How this online retailer hires casual workers for the holidays

Zoe Gordon

For small business owner Zoe Gordon, the end-of-year holiday period is the busiest – here’s how she hires casuals to move stock out the door faster.

At a glance

  • Industry research shows that 12 per cent of small business owners are concerned about the impact of staff shortages on their businesses.
  • The turnover of online retailer Byron Bay Gifts spikes every December – meaning extra hands are needed to help move stock.
  • To address her staffing needs, business owner Zoe hires over half a dozen seasonal casual workers each year.
  • She attracts new hires through networking and stressing the benefits of the business’s flexible working arrangement.

For many retailers, the end-of-year holiday period is the busiest. 

But with almost one in 10 owners quoting staff shortages as being of major concern in the next 12 months*, they need to be savvy to ensure they have the talent they need to cover the Christmas and New Year rush. 

Doing so can often mean drawing on the casual, rather than full-time, workforce – but how do owners find the right talent, and avoid experiencing an unexpected talent gap? 

The gift of a casual workforce 

Zoe Gordon, owner of online gift retailer Byron Bay Gifts, is no stranger to dipping into the casualised workforce to plug gaps. 

In addition to the business’s two owners, three full-time and two casual staff complete the year-round staff. Zoe says extra casuals are needed ahead of the end-of-year period. 

With 15 to 20 per cent of the business’s turnover coming in during the month of December, those fresh faces are essential to keep on top of increased demand. The business’s warehouse is relatively teeming with life come Christmas. 

“We have a lot of people printing orders, and packing and taping up boxes,” says Zoe – everything necessary to get gift deliveries out the door more promptly for improved customer service and higher turnover.

How Zoe hires for the holidays

Starting the employee hunt early each year proves critical to getting holiday hiring right at Byron Bay Gifts. 

In the months leading up to Christmas, the business takes on a bunch of new team members to keep on top of demand. 

“In October, we’ll take on one or two people,” says Zoe, who is also the owner of skincare website Loyal Crush. “Then another two to four in November, and another four in December.” 

She mostly does this by drawing on her network of existing employees. 

“We do a lot of word of mouth,” says Zoe, sourcing potential new hires on the recommendation of current workers. 

The intensity of the workload in the lead-up to the holiday season, though can be relatively demanding, so Zoe is keen to reward the work ethic of new hires by affording them increased flexibility in terms of work hours and starting times. 

“We give a lot of flexibility to our casual staff because we require a lot of them,” she says. “It often suits them to do irregular hours, leave early on some days or do longer hours at Christmas to earn more money.” 

Zoe also points to the business’s team culture and pay rate as other ways the business incentivises new hires. 

A subpar working environment, she says, doesn’t do anyone any favours – but an open and welcoming workspace will do wonders for morale and the desire for seasonal workers to return the next year. 

Drawing global talent to a local business 

Previously, Zoe used to advertise for casual workers – but recently that line of attack has changed. 

“There’s a transient nature to Byron Bay,” says Zoe. “A lot of people spend the summer here, work for a short period of time and then move on.” 

That means the business often finds itself sourcing talent from the pool of backpackers passing through for a few months before heading elsewhere. 

In fact, Zoe finds that many casuals who work at the Byron Bay Gifts warehouse for the summer months before embarking on travel around the country make an effort to return to the town the same time the following year – and do it all again. 

“Some people go off and travel around Australia, and they make it their mission to come back here at Christmas time [the following year],” she says. 

“We’ve had people from all over the world working here, and that’s been a lot of fun.” 

*Prospa x YouGov SME Sentiment survey, August 2022 

Talk with a Prospa small business specialist about how your business could access ongoing funds of up to $150,000 to keep things moving during the holiday season – or any time of year.

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