Decjuba, Strandbags and Simone Pérèle, along with many other retailers, are gearing up for the Christmas season amid the ongoing staff shortage in Australia.

Despite the unemployment rate increasing to 3.5% this month, retailers are struggling to attract staff as Australia faces the first lockdown-free Christmas since 2019.

In August 2022, unemployed people grew by 14,000 to a total 487,700 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This count was 231,700 lower than March 2020.

In May this year, total job vacancies were at 480,100, an increase of 13.8% from February 2022.

With the closing gap between unemployed people and total job vacancies, and with the upward trend of new jobs in the market, it's caused Deloitte to issue a warning.

In its latest Access Economics Retail Forecasts report, Deloitte said that retail job vacancies have “more than doubled” since May 2019, “with no signs of slowing down.”

“But these positions aren’t being filled,” the report reads.

“Employment in the retail industry is lower than in May last year, down 1.2%. This is despite employment increasing 2.9% across the economy over the same period.

“Importantly, the industry is missing a key component of its workforce: migrants. In 2019, there were 93,000 migrants, that is temporary and permanent visa holders, employed in the retail industry, making up 7.6% of the retail workforce.

“Notably, retail and hospitality have a large reliance on temporary migrants compared to other industries – particularly international students.”

Deloitte cited international border closures as a major contributing factor for the decline in migrant arrivals.

“The number of student and temporary skilled visas granted in 2020-21 were nearly half the numbers in 2018-19,” the report continued.

“There were 350,000 international students in Australia in June 2022, only 65% of June 2019 levels.

“This is a significant barrier for the retail industry, who are unable to tap into a key cohort of workers they relied on before the pandemic.”

Despite these figures, Deloitte said that retail "may be" in a better position than other industries due to this dependence on temporary migration.

"The number of international student arrivals increased from close to zero in June 2021 to nearly 30,000 in June 2022 as borders reopened late last year," the report read. "As such, it is likely that temporary migration will bounce back faster than permanent migration."

However, as Deloitte noted, it is unclear if or when international students will return to pre-pandemic levels. Due to this, retailers are seeking ways to attract new staff - "and fast - before shortages start to become business critical."

This ongoing struggle to attract staff is noted in Decjuba’s recent recruitment drive, where the brand aimed to hire 1,000 staff in one day.

Across its network, Decjuba called for prospective employees to come in store for a quick interview, no resume required. From that day, the company has since hired just a quarter of its 1,000 person target.

Decjuba is continuing its recruitment drive, saying anyone can drop into any of its stores for a quick interview, no resume required.

“We want to make getting a job at Decjuba easier than ever," CEO and owner Tania Austin said. “From next week, we will be offering on-the-spot 3-minute interviews in all our stores, no resume required.”

Strandbags is also fighting for new staff as it aims to hire 500 people for the impending Christmas season.

To do this, the company is offering new hires a free bag, a 40% off staff discount, and paid time off on their birthdays.

Further from these incentives, Strandbags has introduced new technology in store to help store teams connect. This includes onboarding services such as Yoobic, a “mobile-first” app that connects frontline teams.

“We've rolled out a lot of technology, with earphones and everything, to connect the teams,” CEO Felicity McGahan said, “so they're no longer zoned in a store and can't talk to each other.

“[It’s] allowing them to talk to each other and build peer-to-peer relationships - we think that's really, really important.”

As well as these new tools, Strandbags also offers a 24/7 employee assistance program for staff who are struggling with mental health.

“It's looking at the whole person,” McGahan continued. “I think that's the difference, and understanding what hours and flexibility they want, and being able to work that across multiple stores, not just one store.”

Finally, Simone Pérèle, which operates 27 David Jones stalls, seven outlets, three standalone boutiques, and two Myer stalls, is aiming for “50 to 100” additional staff for the Christmas season.

“But there’s no specific number,” Australia CEO Damian Burke said. “We are working with some recruiters, we are working with our team members on referrals, we are looking at all avenues at the moment.

“Particularly those avenues that we haven't really worked with before for store level for store staff.

“The staff shortage across this industry is probably everyone's main focus point at the moment.”

Speaking with Ragtrader, Burke said that sourcing staff is fast-becoming the greatest challenge.

“We've opened a number of new Myer locations, and we've got hopefully three or four new freestanding stores opening over the next year,” Burke said. “Our biggest challenge is getting store managers and staff for those stores at the moment.

He continued, saying that all retailers "will feel this pain as Christmas trading hours commence in the not-too-distant future."

“So everyone will be stretched, trying to welcome customers into their store at the same time as having, you know, equitable working hours for their teams.”

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