10/13/2012 10:00:00 PM Economy points to more seasonal hiring for retailers
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier PacSun Assisstant Manager Ally Gyarfas interviews Bryan Schlieper during a seasonal job fair at the Prescott Gateway Mall Oct. 5.
Ken Hedler The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT - Bryan Schlieper said he arrived here four months ago from Burlington, N.C., to undergo treatment for a gambling addiction.
Now staying in a halfway house, Schlieper, 26, donned a suit for a job fair Oct. 5 at the Prescott Gateway Mall looking for a part-time retail job.
"I'm just looking to get as many hours as possible," Schlieper said. "The job is not important, just the hours and the paycheck."
He planned to meet with all eight retailers participating in the job fair, and apply at banks later that day in Prescott. He worked for a bank seven summers ago.
Schlieper, who said he studied economics for three years at the University of North Carolina, was among 80 or more people ranging from early 20s to their 60s who flocked to the three-hour job fair.
The job applicants might be banking on a more favorable season for holiday hiring than recent years. The part-time seasonal jobs could lead to full-time employment.
The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail group, announced Oct. 2 that it expects sales during the holiday shopping period in November and December to rise 4.1 percent in 2012.
The years 2008 and 2009 were "really bad," said Professor Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Hoffman said he expects seasonal hiring to be up slightly this year and perhaps the highest since 2007, the year before the national economy collapsed.
"I listen to the national business media, and they are informed by CEO (chief executive officer) plans for stocking shelves," Hoffman said. "And they have unbelievably good data."
CEOs look for trends in hiring, in consumer confidence, Hoffman said. "I think the economic trends are in the positive direction," he continued. However, he added, "I don't think there is anything in the horizon" for a big bounce.
Hiring might have bounced at major retailers in the tri-city area.
The Kohl's department store, which opened nearly five years ago on Glassford Hill Road in Prescott Valley, plans to hire 30 to 35 seasonal workers, store manager Terrie Kelly said.
"We are hiring more than we did last year," Kelly said, adding the seasonal help will bring the employee pool to 110. "We think it is going to be a better Christmas than last year."
Kelly said she expects to hire all seasonal employees by the first week in November.
"Some of the people will only be hired for seasonal (work), but some of the people will be asked to stay on," Kelly said.
The C-A-L Ranch Store on Willow Creek Road in Prescott plans to hire four to six seasonal workers, manager Peter Erickson said. The store opened a year ago at the former Kmart site, and has 28 employees.
"It's just Christmas season, and we do more business," said Erickson, who started in January. "We have a toy department and sporting goods and all sorts of things."
Erickson said he "absolutely" expects sales to be higher this coming holiday season.
In tourist-oriented downtown Prescott, Kendall Jaspers, executive director of Prescott Downtown Partnership, said he does not have a feel for seasonal hiring.
"Most of the downtown retailers are fairly small, a lot of family-run and mom-and-pop businesses," he said.
Retailers that took part in the job fair at the mall tended to be small as well but some represented major chains.
The Buckle clothing store that opened with the mall 11 years ago is part of a chain with more than 400 locations in 41 states, according to its website.
"We do careers here," sales lead Tyler Hart said, "People can be with Buckle 20 years."
Hart, an employee for a year, said he sought to hire two to three part-time employees, and emphasized those jobs could become full time and lead to promotions.
He said he was looking for applicants with a sense of style, people skills and an outgoing personality.
Buckle also conducts interviews on Thursday mornings before the store opens, Hart said.
While Hart interviewed applicants Oct. 5, sales assistant Jodi Narvesen of Allie Ollie Boutique accepted applications that she forwarded to her manager.
Narvesen said the store is seeking part-time employees who are outgoing.
"Our stores are very fun, upbeat," she said.
Narvesen, Hart and other representatives of employers fielded a large applicant pool.
They included Laura Hinton, who formerly worked in real estate for 25 years; Matthew Witte, whose six-month assignment at a solar plant construction project ended recently in Chino Valley; and Catherine Chittenden, who recently earned a certificate in computers from Yavapai College.
Hinton, who had been between jobs for two years and moved to Prescott a year ago from Phoenix, said she applied for about six jobs over the past six months before attending the job fair.
"I have one kid in college," Hinton said. "I am looking for permanent (work). I am taking retail for now."