Retailers look to workers, not tech, to handle holiday rush

Holiday retail shopping
Many retailers are looking to staff, not automation, for help with the holiday rush.

Midmarket retailers and wholesalers are at a disadvantage when it comes to meeting the holiday demands versus online and retail giants. 

Many omnichannel retailers will struggle to meet the demands of holiday overload due to lack of automation, according to a survey by Brightpearl, a provider of retail management systems. And a weak process will lead to a poor customer retail experience. 

Of the 350 senior retail decision-makers surveyed for the report, 53% believe they can be competitive by hiring extra staff and 17% by extending store hours.

On average, the respondents plan to fill 98 seasonal full-time jobs, and the top 50% will hire 190 holiday workers. According to Brightpearl's calculations, this will amount to about $312,816 per company when considering additional holiday wages. The data points out that this calculation does not include taxes, training new staff or extended work hours for existing staff. 

Another 40% of retailers will expand their inventory to prepare for peak periods. 

But technology does not seem at the forefront of retailers' concerns, as only 35% of respondents are "very likely" to adopt new technology to help streamline back-office and inventory processes. In total, 58% of retailer decision-makers will invest in technology to manage busy periods. 

RELATED: 90% of employees see value in automation

"For the majority of businesses that experience peak volumes, net profit margin takes a dive when their order volumes increase, and therefore they dread the holiday season," Derek O'Carroll, CEO at Brightpearl told FierceRetail. "It doesn’t have to be this way, as technology is here to scale with you and ensure profit stays as high as it can be without jeopardizing customer service, even during the peak season. There are various workflows that retailers could consider automating, which would save them money this holiday season, including workflows such as order management, inventory, order fulfillment, e-marketing and integrated purchase ordering."

According to Brightpearl research, automation technology helps retailers save 57.5 days a year usually spent on administrative tasks. In addition, the likelihood of bad customer service is reduced by 65% through technology. 

Still, retailers are reluctant to implement change, especially when they are unaware of how easy it can be to incorporate new technology into their existing processes.

RELATED: Retail jobs at risk in the face of automation

"However, the awareness of how companies like Amazon are constantly innovating through technology is convincing many more midsized retailers that technology, like automation, is now essential for survival," O'Carroll added. "Those retailers who do adopt technology will be better placed to meet customer expectations this holiday season while seeing their business running more smoothly—that’s a great position to be in as we head into the busiest period of the year."