Seasonal hiring holds steady

Retailers add employees to handle holiday shopping rush

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT
(Rob Winner – )
Jana Thomas a retail sales clerk at Super One Dollar Store in Sycamore helps Becki Burke of Sycamore with her purchases on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Thomas has been working at the retail store for six weeks.

SYCAMORE – Karl Ray will spend the majority of Christmas Day working at Lundeen’s.

Ray, assistant manager for the Sycamore discount liquor store, said during the holidays the store usually has less employees because most of them are
college students who go home for the
holidays. Employees like him pick up extra hours to cover the lack of staff
and meet the demand of holiday shoppers.

On Christmas Day, he’ll be working noon to 5 p.m., following a 10-hour shift on Christmas Eve. As the assistant manager, it’s his job to delegate tasks while making sure the store looks good.

“You just want to prepare as well as you can and have it all go smoothly,”
he said about working during the holidays.

Unlike Lundeen’s, many stores nationwide are hiring just as many seasonal employees as they did last year to handle the holiday shopping season. According to the National Retail Federation, retailers are expected to hire between 720,000 and 780,000 people this holiday season, which is about the same as last year.

The amount of seasonal hires varies from retailer to retailer, said Peter Gill, spokesman for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. Retailers’ hiring managers generally prefer to hire seasonal employees who they’ve worked with in the past. It’s generally part-time work.

“If they worked well for [the stores], there is less training and less they have to worry about,” he said.

Jana Thomas hasn’t worked in retail since she was a teenager, but she’s finding it easier than waitressing thus far.In October, the Sycamore resident started working part time at the Sycamore-based Super One Dollar Store.

“Considering I’m used to waitressing, I’m used to working 10-hour days,” she said.

Thomas stocks shelves and helps people find items. Although the store has extended its hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., she starts her day at 10 a.m. and leaves by 2:30 p.m.

Gill said stores generally hire seasonal employees in September and train them in October. Stores can hire either younger or older people depending on what they’re selling. If their target audience is specialty apparel for youths, they might want to hire people who look the part, he said.

One trend in seasonal hiring this year was fewer jobs behind the cash register or on the sales floor and more jobs handling online or phone orders, he said. People are being hired for these jobs because more customers are shopping online and picking up items at the store, he said.

Made Just For You Gifts Inc. in Sycamore has extended its store hours until 7 p.m., but they have not hired more employees to deal with potential holiday demand, said Marcia Elliott, who owns the shop with her husband. The store offers locally made handcrafted gifts and home decor, she said.

Store hours were extended during the holidays because the items are made by local crafters, which takes time, and the store is trying fulfill special orders, she said.

“Well, it does mean we’re more tired and we don’t always get to attend some of the things that are out there before Christmas… but that’s what we decided to do when we decided to have a store,” she said.

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