Retailers throughout the nation will most likely expect 2006 holiday sales totaling $440 billion, similar to last years sales forecast from the National Retail Federation the nations largest retail trade association.


In realizing holiday season as the busiest and most fruitful time of year for retailers and other related businesses, employers will naturally begin the annual process of staffing up with extra personnel, a process that begins as early as September and runs through the end of January. The National Retail Federation also reported that retailers hired approximately 524,000 additional employees for the last two months in 2005.


The most popular positions for seasonal recruitment include retail, hospitality, customer service, shipping/delivery, administrative/clerical, food preparation and sales. Seasonal employees are normally placed on 90-day schedules to help out with additional customer service, clerk and shipping duties as a result of the significantly increased volume of purchases, packages and deliveries.


Unfortunately, many employers will be in such a rush to staff up that they will forget arguably the most important part of the hiring process the candidate background check.


Employers conduct background checks to verify that a candidates given identity is not fraudulent. This is critical since many candidates try to leverage identity fraud or misrepresent resume credentials in an effort to carry out such crimes as inventory shrinkage and cash theft. Inventory shrinkage can be a combination of employee theft, shoplifting, vendor fraud and administrative error.


According to a University of Florida retail study, losses stemming from inventory shrinkage cost retailers approximately $37.4 billion in 2005. The holiday season is especially important financially for many retailers, representing anywhere from 25 to 40% of total annual sales. To cover these losses, retailers often pass these costs on to consumers, resulting in higher prices of goods and services.


And despite the growth in online shopping, theft is just as likely to happen during an online purchase as an in-store one. Everything from e-commerce fraud to shipping and handling theft is possible during the holiday season. Last year, one of the worlds largest package shipping companies hired an additional 60,000 employees to handle its estimated 20 million daily packages during the holiday season.


In addition to loss from theft, employees who misrepresent themselves also pose a security and safety danger to other employees and customers as a result of criminal histories gone unnoticed or undetected.


New technologies, including online background screening, are increasingly being utilized to help employers identify candidates who misrepresent themselves. The most advanced of these online screening services have begun to replace some of the more manual components of a background check that often took days or even weeks to complete.


These newer online solutions offer faster and more affordable background check capabilities since they often leverage breakthrough information and analytics technologies and massive public records data repositories. Additionally, they offer businesses a fast, cost-effective way to identify unacceptable job candidates before they spend valuable time and money. In many instances, reports can be downloaded in a matter of seconds and cost less than one dollar.


Retailers and related businesses continue to explore all avenues to increase revenue and profits. By leveraging these highly affordable and effective background screening solutions, retailers can protect profits and be more confident in their hiring decisions during the busy holiday season.


Kim Kerr is the Vice President/General Manager of the LexisNexis Risk and Information Analytics Group. For more information, call 800-590-8535.