Many retailers have announced increases in hiring for the holidays, a sign of confidence for their biggest sales season, says Richard Feinberg, a Purdue University professor of consumer sciences and retailing.
"There is a reason for retailers to be confident," Feinberg says. "The large chains had a relatively positive back-to-school season, which is the big predictor of how the holiday season will go."
Retailers know that having enough help can be key to keeping customers happy, Feinberg says.
"Consumers who leave stores without making a purchase or without making all the purchases they wanted to often say it's because they couldn't find the 'thing' that they wanted," he says. "Having associates available to point out products increases the chance that consumers will buy things in your store. Consumers forced to go someplace else may find that they enjoy that new store better. The last thing a retailer wants to do is chase a consumer to a competitor."
In addition to hiring, Feinberg sees other signs that retailers are being aggressive about the season: early promotions, early layaway, a planned barrage of Internet promotions and sales, and a fine-tuning of email strategies for consistent promotion and outreach to their best customers.
Still, Feinberg offers two cautions. A lot can happen between now and the height of the holiday shopping season. And many of the moves by big retailers could spell trouble for smaller retailers without the ability to follow suit.