Retailers scale back holiday hiring but boost online presence
Future Shop and sister company Best Buy Canada plan to hire fewer holiday employees than they did last Christmas, partly due to the trend toward customers shopping online.
Future Shop said Tuesday that it will hire 3,000 part-time workers in Canada and Best Buy will hire about 1,500 part-time employees, both down slightly from last year.
"We've got a 50 per cent increase in online traffic this year and online sales, so we've adjusted a little bit of that for our in-store experience," said Chris Taylor, vice-president of human resources at Future Shop in Burnaby, B.C.
Both chains have already hired about 550 seasonal staff to their e-commerce ranks to meet changing shopping patterns.
"It's an increasingly important part of our business and it has been growing substantially year after year," added Janice Antaya-Finlayson, vice-president of human resources at Best Buy Canada.
Last year, Future Shop added 4,000 seasonal workers to its almost 10,000 employees. Best Buy Canada added more than 2,000 part-time employees last holiday season to its 6,000 employees.
Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc. said it's hiring 50,000 temporary workers at its order centres across the United States this holiday season.
The Seattle-based online retailer said it expects "thousands" of those it hires to stay on full time.
Future Shop and Best Buy Canada said their part-time employees will be hired for the November until mid-January period, and some of them are expected to be kept on.
Both chains also expect consumers to buy gadgets like Apple's latest iPhone, tablet computers, radio-controlled cars, coffee machines and the next generation Wii U gaming console.
Shifting consumer trends
Although consumers are expected to buy TVs, Future Shop's Taylor said it's the Boxing Day "push" that really brings out shoppers to buy televisions.
Retail analyst John Winter said consumers buy online when they know exactly what they're getting.
"A lot of people are willing to buy electronics online because it's such a standardized product and there's many more doing that than buying clothing because clothing is much more personal," said Winter of John Winter Associates Ltd. in Toronto.
Both Future Shop and Best Buy Canada also have added non-traditional merchandise to their online offerings like furniture, tools, beauty items and baby products, for example.
Winter said the chains are broadening their merchandise online to see if it will be a success with consumers.
"If not, next season they'll try something else new. As a retailer you should never stand still."
Future Shop has 149 stores in Canada and Best Buy has 77 big box stores.
The two companies are both owned by Best Buy Co. Inc., the American consumer electronics giant that controls nearly 20 per cent of the American market.
In the U.S., Best Buy said last week that it has authorized its store staffers to match online prices of competitors in some cases, as it, like other brick and mortar retailers attempt to be more competitive with Amazon.com.