As the holiday shopping season kicks into gear and shoppers prepare to hit the retailers in full force, some stores have prepared for the onslaught by hiring seasonal workers.
"I would say seasonal employment is up about 10 percent in this market, which runs from Johnstown to Williamsport," said Brock Kull, vice president/managing director of Manpower, an employment services company.
Although hiring is up, Kull said he is seeing another trend at some retailers.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Linda Wible of Altoona, the Christmas department manager at Unkel Joe’s Woodshed, touches up part of the store’s display. Seasonal hiring is up at some places, but other stores are depending more on current employees picking up extra hours.
"There are a lot of places asking their part-time people to take on more hours rather than hiring new part-time people; we are seeing this more so than in the past," Kull said. "Employers are fearful of bringing on too many new people because it is expensive to train them. Their own people are willing to take on more hours so the stores don't need to hire as many seasonal employees."
That trend is part of the business climate at Unkel Joe's Woodshed, Altoona, which typically doesn't hire a lot of extra seasonal employees.
"This year we hired only two extra people; they are high school kids who help with things like lifting merchandise, helping at the checkout and wrapping packages," President Larry Baker said. "We have a good stable of part-time people and we don't need others. Our people are working more hours to save on expenses."
Hiring is up about 10 percent at Kohl's Department Stores.
Company officials said they anticipated hiring more than 52,700 associates nationwide this holiday season, up more than 10 percent from last year to support their holiday business in stores and growth in e-commerce in 2012.
Kohl's planned to hire an average of 41 associates per store, an increase of 4 percent over 2011.
"That commitment to deliver on our customer promise to expect great things is especially important during the holiday season," John Worthington, Kohl's chief administrative officer, said in a statement.
Seasonal hiring also is up at Best Buy.
"We are up slightly this year with 24,000 employees hired for the holidays," company spokeswoman Maggie Habashy said.
An additional 12,000 seasonal employees will boost the ranks and nearly 10,000 seasonal employees will be added to Best Buy's customer support channels. An additional 2,000 will expand existing distribution center teams, Habashy said.
Seasonal hirings are about the same as last year at Target and Boscov's.
"We are hiring between 80,000 and 90,000 across the country. That is pretty consistent with last year," Target spokeswoman Jessica Stevens said. "We had a 30 percent retention rate of our seasonal employees from last year. We are very proud of our retention rate."
"We have 41 stores and have hired a total of about 2,000 seasonal workers or about 50 per location. Altoona may be slightly more," said Ed Elko, Boscov's senior vice president for human resources.
Seasonal hiring is down at both Sears, Roebuck and Co. and J.C. Penney in the Logan Valley Mall.
"We are down but I am not sure by how much. We have had a hard time finding qualified applicants," said Stephanie Pennington, Sears operations manager.
Penney's store manager Bill Crouse said seasonal hiring is down slightly but wouldn't comment further.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.