Local businesses struggling to find staff to serve holiday shoppers


WATCH: Crowds of people across North America are in the midst of a shopping frenzy. It’s Black Friday and stores are busy, but in this all-important Christmas shopping season, many businesses are struggling to find the staff to serve those looking to spend. Kori Sidaway reports.

Sales for Black Friday bring in the crowds and even more holiday shopping to come.

“I’m shopping for last minute things for my husband for Christmas,” said one shopper in Saanich on Friday.

“It’s just that time of year, gotta find all the sales,” said another outside The Bay Centre.

More shoppers will be hitting the streets than usual for the holiday season, and local retail stores need some extra hands.

But this year, hiring has been near impossible.

“It’s the worst ever in 30 years ever doing this,” said the owner of Capital Iron’s Mike Black.

“It’s been very difficult to find help as we need to move along in seasonal periods of time in particular.”

And many say it’s a workers market.

“The wages that they can afford to pay are not what people want to be paid in this housing market,” said Michael Lane with GT Hirings Solutions.

Some local shop owners are resorting to big perks to retain their employees and keep them happy.

“Definitely we’ve found a challenge with staff,” said the owner of Robinson’s Outdoor Store, Gayle Robinson.

“So one of the things we do is provide a lot of extra perks for our staff. If they stay with us a year, they can go on a trip anywhere they want to go.  So then when we get really good staff we do our best to keep them.”

But the holidays aren’t the only source of the problem.

Victoria has one of the lowest employment rates in Canada, sitting just last month at 3.9 per cent. Hiring help centres in the Victoria area say they’re seeing visits go down, but also their clientele change.

“We would often have 200-300 clients coming through doors in a day. But in this labour market, people don’t need this same kind of help!” said Lane.

“We’re talking about people with disabilities, new Canadians, Indigenous Canadians, young Canadians, people who may have thought five to 10 years ago there aren’t that many opportunities, they’re coming to us now and they’re hopeful and eager.”

In the new year, small business owners will have to factor in new MSP premiums that will add to their costs, so the staffing issues are expected to continue.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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