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Retailers are adding workers for holiday season

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Halloween merchandise has begun to hit the shelves, but Kmart on Martintown Road in North Augusta has already started hiring for the Christmas shopping season.

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Sloane Wiggins, the owner of Cudos! gift stores in Augusta and Evans, said she has already started taking job applications and interviewing people in preparation for the holiday season. Wiggins said six to 10 extra workers will be hired at her stores.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Sloane Wiggins, the owner of Cudos! gift stores in Augusta and Evans, said she has already started taking job applications and interviewing people in preparation for the holiday season. Wiggins said six to 10 extra workers will be hired at her stores.

“We’ve been doing interviews all week,” store manager Michael Sosby said.

Kmart plans to hire 20 to 50 people, depending on how many of them turn into part-timers, for its store at 310 E. Martintown Road.

The retailer is not alone in its quest for holiday season employees.

Cudos! is also gearing up at both itsstores, 1257 Augusta West Parkway in Augusta and 400 Town Park Blvd. in Evans.

“We have already started taking applications, and we are already interviewing,” owner Sloane Wiggins said.

Each year, Wiggins hires six to 10 part-time workers for the season. They will start at the end of September and work until the end of the year, she said.

John Challenger, the chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based outplacement-consulting firm that has an annual forecast on seasonal hiring, said he is optimistic that hiring for the October-to-December holiday period will be up slightly from 2011.

“We have seen some positive indications that the restaurant and hospitality industry is up,” Challenger said. “People are beginning to pay off some of the debt they have, and they’ll have a bit more discretionary income.”

Another positive sign for the holidays is that spending on back-to-school items was better than expected.

Challenger said he expects a 1-5 percent increase in hiring this year, which is consistent with slow but steady growth in the economy.

“It feels like the economy’s not growing very rapidly, probably under 2 percent, so it seems unlikely that we’ll see explosive growth in seasonal hiring,” he said. “But layoffs are very light and companies are in slow-growth mode.”

The seasonal employees at Cudos! will work in retail sales, gift wrapping and engraving. They are also needed to answer phones, make extra deliveries, bring lunch to the staff and even carry Christmas trees to customers’ vehicles.

“It gets a little challenging because with seasonal hires you have to work around folks’ schedules,” Wiggins said. “Instead of being able to hire one or two people, you find yourself having to interview a lot of candidates to get enough hours covered. For payroll, you might have 13 additional people to cover 40 hours a week, and that gets crazy sometimes. It’s the season. It just becomes what you have to do.”

At Kmart, the seasonal crew will start between now and mid-October and will remain at the store through Christmas. Many workers will assist in the checkout lines, and others will help in most departments, from sporting goods to electronics and jewelry.

“Just about every department will get a boost. Obviously, checkout is getting the most people added to the roster because that position will get a lot busier a lot quicker,” Sosby said. “We like to have everybody hired and in place so that they’re trained and are productive for the season. We try to have everybody hired about two weeks before Halloween.”

Sosby said he depends on the seasonal help and will keep a small percentage of the seasonal staff after the Christmas holidays.

“You’ve got to have the help. Every year, we sink or swim on how well we hire for seasonal. We definitely base our fourth quarter on how well we hire for the season,” Sosby said.

Other retailers have yet to settle on a forecast for the holiday season and are waiting a little longer to see how the trends will go before deciding on their number of seasonal hires.

Costco, for example, knows it will be adding extra workers for the holidays, but it isn’t sure how many it will need until early October.

With the growth of online shopping, the need for delivery of items ordered online has grown, increasing business for delivery companies such as FedEx and UPS.

Officials at FedEx said they have not firmed up their seasonal hiring plans. UPS has determined its hiring needs and will begin sorting through seasonal work applications in about a week and start interviewing in October.

“We want to be ready to go on Nov. 1,” said Greg Kelley, a workforce planning manager for UPS. Kelley said the delivery service’s needs this season will be similar to last year’s, even though it expects an increase in business thanks to more online orders.

Wire reports were used in this article.


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