Walmart Big Enough Not to Need Holiday Temps?

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) won’t hire temporary workers for the holidays, while most large retailers need to add tens of thousands of people to handle the late-year shopping crush. Either Walmart does not expect strong sales, or its more than 1 million U.S. workers are enough that expanding their hours will fill the gap.

Judith McKenna, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Walmart U.S. said:

The holidays are a special time of year for our customers and associates and also one of the busiest. To help customers save time and money this season, we are offering the extra hours available this time of year to our current associates rather than hiring thousands of seasonal workers.

These extra hours will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, and newly created technology-empowered positions such as personal shoppers and Pickup associates. This is the same approach we took last year, and we heard great feedback from our customers and associates.

This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our associates have the passion to do even more this year. We’ve increased our focus on service through new training, tools and technology. Thousands of associates have completed training in our Pathways and Academy programs, which prepares them to more effectively serve customers, especially during this busy season.

In short, Walmart wants to pass extra income on to its employees, and many have been cross-trained to do more than one job. The logistics of moving workers from position to position has to be complex, but Walmart clearly believes it has overcome them.

The danger to the plan is that Walmart may find it needs to overwork some people if holiday sales are particularly strong. Large retailers have run into employee complaints in the past when they have had to work on days when they preferred to get a holiday break. Walmart must believe it can clear that hurdle, too.

In late September and early October, retailers release figures for the number of temp employees they will hire. It is hard to say why they bother, unless it is a signal to Wall Street that their prospects are good. Walmart thinks its prospects are just as good, but in its case it will take its current employees along for the ride.