Trends in holiday hiring: What’s in store for 2013?

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2013Holiday_Blog_NRFWe’ve all seen the news this past week: 83,000 holiday hires at Macy’s, 70,000 at Target; 55,000 at Walmart; 53,000 at Kohl’s…and the list goes on. While there has been some conversation about whether this number is higher, lower or consistent from one year to the next there’s a nugget here that most people are missing.

Many of the stories that have been written lament that some retailers are scaling back the number of seasonal workers they’re bringing in. Maybe that’s true. But what’s being missed in the conversation is what’s happening to the existing part-time workforce and what opportunities temporary workers find when the holiday season is over.

Target, who has already noted they’re scaling back on temporary holiday employees, plans instead to offer more holiday hours to non-holiday staff members first. Walmart has a similar game plan, moving 35,000 of their current temporary employees to part-time, and another 35,000 from part-time to full-time, in addition to hiring a new crop of workers only for the season. (Aside from being able to offer reward your best associates with more hours and opportunity, this is also a great business decision because it means less time required for recruiting and training new associates.)

In addition to offering part-timers more hours, retailers have also been focused on keeping great talent. As the economy improves and retailers continue to create more positions, there’s no doubt that companies are doing their best to keep their best seasonal workers even when the ornaments are back in the attic and the very last customer has brought in a too-small sweater for return. From last year’s seasonal workers, Target offered more than a third year-round positions at their company. And Toys“R”Us retained 15% of their seasonal workforce after the holidays.  

holiday hiring blog post chart

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Opening and Labor Turnover Study

It’s also important to remember that with the decline in national unemployment, albeit slow, there are more people who only want to work seasonally. During the recession years, employees typically tried to hold onto their retail jobs, and few were leaving by choice come January. Last January however, we saw a shift with fewer layoffs and discharges at the end of the holidays, and more employees voluntarily left their position (i.e. quitting).

And this wouldn’t be a “trend” blog post without a mention of how omnichannel is making an impact. We’ve heard a number of retailers reference that they may be cutting back on temporary hiring in stores but are ramping up temporary positions in distribution and call centers. Toys“R”Us, for one, noted that they have additional seasonal jobs available that are designated specifically to help fulfill orders from their non-store channels. Kohl’s said the same. Online-only retailers prepare as well; last year, Amazon hired 50,000 seasonal workers to take on the holiday demand, and this year that number will jump to more than 70,000.

It’s still too early to know just how many people retailers will need to bring in to keep up with consumer demand for all channels, but one thing is certain: with temporary employment comes opportunities for workers to find not just a job, but a an incredible career. And that’s something the retail industry has long been good at.

Posted in: Holidays | NRF Foundation | Retail Companies | Retail Trends and tagged , ,
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