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Holiday Hire Now, Permanent Employee in 2013: Who Will Make the Cut?

BY CSA STAFF

By Jason Hamilton, [email protected]

Holiday hiring is in full swing, with retailers such as Kohl’s, Amazon, Toys “R” Us and Macy’s among the many hiring more seasonal workers than they did last year. But as these seasonal workers come on board and help with stocking the shelves and ringing out customers, it’s not too early for retailers to begin evaluating their performances to help make the decision about which employees should be invited to stay on permanently after the season.

According to several holiday hiring surveys this season, there’s an increase in the number of retailers that intend to keep holiday hires after the season. A survey of 14 major U.S. retailers, sponsor by global management consultancy Hay Group, showed that “with renewed confidence and a bullish outlook for 2013, retailers want to retain more workers beyond the holiday season.” Added to that, the annual Snagajob holiday hiring forecast – a survey of more than 1,000 hourly hiring managers responsible for seasonal hiring commissioned by the hourly employment network – found that managers plan to keep 50% of seasonal hires on staff after the holidays. Yes, you read that correctly – half of seasonal employees could become regular employees in 2013.

From a retailer’s perspective, this is a fantastic opportunity to give employees a test run and significantly increase the long-term quality of your permanent staff. Seasonal employees hired in October will have nearly a three-month, on-the-job interview to help managers decide if they are permanent-employee material. For both parties, what could be better than real-life experience in your own store’s environment to determine a positive fit?

To take advantage of this opportunity, here are some employer tips to help evaluate seasonal hires for long-term positions:

Communicate: Realistically, not all of your seasonal hires have the flexibility and desire to stay on as permanent employees. Once a seasonal employee has been with you for at least a month and store managers have seen promise and potential in his/her ability, managers should begin a conversation about a seasonal employee’s desire to continue working. This simple conversation can happen as an employee begins a shift and is given his or her marching orders. “Your goals for today are X, Y and Z. Also, I don’t need you to give me an answer right now, but I’m wondering what your plans are after the holidays. Would you have any interest in working here on a more permanent basis? There will be some opportunity for that, and I’m trying to gauge the interest and availability of our top performers.”

Who would I clone?: Sometimes, managers don’t have a specific laundry list of skills in mind when evaluating potential permanent hires – it’s the entire package that matters. Managers faced with this problem should take a look at seasonal employees and ask themselves this hypothetical: “If I could clone, Jon/Jane to have five more of him/her working for me, would I? The cloning question helps to focus managers when it’s hard to exactly pinpoint the qualities that are making a hire stand out positively.

Numbers tell the story, too: While personality and eagerness to get a job done can shine through with interaction with customers and fellow employees, managers also should go beyond casual observations to determine who might be the best permanent employee. Examine daily and weekly sales goals met among your seasonal employees. Who has risen to the top multiple times? From a schedule perspective, who has clocked in on time, and also been available for extra shifts, if asked? And because bottom-line labor expenses do matter, if your seasonal employees have been paid at different levels, is someone a “better buy” than another seasonal hire when their performances are compared?

While retailers and the managers and assistant managers who run stores at the day-to-day levels are understandably concerned about sales during the all-important fourth-quarter, do take some time from counting daily sales figures and determining how to increase the next day’s sales to take a longer view. If managers spend just a bit of time evaluating their seasonal hires and their potential ability to be outstanding permanent employees, your collective sales sheet for 2013 could spike higher.

Jason Hamilton is vice president of marketing for Snagajob, the largest hourly employment network for job seekers and employers and the only company to provide both sourcing and talent management solutions to the hourly industry. Contact him at [email protected].


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Spanx, McLean, Va.

BY CSA STAFF

Spanx, the company best known for its shapewear and hosiery, has opened its first-ever freestanding location, in Tyson’s Corner Center, McLean, Va.

“We want to provide fans with an intuitive, interactive way to shop all of our products, exceptional service and a fun, empowering experience,” said Spanx founder Sara Blakely. “The Spanx store will be a place where everybody knows your name … and your bra size!” (Blakely created the first Spanx product in 2000 by cutting the feet off her control-top pantyhose. The brand now features more than 200 products ranging from slimming apparel and swimsuits, to bras, activewear and men’s undershirts.)

The 1,200-sq.-ft. store is stylish and chic, with an upbeat, fun feel that captures the spirit and personality of the brand. The space is accented outside and in with Spanx’s signature red hue. Lucite finishes and high-gloss lacquer are combined with warm, feminine furnishings for a high-fashion feel. The spacious fitting rooms are enhanced with flattering lighting.

Two more Spanx stores are slated to open in coming weeks: one in King of Prussia, Pa., and the other in Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, N.J.


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Going Mobile

BY CSA STAFF

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the media thinks is the “next big thing” in our industry. It seems like everywhere I look, there’s another article about new mobile shopping initiatives and retail-related smartphone apps.

To some extent, I understand the excitement. The growing number of mobile apps and mobile device-related retail opportunities are definitely an intriguing development. From promotional to informational and transactional, there are a lot of benefits for both retailers and shoppers. Whether a consumer is reading about a new product online, comparing prices between stores, accessing a special mobile-only coupon or simply purchasing a product online, the flexibility, immediacy, ability to customize and convenience of the mobile channel highlights the fact that this is an area with a ton of potential.

But here’s the thing, it’s mostly still just that: potential. I find the field as fascinating as anyone, but when you look at the actual number of shoppers making purchases from their smartphones, it’s not particularly impressive. Despite the fact that retailers and commercial developers are putting a lot of money into mobile apps, they still account for a remarkably small percentage of overall revenue. I came across a recent survey conducted by the technology research firm Gartner, Inc., and it showed that retailers are predicting that sales through mobile channel will still be less than 2% of their overall sales by 2016. Obviously, mobile apps are going to continue to play a bigger role in our retail lives, and mobile device retailing/ “m-commerce” is going to continue to grow, but right now, it seems consumers are more interested in using their smartphones for price comparison shopping than actual shopping.

It definitely makes me wonder if perhaps, from the perspective of retailers, the enormous resources and expenditures being funneled into mobile apps right now is somewhat disproportionate when compared to the potential returns. The counter-argument of course, is to point to the prominent casualties of the e-commerce tidal wave — fallen retail giants like Borders and tottering brands like Best Buy — to demonstrate that preparing for the future is important (and that failing to think long-term with respect to technological advances can be fatal). While it’s a good point, I don’t know if it’s entirely persuasive; the parallels between the Amazon vs. Borders example and other retail segments are not exact. Fundamentally, e-books are not books, they are a different product entirely, and there are a large number of goods and services — apparel and grocery, for example — that don’t translate particularly well into the mobile arena.

I think an even more interesting question is less about how much to invest in new mobile concepts, and more about how they will actually be used by consumers. I see the underlying question of usage: How do shoppers want to use mobile apps and technology? Are they going to continue to use mobile access and information primarily as a “fact-finding” resource, where they continue to go to the store (showcasing)? Will they want to use mobile as a way to get special deals or discounts? What we are starting to see more of is retailers finding new ways to leverage the mobile channel into providing personalized point-of-sale offers and other in-store functionality. It’s a “we’ve got them in the stores, let’s keep them in the stores” mentality. Which, in my mind, is the precise right use, right now. Mobile is also very age- and product-dependent. Any significant structural changes to the retail landscape will subsequently be fairly age-dependent as well. Mobile might not fully take off until the current generation who grew up with it starts to accumulate more buying power.

For now, I think the bottom line is this: Shopping in brick-and-mortar stores is still popular with consumers, and will be for the foreseeable future. Despite the hype, I think mobile retail is a long way away from realizing its potential. And while retailers should certainly be open and even proactive with regard to promising new mobile concepts, there is certainly no need to bet the farm on them just yet.

What do you think? How do you use mobile apps for shopping? Do you think retailers are spending too much in this area? Please make a public comment below or feel free to e-mail me privately at [email protected].


Click here for past columns by Jeff Green.

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