Special Report

Retailers Hiring the Most Employees for the Holidays

188051506Retailers across the nation are accepting waves of new employee applications in preparation for the imminent 2014 holiday hiring season. Seven of the nation’s largest retailers will together add nearly 400,000 jobs this winter. Once again, Macy’s (NYSE: M) leads the nation with an expected 86,000 seasonal job openings.

According to global outplacement consultancy firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, higher consumer spending and improved employment across the nation is enticing retailers to ramp up holiday hirings this year. To determine the companies adding the most workers this holiday season, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed seasonal hiring announcements from America’s largest retailers.

Click here to see who is hiring the most people this holiday season

A number of factors may help to bolster hiring during the holidays. According to a recent study from Deloitte, holiday spending is expected to grow by between 4.0% and 4.5% this year due to better job growth. Indeed, the United States is on track to add roughly 2.5 million jobs this year; the unemployment rate had fallen to 6.1% as of August; and the number of job openings continues to climb. And, despite the competitive landscape in traditional retail, many brick-and-mortar stores plan to hire huge numbers of people this year.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St. John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, highlighted the importance of an improving job market for retailers. “Compared to last year there are just a lot more people who have money in their wallets to spend,” Challenger said. “That means more traffic in the stores, and that means retailers need more people.”

Among the seven retailers hiring the most workers are a number of America’s largest store chains, including Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT) — owners of Walmart and Sam’s Club — and Target  (NYSE: TGT). Last year, these two companies were the largest and fourth-largest retailers in the U.S., respectively, according to Kantar Retail. A number of top holiday season hirers, however, have much more of a seasonal focus and are especially dependent on the holiday season. These include video game retailer GameStop (NYSE: GME) and toy store giant Toys R’ Us.

A number of chains will be looking to the holidays as a critical litmus test for how their business is performing. Target will look for a far better holiday result than it had last year, when a data breach reported just before Christmas drove shoppers away. J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP), too, will look to continue to prove to Wall Street that its turnaround is sustainable. Challenger added that struggling companies “are hoping that with this season they can put the past behind and show the marketplace that they have adapted, [and have] listened to their consumers.”

Many companies will try to prove they can compete in a retail landscape that is increasingly shifting online. For instance, Deloitte expects that “digital interactions will influence 50%…of retail stores sales this holiday season,” and that online and mail order sales will rise by between 13.5% and 14.0% from the previous holiday season.

Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau also show a consistent growth in e-commerce sales, which totalled $75 billion in the second quarter of this year, after accounting for seasonal variation. This accounted for a record 6.4% of total U.S. retail sales that quarter.

Online sales are widely considered to be a major factor pushing hiring surges outside the retail sector, such as at FedEx (NYSE: FDX) and UPS (NYSE: UPS), which are respectively adding 50,000 and 95,000 employees this year. Both companies struggled to handle shipping volumes last year after underestimating staffing needs for the holiday season.

Despite higher expectations for this year’s holiday season, numerous headwinds remain for many retailers. Consumer sentiment, though rebounding, remains below pre-recession levels. Additionally, American households largely continue to struggle financially. The median household income in the U.S. was $52,250 last year, only slightly higher than the year before according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Only 14 of the 50 states had a statistically meaningful increase in median income last year.

To identify the retailers hiring the most for the holidays, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Kantar Retail’s list of the 100 largest retail companies based on 2013 U.S. retail sales. To make our list, a company needed to be one of the nation’s 100 largest retailers and to have announced plans to hire at least 25,000 seasonal workers for the holiday season. Store counts and employee totals are from each company’s latest annual report.

These are the retailers hiring the most employees for the holidays.

7. GameStop
> 2014 seasonal hires: 25,000
> Change from 2013: +8,000
> Total employees: 17,000
> U.S. stores: 4,467

Video game retailer GameStop announced plans to hire 25,000 seasonal workers, up from 17,000 the year before. The company anticipates that new games for next-generation video game consoles — Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, and Nintendo’s Wii U — will help drive demand. GameStop also stated that its “consumer electronics re-commerce business is expected to be in demand as customers look to trade-in their pre-owned devices in order to trade up to the new Apple iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus.” The holiday season is critical for GameStop. Its fourth quarter, which coincides with the holidays, accounted for more than 40% of sales and for nearly two-thirds of its operating profit excluding non-recurring items in the last two years.

6. J.C. Penney
> 2014 seasonal hires: 35,000
> Change from 2013: 0
> Total employees: 117,000
> U.S. stores: 1,094

The second quarter provided further fuel for J.C. Penney’s recovery, as sales rose 5.1% from the same period the year before and comparable store sales increased by 6%. The company also significantly pared back its losses by improving its cost structure. Still, J.C. Penney’s cash balances continue to dwindle, and many on Wall Street — including Credit Suisse and Standard & Poor’s — have reported that the company’s future remains in flux. The holidays will likely be a critical moment for the retailer’s turnaround plans. J.C. Penney has announced plans to hire roughly 35,000 seasonal employees for the holidays, in line with the number hired last year.

ALSO READ: 10 Companies Cutting the Most Jobs

5.Toys R’ Us
> 2014 seasonal hires: 45,000
> Change from 2013: 0
> Total employees: 67,000
> U.S. stores: 873

Perhaps even more than other retailers, Toys R’ Us relies heavily on the gift-giving season. The company’s unprecedented and controversial Black Friday sale — which started at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving last year, three hours earlier than any other retailer — is a testament to its commitment to the holiday season. This September, Toys R’ Us announced it will again hire an additional 45,000 employees nationwide to accommodate holiday shopping. The surge will more than double the company’s U.S. workforce and offer seasonal workers opportunities for non-seasonal employment, according to Toys R’ Us.

4. Wal-Mart Stores
> 2014 seasonal hires: 60,000
> Change from 2013: +5,000
> Total employees: 2.2 million
> U.S. stores: 4,835

Walmart plans to swell its ranks by 60,000 this holiday season, a nearly 10% increase from last year’s seasonal hiring. The retailer has also ensured current employees will have priority over seasonal workers for extra hours. Sending the message that the company takes care of its employees is timely as Walmart’s labor practices have been frequently criticized in recent years. Walmart had to deal with worker strikes and, in January, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Walmart accusing the company of unlawfully having “threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.” Walmart employed 1.4 million Americans, and operated 4,835 stores in the U.S., at the end of its last fiscal year.

3. Kohl’s
> 2014 seasonal hires: more than 67,000
> Change from 2013: +17,000
> Total employees: 137,000
> U.S. stores: 1,158

Kohl’s employed 137,000 associates as of February 2014, 106,000 of which were part-time workers. Like most retailers, the number of Kohl’s employees tends to peak during the winter months, and the company plans to expand its workforce by more than 67,000 in preparation for this year’s holiday season. Although Kohl’s U.S. sales fell 1.3% in 2013 from the year before, its end-of-year hiring plan represents a substantial increase from the same period last year. Kohl’s will add an average of nearly 50 jobs to each of its stores, located in nearly every state, as well as thousands of more jobs in its distribution facilities.

2. Target
> 2014 seasonal hires: 70,000
> Change from 2013: 0
> Total employees: 366,000
> U.S. stores: 1,793

Last year’s holiday season was especially challenging for Target after it disclosed a data breach that compromised the personal information of tens of millions of customers. After the breach, the company said that comparable sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 fell by 2.5%. CEO Gregg Steinhafel resigned earlier this year in the fallout from the scandal. This year, there may be some good news for the company. U.S. holiday sales are expected to pick up between 4.0% and 4.5%, according to a recent Deloitte study. In anticipation, Target plans to hire roughly 70,000 employees this season, the company told CNBC, in line with the number hired last year.

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1. Macy’s
> 2014 seasonal hires: 86,000
> Change from 2013: +3,000
> Total employees: 172,500
> U.S. stores: 840

Macy’s plans to ramp up seasonal hiring this year. The retailer said it will add 86,000 seasonal workers, a slight increase from last year’s holiday season hiring of 83,000. Even excluding its holiday surge the retailer is a very large employer, with 172,500 employees as of February. Macy’s will be looking for a profitable holiday season to satisfy Wall Street. The company reported earnings of 80 cents per share in its most recent quarter, missing analyst expectations, and it also lowered its comparable sales growth forecast for 2014. The company did not, however, lower its 2014 earnings forecast. Additionally, while many retailers have struggled, Macy’s has been somewhat of an exception, having grown its profits substantially in recent years.

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