The holidays are quickly approaching, and Arizona shoppers can expect many shortages and delays this holiday season as retailers and businesses scramble to find more workers.
Amazon, Target, Walmart and small businesses across the Valley are all looking for more help to gear up for holiday shopping this year. Although Arizonans are slowly going back to work, there are still many “help wanted” signs remaining outside of stores.
Dr. Lee McPheters, a research professor of economics at Arizona State University, said that due to the labor shortage, supply chains and deliveries of goods are being interrupted and causing shortages mostly in grocery stores, service industries and building materials.
“The economic recovery from the recession that was triggered by the pandemic has been strong, but it has not been a smooth take-off, “ McPheters said.
As of August 2020, more than 4 million people quit their jobs within the U.S. and over 90,000 people quit in Arizona, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The latest data also shows that Arizona’s rate is 3%, up by 50% compared to past years.
COVID-19, child care, retirement and unemployment benefits have all become popular reasons for why Arizonans are not returning to work. Although Gov. Doug Ducey cut off pandemic unemployment benefits in July, many workers continued to live off of federal unemployment due to burnout.
“Those workers who are quitting recognize that this is a market where workers have an advantage, and they are looking for higher wages and better working conditions,” McPheters said.
Amazon, Target and Costco have all introduced higher starting minimum wages and incentives for workers. Amazon’s minimum wage starts at $15 an hour and some locations are offering a $3,000 signing bonus. Target’s minimum wage also starts at $15 and is offering a $2 increase in pay during peak holiday hours.
Arizona shoppers can expect holiday gift hunting to be more hectic than usual due to fatigued workers picking up unfulfilled hours, according to McPheters.
“There is going to be consumer frustration in buying some of the goods and products they are looking for, due to supply chain and delivery slow-downs,” McPheters said. “So there may be an unpleasant edge to the holiday season this year, due to labor shortages and supply chain issues.”
Despite the shortage of labor and delivery slow-downs, this holiday season is expected to be a big year for spending, including retailers and small businesses. Sales during November and December are projected to increase anywhere from 8.5% to 10.5% which will ring in over $843.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
Big retailers and companies are not the only ones suffering this year. Even small businesses in Arizona are looking for more help.
Kimberly Pak, founder of The Merchantile of Scottsdale, said that hiring people has been a struggle the past couple of weeks.
“As our vendors stock up more items, we are trying to hire more people to provide for our customers and give them a one-on-one experience they expect from a small business,” Pak said.
Pak said while encouraging more people to apply for positions, the store has increased its wages and is offering more flexibility. Pak is optimistic and said she believes that more people will turn to smaller businesses this holiday season.
“Since the pandemic, there was a shift in focusing on small businesses. People have been more willing to buy from small businesses because they know how important it is to our economy and to keep us around,” Pak said.
The Merchantile of Scottsdale will be launching an outdoor holiday market for Arizona shoppers with more than 100 different vendors.
“Because we have so many vendors who want to work with us we are launching an outdoor market just in time for the holidays, to get more shoppers and promote more small businesses that don’t have the opportunity to be in our store,” Pak said.
The holiday market will be located at Big Surf’s parking lot in Tempe and will open on Small Business Saturday.