Biz Buzz: Local retailers unlikely to add many workers

As retailers prepare for the holiday shopping season, hiring new employees isn’t on the top of their to-do list.

Most retailers say they have barely increased their work forces, if at all.

According to data from the National Retail Federation and the recruiting firm Challenge, Gray & Christmas, annual holiday hiring will likely be sluggish because of the slow economic recovery.

Holiday sales this year are expected to rise 2.3 percent nationwide, the federation forecasts. The holiday season can represent 25 percent to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.

The 500,000 to 600,000 holiday retail workers expected to be hired nationwide this year is higher than last year’s 501,400 workers, but below the levels seen in 2006 and 2007, when retailers’ holiday payrolls grew by 746,800 and 720,800, respectively, said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the recruiting firm.

Two major retailers with local stores said they plan to hire about the same number of seasonal workers as they did last year.

Kohl’s department store, with 1,067 stores nationwide and 121 in California, said it plans to hire about 35 holiday employees for its stores in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria. It will hire 37,345 nationwide.

Best Buy, with stores in San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria and more than 1,000 nationwide (including about 146 in California), wouldn’t disclose the number of seasonal workers hired at individual stores, but said it plans to hire 29,000 nationwide.

Tam Bailie, manager of Beverly’s Fabrics, which sells fabrics, craft items and seasonal home decor in San Luis Obispo, said she has hired two seasonal workers — the same number hired every year.

So far, holiday sales are better than last year, Bailie said, noting that October sales were up more than 10 percent because of a strong Halloween business. She expects holiday sales to be up overall, though not that much.

Even the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association is doing its share.

So far it has hired two seasonal Santas for its Santa’s House in Mission Plaza; as of Thursday, it was still looking to fill some additional shifts.

— Stacy Daniel