Stores, facing a cloudy outlook, rethink holiday recruiting.

Wednesday, October 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Facing an uncertain outlook for the Christmas shopping season, many stores are being cautious about hiring extra help for November and December.

Stores that usually start revving up recruiting by mid-September are delaying hiring commitments until they have a better idea of the consumer mindset following the terrorist attacks. They are also postponing the start date for workers and relying more on regular employees.

The dilemma many companies face is they do not want to be caught short-staffed if spending picks up, but they also cannot afford to overhire.

Some companies, including Bloomingdale's and Macy's West, already expect to hire less help because of the decline in business after the attacks and lowered sales forecasts for the holiday season.

Bloomingdale's president Edwin Hollman said: ``We have to be very judicious ... and cautious.''

Bloomingdale's plans to bring temporary sales help onto the floors in mid-November instead of early November in the belief that customers will do their holiday shopping later than usual this year.

``We are definitely taking recruiting day by day. We are taking it right down to the wire,'' said Richard Donaldson, a spokesman for L.L. Bean.

United Parcel Service, which hired 90,000 workers for its peak season last year, said it doesn't know how many it will need this time.

Some stores believe they can afford to wait: Help is easier to find this year because unemployment is at 4.9 percent, up from 3.9 percent a year ago.

``There is going to be an abundance of holiday workers. Retailers are not going to have pay a premium to fill the spots,'' said Bob Kenzer, chief executive of Kenzer Corp., a recruiting firm in New York. ``It's going to be the first time in a long time they will have the pick of the crop.''