Walmart is hiring no new workers at the holidays this year, opting instead to give existing employees more hours, Judith McKenna, Walmart U.S. executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a corporate blog post Wednesday.
Walmart workers in roles like cashier and stocker, plus newly created tech-empowered positions such as personal shoppers and Pickup associates, will see opportunities to pick up more work, she said. The retailer is also bringing back "Holiday Helper," a store associate role dedicated to helping customers find shorter checkout lines, locate open registers or quickly grab items they may have forgotten.
It’s the same approach the retail giant took last year, McKenna said, adding that the company had great feedback on the approach from both customers and employees.
Walmart’s holiday hiring strategy is in stark contrast to plans laid out by other retailers so far this year. Target last week said it would boost its seasonal hiring by 40% this year (up to 100,000). And, while Macy's is hiring 4% fewer this year, that still means it will temporarily employ some 80,000 seasonal associates for positions at its Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores, call centers, distribution centers and online fulfillment centers nationwide.
Last year, seasonal hiring increased by 641,000 in the last three months of the year, a 9.6% drop over hiring from the previous holiday season, according to data from the Bureau of Labor statistics. That said, John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, noted a positive forecast for 2017 seasonal jobs in a report published last week.
“As holiday shopping habits turn virtual, retailers are responding by hiring more warehouse and transport workers. 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,” Challenger said.
It's possible that Walmart's increased use of technology like scan and go checkout and self-service kiosks may be tamping down the need for actual humans, but it could also be that the retailer has a lot of part-time workers willing to take on more work. Although Walmart raised its starting pay last year to $9 and has shortened the training time it takes for workers to increase their wage from there, critics have accused the company of keeping many part-time staff from working more, in order to save on pay and benefits.
Making Change at Walmart, (a campaign supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers international union, though not a union itself), continues to complain that the retail giant under-pays its workers, telling Retail Dive in an email that Walmart also relies on government support programs like Medicaid to provide health care benefits to its workers, at the expense of taxpayers.