New Delhi: Weekends may be fun for most consumers, but for the retail sector they have become serious business.
They are not only boosting the retail industry by way of increased consumption, but also creating additional demand for manpower to deal with the rush of customers. According to retail companies, the number of consumers visiting their outlets almost doubles on weekends. Executives at placement firms say that this is leading to an increased demand for temporary staff, or temps, on Saturdays and Sundays.
While some companies manage the rush with their existing workforce by re-working the shifts of employees, most are looking to placement firms for temps.
“Weekend or periodic temping is a very prevalent phenomenon in the West. It is catching up in India too, with significant growth in the retail, entertainment, food and leisure industries,” says Arvind Singhal, managing director, Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd, a retail consulting firm.
The weekend has become so important for retailers that most now categorize their business into two heads: Monday to Friday, and Saturday and Sunday. “The footfall (of consumers) at our stores is around 50,000 on a regular day and it goes up to 100,000 on Saturdays and Sundays,” says Govind Shrikhande, CEO, Shoppers’ Stop Ltd.
Such a steep hike in traffic clearly requires additional manpower. According to some estimates, the requirement for staff at retail outlets goes up almost 40-50% during weekends. “The challenge is to align customer footprint with floor assistance,” says K. Pandia Rajan, managing director, Ma Foi Management Consultants Ltd, a placement firm.
While generally, the increase in traffic is on account of holidays, the release of a new movie, the launch of a new product or a sale, the scorching heat of the Indian summer is also seen as a contributing factor for the rush, especially between April and July. “People throng to air-conditioned stores, malls and theatres to escape the summer heat,” says Rituparna Chakraborty, vice-president, TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd , a staffing services firm.
Until now, retailers were directly hiring temps, but now an increasing number of companies, such as Vivek Ltd, Shoppers’ Stop, ITC Ltd (for the Wills Lifestyle stores) and Timex Watches Ltd, are using the services of staffing services firms.
Some retailers such as Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd and Pyramid Retail Ltd still manage their staffing needs themselves, but admit that it may not be so in the future. “Right now, we are managing weekend rush and peak season well through incentives and bonus schemes,” says Trevor Rodrigues, senior vice-president (human resources), Pyramid Retail. “But, we might have to hire from a temping company in the future to cope with excess demand,” he adds.
Sensing a business opportunity, temping firms such as Ma Foi, TeamLease and Kelly Services India Ltd have set up dedicated weekend units.
“We are sharpening our focus on weekend temping model since it is going to get bigger in the coming years,” says TeamLease’s Chakraborty. Kelly Services, which is into short-term temping, is in talks with companies for providing staff to work for 10-12 days a month. “We are in the midst of signing deals with some companies for weekend staffing,” says Achal Khanna, country general manager, Kelly Services. “Though it’s a small business as of now, it is showing a year-on-year growth of over 50% and this is one business vertical we are keenly looking at,” she adds.
Organized retail, growing at 30% per annum, is likely to be a Rs2.5-2.75 trillion industry by 2011. According to Technopak, at least 2.5 million additional direct jobs are likely to be created in the sector in the next five years. This augurs well for weekend temping. It also means a good source of income for college students, undergraduates and for those looking to supplement their income. “The compensation could be around Rs5,000 for 12 days,” says Chakraborty.
Retailers, however, are concerned about the quality of staff and some of them are taking steps to ensure that they get trained hands.
“Retailers are building manpower resources through joining hands with institutes, finishing schools and in-house training programmes,” says Rodrigues.
And temping companies are chipping in too. Ma Foi Academy, an in-house school run by Ma Foi, has a retail training programme called RetailCraft focused on temps.