Retailers are cutting back on seasonal staff in the face of disappointing Christmas sales, according to a survey by the Australian Gift & Homewares Association (AGHA).

The study revealed more than 67 per cent of its retail members surveyed are not employing any additional sales staff for the Christmas period – the traditional boom season for temporary retail jobs.

Of the 32 per cent of retailers adding sales staff for Christmas, more than half indicated they were only employing one extra person. Less than 3 per cent said they were recruiting 10 or more additional staff.

AGHA’s CEO David Leek said gift and homewares retailers had good reason to keep their staff numbers as tight as possible given the sluggish start to the Christmas shopping season.

“Retailers are facing an increasingly difficult task in getting shoppers to part with their hard-earned cash this Christmas. Our survey not only shows that sales are down, but also that consumers are opting for the less expensive gift options,” he said.

The below-par employment figures coincide with gloomy November sales for the gift and homewares industry, with more than 60 per cent of those surveyed describing their sales as “poor” or “fair” compared with sales for the same month in 2010.

Only 12.5 per cent of retail members described their November sales as excellent.

When asked what their best-selling product was leading up to Christmas, the majority of respondents indicated it was lower-priced items, particularly items under $20.