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Retailers look to hire staff ahead of vacation rush with worker shortage

Karen Hilt owns My Secret Stash in Traverse City, Michigan, which retails products from local artists and vendors, and the business is booming. Hilt is feeling optimistic about the holiday season ahead, so much so that she is preparing to open a second location.

But like many small business owners, she faces an ongoing labor shortage, and staffing the new store remains a challenge.

A recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that nearly half of the owners surveyed had significant or moderate staffing issues.

“Between the two sites, I have six and I would like to have 10 or 12 workers. It would make me a lot happier,” Hilt said.

To pick up the slack, she added, “I work about seven days a week, morning, noon and night.”

Hilt’s optimistic sales outlook is echoed by the National Retail Federation, which expects a strong season, with sales in November and December expected to increase between 8.5% and 10.5% to a total of 843, $ 4 billion to $ 859 billion in sales. The projection exceeds last year’s numbers and would mark a new all-time high, even as a triple whammy of labor shortages, supply chain issues and inflation hits businesses in the l nationwide.

“If retailers can keep things on their shelves and shippers can get goods delivered to people’s homes by Christmas, it will truly be a banner year for holiday spending,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist. to the NRF, which noted the personnel problem affects not only retailers in stores and online, but also in the supply chain.

Supply chain disruptions and labor shortages could put a damper on the party. According to the NFIB, 48% of small businesses say supply chain disruptions have a significant impact. Of those who rely on holiday sales for a significant portion of their annual income, 38% predict such shortages will impact sales.

“We are seeing a shortage of workers in distribution and warehouse. Part of that is when products, even from the port, are transported to when those products enter a distribution and warehouse area. They juggle hours, they juggle people, and people work long hours, ”Kleinhenz said.

Retail jobs hit 1.3 million in August, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Challenger, Gray & Christmas projects 700,000 workers will be hired this season. The retail sector created 35,000 jobs in October, according to the BLS. Amazon, Target and Walmart and others are looking for hundreds of thousands of workers and top wages, offering bonuses and more to recruit.

Under Armor, based in Baltimore, said it is entering the holiday season with more teammates than it has had in recent years in its retail stores. The company has hired 1,000 seasonal workers and is looking for 1,000 additional workers to hire in the coming months.

UA credits a new in-store incentive program for all retail employees, seasonal, full-time and part-time, which allows monthly bonuses of up to 8% or more of their take-home pay, in addition to a bonus $ 15 per year. Starting salary per hour, up $ 10 an hour this summer, to its success in staffing so far.

“We’re in one of the most competitive environments we’ve seen in a very long time, especially in retail stores. I think our decision earlier in the year to increase that starting salary from $ 10 to $ 15 certainly helped us get ahead of hiring for the vacation we’re in right now, ”Stephanie Pugliese, AU President for the Americas.

“The holiday season is always a peak time for any retailer to hire and making sure we have enough teammates to meet consumer demand is really a long term investment we have in our talent. business. We have built our plans around investing in this talent in the future. “

Back in Michigan, Hilt said she was not immune to the supply chain hiccups rippling through the industry, but as large retailers face a product shortage, she positions itself for success by selling local products like houseplants. Plant sales have really taken off during the pandemic, with homebound customers looking to beautify their surroundings – and their meetings zoom.

“We are definitely exceeding our forecasts from previous years and our customers are satisfied. We like everyone to focus on local shopping, ”Hilt said. “I don’t have a lot of products hanging on a ship anywhere. “

Yet it pays well above the minimum wage and offers additional perks like free lunches for workers. Most importantly, she hopes small changes will help improve the customer experience in the face of the staff shortage.

“I feel like there are lemons and let’s make a whole bunch of lemonade,” Hilt said. “Bring in some people to stock up before or after closing, because if we do it when we are open, it harms the experience of our customers who are in front of us, who have taken the time to go out and shop fun. They want us to be there for them, so we’re just trying to be a little more creative. “

CNBC’s Betsy Spring contributed to this story.

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