Like most retailers in Maine, Mexicali Blues is gearing up for its busiest month of the year, and that means hiring seasonal workers to help customers, stock shelves and process orders.

But with Maine’s job market tighter than it has been in years, some retailers are having a tough time attracting all the temporary help they need. Many have responded by offering higher pay, more flexible schedules and better benefits.

Retailers also are relying on both old and new ways of reaching out to potential hires. “Help Wanted” signs, hiring days and word of mouth are still effective, they said, but so are Facebook, Twitter and online job sites.

“Honestly, I’ll just ask people I know who shop here,” said Chris Cummings, Mexicali Blues’ regional manager in southern Maine. The Maine-based clothing and accessories retailer has bumped up its minimum pay to $11 an hour this year in the hopes of making its seasonal jobs more attractive, Cummings said.

“We shall see. We have really just begun,” he said.

Adding 5,700 seasonal hires to your workforce isn’t easy when the unemployment rate is hovering around 4 percent, but that’s exactly how many L.L. Bean needs this holiday season, said Carolyn Beem, the Maine-based retailer’s senior public affairs manager. To find those workers, the company uses social media, hosts job fairs and even sends email notices to its customers, Beem said.

“We shake all the trees and turn over all the rocks,” she said.

The typical work period for a seasonal hire varies by company, but it usually starts before Thanksgiving and ends just before Christmas. The retailers said seasonal jobs can be appealing to a wide variety of residents, from young people to seniors.

Beem said many of L.L. Bean’s holiday hires are students, homemakers, retirees and people who are already employed but want a temporary moonlighting job. About half of the company’s seasonal workers are regulars who return year after year, she said.

“They don’t need to reapply – they just need to check in,” Beem said.

Like Mexicali Blues, L.L. Bean has boosted its minimum wage this year to attract more workers. The company is paying between $11.20 and $12.80 an hour, depending on experience. It also offers various benefits, such as the ability to shop at an employees-only store that sells returned or slightly damaged items for pennies on the dollar.

Still, Beem said L.L. Bean has been running far behind its usual schedule for filling seasonal jobs. As of Friday, the company had only about 60 positions left to fill, but Beem said that number is usually zero by mid-November.

“The tight job market has indeed had an impact – we typically complete our seasonal hiring in mid-October,” she said. “This year between May and October, applications were running close to 40 percent below last year. In response, we began offering more flexible scheduling with options for shorter shifts, which has helped attract more applicants.”

Retailers across the state are pulling out all the stops to meet their holiday staffing needs, said Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine. Their goal is to bring in and train staff before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is usually the busiest shopping day of the year. Many retailers in Maine open at midnight on Black Friday with a variety of limited-quantity “door buster” deals and other promotions.

According to a recent survey conducted by Prosper Insights for the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, American consumers plan to spend an average of more than $935 during the holiday shopping season this year, the second-highest average in the survey’s 13-year history.

The federation said it expects sales in November and December, excluding automobile, gas and restaurant sales, to increase by 3.6 percent over 2015 to $655.8 billion – significantly higher than the 10-year average annual increase of 2.5 percent, and slightly above the seven-year average of 3.4 percent since the nation’s economic recovery began in 2009.

The federation predicts that retailers nationwide will hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers this year, in line with 2015’s 675,300 new holiday positions. In addition to seasonal positions, the federation said the retail sector indirectly creates many jobs throughout the holiday season for workers in transportation, manufacturing and order fulfillment.

But businesses in Maine are having a tougher time preparing for the onslaught of shoppers this year because of the state’s low unemployment rate, Picard said, and many are having to boost pay and benefits as a result.

“It definitely makes it more competitive, but that’s the way the economy is supposed to be,” he said. “It’s hard on retailers, but good for the economy.”

Picard said there are still plenty of seasonal retail jobs available to anyone who is interested, and they are not hard to find.

“Drive around any part of town and you’ll see plenty of signs out there,” he said.

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