Holiday retail forecast: More sales, more hiring

Many of those jobs will be in stocking and shipping

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Despite department store woes, national retailers have started to seek seasonal help — and at levels close to those seen last year, according to some estimates.

Many of the seasonal jobs are focused on stocking additional inventory, customer service, and helping in shipping and distribution centers, an area that is growing as online holiday sales increase.

The jobs are temporary, and many are part-time.

“The competition among major big-box retailers will incentivize consumers to spend more this holiday season,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm. “These stores will need to add staff in order to meet demand.”

The firm said that last year’s seasonal employment was about 641,000 — the lowest since 324,900 retail workers were hired in 2008. The number of hires in 2016 was nearly 10 percent lower than the year before, when retailers added 708,800 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the firm, retailers have announced more than 6,000 store closures and 67,000 job cuts in the first eight months of the year. Despite these numbers, the firm said retailers still projected the highest number of hiring announcements for any industry, with more than 248,000.

Since 2012, holiday hiring announcements have averaged 604,000 per year, according to Challenger.

Part of what is driving the hires, the firm said, is a need for more customer-service, warehouse and logistics jobs as retailers shift their business models to more online sales.

Retail holiday sales are forecast by consulting firm Deloitte to increase $1.04 trillion to $1.05 trillion, 4 percent to 4.5 percent more than last year’s holiday shopping season.

It also expects an 18 percent to 21 percent increase in e-commerce sales of $111 billion to $114 billion in 2017 compared with 2016.

The reason: Consumer confidence is high, the labor market is strong and people have been saving money, the firm said.

“Sentiment and spending indicators are firing on all cylinders, but the question is: How will retailers respond, given the profound disruption across the industry?” said Rod Sides, vice chairman at Deloitte. “The good news is retail is thriving.”

Eight in 10 Americans now shop online, according to Pew Research, a Washington think tank.

JCPenney said it is hiring 40,000 people nationally in about 875 stores. As an added benefit, the chain said it will give its workers a 25 percent discount on merchandise and flexible schedules. Candidates can apply online at jcpcareers.com or at store kiosks.

In addition, Target has announced it will hire 100,000 seasonal positions for the holidays, up from the 70,000 in-store workers and 7,500 fulfillment and warehouse workers announced last year. Target also indicated it was lowering prices in all stores, a response to Amazon.com and Wal-Mart’s price-slashing.

Michaels has announced 15,000 holiday jobs, and 1-800-Flowers an additional 8,000 workers.

Macy’s said it would hire about 80,000 seasonal workers for positions in its stores, call centers, distribution centers and warehouses. Of those jobs, the company said about 18,000 — 3,000 more than the year before — would be in positions related to online and other direct-to-shopper areas.

“As holiday shopping habits turn virtual, retailers are responding by hiring more warehouse and transport workers,” Challenger said. “While retail hiring has fallen over the last couple years, major announcements indicate workers will still be needed for customer-facing positions, as retailers attempt to give consumers an experience they cannot receive online.”

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