The Retail Council of Canada is warning that it’s going to be challenging for retailers to find enough staff this holiday shopping season.
Stacey Selley hopes this year that people will be heading out and donning more glitter than last year when COVID-19 restrictions had people celebrating at home.
The owner of Bamboo Ballroom in Calgary says she’s already seen traffic picking up in her store compared to last year.
“I feel excited. I feel like people are going to be doing a few smaller gatherings. I think this year, people are going to be getting together a bit more, so they’re really going to want to wow everyone with their outfit,” Selley said from her boutique clothing store on Sunday.
With more shoppers in Calgary stores comes the need for more staff. Selley said she’s hiring, but it’s not easy.
“It’s challenging. You need to incentivize and do all sorts of things and come up with creative solutions to keep them because there is so much choice,” Selley said.
“They could go down the street. They could go wherever. They have options, so when you find somebody great, you really have to make sure that you keep everybody happy.”
The Retail Council of Canada released a report in October that shows Canadians are looking forward to returning to brick and mortar stores and they plan to spend more money than last year.
The report showed that 63 per cent of total purchases are expected to be in-store this year compared to 58 per cent in 2020. Thirty-seven per cent will be online.
Pre-pandemic in 2019, 72 per cent of total purchases were planned to be in-store and 28 per cent online.
But finding the staff to work in the stores could be an issue.
“What we are seeing this year is that it’s more challenging than ever before. Some of the long-term owners and operators said it’s the most challenging they’ve ever experienced in their careers,” said John Graham, Retail Council of Canada director of government relations Prairie region.
Graham suggests the situation is a result of constraints around immigration and plenty of competition for workers between retail and restaurants for jobs.
“You are seeing youth jumping from job to job to work their way up in income, and additionally, with constraints around immigration and foreign workers has maybe not a direct but a ripple effect of fewer employees available in the workforce,” Graham said.
“It creates tighter recruitment challenges and retention challenges for retail stores.”
Graham said the concern is that the lack of staff may result in a loss of sales.
“We are concerned that we may not be able to adequately meet the service expectations of consumers the way that retail brands strive to do,” Graham said.
“Additionally, the lost sales opportunities. If consumers feel like they can’t get the service they want or can’t get into a store and make their purchase as quick as they’d like to, there is a risk there as well.”
In addition to competitive wages, Graham said employers are offering flexible schedules and opportunities for discounts and scholarships to help attract and retain workers.
As for Selley, she’s been offering a few extras to keep staff happy.
“We offer a commission structure that just encourages people to have a little pep and try that extra little bit because they know it’s going to pay off for them,” Selley said.
“We bring our employees to buying shows. We plan fashion shows and fashion events, and that is starting to ramp up a little bit more too, so I think there are more opportunities for retailers to get excited again.”
The manager of Chinook Centre in Calgary said Cadillac Fairview has also responded to the need for staff.
“As part of our retailer recovery efforts, Cadillac Fairview supported our retailers’ staffing needs by hosting a national job fair, including at CF Chinook Centre. More than 15 retailers participated in the event,” said Paige O’Neill, GM at Chinook Centre.