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Published: Thursday, 9/22/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Holiday season hiring likely to be mixed bag

Local stores upbeat; U.S. outlook mild

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
With limited expectations for holiday sales this year, at least one national staffing consultant said holiday hiring will be the same or lower than last year. Officials at some area stores were more optimistic. With limited expectations for holiday sales this year, at least one national staffing consultant said holiday hiring will be the same or lower than last year. Officials at some area stores were more optimistic.
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The holiday sales season is still several weeks away, but already job prospects for November and December are not looking promising.

With estimates of tepid holiday sales, one national staffing consultant said hiring among stores countrywide will be the same or down from a year ago, when employment grew by 627,600 workers from October through December.

"It would be surprising if holiday hiring exceeded last year's level," said John Challenger, chief executive officer at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago firm. Most indications point to a hiring season much like 2010, he said.

Local retailers had mixed views.

Patty Borger, office manager for the Appliance Center in Maumee, expressed optimism.

"We probably will be hiring a few people, but we don't know how many just yet," she said.

At The Andersons Inc., of Maumee, spokesman Debra Crow said the retailer anticipated more hires for this year's holiday season, but that is because The Andersons enlarged its grocery area in its stores and thus will need more people for holiday food preparation.

"Seafood trays, deli trays, those things will need more people to put them together, so we do anticipate hiring more people," Ms. Crow said.

How much hiring it will do, and how optimistic the company is about holiday sales, she declined to say.

Holiday sales forecasts, which will affect staffing, are not robust.

The International Council of Shopping Centers yesterday predicted sales will rise 3.5 percent this year, down from 3.8 percent last year but much higher than 2.3 percent in 2009. Research firm ShopperTrak released its forecast yesterday, calling for sales up 3 percent this year, less than last year's 4.1 percent but better than the 2.6 percent average gain in the last 10 years.

Hickory Farms Chief Executive Mark Rodriguez anticipates "a challenging holiday season" this year.

"Unemployment levels, housing inventory, and pricing, gasoline prices, and food commodity inflation have all contributed to more cautious consumers who are likely to spend less this year," he said.

As a result, the Maumee purveyor of meats, cheeses, and other food gift items nationwide has cut back on its seasonal hiring at its assembly operations in Joliet, Ill. It hired about 300 employees there, down by 40 from last year.

However, the company plans to counter what it expects will be a tough sales season by adding 25 new sales kiosks nationwide, adding 200 workers for those, and increasing hours worked at its kiosks by 9 percent.

Last week, toy retailer Toys R Us said it would hire about 45,000 seasonal workers this year -- about the same number it hired last year. And shoe retailer DSW said it planned no increase in seasonal hiring.

Best Buy hired 29,000 seasonal workers last year, or about 10 to 15 per store, which was the same number it hired in 2009. But the electronics retailer said yesterday that it won't announce its hiring plans until next week.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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