Holidays usher in jobs
If you want to work the holiday rush at K B Toy & Hobby Shop, you'd better like kids.
"If they don't like kids and toys, they won't have much fun here," says Denielle Amundson, assistant manager of the store at West Acres in Fargo. "People who just want a job for the money wouldn't work out here."
Nationally, retailers are expected to add 400,000 to 500,000 temporary jobs for November, December and early January, about 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent more than during nonholiday months, according to the National Retail Federation.
"Retailers know it's always busy, and the last thing they want to do is disappoint customers or not serve them because they don't have enough on staff," says Ellen Tolley, a spokeswoman for the organization.
Fargo-Moorhead retailers aren't taking chances either -- most are adding enough extra help to make sure your shopping goes smoothly.
They're drawing from a pool that includes the usual students seeking part-time work as well as an increasing number of workers with office jobs looking for extra spending money.
John Williams, human resources manager at Marshall Field's in West Acres, says hiring went better this year than in past years. "We had no problem whatsoever," he says. "We're all hired up."
Most of the 25 people added stay on for about six to eight weeks, helping out the 200 employees already on staff, he says.
"We didn't need as many people this year, because the people we already have are really solid," Williams says.
K B normally employs eight people. Amundson says they're still adding to that staff now.
"We're not sure where we'll need to be. We're at 18 now and will be adding more," Amundson says.
Down the hall, at Creative Kitchen, they've hired an extra 15 for the holidays. "The hardest to find this year was the day people," says Karen Skalicky, store manager and buyer.
People who have day jobs are more than willing to take evening and weekend hours for a little extra Christmas spending money.
Skalicky places a premium on folks who can cook and bake. "That's a benefit to our associates and a benefit to our customers," she says.
Carrie Andvik knows her way around a kitchen. The 22-year-old just graduated with a bachelor of science degree from North Dakota State University and is working at Creative Kitchen until leaving to attend nursing school at a University of South Dakota program in Sioux Falls.
"I worked here a couple of Christmases ago. I really liked the atmosphere, so I came back," Andvik says. With 20 hours at Creative Kitchen and 20 hours at another job, she's working full time until school begins.
Brad Wimmer of Wimmer's Jewelry in the mall says expertise in jewelry is hard to find. "That's why we can't add people. We may add a husband or a wife, but you have to know diamonds," he says.
What happens, he says, is that everyone else just works harder and more hours. "We do anywhere from one-fifth to one-fourth of our business during the month of December, so you know we're busy," Wimmer says.
Not only are mall hallways bustling with more shoppers this time of year, they also feature more shopping options, according to Tracy Leverson, director of public relations at West Acres.
Seasonal kiosks this year include: Calendar Club; Cass County Electric (fireplaces and electric gifts); Bungee Ball; Everlasting Jelly Candles; Go! The Game Store (board games); Hickory Farms (meat and cheese gift sets); Karmelkorn (popcorn canisters); Montana Marble (etched marble artwork); Santa's Pen (personalized Christmas ornaments) now open in the North Mall; Tickers (watches and clocks); and the West Acres Gift Certificate Center.
Nationally, Sears, Roebuck and Co. will boost its numbers of store workers by 20 percent to 25 percent, as it has for the past few years.
"There is discussion about whether people are going to shop, but there's no question there will be more intense level of activity in the stores (compared with nonholiday months), and we have to have those people for customer service," says Jan Drummond, a Sears spokeswoman. "We have to be very competitive in the market this year."
J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is trying to woo applicants by making it as easy as possible to apply -- in stores, online or through a toll-free number -- by offering special incentives such as bonuses and by paying more than last year in most markets. Penney hires holiday help based on the need and size of each store, typically 10 percent to 15 percent more than the annual crew, but "overall, hiring levels are going to remain flat as compared to last year," said Stephanie Brown, a spokeswoman.
This year, though, the chain plans to hire more people to replenish stock and work cash registers than to staff departments. The new focus is part of a shift to a centralized checkout system.
Chuck Chadwick, manager of the Moorhead Kmart, says he doesn't hire specifically for the holidays, unless it's a college student coming back for a month or a former employee wanting some extra work.
Rather, he says, the holiday hiring tends to provide an opportunity for employee and employer alike to size one another up for a longer relationship.
Chadwick says its fun to be in a hiring mode, considering the year Kmart had, which included a bankruptcy declaration and a series of store closings.
"I've been hiring. All three Fargo-Moorhead stores are hiring," Chadwick says. "I'm almost there. Two or three more part-timers and I'll be there."
Readers can reach Forum Business Editor Gerry Gilmour at (701) 241-5560