How Major Retailers Are Staffing Up for the 2021 Holiday Season

A labor shortage has complicated hiring efforts, but retailers still need to meet demand, and are increasing benefits and wages in order to do so.


Photo Courtesy of Jelena.

The labor market may be tight, but that isn't stopping retailers from announcing plans to hire thousands of workers ahead of the holiday shopping season.


Even so, the great labor shortage has barely budged. The number of retail job openings reached 1.2 million in July compared to 876,000 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July, the retail industry had 906,000 hires, a drop of more than 250,000 from the month prior.


Retailers still need to meet demand, with holiday sales expected to rise up to 9% this year, according to Deloitte. Retailers — such as Walmart, Kohl's and Amazon — are betting on higher wages, bonuses and even tuition assistance in a bid to woo potential candidates.

Despite challenges, retailers as a whole are projected to hire 700,000 workers this holiday, Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts. Now that expanded unemployment benefits offered through the American Rescue Plan Act have ended, this could motivate jobless Americans to return to the workforce.


"We will likely see more holiday hiring plans announced over the next month, but with the trouble retailers and transportation companies are having attracting workers for normal business periods, it will be interesting to see how many workers these companies will be able to hire," said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "The end of the expanded unemployment benefits may spur some workers to take these positions. However, myriad other issues could keep them from filling these roles, such as COVID concerns, vaccination statuses, child care issues, and burnout."


Retail Dive is tracking holiday hiring sprees from major retailers. Here's a glimpse of which companies are looking to staff up this holiday.


Belk


In its search for new full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, Belk is offering "competitive pay," plus flexible schedules, a 20% employee discount and special holiday double discount days. The department store aims to hire more than 5,000 employees for sales, beauty and operational positions, according to an emailed press release. Retail experience is preferred but not required.


To that end, the retailer on Oct. 16 hosted a hiring event at all its stores, prepared to hire "on the spot," after on-site interviews. Interested candidates can still apply by texting JOBS to belk4u or go to www.belkcareers.com for more information.


Burlington


Burlington is planning to hire 20,000 seasonal associates this year, including both back- and front-of-house workers, according to details emailed to Retail Dive. Positions include cashiers, sales floor associates, asset protection and receiving; individuals can apply on the company’s career website.


While the retailer did not mention benefits, it did note that safety measures are still in place at stores to protect associates, including plexiglass partitions at checkout. The retailer will close on Thanksgiving to allow associates "to reflect and spend the holiday with family and friends."


Amazon


Amazon on Oct. 18 announced it is prepping for the holiday season with a push to hire 150,000 seasonal workers, a 50% increase over last year's announced seasonal hires.

The e-commerce behemoth is trying to entice applicants by reiterating an average starting pay of $18 an hour and signing bonuses of up to $3,000. The company also stated that there is a possibility of seasonal workers transitioning into permanent jobs with the company. Wages can be $3 higher depending on the shift in many locations.


Ahead of the holiday shopping season, Amazon in September announced it was working to hire 125,000 transportation and fulfillment employees and had increased its starting pay in some areas. For fulfillment roles, the average hourly starting pay exceeds $18, reaching $22.50 in some areas.


Like its seasonal roles, Amazon said some employees could receive a signing bonus of up to $3,000, in addition to benefits, paid tuition and access to training.


The push to hire more fulfillment workers comes as firms project online sales to top last year's figures. Deloitte expects e-commerce sales could grow 11% to 15% year over year, or up to $218 billion.


Hobby Lobby


Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby announced that it is hiring 11,000 seasonal store employees "for the Christmas season," according to a press release. The company said it provides benefits to eligible employees, including medical, prescription and dental plans. It also offers, among other things, vacation pay, personal paid time off benefits, holiday pay, an employee discount and chaplain services.


The retailer last year raised its full-time, minimum hourly wage to $17, and recently raised its part-time minimum hourly wage to $13.


Nordstrom


Touting employee benefits, competitive pay and 20% employee discounts, among other perks, Nordstrom on Oct. 12 said it hopes to hire 28,600 seasonal and regular employees in the U.S. and Canada. Employees are needed at both full-line and off-price Rack stores, as well as at supply chain facilities and customer service centers, according to a company press release.


At the stores — which are hosting hiring events Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — hourly and overnight employees will receive premium pay, and new employees are eligible for up to $650 in incentive pay, the company said. Supply chain employees also are eligible for premium pay as well as up to $2,500 as an incentive for new employees; those facilities will have hiring events Oct. 16 and Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Available positions by store and facility location are also posted online.


The retailer included words of advice and encouragement from a few people who began their careers as Nordstrom seasonal hires. One suggested being "open-minded," willing to try new things and getting comfortable shoes.


Target


Target is giving an additional $2 an hour pay during "peak moments" to hourly in-store, service center and supply chain team members as well as select seasonal and headquarter workers.


Hourly store, select headquarter and service center workers will receive the extra hourly wage if they worked every Saturday and Sunday starting Nov. 20 to Dec. 19 as well as on Dec. 24 and Dec. 26. For hourly supply chain workers to receive the extra pay, they must work for a two-week period starting Oct. 10 to Dec. 18.


Target is preparing to hire 100,000 seasonal workers for the holiday season. That is down from last year's plans to hire 130,000, but the mass merchant said it plans to offer employees more hours. The company is offering existing store staff 5 million additional hours, equivalent to over $75 million in wages.


Target also has a new mobile app for workers that allows them add or swap shifts to fit their schedules better. The retailer also has an On Demand program for employees that allows them to work sporadically and pick up shifts convenient to their schedules.


Target said it would add more workers this year to its Drive Up and Order Pickup services, which have tripled in staff over the past two years as those channels have undergone explosive growth during the pandemic.


In a holiday shopping season where e-commerce is expected to grow even more, the retailer is preparing to meet the demand by hiring 30,000 supply chain roles, the retailer said Sept. 30.


Some of the new positions mentioned are hiring managers, as well as warehouse and operational support staff. The retailer touted its worker perks, which include tuition assistance, recognition bonuses and enhanced benefits driven by the pandemic.

The retailer did not mention whether the open positions are seasonal, part-time or full-time. The company previously set a $15 minimum wage for all team members.


Walmart


In preparation for a heavy holiday season, Walmart is hiring approximately 150,000 new U.S. store associates, most of whom will be permanent and full-time. The retailer touted reliable schedules, an easy application process, tuition payments, affordable health insurance, a 10% discount and an opportunity to career build as benefits.


Additionally, Walmart is looking to hire 20,000 permanent full-time and part-time supply chain workers to ensure its operations run as smoothly as possible.


The open roles include order fillers, freight handlers, lift drivers, technicians and management positions. Supply chain associates are paid an average of $20.37 per hour. The roles are available across more than 250 Walmart and Sam's Club distribution centers, fulfillment centers and transportation offices.


Walmart is among the retailers bolstering their incentives in an effort to attract potential workers amid a competitive labor market. In the announcement, the retailer touted benefits like specialized supply chain training, medical benefits and tuition assistance.


Joann


Craft retailer Joann announced in late September that it is hiring "thousands" of workers across the country. Although the company did not state the exact number of hires, it did say that positions including inventory coordinators, key holders, cashiers, merchandise replenishers and general team members are available at its 853 stores. The company is also seeking to hire distribution center personnel.


Workers will be able to access a 30% discount and "competitive benefits, flexible schedules, opportunities for growth and on the job training," per a company press release. Additionally, current employees can receive a cash bonus by referring candidates who accept a job offer.


Joann will conduct hiring events on Oct. 1, 2, 8 and 9, and interested candidates can walk into their local store for immediate interviews and job offers.


Macy's