Today’s post comes to us from Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, executive director of The Workforce Institute.
As consumers prepare their wallets for another shopping season, retailers are ramping up plans to meet expected demand. But finding the necessary talent to staff stores throughout the holidays remains a challenge for the retail industry, amid record-high inflation, supply chain disruptions, and a competitive labor market.
That’s according to the third-annual holiday retail report from UKG. The latest study — Retail’s 2022 Holiday Season Outlook — finds customer expectations may be higher than what stores can deliver in terms of service, at least according to 84% of retailers (up from 75% in 2021).
This is a continued trend, matching what we’ve seen throughout 2022. In the UKG report, 36% of retailers said they’ve had to alter store hours this year because of insufficient staffing, and 19% said their stores were understaffed at least half the time in August alone. That tracks with the monthly UKG Workforce Activity Report, which indicated a 3.1% drop in retail shift work from August to September.
Shopping Around for Associates
Where will retailers look for necessary labor? According to the study, to help fill labor gaps during their busiest months, 77% plan to hire gig workers and retailers estimate on-demand talent could represent up to 14% of their total in-store workforce for the 2022 season.
Looking at the situation from the talents’ points of view, it’s no surprise retailers are struggling to hire. Pandemic-era rises in theft and guest-on-associate violence have negatively impacted the industry — and the people working in it.
In the study, 42% of retailers said staff respond to situations involving angry shoppers once a week or more, and nearly one-third of retailers (31%) said store managers quit in the past 30 days because they were mistreated by customers. Not to mention the possibilities of catching COVID-19 while at work (52% of retailers surveyed cited workplace health and safety risks as concerns deterring potential talent).
The main message here: please be patient and nice when you’re out shopping, not just with your fellow shoppers but especially with the retail associates working hard on the frontlines and behind the scenes to provide a pleasant shopping experience for all customers.
Unpacking Key Study Findings
There’s plenty to unpack from this critical report, and way more than I can cover here. Check out a replay of our special LinkedIn Live event, in partnership with RetailWire, from November 1, where I discussed the key findings with Rob Klitsch from UKG, along with industry influencer Shelley E. Kohan, who moderated our discussion.
We broke down the retail study and talked about the defining challenges and trends for the 2022 holiday shopping season, and provided a look ahead for the retail sector. If you’re in retail or plan to shop during the holidays, this is a can’t-miss session.
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