Retail Reality: How Hiring in the Retail Industry is Changing

When I was 16 I got my first job selling concessions at my small town ice hockey arena. While I know that sounds glamorous, it was not. To this day I still cannot handle the taste or smell of that yellow sludge masquerading as “nacho cheese” in arenas across the country. Although, thinking about it now for the first time in a while, this is one of the best health-related outcomes that I could have hoped for.

My history with processed foodstuff, however, is not the point of this story. The point is the circumstances of my hiring: the arena was short-staffed for a holiday youth tournament, their busiest of the year. A friend who worked there recommend me for the job, and I ended up with an offer without so much as an interview. In fact, the only question I was asked was my uniform t-shirt size.

But such is the stressed life of a service-industry or retail manager. Often day-to-day operations are so demanding that hiring and staffing level management become an afterthought.

With this in mind, you might not have noticed a sharp drop-off in applications for retail positions. Or maybe you have, but you haven’t been able to give it much thought. But this drop-off is a reality, partially due to a thriving economy and low unemployment rate, but also due to shifts in the retail staffing environment. Neither of these are comforting with the holiday season quickly approaching.

But all is not lost. The good news is that job seekers are still looking for spots to land, retail or otherwise. The trick is to attract and then hire the right people for the job, and perhaps change one’s understanding of the type of employee that will be most successful.

In this post, we’ll look at a few of the biggest trends affecting retail staffing, namely shifts in foot traffic and hiring. Then, we’ll cover some beneficial changes being made across the retail space.

Ready? Let’s get started.

How foot traffic has changed

In the past several months, several Flonomics retail clients have experienced an increase in foot traffic on weekends, especially as we’ve approached the holidays. However, much of the traffic surge has been from customers who are browsing, perhaps investigating a future purchase. Actual purchase timing is still spread throughout the week.

Another big revelation: an increasing push towards part-time employees. This is partially informed by the weekend foot traffic increase described above, and by a need to increase staffing specifically during the weekend. The move also comes as employers try to sustain employee enthusiasm levels throughout the entire business day. Said a retail manager in this New York Times article:

“You don’t want to work your team members for eight-hour shifts,” she said. “By the time they get to the second half of their shift, they don’t have the same energy and enthusiasm. We like to schedule people around four- to five-hour shifts so you can get the best out of them during that time.”

Smart retailer move: look into upping part-time staff to optimize your sales-floor presence, especially on weekends and other busy periods.

But where can I find part-timers in this tough market? More on the job market in a moment, but one option you should seriously consider: offer incentives to current part-time staff who recruit on your behalf. Your current employees likely have friends and acquaintances with similar interests and lifestyles, and they have an idea of what it takes to be successful working for your business. This makes them uniquely suited to find high-quality candidates for your available positions.

How hiring has changed

As you’ve probably heard for the thousandth time today, unemployment rates are very, very, historically low. However, there are still potential candidates out there, but with an important caveat: data from Indeed shows that job searchers who click on retail job postings aren’t necessarily searching for a retail job – they’re looking for any job. According to Indeed:

“in 2017, 51% of retail job clicks originated from a blank query. This is even true for one of the most quintessentially retail jobs out there—the store associate. And when a blank query is run, retail jobs are in the top 3 most clicked on results, ahead of every other possibility except customer service rep and administrative assistant.”

Further, Indeed found that posts for retail positions greatly outpace clicks on those posts, so it’s time to get proactive with recruiting interested top talent.

Tips for smart employers: Engage potential recruits on social media and encourage them to visit your careers page. A few ideas: add a careers tab on your Facebook page or tweet out job notices and updates, in order to reach candidates where they hangout online. This gives you the added bonus of targeting potential recruits who aren’t actively seeking a new position. This is often preferable to going through the entire hiring process with a candidate who is actively pursuing any career, and having them turn you down at the last minute.

What else? When writing job descriptions, present your company and the position as accurately as possible. As noted in this post about the retail habits of Millennials and Generation Z (who represent an already large—and growing—part of the retail employee job market), they have extremely strong BS meters, so if you’re not straight with them, they’ll end up walking straight out the door at their earliest opportunity.

Next steps: optimize your staffing with people counting technology

Whether you’ve committed to adjusting to your staffing models and employee types, or better yet need a bit more convincing, it’s time to up your game by implementing people counting technology into your operation. Look to a company like Flonomics to provide a personalized snapshot of your foot traffic realities, and construct recommendations and forecasts for what you can expect in the future. With people counting technology, along with accompanying analytics software, retailers can compare shopper conversion rates and traffic numbers to the number of employees working at any given time to optimize staffing numbers across all business hours.

And the best part: by implementing people counter technology, you can have accurate, sustained traffic reports collected over time. These reports can be used to create detailed, reliable traffic forecasts weeks, months, even years in advance. This allows Flonomics’ clients to make confident staffing decisions based on hard data rather than an educated guess. And honestly, this is just the beginning of what Flonomics people counting tech can do.

Plus, with the holiday stress we all know is coming, wouldn’t it be nice to have one less thing to worry about? Get in touch with us to see how Flonomics can transform your staffing strategy!