KNOXVILLE (WATE/AP) – The holidays bring gathering with family, friends and time spent in retail stores. Businesses in Knoxville are gearing up for the busy holiday with seasonal hires.
Retailers are dangling perks like higher pay, extra discounts and more flexible schedules to lure temporary holiday workers in a tighter labor market. They’re also more determined to lock in their workers earlier. Target is holding nationwide recruitment fairs and other, like Hhgregg Inc. are making it easier to apply for temporary holiday jobs via mobile devices.
“Well, this time of year obviously business picks up with the weather as we go into the fall, that naturally causes our business to pick up,” said Kohl’s manager Chris Arnold. “When you get closer to the black Friday weekend and all that goes along with the month of December, it’s just required to have the additional staff on hand.”
Some companies are also widening their standards. Significantly more companies said they would be more willing to hire temporary workers with criminal backgrounds than two years ago, according to job listing site Snagajob.com.
“It’s reflecting that people have changed their views on what’s good enough,” said CEO Peter Harrison. Harrison also noted that many of his retail clients, which include companies like arts and crafts retailer The Michaels Cos. and Target Corp., want to have their holiday hiring done by the end of October. In the past, it was complete by early November.
Many stores hire extra workers and keep them until next year.
“Target is awesome,” said Target Manager Grace Boyd. “Our seasonal period is 165 days. It’s about five and half months, so, depending on when they start, it could go into March and get ready to run into April.”
If workers want to keep their jobs after the season is over, many stores have the opportunity available.
“If you have a really fast and fun friendly attitude, and want to come to work every day, and you’re really happy and ready to work, then if it’s a good fit for you an us, we’ll go regular,” said Boyd.
Government figures show that 2.5 million more Americans have jobs as of August compared to a year earlier. The unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, lower than the 5.1 percent a year ago.
Hiring for the final three months of the year should be level with last year, when retailers added about 738,800 seasonal workers, said John Challenger, chief executive of workplace consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was down 1.4 percent from the year before. But while the overall number of jobs for seasonal workers looks to be flat, the biggest growth area in recent years has been in transportation and warehouse jobs because of the increase in online shopping. Transportation and warehouse employment increased by a non-seasonally adjusted 200,500 workers in November and December last year. Ten years ago, the seasonal job gains for that sector measured just 42,400, according to Challenger’s analysis.
Hiring for the final three months of the year should be level with last year, when retailers added about 738,800 seasonal workers, said John Challenger, chief executive of workplace consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was down 1.4 percent from the year before.
But while the overall number of jobs for seasonal workers looks to be flat, the biggest growth area in recent years has been in transportation and warehouse jobs because of the increase in online shopping. Transportation and warehouse employment increased by a non-seasonally adjusted 200,500 workers in November and December last year. Ten years ago, the seasonal job gains for that sector measured just 42,400, according to Challenger’s analysis.
Finding the right workers for the season is critical. Having a bad customer service experience during holiday shopping is much worse than having one the rest of the year, says Kevon Hills, vice president of research at StellaService, a customer service analytics company. “No matter what technology you use, or tools or product, at the heart of the customer service is the people — whether it’s online or in the store,” he said.
Hills noted that retailers have improved their response time in recent years. For example, last holiday season, it took 49 seconds from the first ring to when a customer service representative answers, compared to 71 seconds during the holiday 2013 season, he said.
One of the biggest incentives for workers, of course, is pay. Toys R Us, which is hiring 10,900 seasonal workers in five of its biggest markets, said it’s raising the pay in certain areas. Also new this year: Better compensation for those who work Christmas Eve, according to Alyssa Peera, a spokeswoman at the toy retailer. Traditionally, workers were given increased pay on Thanksgiving. Temporary workers will also get additional discounts and be treated to special after-hour events.
But flexibility is a big draw, too, as stores aim to be more competitive with companies like ride-sharing provider Uber. Pillai says that a few years ago, people who wanted to work just 10 hours a week had a hard time getting holiday jobs. But now, he said, “We will find a role.”
- HoneyBaked Ham – To help meet the annual rush to put meat on the table for countless holiday feasts, the company plans to hire 12,000 employees.
- United States Postal Service -USPS plans to hire between 35,000 and 40,000 seasonal workers for the upcoming holiday season to perform as mail handlers and retail associates as well as some tractor trailer drivers and city carrier assistants.
- Toys R Us – The toy store plans on making thousands of seasonal hires, all of which are eligible for the company’s team member discount. In recent years, 15-20 percent of the company’s holiday workforce retained their positions after Christmas.
- FedEx – FedEx expects to hire more than 50,000 employees across the country to handle peak season volume between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- UPS – Nationwide, UPS will hire 95,000 people for the holiday season to help meet shipping demands. The company said seasonal employment could lead to permanent positions after the holidays are over.
- Kohl’s – The retailer plans to hire more than 69,000 additional workers for the upcoming holiday season to meet demands at more than 1,100 stores nationwide.
- Target – Target will hire more than 70,000 seasonal store workers.
- JCPenney – The retailer will hire 40,000 total workers during the holiday season, 38,000 that will work in its retail locations and the other 2,000 to take care of online orders.
- AC Moore – The operations manager at A.C. Moore, located on Morrell Road said they are hiring positions. Interested employees can go to the store and pick-up application or go online.