Will Target’s Hiring Announcement for Holidays Be Harbinger for Retail?

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The announcement this week by Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) that it is hiring 100,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, an increase from the 70,000 in-store workers and 7,500 fulfillment and warehouse employees announced last year, might be the first of other encouraging hiring announcements from retailers such as Walmart and Toys “R” Us for the holiday season.

Target’s announcement was the kind of news the beleaguered retail sector needed. Retail has been hit with store closings, price cuts and consolidation this year. According to tracking by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, retailers have announced more than 6,000 store closures and 67,000 job cuts in the first eight months of the year, as consumers pivot to e-commerce.

The hiring announcement by Minneapolis-based Target might be a harbinger of how retail hires workers this holiday season. In addition to Target’s announcement, Michaels has announced 15,000 holiday workers and 1-800-Flowers will staff an additional 8,000 workers for the holidays.

John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray, said:

As holiday shopping habits turn virtual, retailers are responding by hiring more warehouse and transport workers. Announcements indicate workers will still be needed for customer-facing positions, as retailers attempt to give consumers an experience they cannot receive online. The competition among major big-box retailers will incentivize consumers to spend more this holiday season. These stores will need to add staff in order to meet demand.

Challenger, Gray said last year that seasonal retail employment increased by 641,000 during the final three months of the year, the lowest since the 495,800 retail hires announced in the final months of 2009, as the recession was ending. Last year’s job gains were 9.6% lower than the previous year, when retailers added 708,800 jobs, according to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Despite the layoff numbers this year, retailers projected the highest number of hiring announcements for any industry, with more than 248,000.

Challenger said:

Most of those hiring announcements came early in the year, as retailers like Wal-Mart and Dollar General expanded. The Home Depot announced plans to hire 80,000 workers in March. Meanwhile, Amazon has been steadily boosting employment rolls after a January announcement of over 100,000 hires in the next 18 months.