August 5, 2021
Retailers prepare for employee shortages this holiday season

In June, the National Retail Federation (NRF) issued a revised annual forecast for 2021 that expects retail sales will increase to more than $4.44 trillion as a recovery continues from the pandemic. Even with this positive forecast, NRF expects retailers to face the challenges of being short-staffed this holiday season. Retail shops are having difficulty filling open positions due to turnover rates and another contributing factor is that the number of retail job seekers is down 10%, according to Mathieu Stevenson, CEO of Snagajob.

Retail sales are trending up in 2021, but worker shortages may influence the outcome for the second half of 2021. In a recent article about the holiday retail worker shortage, hourly work marketplace Snagajob noted fewer people are seeking work and there are more job openings than there were prior to the pandemic and found “significant challenges” in hiring employees.

Small gift shops have struggled since the pandemic and are still in a state of recovery. Wage hikes at many of the large retailers may also contribute to the staffing challenges that the more “Main Street” retailer faces, since small stores may not have the fiscal option to increase employee wages and keep the doors open.

In the June 2021 Current Employment Statistics Survey U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment, employment in the retail trade increased by 67,000 in June. This number is encouraging and does show an increase from April of 2020, yet overall employment is still 303,000 lower than February of 2020.

The Washington Post article “Retail workers are quitting at record rates for higher-paying work: ‘My life isn’t worth a dead-end job’” by Abha Bhattarai, June 21, 2021, indicated that the issue of employee shortages could also be from people migrating away from the retail industry and into other professions. 

All these challenges mean that the fourth quarter may present challenges that are very different from past years, but small retailers can plan now for a successful end-of-the-year finish.

One option is to start selling early for the holidays — promote and communicate with customers in a way that relays information honestly and effectively and points out the benefits to shopping sooner rather than later. Utilize social media and email to effectively share important news, such as store hours — especially if they differ from previous years— and inventory news. If you won’t be able to restock, let them know items are offered for a limited time, or while quantities last. 

Stationery Trends ran the article 24 Tips to Selling Christmas in its 2021 summer edition that offered insight from several retailers and detailed how those retailers handled the 2020 holiday season and what plans are in place for this year.

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