores re-opened. Hiring managers will need to be creative to attract seasonal workers.” 

When considering the upcoming season, the level of optimism surrounding sales depends on the type of retailer. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of retailers that were deemed “essential” and allowed to stay open at the beginning of the pandemic expect an increase in sales this holiday season, with 29% expecting business to be up more than 10%.
However, “non-essential” retailers, such as specialty clothing and home décor shops, are not as optimistic, with 44% expecting a business decrease from the year prior — 17% expect sales will be down 10% or more. An anticipated slowdown in holiday sales for these retailers also means that 31% plan on hiring fewer holiday employees. 
Changes in the business climate are also impacting pay programs. Nearly half (49%) of retailers said they are changing their store management incentive plan, with 34% they are changing the metrics by which managers are incentivized. 

Overall, 80% of retailers expect to offer merit increases in 2021, with 44% expecting the customary 3% merit increase.

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