War for Talent Hits Retail

Although seasonal hiring for the retail industry is expected to be mostly flat compared to last year, finding employees to fill positions for the holiday season is expected to be tougher this year, given changes in the economy and in the retail sector itself. Macys, Target and Toys R Us have announced they’ll hold their first-ever nationwide recruiting events for seasonal workers at all of their stores and facilities during a single day or over several weekends, CNBC reports.

The lower unemployment rate and higher minimum wages in many states and localities means that finding workers to fill seasonal retail positions this year will be more difficult and expensive for retailers than last year — average hourly pay for seasonal workers is up by $4 from last year, to $14 per hour, according to Snagajob. But the growth of e-commerce means that they’ll be struggling to fill warehouse positions at fulfillment centers as well as cashiers and the like — and those jobs can be tougher to fill.

Retailers encountered difficulty filling warehouse jobs in areas such as central Ohio, Memphis, Tenn. and Louisville, Ky., Steve Osborn, a director at the Kurt Salmon consulting firm and supply chain expert, told CNBC.  “The same group of [retailers] that were fighting over people last year will be fighting over people this year. And there’s a few less people to fight over and a few more positions to fill,” he said.

Unlike most customer-facing positions, warehouse jobs tend to be more labor-intensive, which can make them less appealing, Osborn said. Plus, the facilities tend to be located in rural areas, where land is cheap but people are few, he said.

Some companies are responding to the challenge by opening “micro hubs” closer to large urban areas. “This not only helps them get goods to customers faster, but it solves some staffing issues pressing on them,” Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger told Multichannel Merchant. “They can find more people willing to do that work in city neighborhoods, who don’t want to do an hour commute to the exurbs or have transportation issues.”

Other companies are adding perks such as on-site child care to their facility, offering eight-hour days with no work requirement on the weekends, and removing their English language requirement to attract more Hispanic workers. “We have bilingual staff and our temp agencies support us with bilingual supervisors and coaches,” Christine Miller, director of operations for American Eagle Outfitters in Hazleton, Pa., told Multichannel Merchant.