Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its analysis of the labor market and found that despite an average of 582,000 jobs being added each month for the past three months, the number of openings remains at around 10 million. The BLS said 4.4 million people left their jobs in September — a record number.
As the holiday shopping season gains steam, the National Retail Federation expects retailers to hire more than 500,000 workers — most will be part-time positions. Recent data from Adzuna, the global job search engine, revealed that part-time jobs “have increased by 31.4 percent over the last four weeks as holiday hiring kicked into gear,” the company said.
Chris Matichuk, general manager of StoreForce, and a retail industry veteran with over three decades of experience told WWD that the response by retailers during the labor shortage has been a “blanket approach” where companies simply throw more money at the workforce.
“They’re raising hourly rates and in some cases, raising salaries,” Matichuk said. “But that doesn’t address the fundamental problem at hand.” The issue, especially with Gen Z and younger Millennials working at retail, is that workers are not feeling valued. It transcends a paycheck, Matichuk said, noting that younger generations want to be engaged, and want greater flexibility.
In the short term, through the peak holiday shopping season, Matichuk expects retailers to cut back on extended shopping hours. She’s also concerned about the post-holiday period, which is a peak period for returns and product exchanges.
When asked about what retailers can they do to mitigate the labor impact on their business, Owen Frivold, executive vice president of strategy at Hero Digital, said as labor shortages continue into the foreseeable future, “retailers can mitigate the business impact by identifying peak moments where strains on resources occur. Once those strains are identified they can better reallocate people and retrain in order to relieve the pressure as well as look for self-service digital tools for taking the burden off the need for in-person workers.”
Hero Digital specializes in customer experiences with clients such as Sephora, Salesforce, Comcast, and UNC Health, among others.
Frivold said retailers “can also look to automation and signage to alleviate the number of people and resources needed. These include digital wayfinding that can be updated and includes prioritized messaging for wait-time signals and real-time interfaces with stock availability.”
He also said workforce management tools that help train employees at various positions “and allow for employees to easily pivot between roles can help alleviate the pressure. Also, tools that allow for the workforce to have a person’s past history can help cut down on the time it takes to answer questions. Efficiency is key to reducing the strain felt by staff.”
Matichuk said her company’s solution is an integrated platform that helps retailers with workforce management, performance management and store execution as well as employee engagement. Clients include Lush, Vans, Timberland, Columbia Sportswear, Tommy Hilfiger and Build-A-Bear Workshop, among many others.
In January at the NRF Big Show, which runs Jan. 16 to 18, StoreForce is presenting a “Big Ideas Session” on Jan. 17 featuring Build-A-Bear Workshop, Duluth Trading Co., Soft Surroundings and Snipes. The topic is “how the rapidly changing needs of the consumer are driving changes within the store.”