Retailers Hiring the Most Employees for the Holidays

24/7 Wall St.

As the holiday season approaches, retailers are preparing for the busiest shopping time of the year by increasing their workforces. Five of the nation’s largest retailers will add nearly 300,000 jobs combined this winter. Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) said it plans to add 83,000 temporary jobs -- the most of any retailer. Additionally, among e-commerce firms, the largest, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) will add 70,000 workers.

While 2013 holiday spending is expected to rise compared to 2012, retailers are not expected to hire more than they did last year. In fact, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas expects retailers might not even match 2012 seasonal hiring totals. To determine the companies adding the most workers this holiday season, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed seasonal hiring announcements from America’s largest retailers.

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Click here which retailers are adding the most jobs

While overall holiday hiring is expected to be flat at best, some individual retailers are expected to increase hiring, while others plan on scaling back. Target Corp. (TGT) will offer 18,000 fewer seasonal jobs than last year. Both Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Macy’s will hire more this season than they did last year. According to Challenger Gray CEO John Challenger, “seasonal hiring depends on current staffing levels.” He explained that some companies have hired more throughout the year, reducing their need to hire for the holidays.

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Many top retailers have been adversely affected by the growth of e-retail, especially Amazon.com. According to a recent report by Deloitte, brick-and-mortar holiday sales will rise an estimated 4.0% to 4.5% this year, while non-store sales will rise 12.5% to 13.0%, largely led by online shopping.

While Amazon continues to scale up its own holiday hiring , adding 70,000 jobs this season, many retailers, including Walmart, have sought to push back by offering their own e-commerce sites and using their stores as distribution hubs for online orders. Challenger told 24/7 Wall St. that “every year e-retail gets stronger,” with growth in both online sales as well as “clicks and bricks” -- the use of mobile technology while shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

In addition to the growth of e-commerce, many retailers have had to contend with declining consumer confidence. Weak consumer confidence in the economy has been a drag on seasonal hiring. Challenger noted that consumer confidence is a crucial factor in companies’ sales forecasts and in determining the products they carry, as well as what markets they operate in and how much they hire.

Retailers also are constrained by the incomes of their consumers. Recently released Census Bureau figures showed no improvement in U.S. household income between 2011 and 2012. Many consumers also have had to tighten their belts after the federal government failed to renew the nation’s payroll tax holiday. Target’s CEO specifically cited the lack of income growth and high payroll taxes as contributing to the company’s lackluster performance.

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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 2012 retail sales. To make our list, the company needed to be one of the nation’s 30 largest retailers and to have announced hiring plans for the holiday season. They also needed to be a general retailer, which means they have physical stores and sell a wide variety of products and brands. For this reason, we excluded companies like Amazon.com and Apple Inc. (AAPL). Employment estimates are from company annual reports.

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

1. J.C. Penney
> 2013 seasonal hires: 35,000
> Change from 2012: N/A
> Employees: 116,000
> Stores: 1,097

This year, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) is expected to hire an estimated 35,000 workers this holiday season. While J.C. Penney did not disclose these figures last year, the beleaguered retailer has faced considerable pressures from investors to disclose good news this year. The company’s decision to phase out coupons in favor of “everyday low prices," alienated customers. The decision was since reversed and the company fired its highly compensated chief executive officer, Ron Johnson, and replaced him with his predecessor. However, the change back has not been enough to return J.C. Penney to profitability, and the company has been widely rumored to be struggling to manage its cash.

2. Kohl’s
> 2013 seasonal hires: 53,070
> Change from 2012: +354
> Employees: 135,000
> Stores: 1,146

Kohl’s Corp. (KSS) said it plans to add more than 53,000 workers this year for the holiday season. This includes an estimated 6,400 associates hired for its distribution and call centers. This is up only slightly from last year, when the company hired just over 52,700 store associates. The company is not just planning on using seasonal hires to scale up for the holiday season, but it also will remodel 30 stores this fall as part of its holiday preparations. Kohl’s most recent financial results were mixed. While the company's profit declined and it pared back expectations for the rest of the year, its same-store-sales rose slightly.

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3. Walmart
> 2013 seasonal hires: 55,000
> Change from 2012: +5,000
> Employees: 1.3 million (U.S.)
> Stores: 4,570

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) recently announced it was hiring 55,000 workers for the holidays, up about 10% from the year before. Additionally, the world's largest retailer has been courting holiday shoppers by offering its layaway service for free this year. Walmart is expected to expand its shipping directly from local stores to customers who place orders at Walmart.com, as part of its platform to fight off increased competition from online retailers, most notably Amazon.com. Recently, the company has faced staffing issues, often lacking enough employees to properly stock shelves at some of its stores. At the same time, employees have protested for better pay and working conditions nationwide.

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4. Target
> 2013 seasonal hires: 70,000
> Change from 2012: -18,000
> Employees: 361,000
> Stores: 1,778

Target Corp. (TGT) is adding 70,000 seasonal jobs this year, a massive number by almost any measure. But the number actually is low, compared to 2012, when the company hired 88,000 workers. Target is hiring fewer workers partly because many current employees wanted more holiday hours. Also, higher payroll taxes have tightened shoppers’ budgets. In a recent earnings call, CEO Gregg Steinhafel cited both limited income growth and payroll taxes as contributing to weak results.

5. Macy’s
> 2013 seasonal hires: 83,000
> Change from 2012: +3,000
> Employees: 175,700
> 2012 Stores: 841

Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is an iconic part of the winter holidays. But Macy's is not just flying balloons to kick off the holiday season, it also is hiring many workers for that busy time of year. Between its call centers, stores and distribution network, Macy’s is slated to hire 83,000 seasonal workers in 2013, up from the roughly 80,000 seasonal associates it hired in 2012. With industry observers expecting retailers to hire less this year than last year’s 12-year high, Macy's hiring increase somewhat bucks the trend. However, the company’s most recent results and store traffic figures disappointed Wall Street. Macy’s noted that consumers were cautious about non-essential purchases.

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