Employment gains across all industries and evidence of increased consumer spending have some experts jolly over the possibility that 2014 may be one of the best holiday seasons in recent years.
Sales in November and December could increase 4.1 percent over the same months last year, to $616.9 billion — excluding automobile, gas and restaurant sales, predicts the National Retail Federation.
For San Luis Obispo County, this could translate to more seasonal employment opportunities, as large and small businesses alike look to hire enough people to help with a possibly hectic shopping season.
In total, retailers nationwide are expected to add more than 800,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, according to outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s the biggest number in 15 years — and would make 2014 one of the best years on record for seasonal hiring.
Some big-box stores have kept seasonal hiring at a minimum to make up for increased online shopping that leaves less need for people on the sales floor.
Target, for example, said it will hire roughly the same number of employees nationwide as it did last year: 70,000.
A human resources representative for the San Luis Obispo Target said they’re hiring residents to work at the cash registers in the early mornings and to work in the back, stocking, though she would not say the total number to be hired.
Other major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kohl’s are increasing the number of new hires nationwide this holiday season to 60,000 and 67,000 people, respectively, according to company statements.
Kohl’s in San Luis Obispo is still hiring, a store manager confirmed last week. It’s looking for roughly 30 people, she said, though that is subject to change based on store need and availability.
Representatives with the Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles Wal-Marts declined to disclose how many people are being hired locally at the two stores, though both are still hiring.
Smaller local businesses often hire fewer workers during the holiday season than big-box stores, though several local businesses have increased their number of hires this year.
Specialty cheese shop Fromagerie Sophie is in the process of hiring three seasonal workers, said owner Sophie Boban-Doering, two more than she hired last year.
“We’ve been doing very well so far,” Boban-Doering said, noting she is also considering adding another register to improve wait times. “It’s exciting. We are definitely ready for the season — at least I think we are.”
Boban-Doering said that compared with last year, when the downtown San Luis Obispo store first opened, sales are roughly the same, if not a little better — though if last year’s trends prove true, she is expecting an influx of people and sales closer to the actual holidays.
“Last year, during the week before Christmas, it was just crazy,” she said. “I lost 10 pounds because I was always running around; we were that busy.”
At Beverly’s Fabrics and Crafts in San Luis Obispo, owner Tam Bailie said she has hired roughly four people to work at the store on Higuera Street since August. Two of those were to replace a group of workers who graduated from Cal Poly earlier this year, however, so Bailie said hiring works out to two additional seasonal part-time workers.
Bailie said she normally hires her seasonal workers before Halloween, which is her store’s biggest week of the year because of the high number of college students looking for costume supplies.
This year’s Halloween sales were roughly the same as last year — “It was a little flat,” Bailie said — so she is relying on the holiday season to help business.
“Christmas decorations starting selling well in August when we put them out,” she said. “So we’re hoping for a good Christmas season to perk things back up.” The holiday hiring fury did not reach some businesses in the Village of Arroyo Grande: owners at Café Andreini, Century 21 Hometown Realty and Village Salon all confirmed they did not hire any seasonal workers this year.