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Retailers focus on seasonal employees who can bolster ‘in-store experiences’

October 02, 2018

Retailers are emphasizing customers’ in-store experiences this holiday season and their holiday hiring decisions reflect that trend, according to a new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) retailer survey.

Korn Ferry surveyed 20 major US retailers last month and found nearly 15% are looking for employees who better align with brand culture; 21% said they are putting a greater emphasis on employees who can help create strong in-store experiences for customers.

The survey also found nearly two-thirds of retailers, 64%, expect a higher ratio of traditional to seasonal employees compared to last year. The top reason — cited by 25% of respondents — is that retailers are giving their traditional employees more hours.

While in-store experiences may be more of a focus this year than in recent years, retailers are still staffing up to respond to e-commerce orders, with 55% saying they are hiring more seasonal staff in distribution centers due to internet sales.

However, filling retail roles may be a challenge. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said recent hikes in minimum wages and market increases in the retail industry have made hiring seasonal staff more difficult, and 17% said they will see 5% to 10% fewer applicants this year. One reason that there are fewer seasonal applicants may be that nearly a fifth of respondents say they pay seasonal employees on average 5% to 10% less than traditional employees.

Despite potential hiring challenges, retailers are expecting solid sales, with one-third expecting a 5% to 10% increase in sales in 2018; none expect a decrease in sales this year.

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