The area’s retail establishments are on the lookout for energetic employees who only want to work a month or two out the year. Called seasonal hires, these are the people who come on board to help with the annual influx of holiday shoppers whose endurance can only be compared to the great marathon runners of the Olympic Games. From the moment the front door unlocks until the last of the weary crowd carries their purchases out the door, an extra crop of employees are on hand to deal with the demand during these high volume months.
Even though the season of good cheer seems like months away, stores are busy planning for it as early as this month. One of the first stores in the area tosee the surge in holiday shopping is Sur La Table. With nine nearby locations, and another due to open in October, Phillip Stevenson, Sur La Table’s District Manager says, “The fourth quarter is huge. For most places the Friday after Thanksgiving is when their rush starts, but since we sell kitchen goods we are so much busier the week before Thanksgiving.”
As a result of this early wave, Sur La Table starts hiring for seasonal jobs earlier than most. “September is when we start layering it in for seasonal hiring for the bigger stores. By October we try to hire a person a week so they can get some experience before the holidays,” says Stevenson.
Mission Hiring Hall and South of Market Employment Center work closely with retail employers to help them recruit and retain local residents for many of these jobs. Program Director Patrick Mitchell says, “One of the big endeavors we are doing, funded by the Mayor’s Office for Workforce Development, is called the Retail Workforce Initiative.” In conjunction with the employer-sponsored National Retail Foundation this program provides all important customer service skills needed to be successful in the industry, and on the job training for participants. Mitchell adds that “We know a bunch of hiring happens in the fall and I think we will see a lot come through in September and October.”
Luckily, these seasonal jobs can provide a little extra cash for more than just a few weeks since the holiday shopping season has grown to encompass two months or more of the winter calendar. Part of the reason for this is the increase in gift card purchases. Once the actual holidays are over, shoppers return to the stores with the gift cards they were given so they can shop for themselves—thereby extending the holiday season well into the New Year. For Sur La Table Stevenson says, “It kind of tapers off around the end of January, but I would say we are pretty busy right through Valentine’s Day.”
Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are two other major department stores that rely on short term workers between November and February. Very often flagship stores for such well-known companies have to anticipate a much larger ‘browsing crowd’ than other establishments. A large portion of the increased number of people might not be purchasing anything at all, but just window shopping for the fun of it. This can mean the larger stores have to hire more staff for concierge services and security detail.
Of course the extra paycheck is nice, but another benefit is the employee discount. Macy’s, for example, offers employee discounts to all their employees—even those that work part-time over the holiday season. This can make a part-timer’s own holiday shopping a little more pleasant, especially since he or she won’t have to make a special trip to the store.
Aside from the holiday hiring that is ramping up this month, there is another major retail employment opportunity coming to the Bay Area. This September a branch of Barney’s New York is due to open in San Francisco. Often referred to as a Manhattan institution, this luxury goods department store is looking for more than just a seasonal back-up team. They are actively recruiting for sales associates in every section of the store—from the perfume and cologne counter to the men’s designer suits department. They also need to hire support staff, tailors, and people for higher level administrative positions such as vice president and general manager.
Whether you are selling Le Creuset cookware or gloves and hats, one thing that all these retail jobs have in common is the need for someone who is passionate about the products on the shelves. Holiday shoppers are known for bringing a certain amount of intensity, shall we say, to their trips to the mall. It takes a patient person who can rise above the stress and anxiety that comes with the holiday season. Of course, a little extra cash in the wallet can make this an easier job all around.