6 Tips for Retail Holiday Staffing: A Guide for Seasonal Hiring and Training


For many retailers, the holiday season is instrumental in determining the success of your year. At the average business, holiday sales account for around 20 percent of total annual sales. That number is even higher for niche retailers that have a stronger focus on holiday shopping.

Being such an important season for small businesses, it’s certainly a time of year that requires plenty of foresight and planning. Your inventory, ordering, marketing, floor design, and social media all need to be optimized for the season. And the same goes for your staffing. Holiday retail staffing must be sufficient to cover the additional traffic in your store so that you can continue to provide excellent customer service. It’s also important to accommodate vacation requests and other schedule preferences.

For established businesses, surely you’re familiar with the challenges of staffing appropriately during this season. And for new businesses, this will present a new business operation to consider. So check out these tips for retail staffing during the holidays.

1. Analyze Past Years to Anticipate This One

If your retail store has been in business for a while, use precedent from years past to give yourself a realistic idea of how this one will go.

Consult with your veteran team members and management team to get a varied group of opinions. Getting input from those who are on the floor the majority of the day is extremely valuable and something that too many retailers forget to include. Plus, it’s a great way to show trust in them, keeping your team happy and motivated.

Also, use your retail point of sale to measure important retail KPIs from prior holiday seasons. Through your data analytics and reporting, your POS system can generate hundreds of different custom reports. For measuring the holiday season, these can include foot traffic, conversion rates, average transaction value, total sales per day/week/month, weekend/weekday sales, day/night sales, and much more. Together, they are meant to give you a thorough look at your business so you can anticipate this year and fix any problems from past years.

Together, these steps should help you get an idea of how this year will do so that you can hire extra staff or keep more people on your retail floor accordingly.

2. Be Proactive and Plan Ahead

Many retailers spend the entire year planning for the holiday season. While this may be overkill for your business, still allow for some preparation time. This means being proactive instead of reactive.

Of course, this starts with the step above. Analyzing your store’s data from prior holiday seasons will help determine your staffing for this year.

Start interviewing early to help you find the best seasonal staff members. Touch base with anyone who worked for you in the past; they may be looking for seasonal work again.

Take time off requests early so you can put together a calendar. Ideally, you can accommodate your veteran team members’ vacation time.

3. Spend Time Hiring Seasonal Staff for the Holidays

Take the hiring process seriously. Your retail staff will be the face of your business and will interact with every customer that comes through your doors. Too often, retailers prioritize other matters and leave themselves with very little time to spend with the interview process. Rather than scramble last minute, start the process early.

You also probably want to hire more new team members than you think you’ll need. Retail work, especially around the holidays, will be filled by retirees, students, or other people looking for part-time, seasonal work. Most will not be wanting to work 5+days a week or 8 hour shifts. Instead, hire more and schedule your team for shorter shifts and fewer days.

Additionally, many seasonal workers will want more time off than they anticipated. Others might simply leave halfway through the season. These instances are unavoidable, so it’s important you’re prepared and not left in a bind at the last minute.

When interviewing, be clear about what sort of availability you need and what they can offer. Ask about previous experience in retail and check any references to see how reliable they were. Be honest about what the job entails and what you expect. Being upfront from the beginning will get you the best candidates for the job.

4. Implement Great Training for All Team Members

Training your retail staff is one of the most important steps of this process. What might seem second nature or intuitive to you isn’t necessarily the case for everyone, especially new people. 

  • Start by devising a thorough training policy before hiring anyone. Include items that seem painfully obvious. Again, do assume that new hires know even the most elemental protocols of retail.
  • Train you existing staff members to train new seasonal employees. It’s a good way to reward them with trust and added responsibility. Plus, they can often do a better job at training since they spend more of their time on your retail floor and with customers than you do. It’s also a great way to build rapport and camaraderie off the bat.
  • Remember that your holiday season will be busier than any other time of the year, so great training is absolutely imperative for building long-term success. It will be stressful, there will be upset customers, you will get plenty of returns, the lines will be long, and shoppers will have many questions. It’s important that your holiday team is ready to handle it all.
  • Run mock scenarios with all new staff members to make sure they are comfortable with any difficult situation they face during a shift. 

5. Accommodate As Many Preferences As Possible

While finding enough people to work retail over the holidays can be a nightmare it’s still important to try to offer as many accommodations as possible. Many people want to spend time with friends and family, observe religious days, and just have some time to enjoy the season. So you don’t want everyone burned out and resentful midway through December.

  • Ask for any special requests from the very beginning.
  • Make your vacation/time off policies clear.
  • Use a uniform procedure for making requests.
  • Keep everyone’s requests and calendar in an app that the entire staff uses.
  • Offer bonus pay for working on days that most people have off.
  • Allow flexibility if people want to switch shifts.
  • Be sure to maintain an open line of communication.

6. Spread the Wealth If You Have Multiple Locations

Many small businesses have multiple locations. And if that’s the case, there are likely several that are local. Use this to your advantage.

If necessary, bring in staff from other locations to help out at others. While each store is unique and probably has its own character, most of the operations should be uniform throughout retail locations:

  • Training
  • Checkout process
  • POS software
  • Return policy
  • Greeting
  • Floor behavior
  • Phone rules
  • Break procedures

Most staff members will like to mix things up. It’s a great way to meet other people in the company and establish an even better work culture. What better time to do say than around the holidays?

Get Your Retail Holiday Staffing Ready for a Successful Season

Don’t wait! Get your scheduling and staffing issues figured out now so you can worry about starting your holiday promotions, decorating, or any of the other hundreds of things you need to finish up. And to learn more about how your point of sale can free up your time for more important items on the agenda, give us a call at KORONA or sign up below for your free trial. We make getting a new POS exciting. You’ll see how your business improves immediately.

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About the Author

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Michael Chalberg

Michael has long focused his writing on the world of retail and small businesses. He''s been a part of the KORONA POS team since 2018 and loves helping entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and succeed. In his spare time, you'll likely find him hiking somewhere in the Southwest.

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