Stores dan­gle dis­counts, gift cards for sea­sonal work­ers

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - HOMES -

Re­tail­ers won’t just be bat­tling each other for cus­tomers this hol­i­day sea­son — they’re also gear­ing up to fight over the tem­po­rary work­ers who will make the sales.

A strong econ­omy has re­tail­ers ex­pect­ing a busy hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son, but with un­em­ploy­ment near his­toric lows, staffing up to han­dle ex­tra de­mand could be a chal­lenge.

“It’s go­ing to be a real battle for these re­tail­ers to get the right la­bor in,” said Andrew Chal­lenger, vice pres­i­dent of Chicago-based out­place­ment and ex­ec­u­tive coach­ing firm Chal­lenger, Gray & Christ­mas.

Tar­get plans to hire 120,000 peo­ple to fill sea­sonal jobs in its 1,839 stores, about 20 per­cent more than last year.

That matches the num­ber of jobs Ama­zon an­nounced ahead of last year’s hol­i­day sea­son and is the largest sea­sonal hir­ing es­ti­mate from a bricks-and-mor­tar re­tailer since Chal­lenger, Gray & Christ­mas be­gan track­ing the fig­ure in 2012. About 8,000 of Tar­get’s jobs will be in the Chicago area, with an­other 1,000 else­where in Illi­nois. Tar­get also is hir­ing 7,500 peo­ple to work in its dis­tri­bu­tion and ful­fill­ment cen­ters na­tion­wide.

The re­tailer said it needs more sea­sonal work­ers to han­dle on­line or­ders from stores, such as in-store or curb­side pickup or ship­ping items to cus­tomers’ homes. The com­pany said it plans to hire nearly twice as many sea­sonal work­ers to fill on­line or­ders com­pared with last year.

FedEx also said it plans to hire more sea­sonal work­ers this year: 55,000, up from 50,000 in 2017.

Macy’s plans to hire about 80,000 sea­sonal work­ers, the same num­ber it ini­tially an­nounced last year be­fore adding an­other 7,000 hol­i­day jobs in De­cem­ber. But fewer of this year’s group of hol­i­day hires will be work­ing in Macy’s stores. About 23,500 of the 80,000 jobs are in ful­fill­ment cen­ters han­dling on­line or­ders, up from 18,000 last year, the Cincin­nati-based depart­ment store chain said.

Re­tail­ers have cut thou­sands of jobs while clos­ing stores in re­cent years, but they’ve also cre­ated new ones in ar­eas sup­port­ing grow­ing on­line sales, such as ful­fill­ment cen­ters, lo­gis­tics and trans­porta­tion.

The work­ers los­ing jobs on the sales floor at clos­ing stores aren’t nec­es­sar­ily the same ones get­ting new jobs in ful­fill­ment cen­ters, but more new jobs have been an­nounced than cut, Chal­lenger said.

There are fewer un­em­ployed job seek­ers too — the na­tion­wide un­em­ploy­ment rate was 3.9 per­cent in Au­gust, down from 4.4 per­cent dur­ing the same month last year — and there are signs re­tail­ers ex­pect more com­pe­ti­tion for sea­sonal hires.

Some, like Kohl’s and J.C. Pen­ney, be­gan hir­ing sea­sonal work­ers sig­nif­i­cantly ear­lier than in prior years.

Wis­con­sin-based Kohl’s an­nounced in June — about three months ear­lier than last year — that sea­sonal jobs were avail­able at more than 300 stores. Ad­di­tional hir­ing started at all stores, dis­tri­bu­tion and ful­fill­ment cen­ters in Au­gust, and Kohl’s has hold­ing hir­ing events in stores. Tar­get and Macy’s have sched­uled na­tion­wide hir­ing events in Oc­to­ber.

Chal­lenger said he ex­pects oth­ers to face off on pay and perks.

“Wages have been shock­ingly slow to rise for many years, and it’s hard to imag­ine some re­tail­ers aren’t go­ing to have to raise wages to com­pete,” he said.

Tar­get said all new hires would start at a min­i­mum wage of $12 per hour and get store dis­counts. As a new perk, the re­tailer will ran­domly se­lect one hourly worker at each store and dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter to re­ceive a $500 gift card and $500 do­na­tion to a lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion of their choice.

“As the mar­ket­place be­comes more com­pet­i­tive, the sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment we’re mak­ing in our team, in­clud­ing our in­creased min­i­mum hourly wages, sets Tar­get apart,” Stephanie Lundquist, Tar­get’s chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer, said in a news re­lease.

Kohl’s, which plans to hire more than 2,300 sea­sonal work­ers in the Chicago area, has com­pet­i­tive wages, a weekly pay sched­ule and cer­tain days when em­ploy­ees get larger-than-usual dis­counts, spokes­woman Ju­lia Markun said. Macy’s also said it gives sea­sonal work­ers com­pet­i­tive pay, mer­chan­dise dis­counts and the abil­ity to earn quar­terly in­cen­tives if they achieve cer­tain goals.

It’s not clear how in­flu­en­tial perks like give­aways and ex­tra dis­counts are com­pared with hourly wages, but it sug­gests re­tail­ers are look­ing for ways to stand out, Chal­lenger said.

“They’re get­ting cre­ative be­cause they have to fig­ure out ways to get peo­ple in the door,” he said.

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