Despite an overall prediction from retail experts for a positive 2021 holiday season, the industry is continuing to face challenges with not only a strained global supply chain but increasing scrutiny over the treatment of employees.
According to findings of a research study from Accenture, that looked simultaneously at a survey of over 1,500 consumers and a survey of 120 retail executives in the U.S., nearly half of retail executives said they are feeling “increased pressure to provide career growth opportunities to employees.
At the same time, 47 percent of the executives told Accenture ‘the holiday season is making process training and culture & ethos training even more challenging,” with 51 percent of retail executives said they are also feeling pressure to offer permanent roles to holiday-season temporary workers.
Notably, authors of the report said these sentiments “are by no means tied to the holiday period as the vast majority of the executives surveyed said that during the pandemic, they have felt pressure to improve their treatment of employees (cited by 71 percent), improve the inclusivity of their store environments and the diversity of their workforce (83 percent) and to improve their company culture and public image (82 percent).”
“In today’s challenging retail labor market — not just during the holidays but beyond — retailers must ensure that their employees have the skills and opportunities to thrive, as well as the resources to find the right balance between their home and work lives,” said Jill Standish, a senior managing director at Accenture who leads its Retail industry group globally.
With these challenges in mind, retailers said they are taking a different approach to recruitment this year. Nearly half said they have altered or enhanced hiring processes to onboard new recruits faster, 38 percent said they have altered or enhanced training processes to make it faster and easier for recruits to become work-ready and 34 percent said they are changing role descriptions to target and attract different types of candidates.
“The well-being of employees is now also top of mind for consumers, who will favor companies able to show consideration for the ‘human’ side of the workforce,” said Standish. “To succeed in recruiting during peak times and in building a workplace that is better for everyone — workers, customers and their own businesses — retailers will need to bring a flexible, inclusive and digitally enabled approach.”
Meanwhile, retail executives are also taking steps to address the ongoing strain on the supply chain. In fact, 99 percent said they have “done something different this year to ensure supply of stock.” And 52 percent said they’ve taken extraordinary steps to do so.
“Order fulfillment and securing stock will be one of the biggest challenges during the holiday season, while many brands could find themselves short-staffed over the peak period, likely leading to longer lines, emptier shelves — and therefore greater customer frustration,” said Standish. “Retailers need to scale up their scenario planning so that they can model for the unpredictability of cross-border delays and the impacts of rising costs on margins and retail prices. This also involves analyzing stock inventory management data to develop different models to respond to spikes in demand and mitigate against expensive out-of-stock scenarios.”
Accenture’s research found that a third of consumers overall — and 52 percent of Millennials — are worried about stock availability this holiday season. More than a third also said they have noticed empty shelves when shopping in-store and about one-quarter of consumers said they have noticed more out-of-stocks when shopping online. With these concerns in mind, 34 percent of consumers said they will plan to do holiday shopping early this year to buy what they need.