Look beyond retail for holiday-hiring stories

by October 8, 2013
Holiday entertainers Photo: Kevin Tostado

Holiday workers are not just retail. Entertainers are among many categories of seasonal hires. Photo: Kevin Tostado

Well, the shuttered federal government may be willing to kick off the month without a jobs report, but not so here at the Reynolds Center.

It’s time for the annual look at seasonal hiring, and like every other holiday-related story, this one is happening earlier and earlier each autumn.

Forecasts are tepid; the Chicago consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. says levels will struggle to match those of 2012, which admittedly was a 12-year high.  The just-out projection from the National Retail Federation is more chipper; the group expects hiring above the 720,000 level merchants posted last year; it also says it expects overall holiday sales, which of course fuel jobs, to climb 3.9 percent over last year.

In what may be an interesting reflection of consumer shopping habits, Target says it’s chain is hiring 70,000 fewer workers this year, down 20 percent, but Amazon.com says it will hire an extra 70,000 this year, up 40 percent.  How interesting.  Maybe this suggests another avenue for you to pursue:  The ratio of holiday shopping done in person vs. online; if you start now and get a few households to keep a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/winter holiday shopping diary, to be compared with their bills or credit-card statements from last year, you might set up an interesting trends story.

And meanwhile, of course, if you have any online distribution/fulfillment/warehouse facilities in your region, definitely compare their seasonal job opening trajectory with that of bricks-and-mortar retailers.

For a twist, why not find some jobs that aren’t the traditional retail positions at shipping companies, national big-box merchants and other chains?  Profiling some unique or offbeat seasonal employment opportunities might be a springboard into some interesting small- or medium-sized business stories, or at least help readers think outside of the gift box when it comes to seeking holiday work.

Dogwalker near Broadway, NYC Photo: Jessamyn West

Dogwalker near Broadway in Manhattan. Photo: Jessamyn West

Here are the ideas I came up with and I’d welcome hearing about more in the comments section, below:

Halloween and haunts. I watched workers hang banners at a local Halloween pop-up store a couple of days ago, and here’s my recent blog post on the growing business of elaborate haunted houses — there still is time to do an take on these jobs.

Pet sitters and walkers.   Who feeds FiFi her turkey dinner?  The November-December travel season is a demanding one for the pet-sitting and boarding industry; I easily found a lot of appeals online for seasonal and holiday help at these establishments.

Decorating services.  From residential holiday décor services that give landscaping companies a winter niche, to the artists who create massive  church, shopping mall and commercial building displays to the banners and wreaths that festoon municipal displays, outdoor holiday decorations are big business.  Obviously they don’t staff year-round so you might find some interesting seasonal positions among them.  The American Holiday Decorators Association has a small membership list online that might help you find local players; otherwise call malls and ask whom they employ.

Security and safety.  Just a hunch, but security firms might need more help to staff parties, galas, craft fairs and other events this time of year.

Transportation.  Also consider valet parkers, designated driver services, party bus and limo operators and others who ferry merry-makers around town.

Salon and spa workers.  I was told by one locally that demand for massages, facials, party up-dos, nail services and other pampering strains schedules this time of year, and might provide opportunities for part-time practitioners.

Airport jobs. Just wondering if retail/restaurant hiring at airports presents special challenges or opportunities.

Cleaning services.  I wonder if residential and commercial cleaning services see a holiday uptick from homeowners and hospitality venues that need more pre-party help?

Entertainers.  There’s a place not too far from me called Turkeyville that puts on dinner theater and presumably the next couple of months are their big season; venues from stately homes to cruise ships to regional resorts like Branson to upscale department stores may need actors, entertainers, lighting experts and the like; why not a seasonal story about the opportunities for members of the performing arts?   Same for Santa and his/her elves — they show up not just at malls, but swap meets, antique centers, municipal parks and other venues.

Gift wrappers.  Last year I talked with a luxury car dealership sales manager who said they hire extra people to help gift-wrap cars that are purchased as holiday presents.  Why not check in with your area’s upscale stores and vendors about the utmost in holiday gift-wrapping services, and who provides them?

Care-giving. Do nursing home, child care providers, health care systems and other vital services need temp staff to augment those who want holiday time off?