Hay Group finds retailers' hiring plans, sales outlook slightly more optimistic this holiday season

Seasonal job applications on the rise; minimal uptick in openings available

PHILADELPHIA, September 9, 2010: According to a survey released today by Hay Group, a global management consultancy, 64 percent of retailers expect holiday sales will increase over 2009, a vastly brighter picture than last year when only 28 percent planned for a sales increase. The outlook for retail seasonal job applicants is also brighter, with 83 percent of retailers planning to hire more or about the same number of workers when compared to the 2009 holiday season.

However, the job market remains competitive. Forty-three percent of respondents expect to see more applicants this holiday season than in 2009, although that is a drop from 62 percent that saw more applicants last year than in 2008. Only 17 percent of retailers plan to reduce their staffing levels, a notable decrease from 40 percent in 2009.

“Retailers are more optimistic than last year headed into the 2010 holiday season. For job applicants, it means additional opportunities to make a pass, but they’re still throwing the football into heavy coverage,” said Craig Rowley, vice president and global practice leader for Hay Group’s Retail practice.

Hay Group’s survey, in its fourth year, analyzed responses from 20 major U.S. retailers including JCPenney, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Pier 1 in order to understand retailers’ plans for the 2010 holiday season.

Among the highlights from the September 2010 Hay Group retail survey: 

  • Seasonal worker staffing levels: Compared to 2009, 61 percent of retailers plan to hire the same amount of seasonal workers this year, and 22 percent plan to hire five to 15 percent more workers. While the majority of respondents (63 percent) indicate that the ratio of permanent to seasonal store employees is about the same as last year, 26 percent note that they plan to hire fewer seasonal and more permanent staff this holiday season. Only 25 percent of respondents pay seasonal workers less than permanent staff, down from 33 percent in 2009. 
  • Slowdown takes its toll: When asked how they were affected by the recent slowdown in sales, only 17 percent of retailers note that they hired fewer employees throughout the year. However, 13 percent of respondents say that they are delaying decisions about holiday staffing until closer to the holidays.
  • Sales expectations: Retailers are decidedly more upbeat than 2009 — no respondents indicated that they expected sales to decrease from last year, a dramatic change from the 36 percent who predicted a decrease in 2009. More than one-third (35 percent) of retailers predict sales will increase by as much as six to 15 percent.
  • Store promotions: After the heavy discounting seen in 2009, retailers are shifting their strategy in order to more carefully manage their inventory levels. While 26 percent of respondents plan to run more promotions and deeper discounts than last year, most retailers plan to spread out their promotions over the season (50 percent), and 22 percent plan to start early, up from just four percent in 2009. Retailers are also continuing to downplay the importance of Black Friday promotions this year — only 22 percent are running the most promotions on Black Friday compared to 2009 (35 percent) and 2008 (45 percent).

“Ultimately retailers are still planning to accommodate the recession-battered consumer, with discounts and promotions running longer throughout the season than last year,” added Rowley. “But while the consumer may be more apt to spend, given retailers’ strict inventory management, the early bird is most likely to get the worm.”

About Hay Group
Hay Group is a global consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality. We develop talent, organize people to be more effective, and motivate them to perform at their best. With 88 offices in 47 countries, we work with over 7,000 clients across the world. Our clients are from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, across every major industry and represent diverse business challenges. Our focus is on making change happen and helping people and organizations realize their potential.

For more information, including requests for interviews, please contact Keri Toomey at 212-840-1661 or keri@blisspr.com