Holiday hiring ain’t what it used to be

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Sep 30, 2020
George Anderson

It’s that time of year again when retailers set out their “help wanted” signs for new hires to assist in getting through the Christmas rush. This year, however, has been anything but typical for retailers, and that is true as well about the industry’s hiring practices heading into the holiday season.

Overall hiring is down from past years, a greater percentage of the jobs are being filled to handle the expected increase in online orders and many positions being listed now are, in fact, permanent. All three of these developments reflect the damage and demands placed on retailers in the year of the novel coronavirus, according to research from Indeed.com.

Hiring for the holiday season typically begins to pick up at the end of summer and builds from there and this year started pretty much the same as usual, according to Indeed. However, while job postings were following past patterns on September 1, they have since fallen off. By the twenty-second, postings were down 11 percent from last year and 21 percent below 2018.

“News about the virus and reports of case clusters change every day, making sales outlook and revenue forecasting extremely difficult,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, Indeed economist, told RetailWire. “This in turn affects hiring plans, especially when it’s unclear how many people will feel comfortable shopping inside brick and mortar stores. This is especially tricky because the holiday season comes during the winter. In some parts of the country, it’s close to impossible to provide a comfortable outdoor shopping option when temperatures drop and days shorten.”

The pandemic, it has been widely reported, has moved up the timetable on many retailers’ digital initiatives. This has also accelerated the trend that has seen retailers hire more people at the holidays to fulfill online orders from warehouses and stores. Retailer employment ads for these types of jobs have more than tripled this year over previous holiday seasons, according to Indeed.

A greater percentage of the jobs currently being filled are permanent positions, reflecting the belief of retailers that online sales will continue to remain strong well after the Christmas season is in the books. Only 37 percent of jobs being advertised are temporary compared to 54 percent at this time last year.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the pandemic resulting in any long-term changes in the ways that retailers hire for the holidays? Does the increasing emphasis on loading and stocking jobs presage retailers laying out their stores differently to serve online and in-store customers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"This year and in the future, there will be less hiring for in-store jobs than in the previous year and more hiring for warehouse fulfillment jobs."
"There will likely be less store hiring, but I’d argue that the quality of those hires needs to be excellent."
"I do not think we will ever see times when customers stop coming into stores that offer brilliant experiences performed by enthusiastic professional associates."

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11 Comments on "Holiday hiring ain’t what it used to be"


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Brett Busconi
Guest

Long term impacts? Well, only if the long term impact of more shopping done outside of the stores themselves come to be higher than expected. Otherwise I think/hope things will return to how they normally go next year.

You have occupancy level concerns in many areas (and expect more states to increase scrutiny if the second wave does hit) and having more staff in the same square footage is not a good solution.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Thee general answer is yes; the pandemic will result in long-term changes. Online ordering will grow at the expense of in-store sales, but BOPIS/BOPAC may be an additional delivery method. Selling functions in-store will decrease some while customer service/pick-up desk functions will increase. Pick-and-pack positions in fulfillment centers will increase. Because of the reach and improved speed of online job posting and hiring, hiring may be able to start a little closer to the season. These changes are here to stay until the next disruptions comes to retail.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Holiday hiring patterns were based on the shopping habits of customers. As long as customers don’t feel comfortable shopping in stores there will be a smaller need for additional staff to wait on them and more staff needed for BOPIS, curbside, and shipping.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Again as with so many other issues, the pandemic has just accelerated the changes that were happening anyway. This year and in the future, there will be less hiring for in-store jobs than in the previous year and more hiring for warehouse fulfillment jobs. Net-net, it will be less jobs because the revenue per-worker at the warehouse will be much higher than in the store.

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust
There are more questions than answers for this one. With an increase in online business and restrictions on working in confined spaces, retailers are going to have to think hard about how to manage the seasonal trade peak. Does it offer a real opportunity for omnichannel retailers to use their stores as warehouses and picking locations and their staff as pickers for local online demand? This would certainly help retain staff in stores that may not be as busy as usual at the peak time. In areas of high COVID-19, will retailers manage to find the numbers of seasonal workers they need given that this could be a rapidly shifting picture? If staff get COVID-19 will retailers be able to keep up with the need to keep replacing them? It could be a very interesting season and one where there will be winners and losers dependent on who gets this right and who does not. There are opportunities to grab market share if you are efficient and slick in your supply chain. Will customers be… Read more »
Perry Kramer
BrainTrust

The hiring process will be more drawn out as many retailers are taking a wait and see approach. We will probably also see a larger percentage of the hires being centered on fulfillment and delivery. Additionally some of the hires that would have been retailer positions in the past will shift to the delivery vendors such as Shipt and Instacart. As for store layout changes, we will see a lot of experimentation this year including the use of dark stores with a clearer set of directions being set after the new year. Some of this will also be driven by what the retail real estate market looks like after the holiday season.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

There will likely be less store hiring, but I’d argue that the quality of those hires needs to be excellent. Participants for next week’s Store Operations Council meeting are commenting on the additional skills associates need, and the importance of their connecting with customers. We are remaking retail right before our eyes.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

We are already seeing the long-term changes with more online shopping taking place. The pandemic will probably still be with us this holiday shopping period. So even more online shopping will take place. Once the public sees how easy it is some will continue even after the pandemic subsides.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Services that retailers offer to please customers tend to allow customers to form shopping habits around them. That being said, I do not think we will ever see times when customers stop coming into stores that offer brilliant experiences performed by enthusiastic professional associates.

Kim DeCarlis
BrainTrust

In short, yes! The patterns observed in e-commerce this year have shown that what lies before us is more uncharted territory. The initial spike in e-commerce traffic in March 2020, during the initial period of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, rivaled levels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday for many retailers. And there has been a continuous, more gradual increase in e-commerce traffic across segments since that time. It’s logical that holiday hiring will be less for in-store roles and more for back office functions including warehouse, distribution, and direct to consumer shipments. There is also the potential for additional hiring in the area of analytics and insights so that retailers can be more in tune with trends and buying patterns as they evolve.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Well, life ain’t what it used to be, either. I believe the pandemic has lasted long enough to change some business processes permanently, and holiday hiring for retailers is probably among them. As online continues to grow, safety and sanitation practices must be improved and consistently enforced at store level. Customers and governments will expect this.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"This year and in the future, there will be less hiring for in-store jobs than in the previous year and more hiring for warehouse fulfillment jobs."
"There will likely be less store hiring, but I’d argue that the quality of those hires needs to be excellent."
"I do not think we will ever see times when customers stop coming into stores that offer brilliant experiences performed by enthusiastic professional associates."

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