shopping, e-commerce, consumer behavior

Many retailers face a staffing question after back-to-school season — what to do with seasonal hires? The 10-week gap between b-t-s season and Black Friday is historically known for sales and traffic lulls, yet staffing decisions still need to be made.

If b-t-s season requires major ramp up, it’s well known that the holiday season needs even more attention. It is counterproductive to let trained employees go after Labor Day if the holiday season depends on knowledgeable sales associates to help run a successful business. Instead of terminations or minimizing part-time hours, retailers should keep temporary hires through both seasons.

This strategy allows retailers who thrive in both seasons to continue to offer top-notch customer service, especially in early November, when most are usually distracted with on-boarding new associates. There are also financial savings that accompany this strategy. Based on our current research we found the spend is approximately one half the amount of money it takes to hire or rehire replacement staff in November.

Alternatively, if b-t-s season isn’t a priority, then retailers need to understand their seasonal staffing needs and how to best meet them as early in the fall as possible. This is especially important in the luxury retail space.

Determining Seasonal Staffing Needs

It is crucial for retailers to assess the ebbs and flows of their business. Some retailers might notice that their spikes follow seasonal trends, like special events or holidays, and others might find that their brick-and-mortar stores experience different upticks throughout the year depending on their location and the season. After all, there are a couple of very important calendar dates between the end of September and Black Friday (i.e., Columbus Day and Veterans’ Day weekend) that necessitate increased staffing in order to capitalize on increased shopper traffic.

While department stores and non-specialty discounters usually see similar traffic growth in both the b-t-s and holiday seasons, b-t-s isn’t a major sales cycle for luxury retailers. This means it’s less likely that they have extra staff on board to carry through the 10-week lull. But, don’t think this puts luxury retailers at a disadvantage. They should use this time as an opportunity to help catapult themselves in the season that counts for them, holiday shopping season.

In either case, it stands true that seasonality influences business, so retailers must make informed staffing decisions that make sense for their business financially and that result in happier customer experiences.

How Luxury Retailers Can Thrive During the Holiday Shopping Season

Instead of sifting through racks of items in search of the best deal, shoppers are visiting a luxury store in hopes of making a purchase of one or more of the specialty items the retailer offers. Hiring the proper staff at a luxury store can be more challenging than others because shoppers expect a more tailored in-store experience.

In today’s technology driven world, the modern shopper researches a product before going in-store to make a purchase. Retailers need to be prepared for the informed consumers, who have come to expect an equal or greater level of expertise from sales associates, especially on high-priced items and luxury goods. Proper staffing can make the difference between a browser becoming a buyer and positive sales conversion.

By beginning the holiday hiring process earlier, luxury retailers can hire, train and retain top talent ahead of other retailers. Additionally, by retaining existing temporary staff, there will be little-to-no ramp-up time approaching the holidays and no opportunity for competing retailers to hire past team members. By allowing time for sales associates to get used to the products, stores and processes ahead of the end of the year rush, retailers will be better equipped to succeed this holiday season.

What Physical Retailers Should Look This Season

This year is the first time since 2012 that there are four Saturdays in December before Christmas Day. Physical retailers need to keep a close eye on this calendar shift as it will redistribute shopping visits and elevate the importance of Dec. 23, or Super Saturday, and Dec. 16. Our predicted top 10 shopping days this season will account for 40 to 45 percent of total shopping visits made during the entire 2017 holiday season. This year physical retailers must ensure they are fully stocked and staffed beyond Dec. 26 to make the most of shopper interest. For luxury retailers, this could mean that their stocking strategy might need to shift along with the calendar.

For the fast-approaching holiday season, retailers must have an educated staff on the floor to direct customers and provide them with a positive holiday shopping experience. Retailers must also be aware of the calendar shift and make sure their best sales associates are scheduled to cover the predicted busiest shopping days.

Whether a physical retailer needs to consider keeping b-t-s staff through the lull or should take advantage of holiday staffing sooner, each strategy can help make the holiday shopping experience as effortless as possible for customers and more profitable for retailers.


Brian Field is the senior director of advisory services for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak’s proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance.

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