Little help wanted
Holly Evers is cautious as she tries to figure
how much extra staffing she’ll need during
the holidays at Gesture, the gifts and home
decor store she co-owns with Russ Schultz at
The Summit Sierra.
Rather than hire anyone extra for the busy
season, Evers thinks she’ll probably offer additional
hours to existing part-time employees
of the store.
“We’re trying to be as lean as possible
while still providing quality service,” she says.
Other retailers throughout the region
appear to be equally cautious about their seasonal
hiring this year as weak sales in recent
months and national financial turmoil bring
worries about holiday traffic.
While no one tracks the number of seasonal
workers hired during the holidays, statistics
developed by the State Department of
Employment, Training and Rehabilitation
show that the retail sector in Washoe County
has added 700 to 800 jobs during the holiday
season in recent years. Carson City retail
employment typically rises by about 100 during
The employment department doesn’t
expect to see that kind of growth this year.
“This is going to be a relatively weak holiday
season. That will translate into less robust holiday hiring that we’ve seen in the past,”
says William Anderson, chief economist for
the state agency.
Manpower Inc., the employment agency,
agrees.A recent survey by the company finds
retailers nationwide are more careful about
holiday hiring than any time in 17 years
and retailers in the West are even more skittish
than their brethren elsewhere in the
The reason? Weak sales.
Taxable sales in Washoe County during
the state’s fiscal year that ended June 30 were
down more than 5 percent from a year earlier
(Carson City was down more than 7 percent),
and the declines appear to be accelerating.
Indications that the decline is gathering
steam are particularly troublesome because
the holiday season typically makes up 20 percent
of retailers’ annual sales. For some stores
jewelers, for instance the percentage is
much higher yet.
But not every retailer is filled with foreboding.
The Cabela’s store in Reno, for instance,
hired 48 seasonal employees after an interviewing
session and expects to hire another
20 to 25 to carry the store through January,
says Cinda Heron, human resource manager
at the store.
(Cabela’s holiday rush in Reno continues
through the Safari Club International convention
in late January.)
“Our sales have continued to be good, and
we need the extra people to assure the legendary
customer service that Cabela’s is
known for,” says Heron. The store employs
about 280, compared with 262 when it
opened a year ago.
The slump in holiday hiring will especially
pinch young workers as a third of all retail
workers are younger than 24, the National
Retail Federation says.
Many of the young seasonal workers are
looking for money to pay for college expenses.
“Most of our students work,” says Pru
Jones, interim director of career development
at the University of Nevada, Reno.”And a lot
of students look for seasonal work.”
Demand for seasonal workers at ski
resorts remained strong during the pre-holiday
hiring season, Jones says, but retailers
and restaurants have been making fewer
recruiting visits to the campus.
The National Retail Federation projects
that holiday sales nationwide this year will be
about 2.2 percent ahead of last year’s figures.
That growth rate is only slightly less than the
2.4 percent increase posted by retailers when
they compared 2007 figures to 2006 sales.
But it’s still about half the 4.37 percent
average increase during the past decade.
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