What if you had a job fair and no one came?

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Reduced hours of operation are still the norm, and the pandemic has taught consumers to pull out their phones to check store hours before going out.

This is not what buyers or retailers want. But what if a store or mall holds a career fair and no one comes? This is really happening in an American labor market with 10.1 million unfilled jobs.

“Where have all the people gone?” said Angie Freed, general manager of Galleria Dallas. “To be honest, we would have liked to see more candidates. “

She was referring to an infrequently visited job fair hosted by the North Dallas Mall on a Saturday in July for more than 75 retailers and restaurants offering jobs, including the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop, H&M, Macy’s and Tommy Bahama. Some of the larger retailers and the Westin Hotel had more than a dozen positions open, and the smaller retailers each had a few jobs to fill.

The mall is reflecting on future career fairs, Freed said, for example by setting a day when stores would be identified with columns of balloons so applicants can see where to enter and apply.

To better cope with labor shortages, many stores and malls are still closed 6 to 12 hours a week more than before the pandemic. Labor issues and unknowns of the new variant of the virus prevent retailers from adding hours, even if there is a sales demand and customers prefer it, said Jim Kucera, director of sales. retail practices at AlixPartners.

It’s not just shopping malls. Remember the 24-hour Walmart Supercenter? It is now open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Best Buy still closes at 8 p.m., but Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are back at 10 p.m.

“Shorter hours were absolutely the right answer to the pandemic, but now the best in retail aren’t looking to maintain those hours; most are looking to expand to more normal operating hours, ”Kucera said.

Malls are not rushing to resume closing at 9 p.m., except on weekends. It is running from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Frisco’s Stonebriar Center, Mesquite’s Town East Mall, Garland’s Firewheel Town Center, The Parks at Arlington, and Allen Premium Outlets still have reduced hours, opening at 11 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.

The Dallas Galleria and NorthPark Center added an extra hour in the morning last spring and are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. NorthPark said it plans to stay open until 9 p.m. during the holiday shopping season.

In some malls, not all stores are open for the length of time required by the mall. While the hours were a strictly enforced lease term before the pandemic, there was some slackening during the health crisis.

“We believe consistency is important to our buyers, so we expect our retailers to adhere to the hours we offer,” said Kristen Gibbins, executive director of marketing and strategy at NorthPark. “We understand that there is a level of uncertainty with COVID-19 and we will adapt as necessary. “

Eva Gordon, executive vice president of stores at Coppell-based Container Store, said store hours are driven by malls and customer demand.

“The majority of our fleet is open 6 hours less per week than before the pandemic, closing at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday,” she said. “When we started to see more traffic on Sunday, we adjusted our schedules to what they were before the pandemic. This is really about consumer demand – if we see more traffic, we will increase our hours accordingly. “

Kathy Doyle Thomas, chief strategy officer at Half Price Books, a chain of 125 stores in 19 states, said its hours of operation continued to vary. “Overall, the shorter hours worked well for us. It was more cost effective and customers understood the change during this still uncertain time, ”she said.

While it’s hard to generalize, Kucera said, there will always be a subset of customers who require longer business hours because of their work and family situation. For retailers, “these are lost sales”. Buyers have been driven online during the pandemic, and “we don’t know what percentage of sales will stay there forever,” he said.

Dan Bradley, owner of Dallas-based Bullzerk, a regional humor t-shirt and swag maker, said he closed his two mall stores during the pandemic at the Galleria and Shops at Willow Bend, but his other five stores, including his most recent at Grandscape in The Colony, are booming.

Home Depot one Monday is launching an online training and recruitment program to help its business customers find eligible workers.

He thinks small business owners who close early are wrong. “We’re seeing some of our best sellers after 7pm with late night concerts at Grandscape,” Bradley said. “It’s like the roaring twenties, people have money to spend.”

Nebraska Furniture Mart, which is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., hosted a few career fairs earlier this year that resulted in “a lot of hires,” NFM spokesman Andy Shefsky said, but there are still 31 openings in his store in The Colony.

Kucera predicts that 24/7 store opening hours will eventually return and said the top retailers are looking at each store individually and adjusting opening hours, just like they did before the pandemic.

“It’s difficult for retailers. They always have a hard time finding sales associates, ”said Freed of Galleria. She is optimistic that there will be more interest in the fall. “I hope more people want the extra money for Christmas.”

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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