Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Boom in online shopping and timely arrival management of warehouse has companies that need to build warehouse staff.

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Fashion retailer Aritzia is dangling incentives to hire more than 400 seasonal staff from across Metro Vancouver for the upcoming holiday season.

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But applicants who expect to hawk clothes in their smart stores will mostly be without luck; most positions will involve stacking, sorting and stocking in a warehouse. That reflects what some other companies are also doing, as COVID-19 has gotten more customers than ever to buy online instead of in stores, said Vancouver-based retail analyst David Ian Gray.

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The trend “happened anyway, but then it ballooned through the pandemic,” Gray said. “The speed of changing that has been dramatic.”

There will still be a need for extra staff to handle the holiday season in retail stores, but there is a more urgent need for warehousing and logistics staff. These are employees dedicated to receiving online orders, stocking, stacking and sorting inventory as well as packing and shipping boxes ashore in stores for pickup or at customers’ doorstep at home.

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The focus in retail had been on creating the “shopper experience,” gathering deals in stores and online, Gray said. Now, “there’s been a real focal point for ‘the back of the house’, the things you do not see: the logistics, the warehousing, the management of the warehouse and the supply chain.”

It’s not just about providing more online shopping, he said, but also dealing with disruptions in global shipments. Instead of “just-in-time delivery” of products directly in retail stores, companies now take larger orders and store them in distribution centers during a season instead of risking not being able to secure the product because a source market is under COVID -lockdown.

Vancouver-based retail analyst David Ian Gray.
Vancouver-based retail analyst David Ian Gray. PNG

Aritzia says it is looking to fill 400 seasonal positions in its distribution center and “up to” 200 in its retail stores. The company offers $ 21 an hour to seasonal warehouse workers plus discounts on clothing and accessories, though it did not specify the exact amount. It also tries to attract them with perks like hot meals and the use of an on-site gym during peak times during the holiday season.

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Its salary of $ 21 is higher than Amazon’s $ 17.90 per hour offer for seasonal “picker packages” and “package sorters” warehouse workers and $ 19.90 for warehouse workers in Vancouver, according to records on Indeed.com, which included notice of a $ 1,500 signing bonus for hires before a date in late October.

Aritzia basically pays a holiday premium of $ 3 per person. Time for seasonal warehouse workers starting this week until the end of December.

The impact of the pandemic on Aritzia’s online sales has been dramatic. For example, while net sales in the 13 weeks ending March 1 fell by 2.9 percent over the same period last year, online sales grew by a massive 88 percent according to the company’s earnings in the fourth quarter of May 2021.

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Distribution photo of an Aritzia distribution center employee.
Distribution photo of an Aritzia distribution center employee. PNG

Many other retailers across North America are also stepping up to deal with the online rush by offering higher salaries, signing bonuses and better tuition refund packages to strengthen staff at their warehouses. They include Amazon, Walmart and Dollar Tree in the US, according to CNN Business.

CNN Business reported that 52 percent of retailers said they had “significant challenges” in hiring warehouse workers, according to a August survey of 80 plus large boxes, groceries, pharmacies and clothing chains conducted by search firm Korn Ferry. By comparison, the survey found that 33 percent of retailers said the same thing about hiring employees for staffing stores.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart in the U.S. provided retention bonuses and raises warehouse workers by several dollars an hour through the January holiday season. In September, Walmart in the United States said it aimed to hire 20,000 warehouse workers.

In Canada, brands like Canadian Tire and Loblaws Supermarket are in the midst of building large distribution centers, though these will not be ready in the next few months for this holiday season, Gray said.

jlee-young@postmedia.com

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