If you’re looking for a seasonal job this holiday shopping season, you might get a lump of coal in your stocking. The demand for temporary retail work in November and December appears tepid at best.
The latest sign of concern: Word from Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), the world’s largest consumer electronics retailer, that the company will hire about half the seasonal workers as last year — a mere 15,000 compared with 29,000 in 2010.
It’s no surprise that Best Buy is cutting back. Revenue and earnings flatlined in the company’s 2011 fiscal year, in large part because Best Buy has seen five consecutive quarters of same-store sales declines capped by a 2.8% drop in sales recorded just this month. BBY stock is down 28% so far in 2011, compared to a 3% drop for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and down 33% since September 2010 while the market is up slightly.
But it’s an oversimplification to blame the seasonal hiring problems at Best Buy on the specific troubles of this one company. The fact is that holiday hires are being cut at many operations. Just look at some of the other recent news:
- The U.S. Commerce Department recently noted lackluster retail sales for August and revised down July results.
- Separately, the International Council of Shopping Centers forecast 2.2% sales growth for its members in November and December — less than half the 5% growth in those months back in 2010.
- Employment placement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas reported this week that seasonal hiring will be flat or down slightly from last year’s 627,000 hires.
It all adds up to a rather bleak Christmas retail outlook.
Worst of all is that the companies that have seen “good” seasonal outlooks still are less than stellar. Toys R Us recently said it plans to hire more than 40,000 seasonal employees, but that’s less than the 45,000 forecast about a year ago.
And Zappos — the online shoe powerhouse owned by Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) — has said it will accept applications for 3,000 temporary jobs in its Shepherdsville, Ky., warehouse. But those jobs don’t sound like a heck of a lot of fun. Get the rundown from this report on a local TV station’s website:
“We are requiring mandatory overtime, especially right now. We’re pretty busy at this time. Working ten hour days, in certain departments you’re walking non-stop. So our average picker in a ten hour day can walk up to 15 miles a day climbing up and down stairs, that sort of thing. And then there’s other departments where they’re standing in one spot for ten hours a day.”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say these jobs in rural Kentucky probably won’t be in the ballpark of $20 to $30 an hour, either — probably half that.
But in this tough job market and with few other seasonal job options, I guess workers simply have to take what they can get.
Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.