Distribution hiring boosts holiday effect

While many retailers are just getting serious about hiring of temporary employees for the holiday rush, expectation of stronger sales this year has been boosting the region's economy for several months.

The distribution business both wholesale as well as the new Internet fulfillment centers that have landed in the region supercharge the importance of holiday employment in Reno, Sparks and Fernley.

The warehouses that ship pallets of merchandise to fill the shelves of retailers in California and throughout the West stepped up their hiring several months ago as they began filling their racks, says John Parel, business services manager for Nevada JobConnect in northern Nevada.

The hiring in warehouses appears to have begun a few weeks earlier than usual this year as wholesale outfits expect larger orders through the fourth quarter, adds Wayne Irvine, supervisor of the job bank in the JobConnect office in Reno.

A second wave of hiring including some big numbers now is beginning in the fulfillment centers that fill Internet orders directly from consumers.

Amazon.com, for instance, will be hiring about 1,250 seasonal employees for its fulfillment center at Fernley, says the Retail Association of Nevada. (Integrity Staffing Solutions, a company headquartered at Wilmington, Del., handles that staffing through its hiring office in Reno.)

That's a hiring pattern that's more typical for retailers a role that Amazon fills than traditional warehouses that fill wholesale orders.

Toy 'R' Us, which fills Internet orders from consumers as well as store-stocking orders from its retail locations from its distribution center at Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, has said that it be adding an unspecified number of seasonal workers at the warehouse. Statewide, Toy 'R' Us expects to hire 250 seasonal workers for the distribution center as well as its retail locations.

Urban Outfitters, which opened its Internet fulfillment center in Stead with 70 workers this fall, expects that holiday-season employment will reach 120.

Webgistix, which opened an Internet fulfillment center in Sparks this year to handle orders for smaller retailers, says it's seeing significant increases in its clients' inventories as they anticipate a strong holiday season.

The company says it's staffing up to meet a strong flow of orders, but it doesn't yet know how many workers it will need to meet demand.

Along with the holiday growth, Webgistix has landed seven new clients who will be moving their inventories to the Sparks facility in coming weeks.

The hiring in traditional warehouses and Internet fulfillment centers is expected to continue.

"We have several warehouse clients gearing up for the holiday season, which should run through the end of the year. We expect additional hiring for the season to begin later this month," says Susan Fix, community liaison partner for The Applied Companies of Reno, which provides staffing services.

Retailers, meanwhile, are walking a thin line as they staff up for the holidays.

On one hand, says Irvine at the JobConnect office, continued tight margins mean that retailers often want to delay hiring as long as possible. Bringing on holiday help even a week later can boost profits.

But competition for workers with strong customer-service skills has grown more intense in the past year, says Parel, because the many call centers that are opening in the region also are recruiting employees with those skills.

Still, the potential workforce for holiday positions swells with the addition of students on holiday breaks and retirees and others who return to the workforce for a few weeks to make a little extra cash.

The majority of retailers at Legends at Sparks Marina already have their holiday staffs in place and they've generally looked to hire experienced temporary workers from past seasons, says Dennis McGovern, general manager of the center.

Opening of Lowe's Home Improvement and TJ Maxx stores have added to the employment base at Legends, and McGovern says existing retailers have been heartened by center-wide sales increases in 11 of the past 12 months.

Spirits among retailers at The Summit, meanwhile, have been buoyed by center-wide sales increases that have reached double-digits in percentage terms, says Darryl Whitehead, general manager of the south-Reno center.

He says major stores in the center have largely completed their holiday staffing, although some smaller retailers continue to hire.

The Retail Association of Nevada estimates that holiday hiring statewide will run somewhere between last year's 4,100 jobs and the historical average of 5,000 jobs.

Throughout the region, the number of holiday workers is likely to be up at least a bit from last year's numbers, Parel says.

"Employers are really optimistic," he says.


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