The shops are full of winter woollies and the summer holidays are over, but most retailers have already been thinking about Christmas for weeks.
But how do employers attract the extra manpower they need for the festive season when potential workers are pickier than ever about where they work and what they can get out of it?
Flexible working hours and the chance of a permanent position are the main drivers for staff seeking temporary retail work over Christmas, according to new research by online recruitment site Fish4jobs. More than half of respondents said that job ads including the possibility of permanent work were most attractive, while almost one-third prioritised flexible hours.
Offering candidates work beyond Christmas is also crucial to filling vacancies. "Many are hoping that if they do a good job they will get a permanent role in the future," says Sean Mahon, marketing director at Fish4jobs. "Some employers have latched on to this concept and use a rolling recruitment strategy, where the same temporary staff are used during peak times."
Eva Phillips, personnel manager at Tesco, says that she begins planning Christmas recruitment by focusing on its 29,000-strong student returner population. "We offer students working at Tesco during term time the chance to transfer to their home store over Christmas, which about half do. This works well as staff are already trained," she says.
With each of Tesco's stores receiving around 50 applications every week, the supermarket is not short of willing candidates to fill the remaining vacancies. However, Tesco prefers to use temporary staff who have worked there before. "We keep application forms of people who worked the year before and keep contacting them at peak times throughout the year, such as Easter. This way, we get trained staff and it is cheaper as there is no advertising. We have used recruitment agencies in the past, but we get a higher calibre of candidate by drawing from our own database," says Phillips.
The Fish4jobs survey also reveals that candidates start their job search as early as July, so it pays to get ahead with your recruitment campaign. Lorna Wray, retail HR manager at Argos, says she starts planning the Christmas campaign in February each year to prepare for doubling the store's headcount over the festive period.
One strategy Argos has found useful is targeting its customers. "Last year, we trialled 'Ask me for an application form' badges,