Small Business: Christmas staff - Trish McLean

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Trish McLean, Group CEO NZ, Retailworld Resourcing, which recruits everything in retail from jobs on the shopfloor to retail support office jobs and executive level roles

Trish McLean, Group CEO NZ,  Retailworld Resourcing.
Trish McLean, Group CEO NZ, Retailworld Resourcing.

How busy a time is it for retail recruitment firms at this time of year?

Retailworld specialises in permanent roles from assistant store manager level upwards, so we start to see an influx from around September as retailers gear up for Christmas.

How do retailers prepare for the Christmas rush?

Retailers will have forecast their likely sales and staff requirements around July. They'll often access their database of casuals from previous years and use sites like Student Job Search to find their Christmas teams. This time of year we are often approached by retailers who need to access our passive candidate database in order to reach a wider talent pool.

We are seeing an increase across the board at the moment, not just because of the festive season. There are new developments and new brands entering the New Zealand market. We're also noticing a lot of support offices expanding and introducing new functions into their team -there's been particular demand around e-commerce roles as online offerings and innovations continue to grow.

What is your advice when first sitting down with a retailer to plan their Christmas cover?

Planning normally takes place around June, with the main drive in September and majority of hiring finished by October.

Look at your current team to take on extra hours first, then you know what's left on the roster to fill. Starting early means you get the first look at the best people.

What sort of staff are retailers seeking for the Christmas rush?

Retailers often introduce temporary roles over the Christmas period. For example, store greeters and queue customer service who are brought in to pacify and keep processes running smoothly and calmly across the store.

Ultimately staff need to have customer service skills and to be able to work on their feet all day. Staff that can hit the ground running and have proven experience are more likely to turn foot traffic into sales and drive money through tills.

Are students still in demand in the current market or are there enough more experienced people around?

There is definitely still demand for students, particularly those from university.

However, there is still hot competition between students and employers are looking for a point of difference that makes applicants stand out. If they don't have previous work experience, they'll look to extra curricular activities and volunteer work that highlight potential transferable skills. It's not as simple as just hitting "apply" and getting a job - initiative, attitude, personality and presentation will also play a key role.

Have you found fewer retailers are hiring extra staff for Christmas this year?

Retailworld and RWR Executive specialise in permanent roles, however we haven't had any feedback from the market to say that there's been a drop off. We're the busiest in our space that we've been for the last three to five years.

What sort of training should retailers give before they send new staff out onto the shop floor?

Leading retailers will have a good induction process that will cover everything from customer service and personal conduct through to managing situations like loss prevention or theft which increases at this time of year.

How should retailers motivate their new staff to sell, sell, sell at Christmas?

The focus has moved from selling to providing a customer experience. Delighting customers with a "wow" experience is where we're at, even including simple things like carrying a purchase to someone's car. There's less pressure about it being a sales environment - those days are gone from retail.

Anything else you would mention?

The retail industry is changing; with the increased online presence and offering, store experience is a greater focus and having the best people is key. A streamlined omni-channel offering will tick the boxes for shoppers - where the online experience matches the in-store environment.

Also, think about post-Christmas as well and if there are any available opportunities to retain top performers.


Next week: A number of enterprising companies are creating apps for their own purposes and for others. There are also a number of apps being developed for small businesses to help them manage their businesses better. I'd like to hear from all of you who are particularly proud of your app especially if it can be used by others too.

- NZ Herald

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