Businesses seek temporary help for holidays

By David Irvin

With Thanksgiving just a little more than a week away, local businesses and national retailers are beefing up their staffs in preparation for the extra work loads in the coming holiday season.
And for those interested in seasonal work, the time to apply is now, local store managers say.
The nation’s retailers expect a modest pickup in holiday spending this year, despite higher gasoline prices and rising interest rates that some feared would put a damper on the season, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade group. Employment experts say the pickup should translate into work opportunities for students, stay-at-home mothers, retirees and others seeking extra cash in the final months of the year.
“Retailers are a good place to start,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the job placement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. in Chicago. “And the time to start looking is sooner rather than later.”
One way businesses fill those temporary positions is by contracting with temp agencies.
Roger LeClear, owner of Matchmakers Employment Service in Clovis, said the Christmas season usually gives him a 5- to 10-percent bump in business.
“I think Christmas does have something to do with it, but I think it’s more just the Clovis economy growing,” he said.
Local retailers in need of seasonal workers usually begin calling LeClear in mid-November. Like many temp agencies, his company becomes the employer of all temporary workers, and pays them to go to the various locations and work.
Jamie Hammock, store manager of Bath and Body Works in the North Plains Mall, said she is hiring 14 additional workers to help cover all the shifts leading up to Christmas. Normally she employs 12.
“I’ll try to have my staff completely filled by (the beginning of) December,” she said. “It is for me a real beneficial thing. I’ll have a lot of shifts on Fridays and Saturdays.”
She said the extra pressure of the holiday season drives her hiring process in October and November.
“There is always a chance that seasonal employment can be continued on as regular part-time employment,” she said.
Irene Crume, operations manager at Dillard’s in the North Plains Mall, said her store tends to hire more during the holiday season, but does not seek to hire temporary workers. Every new employee is hired as a permanent employee, even during the run up to Christmas.
“We don’t let people go at the first of the year,” she said. “We are actually still hiring.”
She said her store usually maintains a 90-member workforce, but following October that number goes up to around 115 employees to staff the extra hours of operation during the holidays.
Challenger suggests people who previously held seasonal retail jobs first approach their former employers.
“Your experience will be valuable there,” he said. “You know the merchandise, and the retailer can get you up and running quickly.”
Those who haven’t done holiday sales might consider filling out applications at their own favorite stores.
“You know the store, and not only do you get paid, you also get discounts on merchandise,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.