Justine Griffin / Tampa Bay Times – As more people shop online, retail companies don’t anticipate hiring as many seasonal workers this winter to get them through the busiest shopping season of the year.
Walmart, Macy’s, Target and dozens of other retailers are gearing up to hire thousands of seasonal workers in the coming weeks to prepare for the holiday shopping season. But experts say that seasonal hiring is expected to remain flat, even though early economic forecasts predict a healthy, though modest, holiday shopping season this year. That’s because as retailers transition to selling more merchandise online, they won’t need as many employees in traditional roles to staff the stores.
“Most analysts are anticipating healthy holiday sales this year. However, there are several factors that may prevent these strong sales expectations from translating into increased hiring. For one, we have seen increased hiring earlier in the year, which may preclude the need for a lot of extra hiring as the holidays approach,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of the Challenger, Gray & Christmas workforce consulting company. “When retailers do add holiday workers, fewer of those jobs are in traditional spots, such as sales clerk or cashier. We are also seeing more holiday jobs added outside of the retail sector.”
Department store chain Macy’s announced it will hire 85,000 temporary store workers, about a thousand less than last year, to help with the rush of holiday shopping. About 1,600 of those will be hired at stores in Florida from Tampa to Naples. Walmart will hire 60,000 workers to staff stores across the country, which is about the same amount as last year.
Toys “R” Us will hire 40,000 temporary workers for the season, which accounts for about 400 jobs in the Tampa and St. Petersburg markets. That’s less than last year. Kohl’s, which will hire 69,000 people this winter, will create 500 jobs in the Tampa Bay market, which is more than 2014.
Retailers don’t need as many employees to work inside shipping warehouses where online orders are processed and sent out for delivery as they do in stores, said Jeff Green, a retail analyst based in Phoenix. Brick and mortar stores need more workers because customers require more “hand holding” than when shopping online, Green said.
“Companies don’t need as many people in a fulfillment center as in a store,” he said. “Which means they just don’t need as many employees as they used to.”
Delivery services, like UPS, FedEx and online retailer Amazon, will be adding jobs too. UPS announced the company will hire 95,000 seasonal employees, which is about the same as last year despite the criticism that haunts the company for long delays in deliveries. FedEx will hire 55,000 people this year, up from 50,000 last year. Amazon hired 80,000 people last year. It’s unclear how many the company will hire this year and what kind of jobs it would create in its warehouses in Lakeland and Ruskin.
In the annual retail holiday workplace report, Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that employment gains will be nearly identical to last year, with little new growth. For all of 2014, retail hiring was 4 percent lower than the 786,800 jobs the industry added during the last three months of the year.
Holiday hiring recently peaked in 2013 when retail companies added nearly 850,000 extra employees to the payrolls. So far this year, retail companies have added 449,500 jobs from March through August this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 437,000 jobs during the same period last year.