Woolworths to focus on Christmas despite slump

Woolworths’ recruitment head has insisted the retailer’s focus is on preparing for the Christmas rush, despite falling sales, a rejected takeover bid and changes at the top.

Ian Lewis, national resourcing manager for the high street chain, told Personnel Today his team was keeping the “wheels on the wagon” to hire some 5,000 temps between now and November for the holiday season. He said there were no plans to cut back on recruitment despite weakening consumer spend.

Last Monday, new chief executive Steve Johnson joined the 100-year-old company with plans to revitalise the business, which was struggling with sales even before the credit crunch took hold. After the firm rejected an undisclosed takeover offer from Iceland in August, it stressed it had the right strategy to turn the ailing business around.

But despite not yet knowing what that strategy was, Lewis was confident he and his team were not left in the dark.

He said: “I have no idea yet about the business strategy, but at the moment we’re keeping the wheels on the wagon. I know we have to get temps in place – Christmas is our focus.”

The first signs of the new business plan should be in place next month, Lewis said. “In October, I’d expect a strategy outlining what we need. I don’t feel in limbo at all. We are in a key part of the year [in recruiting for Christmas].”

Over the past year, he has slashed Woolworths’ recruitment spend by 15% by reducing the number of agencies it uses. He has also established measures to attract staff directly to the company, including a revitalised website and advertising on online jobs boards.

“We needed to reduce agency spend, and attracting people directly gives you access to a wider pool of candidates,” he said.

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