Retailers won’t just be battling each other for customers this holiday season — they’re also gearing up to fight over the temporary workers who will make the sales.
A strong economy has retailers expecting a busy holiday shopping season, but with unemployment near historic lows, staffing up to handle extra demand could be a challenge.
“It’s going to be a real battle for these retailers to get the right labor in,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Chicago-based outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Target plans to hire 120,000 people to fill seasonal jobs in its 1,839 stores, about 20 percent more than last year.
That matches the number of jobs Amazon announced ahead of last year’s holiday season and is the largest seasonal hiring estimate from a brick-and-mortar retailer since Challenger, Gray & Christmas began tracking the figure in 2012. Target also is hiring 7,500 people to work in its distribution and fulfillment centers nationwide.
The retailer said it needs more seasonal workers to handle online orders from stores, such as in-store or curbside pickup or shipping items to customers’ homes. The company said it plans to hire nearly twice as many seasonal workers to fill online orders compared with last year.
FedEx also said it plans to hire more seasonal workers this year: 55,000, up from 50,000 in 2017.
Macy’s plans to hire about 80,000 seasonal workers, the same number it initially announced last year before adding another 7,000 holiday jobs in December. About 23,500 of the jobs are in fulfillment centers handling online orders, up from 18,000 last year, the Cincinnati-based department store chain said.
Retailers have cut thousands of jobs while closing stores in recent years, but they’ve also created new ones in areas supporting growing online sales, such as fulfillment centers, logistics and transportation.
There are fewer unemployed job seekers too — the nationwide unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in August, down from 4.4 percent during the same month last year — and there are signs retailers expect more competition for seasonal hires.
Some, like Kohl’s and J.C. Penney, began hiring seasonal workers significantly earlier than in prior years.
Wisconsin-based Kohl’s announced in June — about three months earlier than last year — that seasonal jobs were available at more than 300 stores. Additional hiring started at all stores, distribution and fulfillment centers in August. Target and Macy’s have scheduled nationwide hiring events in October.
Challenger said he expects others to face off on pay and perks.
“Wages have been shockingly slow to rise for many years, and it’s hard to imagine some retailers aren’t going to have to raise wages to compete,” he said.
Target said all new hires would start at a minimum wage of $12 per hour and get store discounts. As a new perk, the retailer will randomly select one hourly worker at each store and distribution center to receive a $500 gift card and $500 donation to a local community organization of their choice.