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Study: Retailers slow in unveiling holiday hiring plans this year

Retailers, with some exceptions, have been slow out of the gate in announcing their seasonal hiring plans.

“The pandemic has thrown typical holiday hiring patterns off,” said Andrew Challenger, VP of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 

Challenger noted that to accommodate the increase in online spending, retailers as well as transportation and warehousing companies have been doing a lot of hiring during the pandemic. (According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales in the second quarter of 2020, during the height of the pandemic, rose 44.5% over the year-ago period to $211.5 billion despite a decrease of 3.6% for total retail sales. )

“Shopping online will continue for the holidays, but it is not yet clear if all companies need even more workers to accommodate the holiday sales,” he said. “Retailers are struggling to figure out how many hires will be made.”

Among the handful of retailers that have announced seasonal hiring plans to date, the results are mixed. J.C. Penney is adding only 1,700 holiday workers this year, compared with 37,000 in 2019. The Michaels Companies plans to hire16,000 holiday workers, up from 15,000 last year.  E-commerce retailer 1-800-Flowers is hiring more than 10,000 seasonal employees across its gourmet foods and gift brands, up from 8,000 last year. Amazon plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers this year, down from 200,000 last year, but the online giant has added thousands of jobs amid the pandemic.

Retailers added 702,000 jobs for the holiday season in 2019, a 12.21% increase over the 625,600 hires for the 2018 holiday season, according to an analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Last year's strong consumer spending, coupled with low unemployment, led to one of the strongest holiday seasons in recent history,” Challenger said.

This holiday season will likely look different by location and region, due to the differing regulations regarding the virus. While the holidays are usually a time when retailers are desperate to attract crowds to their stores, one constant with COVID-19 precautions is that most stores are now concentrating on how to provide a safe shopping experience,” said Challenger.

“While retailers may not know exactly how many workers to hire during this period to keep up with demand, they will likely need to create positions and tasks that are unprecedented, such as temperature takers, mask enforcers, and curb-side workers,” he added.

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