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Retailers rush to TEMPerate zone

MOINAK MITRA & BHANU PANDE

The Economic Times

DELHI, 10 May 2007

If temping is passé, weekend temping is the new passport for retailers to tide over footfall pressure during the weekends. As families make a beeline for high streets and malls during the weekends, the normal workforce looks helpless.

So, retailers are increasingly training their eyes on droves of undergrads who’re willing to work for money, recognition or just the fun of hanging out. Heavyweight retailers like Shoppers’ Stop, Wills Lifestyle, Timex and Airtel to name a few, who see a sudden spike in footfalls over the weekends, are roping in agencies for outsourcing manpower for that short one-to-two-day duration.

With organised retail breaching the Rs 48,000-crore mark, there’s no telling where outsourced manpower can go, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. Temping agency TeamLease has witnessed a huge demand for workforce across the retailscape over the weekends, and aptly cashed in on the opportunity.

“The numbers (of outsourced manpower during weekends) fluctuate owing to seasons, festivals, launch of a movie or a product,” says Rituparna Chakraborty, vice-president, TeamLease. She cites the summer sun as a key driver for weekend temping.

“People also want to escape the summer heat and throng air-conditioned stores. Soaring footfalls call for more people to manage those footfalls,” she adds. TeamLease engages 500 people at Shoppers Stop through the weekend temping model.

Even retailers who have so far shied away from the weekend temping format, seem keen. Take the case of Kishore Biyani, managing director, Pantaloon Retail. For his mid-market retail chain, Big Bazaar, weekends account for as high as 45% of the business and that jacks up manpower requirement by almost 25%. “This is the real issue facing us today,” says Biyani.

“We are figuring out ways to address it and looking for firms that can feed us with temporary staff during the weekends.” For now Pantaloon and Big Bazaar are managing in-house, using the students who attend courses run by Future Group in 14-15 educational institutions across country. “While they get first-hand retailing experience, we get our spike in weekend manpower requirement fulfilled,” Biyani explains.

Acknowledging the crunch, ITC’s apparel chain Wills Lifestyle, recently signed on the dotted line with TeamLease. “During the weekends, footfall pressure on average is twice, and at times, thrice that of on normal days.

But since our requirement is very specific, even when we outsource talent, there’s substantial handholding from our end,” points out Chittaranjan Dar, CEO, Wills Lifestyle. Countrywide, Wills hires 40-50 people over weekends as temporary workers.

For Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a retail and fashion services firm, the retailers face real manpower issues during the weekends and this is bound to go up. “For Indians, shopping is more of an entertainment than just a plain utilitarian activity and that explains the chaos in malls during weekends. So retailers need staff reinforcement for basic functions such as attending to customers, restocking, etc,” he says.

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