Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stores beef up staffs for holiday season

Thousands of unemployed Middle Tennessee workers might find at least temporary relief from their plight this holiday season as retailers ramp up their staffs in expectation of better Christmas sales than last year's.
Among the companies planning significant holiday hiring are Toys R Us, Kohl's and Macy's, but others are expected to follow suit, said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Bass Pro Shops, which reopened its Opry Mills store three weeks ago after being closed since the early May flood, will take on up to 30 workers for the season, said General Manager Greg Cole.

"We're hiring for our Santa's Wonderland, as well as cashiers, sales staff, and other positions all through the store," he said. The store also reports that it's getting applications from displaced workers from other Opry Mills stores, none of which have reopened yet amid an insurance squabble over the damaged property.

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Macy's, the Cincinnati-based department store chain, said it would hire at least 65,000 workers this season, including several hundred in the Nashville area at its retail stores and a distribution center in Portland, Tenn.

Kohl's department stores, headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wis., said it plans to add "about 56 workers per store in the Nashville area."

"We saw significant improvement in seasonal jobs last year over what they were at the bottom of the recession, and I believe it's going to continue to grow," Challenger said of the national picture. "Not explosively, but I'm optimistic we'll see continued growth in retail jobs in the fourth quarter."

"Retail sales are doing better in Tennessee, and people have been spending more on durable goods such as furniture, appliances and cars in the past three months," said David Penn, an economist at Middle Tennessee State University. "I have to think that the holiday season will be better than last year's, which was really bad.

"But what we don't know is whether that can be sustained, or whether people have just replaced cars and appliances that have worn out," Penn said. "For the holidays, we might see folks focusing more on clothes and other things they have to have, rather than making impulse purchases."

For most of the holiday jobs, employers require applicants to apply online.

Contact Tennessean business writer G. Chambers Williams III at 615-259-8076 or

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