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Holiday hiring indicator suggests Merry Christmas


Retailers plan to hire an increased number of temporary workers this holiday season, according to a survey by the global consulting firm Hay Group.

"Retailers are betting that 2012 is going to be a great holiday season," said Craig Rowley, vp and global practice leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. "After four years of economic turbulence, they have figured out how to operate in an uncertain business environment and are calm and cool, knowing that they are ready, as they head into the holidays."

According to the firm, 75% of the retailers who participated in a holiday survey said their sales would be higher this year than last and 57% said they would keep staffing levels consistent with the prior year while 36% plan to increase hiring.

Hay Group’s survey, now in its sixth year, included only 14 retailers and none of the publicly identified participants – Ann Inc., Hot Topic, Chico’s, and David’s Bridal – are major operators. However, despite the limited sample size, the findings may be directionally relevant and offer insight to retailers holiday expectations. Of course, as company’s look to do more with less it is also conceivable that even retailers whose internal forecasts call for sales increases will look to hold the line on labor budgets.

Among other findings from the survey:

►Retailers look to increase permanent workers. Retailers are also increasing their focus on permanent employees. Forty-three percent say they will have more permanent workers and fewer seasonal workers this year. With renewed confidence and a bullish outlook for 2013, retailers want to retain more workers beyond the holiday season.

►The job applicant pool remains competitive, but stable. Despite continued challenges in the job market, 75% of retailers said the quantity of seasonal applicants is about the same as 2011. When it comes to quality, 62% said the average experience level of seasonal workers is between 0-1 years, and 38 percent say it’s between 2-4 years. As stores still have plenty of access to talent, seasonal workers can expect similar pay rates this year. Nearly all retailers (92%) say their hire rates are about the same as in 2011.

"All things considered, retailers are on the ‘nice list’ this year," said Maryam Morse, national reward practice leader of Hay Group’s retail practice. "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. Now, inventory is better managed, the supply chain is more effective and retailers have a clear plan for promotions to move the merchandise. With sales improving, retailers are placing more emphasis on retaining and rewarding employees and identifying career paths for top talent."

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