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Farm Hands

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Hickory Farms may know beef sticks and cheese, but to staff its network of company-owned and franchised seasonal stores, the Maumee, Ohio-based retailer needed outside help from a hiring expert.

In July of last year, Hickory Farms, which generates approximately $16.3 million (est. 2007) via catalog and Internet sales as well as 600 shopping-mall kiosks deployed during the holiday season, launched an 80-store test with Raleigh, N.C.-based Headway Corporate Resources to source, hire and payroll its seasonal staffing corps. The initial trial has since segued into full rollout mode.

“Because of the success of the trial program, and Headway’s deep commitment and effort in exceeding our expectations, we decided to roll out the workforce solutions on a nationwide basis,” said Jim O’Neill Jr., VP of retail and franchise operations for Hickory Farms.

The nationwide rollout for the 2008 holiday season began in May, and it has been no small job. “We are on track at our Headway Recruitment Center [HRC] to source, screen, hire and payroll more than 3,700 associates for the fall holiday season,” said Suzanne Kinkel, executive VP of recruitment process outsourcing for Headway.

HRC contains the teams of specialists, including research analysts, recruiters, interviewers and project leads, that Headway utilizes to handle Hickory Farms’—and other clients’—workplace solutions. For Hickory Farms, the team’s candidate pool numbered about 39,000 at the outset, gained from a combination of telephone inquiries and e-recruiting technologies that pull from a variety of Internet destinations including social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Spoke.

“We specialize in finding ‘passive candidates,’” explained Kinkel, “people who aren’t looking for work.” Headway uses social sites to engage prospects and once the candidate pipeline is chock full of potential employees gained from both online sites, as well as telephone surveys and the company’s proprietary database of a million candidates, then the process of paring the list begins.

“With Hickory Farms, we identified the competencies, the skills that they were looking for, as well as the characteristics and traits of the individuals,” Kinkel said. “From there we built the pipeline of candidates.” Initial qualification is followed by a pre-screening interview and, for those who keep moving through the pipeline, a second interview before submission to Hickory Farms for an in-person discussion.

Qualified candidates generally report to the mall location in which they are applying, interviewing with Hickory Farms’ retail area supervisors or store team leaders.

Some employees find ongoing seasonal employment with the retailer. “As a result of our work with employees during the 2007 holiday season, we actually were able to re-hire some of them for the 2008 season as well,” Kinkel said. “That’s our goal—to build these candidate databases and ensure these people know that every year the position will be available.”

Toward that end, because Headway represents other businesses as well, the company works to place qualified individuals on alternate assignments throughout the year, thus “keeping them employed and busy during other seasons—and available for Hickory Farms when the time comes,” said Kinkel.

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Staples partners with Blackhawk for gift cards

BY CSA STAFF

PLEASANTON, Calif. Staples has announced an exclusive partnership with the Blackhawk Network, the largest third-party provider of prepaid gift-cards, to carry Blackhawk’s Signature Gift Card Mall, currently found in grocery stores such as Safeway. Blackhawk’s Gift Card Mall features over 300 branded gift cards across categories such as fashion, tickets, electronics, home and sports.

“Consumers love buying and receiving gift cards, and putting the Gift Card Mall in Staples stores will make it easy and convenient for our customers to buy a wide variety of gift cards,” said Mark Mettler, senior vp and gmm at Staples.

“Staples is a valuable retail outlet for us because of its understanding of the B2B aspect of our business,” said Don Kingsborough, ceo of Blackhawk Network. “Working with Staples, we will reach small business owners and give them the ability to purchase prepaid gift cards for their employees in the same place they buy office supplies.”

Staples is the first office supply store to carry Blackhawk gift cards.

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RadioShack appoints new chief marketer

BY CSA STAFF

FORT WORTH, Texas RadioShack announced the appointment of Lee Applbaum to the position of evp and chief marketing officer. Applbaum will be responsible for advertising, brand management, customer relations management and marketing and will report to chairman and ceo Julian Day. He will also serve as a member of the office of the chairman, comprised of Day; Bryan Bevin, evp of store operations; Jim Gooch, evp and cfo and Peter Whitsett, evp of merchandising.

“Lee’s joining us at RadioShack represents another significant step in strengthening our senior management team,” said Day. “Lee’s background and successful track record position him well to add value to our brand.”

Applbaum began his career at Lederle Consumer Health, a division of American Cyanamid Co., shortly after earning his MBA in 1994 from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has also worked at The Coca-Cola Co., Schlotzsky’s, Footstar and The David’s Bridal Group, a division of Federated Department Stores. Immediately prior to joining RadioShack, Applbaum was the chief marketing officer for The Schottenstein Stores Corp.

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