Kohl’s said Monday it has begun hiring for the holidays, with plans to take on over 69,000 associates, the same number as last year and up from 67,000 the year before. In addition to filling positions at more than 1,100 Kohl's stores in 49 states, the new hires also will tackle roles in Kohl's distribution and e-commerce fulfillment centers and its credit operations.
J.C. Penney, by contrast, said it plans to hire 40,000 seasonal workers — 38,000 in stores and the rest to help with online orders — up from 30,000 last year, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas expects retail hiring this holiday season will remain relatively unchanged from 2015, when it increased by 738,800 during the final three months of the year.
There are several forces affecting holiday retail hiring this year. E-commerce sales growth is outpacing brick-and-mortar growth, and technological innovations in the hands of customers (as well as retailers themselves) are eliminating the need for so much human support.
Last year’s job gains were 1.4 percent lower than 2014 figures, according to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “We continue to move from brick-and-mortar toward click-and-order,” Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger said in a statement. “But even in the internet era of holiday shopping that means that brick-and-mortar fulfillment facilities need seasonal workers.”
The fact that economic and competitive pressures have also led to boosted wages at many retailers makes seasonal hiring a more expensive gambit, even when the numbers are steady. But retailers walk a tightrope when it comes to hiring employees, considering how important (if sometimes unappreciated) store staffs can be.
While J.C. Penney, which is in the midst of a turnaround, is bucking the trend with a significant hiring increase from last season, Target last week said it would hire 70,000 seasonal workers in stores as well as another 7,500 workers to boost its supply chain operations, about steady with its hiring level last year.
UPS, meanwhile, said it plans to hire about 95,000 extra employees for the holiday season, up slightly from 93,000 last year. “The big change we are seeing, however, is that while seasonal retail jobs remain flat or shrink, there has been a marked increase in seasonal job gains in other sectors," Challenger noted. "The sector with the biggest increase in holiday hiring in recent years has been transportation and warehousing, as more and more holiday shopping is done online."