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Greenville Business Magazine

Retailers Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season

Oct 30, 2017 08:52AM ● By Emily Stevenson

By Natalie Curry

As the holiday season creeps closer by the minute, local and national retailers are preparing for the winter rush by increasing staff hours and bringing in new employees. With shoppers starting the hunt for the perfect gift earlier and earlier each year and popular online stores to compete with, retailers are committed to ensuring that they have adequate staff to deal with crowds.

National retailers like Toys R Us, the shops at Haywood Mall, and logistics giant UPS have already begun hiring to fill seasonal positions. Sarah Brocker, Haywood Mall marketing director, says most stores, both small and large, hire seasonally. The types of positions filled by seasonal workers vary based on the company, and they include both full-time and part-time positions for the holiday season. For most retailers, seasonal employees fill positions that can be easily trained and deal directly with customers. Haywood Mall hires seasonal guest service representatives, and Brocker observed “the need for part time cashiers, store associates, and guest service representatives” at other mall retailers.

UPS is looking for full and part-time package handlers, driver helpers, and drivers to ensure that holiday packages arrive at their destinations on time. Toys R Us hires seasonally for a variety of positions, including cashier and sales associate, but they have also introduced a new position this year: toy demonstrator.

The number of seasonal employees that retailers are hiring varies greatly depending on the employer and their projected need in the market. Toys R Us is hiring more than 200 seasonal employees in the greater Greenville-Spartanburg market. UPS is seeking to fill more than 800 positions in the Greenville-Spartanburg area.

While some businesses are hiring employees for the holiday season, others have decided not to hire seasonal employees this year. National chains like Wal-Mart and Publix and local businesses like Mast General Store are offering their existing employees extra hours instead of seeking out new hires for the busiest shopping season of the year.

Wal-Mart tested the shift from hiring seasonal employees to providing extra hours to full and part-time employees last year. Wal-Mart senior manager of corporate communications Erica Jones says the retailer received “great feedback from our customers and associates” concerning the switch to offering seasonal hours to existing employees.

The choice to offer additional hours to employees has several benefits, including not having to expend extra resources or time into training for entirely new employees. Jones says some Wal-Mart stores will be doing very limited seasonal hiring on the local level. However, the trend for the company as a whole seems to be towards holiday staffing almost exclusively by existing employees.

Publix is also not expecting to hire seasonal workers in the Greenville area, though they do bring on additional workers in other markets. Publix media and community relations manager Kimberly Reynolds said that Publix’s “current associate count in the Upstate is sufficient to handle an increase in business during the holidays.” Some employees in Upstate Publix stores may receive overtime, but this is dependent on “the needs and schedules of the stores in that area,” says Reynolds.

Mast General Store, a familiar and bustling locale on Greenville’s Main Street, does not plan to hire for seasonal positions this year. General manager Tim Dorsey explained that while Mast General Store has hired seasonally in the past, this year they expect to give hours to existing employees and returning college students. Mast General Store has an informal agreement with its summer staffers who return during holiday breaks from college. Dorsey says employing returning staffers provides “cost and time savings for the store” and also benefits shoppers. Mast General is expecting a busy holiday season, thanks in part to increased foot traffic and popularity of downtown Greenville.    

The trend from seasonal employees to extra staffing by existing employees cuts down on training and other costs for retailers. Additionally, some markets have enough staffers to not warrant the hiring of new associates for the holiday season. What does this mean for your holiday shopping this year? Stores are preparing for large crowds and a busy season, either by hiring new employees or increasing hours for existing ones. Regardless of seasonal staffing strategy, Greenville retailers say they are ready to meet the holiday rush.