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.

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