business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has a story this morning about how, two months before the beginning of the end-of-year holiday shopping season, US retailers are grappling with finding enough employees to work their stores, a situation exacerbated by “record-low unemployment and rising wages in other industries.”

The Journal writes that “some 757,000 retail jobs were open across the country in July, about 100,000 more than the same time a year ago. The number of openings of all types surpassed the number of hires from March through June for the first time in a decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Retailers, the story says, “have begun their annual push for holiday workers earlier than ever, raising pay and offering perks such as profit-sharing and paid time off for part-time associates. They also are hosting recruiting marathons with the goal of hiring thousands of workers in a single day.”

“There’s going to be a war for retail talent,” Andrew Challenger, vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, tells the Journal. “We might be getting to a point where there is a limit to how much companies can grow because it’s hard to get labor.”
KC's View:
This isn’t just a US problem; I spent time today with a group of European retailers who were hoping that they could learn something about attracting employees from US retailers. Not so much…

It isn’t the only problem for retailers, but I do believe that many of them have helped create their own problem through an unwillingness to prioritize their employees, to make their stores great places to work. They’ve put far more effort into reducing labor costs rather than investing in their employees. And this approach has come back to haunt them.