Holidays a crucial time for local retailers

Although the holiday shopping season is about to begin its first week, most mall merchants hired their temp workers weeks ago.

“All of the stores have pretty much completed hiring for the season. The majority finished before November. They almost start in the summer — they have to to find quality people,” said Dan Engelhard, general manager of Kitsap Mall.

The mall is not the only Silverdale business that relies heavily upon temporary labor to shoulder extra work associated with increased traffic and sales. How many temp workers retailers hire underscores how critical the season is for stores’ economic health.

Target is receiving 40 percent more inventory than usual and has hired 50 temporary workers to unload trucks, stock shelves and serve customers, said store executive Tom O’Neal.

Target will do an estimated 32 percent of its annual sales during the holiday season, O’Neal said.

“From an internal standpoint we are in operation 24 hours. When we close our doors we have 30 to 50 team members working overnight to stock shelves and make everything look right,” O’Neal said.

Kitsap Sports, which garners about a quarter of its annual sales during the holidays, brings in four or five temporary cashiers and customer service representatives, said store manager Mike Nyland.

“Ski equipment is our top seller at Christmas, that pretty much drives our business,” Nyland said.

Nyland was more concerned about the weather than the possible effects of a slowing economy.

“It’s all dependant on the snow. Last year we didn’t get any snow,” he said.

With a family-owned business like Sweeney’s, a specialty meat and seafood store on Brownsville Highway, not even the two seasonal temp workers Mark Sweeney hired can shoulder enough work to prevent he and his wife from slaving away during the holidays.

“My wife and I work 10 hours a day seven days a week. We’re used to it. We’ll sleep in January,” Sweeney said.

The Christmas season is significant for the company, “But we wouldn’t be dead in the water without it,” Sweeney said.

Other companies, like Head’s Up Brewery, stay afloat largely because of the holiday rush. The Silverdale Way brewery specializes in individually crafted beers, wines and sodas.

The company does 60 percent of annual sales between October and January, owner Ted Farmer estimated.

“We have lots of small businesses that use our products for customer gift giving. The businesses design their own labels with their business cards or a brochure and say thank you for the business,” Farmer said.

Most merchants say it is too early to predict which items will be hot sellers, but they have a few guesses.

Harry Potter memorabilia, the X-Box game console and home décor are among Engelhard’s picks, but he stressed it was too early to spot trends.

O’Neal suspects Target will sell a lot of family-oriented entertainment products like video games and movies.

“What we think is happening is more people are going to stay home for the holidays,” O’Neal said.

Extended hours are another reality of the season. There is hardly a store that won’t open earlier or close later to cash in on increased traffic. Target, Kitsap Mall and Kitsap Sports will all extend their hours in the coming weeks.

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