Staff shortage in retail: this is how you recruit employees

In the retail sector, lack of staff is still a major problem. Shops sometimes have to close for several days or close earlier because they do not have enough staff. How do you find suitable staff in retail? We give you 3 tips.

In the first quarter of 2023, the retail sector had about 48,000 job openings. That is 53 per cent higher than in the first quarter of 2019, the period before the coronavirus pandemic. In this article, 3 retail employers talk about how they still manage to find staff and share their tips.

3 recruitment tips for retail

Shoe store owner Bart Borremans, retail specialist Bram Eefting, and HR adviser for INretail members Suzanna Heuff give tips on finding staff in retail.

1. Reward the winning tip

Give away a free product when someone gives you a tip for a good candidate. Borremans put out a job opening late last year and promised a new pair of shoes for the winning tip. "You want to fill a job opening as quickly as possible, and our job opening was open for 6 months. We don’t just hire anyone, so then we have to be creative. Giving away a pair of shoes turned out to be a good move. A tip eventually helped us find our new employee. The reward campaign is a win-win-win situation for the tipster, the new employee, and our company."

Do you have a unique product or sell special collections? Consider what you can give away from your shop as a reward that has value for your network.

Giving away a pair of shoes turned out to be a good move.

2. Give employees freedom in tasks

Give your employees freedom in work by giving them more tasks than just sales, and mention this in the job description. This ensures extra commitment from and development of your employees. Moreover, general positions attract more candidates than specialist ones, argues Borremans. "In my shoe store, I mainly employ all-round sales staff. That makes the recruitment process easier because I have fewer requirements. I mainly look at whether an applicant provides in the existing team. For instance, I notice that young employees have an affinity for social media, while older employees prefer to advise customers one-on-one."

You could give employees the opportunity to take photos for the social media channels or take them to purchasing fairs, for example. And listen to their ideas and wishes. Home furnishing shop Laif & Nuver gave employee Bram Eefting the opportunity to develop his own brand Gnitfee. In fact, Laif & Nuver is now an outlet for Gnitfee. "My collection of canvas art prints and cushions have a prominent place in the shop and on the online channels," Eefting proudly shares. "Because Laif & Nuver has a large reach on Instagram, my collections are seen by other interior design shops at home and abroad. This in turn provides additional income for both my employer and me."

Are you looking for all-round employees? Make sure you offer them the opportunity to keep developing and listen to what tasks they find interesting. Employees consider training one of the most important terms of employment (in Dutch). This way, you attract staff faster and bring additional knowledge into your company.

With training, you attract staff faster and bring additional knowledge into your business.

3. Make applying for a job into a party

Throw out the traditional application process and organise a festive application walk-in. “A low-threshold, creative way of applying for a job generates more responses,” argues human resources consultant Heuff. “And with a walk-in, applicants immediately get to know your shop and you can show that it is a pleasant place to work.” Mention the application walk-in on your communication channels, such as your website, social media, and in-store flyers.

Decorate your shop with balloons, provide snacks and drinks, a red carpet at the door, and upbeat music. Hold short application rounds. Or forget about the entire application process and let interested parties get to know your shop on their own. Make it a cosy, informal gathering. This method of selection is ideally suited if you find a personal click more important than a CV.

Employment conditions are a bottleneck

According to research by ABN Amro, employment conditions in retail are not attractive enough (in Dutch). Retail has a CAO, a collective labour agreement, but as an employer you can go the extra mile and make your terms of employment more attractive. Borremans also thinks the minimum wage in the collective labour agreement is too low. "That is why I give my employees a higher salary. This makes staff stay longer. Especially in this tight labour market, that's worth a lot."

Eefting agrees with Borremans that the salary is low. But because the employment conditions fit well with his personal needs, he does not experience the salary as a bottleneck. "The working conditions in retail also have advantages: my working day does not start at 08:00 hrs. And because I work on weekends, I have a day off during the week. I like that. Another nice employment benefit I find is the staff discount: after all, I like buying products at Laif & Nuver."

Celebrate the first day of work

Mark the hiring of your new employee as a festive event. After all, an employee wants to be seen by the employer. Let new and current employees know that you appreciate them. "Employees decide in the first 30 to 60 days whether to stay or leave", Heuff explains. "Send a message the week before that you are looking forward to someone's first day at work. On the day itself, give them a bunch of flowers or gift certificate for your shop. Decorate your premises, the window, and invite your customers to come and meet their new sales consultant."

Finding industry-specific staff

Finding staff in a tight labour market is a challenge. How best to find suitable staff will differ per industry. Also read: successfully recruiting staff in the hospitality and  education sectors. Or solve your staff shortage without staff. Read these and 11 other (un)common ways to find staff.