Retailers plan for in-store and online holiday shoppers

Future Shop and Best Buy may be cutting back on seasonal staffing this Christmas, but the allure of going to the store is still very strong, said Bramalea City Centre’s Andrew Butler.

The general manager for the Brampton mall on Peel Centre Dr. said it really depends on what kind of products are being sold. “I think that really drives how people are spending,” Butler said.

Butler said certain items, like iPads, are fairly straightforward and people are confident to order it over the internet, but they probably wouldn’t do the same for a television.

“I can see stores not have to be as intense on the staffing for that,” he said. “But if I’m going to make a meaningful purchase, I’m going to want to test it, check it out or even try it on.”

Future Shop recently announced it would be hiring 3,000 seasonal staff for the holiday season. That number is down from the 4,000 additional staff the company hired in 2010 and 2011, and a significant drop from the 5,000 seasonal workers Future Shop had in 2009.

But the company is putting additional resources towards its IT department to support an increase in online shopping. A recent statement from the company said its online sales have increased more than 50 per cent in the past year, resulting in a 30 per cent bump in Future Shop’s IT staff.

But outside of the Mississauga Future Shop on Mavis Rd., Gordon Tong said he only shops online for certain items. “Usually all the cheap stuff is online,” he said in Cantonese, “and it’s convenient if you’re not in a rush. But you’re also more likely to spend more to qualify for free shipping.”

Walmart Canada has already gone through a major hiring blitz while executing its major expansion plan of 73 new locations across the country this year.

And while many customers still want to visit its stores during the holiday season, corporate affairs manager Felicia Fefer said the company has also considerably expanded its e-commerce site. “A lot of the items we have online are not necessarily available in store, so they would be exclusive,” she said from the company’s Mississauga headquarters on Argentia Rd.

Butler said for many customers, the in-store experience is much more appealing and convenient than shopping online. “People just don’t have that patience anymore,” he said. “And there’s that need for the immediate gratification.”

Brampton student Chaseeb Choudry agrees with Butler’s sentiments. The 19-year-old was also at Future Shop to pick up a nanoSIM card for his brand new iPhone 5 and said he almost always shops for his electronics in-store.

“Online you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” he said. “When you go inside [the store] you can see all the details of the product and visualize how it’ll look in your house. With the photos on the internet you can’t do that.”

Future Shop has eight locations in Brampton and Mississauga and Best Buy has five. The parent company of both retailers, Best Buy Co. Inc., employs 15,000 workers in Canada outside of the holiday season.

Walmart Canada is the country’s largest department store chain by revenue. The company employs nearly 90,000 people and operates more than 733 locations.

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