Target has begun the process of hiring for the 2016 holiday shopping season, announcing plans to bring in 70,000 seasonal workers in stores as well as another 7,500 workers to boost its supply chain operations. That holds Target's hiring fairly steady from last year, when the retailer also said it would hire 70,000 workers plus “more” in its supply chain.
Target is holding “special hiring events” Oct. 14 and 15 in all of its locations, and is taking applications now in stores and online.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas anticipates that hiring at other retailers will likely also be even with last year, in contrast to past years with more robust hiring patterns, the Chicago Tribune reports. In the holiday quarter of 2013, retailers hired some 787,000 seasonal workers; that number fell 4% to 755,000 in 2014 and dwindled another 1.2% last year.
The trend to tamp down seasonal hiring is the result of several forces: E-commerce sales growth that is outpacing brick-and-mortar growth, technological innovations in the hands of customers (as well as retailers) that are eliminating the need for so many human hands, and a drive to keep costs down.
“It used to be that the bulk of holiday hires would be in customer-facing positions on the sales floor and behind the cash register. These extra workers would also help pick up the slack in the backroom, helping to receive and stock increased deliveries. Now, as more and more shopping is completed online, the holiday hiring is shifting away from stores and into the warehouses,” Challenger, Gray and Christmas CEO John A. Challenger said in a statement on the firm’s holiday hiring outlook last year.
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.
Retailers often make the mistake of seeing the cost of store employees as a drag on profits, or a luxury in the face of technology, experts say. “I would say that employees are not your greatest cost,” Brett Wickard, founder and president of “lean retail” software solutions firm FieldStack, told Retail Dive earlier this year. “The right employees are your greatest asset and absolutely an investment in your organization.”
Target said Monday that it is opening up extra hours to its existing employees who might want them, and that it’s hiring early in order to provide sufficient training. The retailer also said it expects people to apply who have no retail experience. Although it ended its experiment with curbside pickup in June, Target does much of its fulfillment from stores and still offers in-store pickup of online orders, which means that even many store associates will also be working in fulfillment.
Last year, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 20, Target did away with its free shipping minimum for online orders. That move, plus its clarified free shipping policy, its free shipping for REDcard members and a general tendency for consumers to shop on all channels, has helped boost the retailer’s e-commerce sales.
In its most recent quarter, Target’s same-store sales decreased 1.1%, its first negative same-store sales measure since the first quarter of 2014. But e-commerce sales rose 16% over last quarter, thought that was below the 23% increase in the first quarter and the 34% increase during the last quarter of last year. The holidays represent Target's most important quarter, as it does for all retailers, accounting for as much as a third of annual sales.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.