Ama­zon set to add 100,000 work­ers

Re­tailer launches fourth hir­ing drive of pan­demic as e-com­merce surges

The Washington Post - - ECONOMY & BUSINESS - BY HAMZA SHA­BAN hamza.sha­ban@wash­post.com

Ama­zon said Mon­day that it will hire 100,000 more work­ers to meet surg­ing de­mand in the covid-19 era, bol­ster­ing an al­ready dra­matic ex­pan­sion of its work­force this year and un­der­scor­ing the mas­sive shifts in online spend­ing the pan­demic has helped fuel.

The lat­est hir­ing drive, which in­cludes full- and part-time jobs, is the fourth large campaign the Seat­tle-based re­tail gi­ant has ini­ti­ated this year. All told, they add up to 308,000 po­si­tions. By com­par­i­son, Ama­zon said it em­ployed 798,000 Amer­i­cans at the end of 2019.

(Ama­zon founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Jeff Be­zos owns The Wash­ing­ton Post.)

Com­pe­ti­tion among ma­jor online re­tail­ers has in­ten­si­fied as many Amer­i­cans adapt to a pro­longed pe­riod of work­ing from home, and con­sumers look to online shop­ping to re­place vis­its to the store. But in the early months of the pan­demic, Ama­zon was caught flat-footed. As con­sumers rushed to stock up on clean­ing sup­plies, home of­fice equip­ment and recre­ational goods, Ama­zon was rocked by ship­ping de­lays and a de­pleted in­ven­tory. Wal­mart and Tar­get were able to fill some of that void, us­ing their bricks-and­mor­tar lo­ca­tions as pickup de­pots and e-com­merce ship­ping hubs, ex­ploit­ing the legacy of an es­tab­lished phys­i­cal pres­ence.

As a result, Ama­zon’s share of the U.S. online re­tail mar­ket fell from 42.1 per­cent in Jan­uary to 38.5 per­cent in June, ac­cord­ing to data from Rakuten In­tel­li­gence. Wal­mart in­creased its po­si­tion from 2.2 per­cent to 3.5 per­cent, and Tar­get boosted its share from 3.5 per­cent to 5 per­cent.

“De­spite their prof­its, I thought the com­pany’s in-stock per­for­mance and de­liv­ery stan­dards were ter­ri­ble in many cities, and I didn’t think they were par­tic­u­larly great to their front-line work­ers,” said Paula Rosen­blum, an an­a­lyst for Re­tail Sys­tems Re­search in Mi­ami. She added that the com­pany is brac­ing for some por­tion of em­ploy­ees to be out sick with covid-19 and other ill­nesses, and is pre­par­ing for a po­ten­tial blowout hol­i­day sea­son.

“Let’s see if they can re­coup the busi­ness they gave away to Wal­mart, Tar­get and Kroger.”

Sucharita Ko­dali, a re­tail an­a­lyst at For­rester, said Ama­zon hires 100,000 to 200,000 ad­di­tional work­ers ev­ery hol­i­day sea­son. While it’s un­clear how many of the peo­ple brought on dur­ing the coro­n­avirus crisis will re­main permanent em­ploy­ees, she said the lat­est ex­pan­sion seems in line with its tra­di­tional endof-year boost.

Ama­zon’s growth stands in con­trast to what is play­ing out in the larger re­tail sec­tor, which has seen more than a dozen large brands file for bank­ruptcy since the pan­demic started six months ago and ush­ered in a re­ces­sion. Sev­eral well-known brands, in­clud­ing Lord & Tay­lor, Modell’s, Stage Stores and New York & Co., are shut­ter­ing all their stores. Those that do sur­vive will be leaner: The Gap an­nounced that it would shut­ter 200 lo­ca­tions, while As­cena Re­tail Group — the par­ent com­pany of Ann Tay­lor, Lane Bryant and Jus­tice — is clos­ing nearly 1,600 stores while in bank­ruptcy.

Over­all, a record 25,000 stores are ex­pected to dis­ap­pear this year, ac­cord­ing to Core­sight Re­search.

Ama­zon said in its most re­cent earn­ings re­port that net sales jumped 40 per­cent, to $88.9 bil­lion from $63.4 bil­lion in the year-ago pe­riod. It also dou­bled its prof­its, leap­ing from $2.6 bil­lion to $5.2 bil­lion dur­ing the months of April, May and June, as the coro­n­avirus con­tin­ued to spread across the coun­try.

Ama­zon has faced crit­i­cism from work­ers rights groups and staff in re­cent months, in­clud­ing some who have com­plained of in­tense and un­safe work­ing con­di­tions dur­ing the pan­demic, and al­le­ga­tions that the com­pany fired work­ers for speak­ing out.

Ama­zon con­tends that the em­ploy­ees were dis­missed for vi­o­lat­ing in­ter­nal poli­cies. Ear­lier this year, hun­dreds of Ama­zon work­ers staged a vir­tual rally, protest­ing what they said were un­eth­i­cal work­ing con­di­tions.

JOVELLE TAMAYO FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

An as­so­ci­ate at an Ama­zon ware­house in Kent, Wash. While Ama­zon lost some of its share of the U.S. online re­tail mar­ket to com­peti­tors, it cited a 40 per­cent spike in net sales in its lat­est earn­ings re­port.

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