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Retail Innovation|October 22, 2019

Retailers are Hiring for the Holidays, but for the Store?

Shoppers beware: Retailers are planning to hire more seasonal workers this season, but that doesn't assure better in-store experiences. Many of those workers will be fulfilling online orders far from the store. Retailers should make 2020 the year of the in-line-online balance.

Retailers better watch out: If this holiday season’s in-store experiences are anything less than nice for shoppers, they’ll be on the naughty list in 2020.

Big-name merchants are adding tens of thousands of employees for the holidays, but that doesn’t guarantee in-store shoppers will see an influx of sales associates ready to make their holiday buying easier. A lot of this season’s hires will be heading directly to warehouses and delivery trucks to fulfill online orders.

This effort makes sense, to a point: Our How America Shops® research reveals that 17% to 23% of those who shop Sephora, Macy’s and Ulta purchased from these merchants only online in the three months before the survey. For other major retailers, the figure is close to 20%.

But the inverse of this finding is that the lion’s share of shopping still occurs in the store, a fact made more compelling with the approaching holiday spending season. The National Retail Federation projects sales to rise this year by about 4%, to nearly $730 billion, with the online portion projected to be $167 billion, 23% of the total holiday sales.

Will the number of people hired to walk the floors match the 77% of sales expected to be rung up in-store? Among retailers earmarking their budgets for online shoppers: Macy’s, Target and Kohl’s, with plans to hire a combined 45,000 workers for order fulfillment.

Shoppers Migrating Online

Fewer in-store workers results in a frustrating shopping experience at any time of the year. Add the crowds and general stress of holiday shopping, and time-starved shoppers, intent on grabbing and going, are more apt to write off stores that slow their progress. 

Retailers are doing a bang-up job of eliminating barriers to online shopping and matching Amazon on fast delivery, but they do so at the risk of losing their store traffic. The holiday season is not the time to risk losing more brick shoppers; not while there are brick stores to maintain.

Shoppers have long memories. Disappointing them during the holidays is bad for business all year long.

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