Retail Staffing for the Holidays – Key Insights to Drive Success

Earlier this year, the National Retail Federation reported that online retail sales are expected to grow between 8-12 percent in 2017, generating between $427 billion and $443 billion in revenue. That’s roughly three to four times higher than the 2.8% growth rate for brick-and-mortar locations. But despite online retailers playing an increasingly larger role in consumers’ lives, 87% of holiday shoppers still are expected to shop in physical stores in the coming months.

The Natural Insight 2017 In-Store Holiday Shopping report found that 23% of respondents plan to begin their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, so the staffing industry should plan early to ensure an enjoyable, stress-free shopping experience for retail store customers.

Based on our findings, here are three ways staffing agencies can differentiate themselves from the competition by arming their teams with the tools and knowledge to elicit as many transactions as possible this holiday season while keeping stress and anxiety at bay.


Help customers find what they’re looking for. Especially during the busiest time of the year, shoppers want to easily find what they are looking for. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents said that not being able to find what they’re looking for is one of the main causes of stress during holiday shopping. And for males, that number rose to 58%. Agencies should make sure retail stores are staffed well, so customers don’t spend too much time trying to find someone to help. Staff should be trained to engage with customers to help them find what they need — and not just in the department they are responsible for. They should be able to provide general direction across the full store to provide the best customer experience.

Have gift suggestions ready. Not every shopper comes to a store knowing what they want to purchase. While some people want to get in and out as quickly as possible, others want to browse and get gift suggestions from employees. In fact, half of 18-29 year olds said not finding a good gift for their loved ones is one of their top two holiday stressors. Agencies should work with their retail clients to provide staff with ready-to-go shopping lists with recommendations of the most popular holiday gifts for different demographics, from parents, grandparents, and significant others, to teachers and coworkers. These lists should have a variety of price points to fit different budget ranges and, particularly for children, include age-appropriate suggestions.

Know your key demographics. We found that 88% of 45-59 year-olds plan to visit stores, followed by 86% of 30-44 year-olds. Sixty percent of respondents said they shop in stores because they want to see and touch products to assess the quality. Retailers and staff can work together to make this easier for customers by removing unnecessary packaging, having display-only products available, and having employees available to demo items.

Staffing companies can differentiate their offering and have a real impact on sales for their customers by understanding why shoppers visit stores over the holidays and working with their clients to execute tailored in-store strategies.

For more insights about the holiday season and how to improve in-store experience, download the complete 2017 In-Store Holiday Shopping here.

MORE: Turn your seasonal employees into top performers

Stefan Midford

Stefan Midford
Stefan Midford is president and CEO of Natural Insight and has more than 30 years of experience in information technology, operations and workforce management.

Stefan Midford

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