Vacancies in retail soar as Christmas crunch approaches

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By Published On: October 3, 20220 Comments

Despite a decline in overall job vacancies, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week show vacancies in retail have grown by almost 15 percent since May of this year, as online retail giant Amazon joins many in preparing for a considerable recruitment push ahead of the festive season.

Vacancies across all industries declined in the period from May to August of this year, dropping by as much as 10,000, though remaining 41 percent higher overall than in August of 2021. This overall decline, however, is not matched by all industries, with vacancies in retail increasing at the second highest rate of any industry.

In punishing news for retailers ahead of the busiest shopping periods over the holiday season, the 14.6 percent increase in the number of job vacancies for retail is surpassed only by the 16.7 percent increase seen in the transport, postal and warehousing industry bracket – with recruitment stalls in both ultimately impacting upon retailers’ abilities to operate effectively.

The latest ABS data is understandably concerning news for retailers, with Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra saying of the increases, “Labour shortages are the number one concern for retail currently with many businesses forced to reduce trading hours in response to worsening staff availability. Unfortunately, this situation is exacerbating during the most critical time of year on the retail calendar – the Christmas trading period.”

These sentiments are shared by National Retail Association (NRA) Interim Chief Executive Lindsay Carroll.

“Santa is definitely going to need some more helpers this year. Vacancies across front line retail as well as fulfillment and delivery need to be filled to secure the workforce needed to meet the expected demand of cyber sales and Christmas shopping,” says Carroll.

And addressing the issues of labour shortage may not be so simple as increasing migration intake, data further suggests. In the year leading up to March 2022, for example, statistics show that the state of Queensland had seen the greatest growth to its population when compared to all other states and territories. The rise of 1.8 percent over the population numbers of the previous year were driven in large part by significant net interstate migration numbers of 53,984. Despite this, Queensland has seen the highest spike of any state in the number of job vacancies between May and August of this year, increasing by 9 percent.

As CreditorWatch Chief Economist Anneke Thompson notes, “This highlights that migration is not the sole answer to filling jobs, and migrants create demand for jobs as well as fill them.”

Feeling the pinch and anticipating the impending arrival of the busiest shopping season, names like Amazon and Australia Post have commenced ambitious recruitment campaigns seeking to resolve holes ahead of the busy period. Australia Post has flagged its plans to find as many as 6,000 new recruits, with executives seeking to put their best foot forward in selling themselves as employers to potential job seekers.

“We know that many businesses are recruiting at the moment, but we see Australia Post standing out from the pack as a truly inclusive workplace,” said Executive General Manager for People and Culture at Australia Post Susan Davies in a statement, “We offer certainty around shifts for the coming peak period and competitive salaries for a wide range of roles, many of which need no previous experience.”

“And while there are great seasonal roles that may suit a number of people in the short term, for others it can also open up more permanent career opportunities. We’ve had many fantastic team members who started as casuals stay on with us long after Christmas.”

Amazon is another big name seeking to get a jump on the holidays with an ambitious recruitment drive, seeking as many as 2,000 new recruits, with over 9000 of these being in NSW.

“As we head into the holiday season, we’re pleased to offer over 2,000 new seasonal work opportunities for Australians around the country, at a time when thanks to cost of living pressures they are needed most,” said Director of Operations for Amazon Australia Mindy Espidio-Garcia, “Whatever your personal or professional situation, there’s a job or earning opportunity for you with Amazon.”

Still, as the ARA’s Zahra acknowledges, “In advance of the holiday shopping surge, retailers have already begun their recruitment drives for tens of thousands of additional Christmas casuals to cope with demand, however with the scale of the labour crisis getting worse for retail, it’s unlikely that businesses will be able to fill all the roles they have available to trade at their full potential.”

The news is not especially positive for retailers, with flexibility on salary and working conditions flagged as some of very few options available for hiring managers to try and entice talent to fill any one of the increasing vacancies in retail.

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