It's just the beginning of fall, but many industries are already planning for winter. The hiring of seasonal workers usually begins this time of the year. Around 500,000 temporary employees are hired annually by the retail industry during the holiday season alone. (Inman, 2021)

But this year, we see a different trend. After hiring sprees last year, some U.S. retailers are curtailing their hiring plans for the holiday season. Walmart and Amazon both have advertised far fewer job openings this year. Surprisingly, many other retailers have not revealed their hiring plans now, which is unusual since most announcements for holiday hiring come in September. (Isidore. 2022)

The inflation rate continues to rise, and with it, the threat of recession looms. Considering that the economy remains uncertain, and the labor market remains tight, retail sales could take a hit this year as a result. Despite these concerns, retailers still have a silver lining, as experts predict a 4% to 6% increase in retail sales this holiday season. (Deloitte, 2022)

That said, the holiday season is fast approaching. Regardless of the market conditions, retailers must be prepared to handle the demand. The Talent War to secure seasonal workers has begun. By offering innovative benefits, retailers will be able to attract and retain top talent. (Schwab, 2022)

While online shopping will remain important, there has been a significant shift to in-store purchase preference. Retail research firm NPD surveyed 3,600 consumers and 46% said they would shop in stores more in 2022 than in 2021. (Wilson, 2022)

(Reuters, 2022)

Walmart announced it’s hiring 40,000 seasonal workers this year — 110,000 fewer workers than last year. Out of which, 36,500 are in-store roles. Current employees will have the opportunity to pick up additional holiday hours, after which, Walmart will hire temporary staff as needed. More than 50% of seasonal associates will transition to part-time or full-time positions in the new year, the company reports. While the hiring numbers may be far behind last year’s goals, Walmart feels confident in hiring fewer seasonal workers this year. Walmart told Axios that its “staffing is stronger heading into this holiday season than it was last year.” (Tyko, 2022; Waggoner, 2022)

With some experts predicting a slower holiday season adjusted for inflation, Walmart’s decision might be strategic. Alan Benson, a labor professor at the University of Minnesota, believes that this approach will allow companies to downshift hours if the sales don’t match the expected demand. (Jackstebbs, 2022)

On the contrary, Amazon plans to hire 150,000 seasonal workers, about the same as last year, despite slowing sales and predictions that the holiday shopping season will be lackluster, reports Bloomberg. Last year, Amazon aggressively hired its warehouse staff to keep up with masks and sanitizer orders amid the pandemic, resulting in their facilities being overstaffed. This year, Amazon is still welcoming warehouse staff in great numbers, partly because the company has reported the highest turnover in that department. (Day & Soper, 2022; Lerman, 2022)

While Amazon’s plan for seasonal workers looks healthy, its recent announcement on freezing corporate hiring in its retail business does signal that the company is still adjusting to the unfavorable market conditions and looking at cost-saving measures. (Weise, 2022)

Macy’s has also kept pace with other major retailers, announcing hiring of more than 41,000 workers for its seasonal employment at its Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Blue Mercury stores. During last year’s holiday season, Macy's employed 76,000 full and part-time workers, with 48,000 jobs dedicated to the holiday season. (Macy's, 2022)

Dried autumn leaves, flowers, cotton bud, acorn, box and pinecone on white background
Photo by Tijana Drndarski / Unsplash

Hiring top seasonal workers with innovative benefits

This year, companies continue to streamline their digital applications to hire faster. Macy’s, for example, touts that applications take as little as five minutes, with most job offers placed within 48 hours. By embracing new technology, retailers can greatly reduce their hiring process.

As per the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail employee turnover currently averages around 60% in the United States. Considering the top reason to leave is a lack of flexibility, according to McKinsey & Company, it’s no surprise that employers like Walmart and Macy’s are embracing workplace flexibility this holiday season. For hourly workers, this means they can choose their desired hours. (Fuller et al., 2022)

Pays are competitive this year. Walmart has boosted its average hourly wage to more than $17. Amazon offers wages starting at $19 per hour and up to a $3000 sign-on bonus in some locations. Macy’s is offering pay starting at $15 an hour. (Person & Siddharth Cavale, 2022)

Besides offering flexibility, Macy’s offers an innovative benefit this year called Earned Wage Access (EWA), also known as an on-demand pay. This financial service gives seasonal hires access to a portion of their earned wages ahead of their payday. This flexible form of payment enables workers to access their earned wages as needed to meet immediate expenses.

Employee support extends beyond pay, flexibility, and ease of application. Walmart, Macy's, and Amazon all offer fully funded education programs as part of their employee benefits. All new seasonal hires will be able to benefit from this once they become permanent. (Colvin, 2022)

Retaining seasonal workers beyond the holidays

For retailers, employee retention is equally as important as hiring. This is reflected in how all major retailers have a positive outlook on long-term careers for seasonal workers. At Walmart, 75% of salaried managers began as hourly workers. Macy’s reports that one-third of their leadership team started their careers during the holiday season. (Macy’s, 2022)

John Felton, Amazon’s senior vice president of Worldwide Operations, said:

“Whether someone is looking for some extra money for a few months or a long-term career, the holidays are a great time for people to join Amazon, and many of our seasonal employees return year-after-year or transition into full-time roles.” (Walk-Morris, 2022)

Retailers face the challenge of hiring seasonal workers each year. By being able to retain more employees, the need to fill jobs can greatly reduce each year as retailers become well-staffed. In that regard, low seasonal hiring numbers may be a healthy sign for companies.

Rising inflation and the fear of recession will be here for a while. While retailers cannot do much about it, they can work on building and maintaining a resilient workforce that can navigate these tough market conditions. With the forecasts of expected holiday sales on retailers’ side, hiring and retaining top seasonal workers will be the key to winning this season. By offering innovative benefits like Earned Wage Access (EWA), greater work flexibility, and faster hiring, retailers can ensure they stand out from the crowd to attract the best workers for this season and the next.