Employment this holiday season

Holiday shoppers flood a target in Pleasant Prarie, Wis. on Black Friday -- November 28. 2008

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bob Moon: Listen, can you hear the sound of jingling in the distance? The holidays will be here sooner than a lot of us would like, but they can't come soon enough for retailers who depend on the business they bring in. This week, glad tidings from the appropriately named job-placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. It predicted retailers will hire more seasonal workers this year than last. Macy's and Toys 'R Us both just announced they'll indeed boost hiring. But what about small businesses, which are widely regarded as the engine of our economy?

On the line with us now are Susan Blood and Kevin Toohey from Nova Natural Toys and Crafts in Vermont. Welcome to you both.

Susan Blood: Thank you.

Kevin Toohey: Thanks for having us.

Moon: Kevin, you're the warehouse manager. How much help do you think you're going to need this year?

Toohey: We're looking to hire around 30 people by the time we get up to a full-running season.

Moon: And how does that compare to last year?

Toohey: I think last year we had around 14. So it's definitely an increase for us.

Moon: Susan, you're the owner of Nova. How has business this year?

Blood: Business has been fairly flat, but we feel lucky to even be flat at this point. We're still hopeful for the holiday season.

Moon: It seems to be somewhat counterintuitive though. You're expecting flat numbers, but you're still talking about hiring more seasonal workers -- why?

Blood: Last year, we did a little bit of prospecting.

Moon: Hold on -- prospecting. What does that mean in your business?

Blood: Prospecting means exchanging catalog lists with other companies who we feel have a good match with our customer base. And so that's what we're doing more this year.

Moon: We do keep hearing though about this concern about a double-dip recession, and retailers have been taking largely a wait-and-see approach to their inventories. So what gives rise to this confidence?

Blood: Well, we feel like our audience -- parents of children between the ages of just being born and six years old -- are always buying things for their children. And so we feel like toys from Nova Natural are not necessarily luxury, but something that people are always looking for.

Moon: Children are recession-proof you're saying, eh?

Blood: Well, we'll see. We're hopeful.

Moon: I have to ask, with so many people looking for jobs right now, what's the application ratio been like?

Toohey: We're actually a little surprised that it's been down a little bit this year compared to last year, because we had such a large response last year. We kind of changed the way we look for applicants this year, and I think it's controlled it a bit. And another thing that's really unusual that we're getting a lot more people that are looking for part-time work. I think people are really kind of working hard to put together some kind of employment picture for themselves that really works and earns them a big for money.

Moon: When do these seasonal workers get let go?

Toohey: Usually, it's right around December 20, which is what we call a "drop dead California" -- it's the last opportunity to get a package out to the west coast in time for the holidays.

Moon: Drop dead California, we'll not take as a personal comment out here.

Toohey: Yeah, exactly.

Moon: Susan Blood and Kevin Toohey of Nova Natural Toys and Crafts in Vermont, thank you very much for joining us.

Toohey: You're welcome.

Blood: Thank you Bob.

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