Getting a retail job during the holidays isn’t going to be easy, but positions are available if you look in the right places.
For example, Best Buy said in September that it planned to hire more seasonal help this year than last for its stores. Toys ”R” Us said it’s hiring 35,000 temporary workers nationwide.
In Northeast Mississippi, several retailers will add workers, too.
Melonie Cunningham was one of nine employees hired in mid-September at Hobby Lobby in Tupelo.
“It’s a good place to work and it has reasonable hours so that it give me time to be with my family,” she said.
Cunningham got a job at a place she wanted to work, but not everyone will be as fortunate.
For the most part, competition for holiday retail jobs could be tough, experts say. The economy is recovering from a nearly two-year-long recession and companies have been shedding workers to cut costs. As a result, the hiring pool has deepened.
And with holiday sales expected to be flat or down this year, retailers aren’t exactly loading up on extra help.
Consulting company Hay Group said about 40 percent of retailers plan to reduce the number of people they hire this year by about 25 percent.
This comes after retailers cut the number of new hires last year by 47 percent to a little more than 384,000, according to outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
It’s the lowest number in two decades. The average number of employees added during the holidays was more than 680,000 before last year’s steep drop-off.
But one Tupelo employment agency, Express Personnel Services, says businesses, including manufacturers and retailers, are doing some hiring in Northeast Mississippi.
Food processing companies, for example, are adding staff because of an anticipated busy holiday.
“We have one company that’s going from 12 to 120 people,” said Julianne Goodwin, co-owner of Express Personnel.
She also said some businesses are looking for temporary help to fill in for other employees taking vacations.
Hiring in general is on par with years past, Goodwin said.
At The Mall at Barnes Crossing, General Manager Jeff Snyder said the shopping center itself is adding extra security officers and maintenance staff to get ready for the holiday rush.
Retailers inside the mall do their own hiring, and their plans are mixed.
Belk is beefing up its staff, a store official said, but Reed’s, which has stores at the mall and in downtown Tupelo, Columbus and Starkville, is scaling back a little.
Camille Sloan, the company’s executive vice president, said many employees have asked for, and will receive, extra hours during the holidays.
At Hobby Lobby, store manager Robin Curbow hired her nine employees in mid-September in order to get them trained and ready to work.
“They’re mainly cashiers and people who will work in the seasonal department to restock,” she said.
And those snagging jobs this holiday may be more fortunate than most. The country’s unemployment rate is at a 26-year high at 9.8 percent in September; in Northeast Mississippi, it was 10.3 percent.
John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told the Associated Press he expects holiday hiring to pick up slightly compared to last year. He estimates that 9.2 million people who are working part-time are looking for full-time work, roughly double the number at the start of the recession nearly two years ago.
“My sense of it is that it’s not going to be as bad as it was last year,” he said. “But I don’t think we’ve come way up from there.”
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal