How the Pandemic Will Shape Holiday Retail Hiring

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How the Pandemic Will Shape Holiday Retail Hiring

By Thad Rueter - 09/08/2020
How the Pandemic Will Shape Holiday Retail Hiring
Hiring choices made now by retailers could help make or break them during the holiday shopping season.

Let the holiday hiring begin.

With summer unofficially over, more retail attention is turning to the 2020 holiday season, and The Michaels Cos., the arts and crafts retail chain, is putting out the call for seasonal workers, foreshadowing moves from other merchants.

This week, the Irving, Texas-based retailer said that it plans to hire more than 16,000 seasonal positions across its U.S. and Canada stores and distribution centers in preparation for the 2020 holiday season.

Michaels will host a seasonal hiring event in U.S. stores on Sept. 12 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The retailer is especially seeking workers for its its buy-online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) team to continue to serve shoppers in a safe and convenient way during the holiday season.

This year of the pandemic has increased consumer interest in e-commerce, and that trend is certain to continue into the fourth quarter. One study shows that 71% of U.S. adults plan to use e-commerce for more than half of their holiday shopping this year, a data point that underscores the broader trends. More research, from San Francisco-based e-commerce software company Salesforce, found that about half of U.S. consumers anticipate shopping more online this year for the holidays than was the case in 2019.

Not only that, but the upcoming holiday season could see more closed retail stores on Thanksgiving, with Walmart and Target among the major merchants that have said they'll keep their doors shut on that holiday. That, too, promises to increase pressure on retailers to provide a top-shelf e-commerce experience in Q4.

“At Michaels, we’re committed to helping everyone stay creative and safe. Our team members are vital to helping our Makers bring a little extra joy home during the upcoming holiday season,” said Rob Koch, the company's EVP of stores and real estate. “We are proud to employ such creative and passionate team members and are dedicated to making Michaels a fun and supportive place to work.”

Last year, Michaels transitioned more than 50% of its seasonal in-store positions into regular roles following the holidays, the retailer said.

1-800-Flowers.com is also sending out a call for seasonal workers — some 10,000 of them, which would represent a quadrupling of its workforce  — as the Carle Place, New York-based retailer prepares for what it described as an “unusual season ahead.” Many of those jobs will be production, gift assembly, customer service, and distribution and fulfillment center operations, and some positions will be work from home.

Holiday e-commerce looks all but certain to increase in 2020 — and will no doubt drive many retail seasonal hiring trends over the coming weeks — but so much remains up in the air, given all the impacts of the pandemic.

In 2019, holiday sales were up 4.1% year over year, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, with consumers planning to spend a total of $1,048 on average for items such as decorations, candy and gifts, as well as other purchases for themselves and their families. The most requested gifts in the past few years included gift cards, clothing, books and other media.

The retail trade group also said that last year, 56% of consumers reported that they would make their holiday purchases online; of those, 48% planned to use buy online, pick up in store. With the increase in online purchasing and BOPIS as a result of the pandemic, it would be unsurprising to see these numbers much higher this year, According to the NRF.

And you can bet retailers will have that in mind when hiring for the holidays in this tense and improvisational year.