When the CDC names “shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” a high risk activity, you can bet this holiday season is going to be different than normal.
Retail giants Walmart and Target have already both announced their holiday hiring sprees this year, as both seek to bolster staff for a predicted e-commerce surge and shifting shopper habits amid a pandemic.
Target said it will double the number of store associates devoted to its buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) Drive Up and Order Pickup services this year, as well as train additional associates to help during peak shopping periods. Walmart said in order to prepare for an expected increase in online shopping this holiday season it will hire more than 20,000 seasonal associates in its e-commerce fulfillment centers.
“The holidays are always a special time, and this year, we think the season will mean even more to our customers,” said Greg Smith, executive vice president for supply chain for Walmart U.S. “As more of them turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we’re staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customer’s everyday needs.”
"The success of our business strategy rests on the strength of our team and their ability to adjust quickly to the needs of our guests and their changing shopping patterns," said Melissa Kremer, Target's chief human resources officer. "Throughout the year, the team has successfully balanced strong demand in our stores with surging digital volume. Knowing that the holiday season will be unlike any other, we're building in even more flexibility to make sure Target remains a safe and convenient place to work and shop, while investing in our team's industry-leading pay and benefits."
How the Pandemic Has Changed shopping
In addition to the CDC warning shoppers against shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported e-commerce and Cyber Monday, naming “shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday” a low risk activity.
In line, Walmart said it’s promising an all-new Black Friday experience this year. The retailer will spread traditional Black Friday savings throughout the season and will have more deals available online.
“Over the past six months, our customers have been shopping differently, and we expect that will continue into the most important shopping season of the year – the holidays,” said Scott McCall, EVP and CMO for Walmart U.S. “We’ve heard from our customers that many plan on starting their holiday shopping well before Black Friday and that they’re looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle.”
Walmart said it’s increasing availability of unexpected holiday gifts that reflect lifestyles in this “new normal,” including athleisure, loungewear and sleepwear; outdoor grills, bicycles, exercise equipment and outdoor sporting equipment; over 3 million pet beds; over 1,300 new toys in its assortment; increased inventory in electronics, with a focus on TVs, laptops and video games; and increased availability of popular kitchen appliances, like the KitchenAid Plus Stand Mixer.
Walmart is already offering these holiday gifts in its stores and on Walmart.com, a move it said is based on customer data that shows 87% of customers who shopped Walmart over the past six months plan to seek out "deals and great prices" earlier this year to better prepare for the holiday season. Walmart found one in three customers is planning to start their holiday shopping before early November.
Meanwhile, Target said its distribution centers will send more inventory to stores than ever before to ensure it has the most in-demand inventory. As a result, Target will hire more full-time and seasonal warehouse team members across the country than last year.
Target also said it will dedicate team members to the front of its stores who will greet and direct shoppers and be responsible for safety precautions like cleaning and disinfecting carts and baskets, metering access so shoppers can maintain social distancing, and providing masks to customers who need them.
To prepare for the season, Target store and distribution team members have completed more than 400,000 hours of safety training this year, with hundreds of thousands of additional hours anticipated before the end of the year, the retailer said.
Of retail and grocery workers, 34% indicated they don’t feel prepared to do their job in the current environment and 30% of those same workers don’t trust or are ambivalent about their employer’s ability to deliver the training they need to do their jobs effectively, with employees in the US having the lowest confidence (64%), according to the fourth annual Global State of Frontline Employee Training Study conducted by Arlington Research for Axonify.
“Historically, there has been an inaccurate and pervasive view that frontline workers aren’t worth investing in. Luckily, the tides are changing because nothing brings a level of focus to the things that truly matter quite like a global pandemic,” said Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify. “It’s now crystal clear that business runs through the frontlines. The things frontline employees do and don’t do absolutely impact how a business performs.”
Looking for work?
Target will move its hiring process online to increase safety this season. Store leaders will conduct pre-scheduled interviews with applicants who apply online. To further ensure safety, virtual and pre-recorded video interviews will be leveraged this year. Prospective distribution center candidates who apply online will also have a contactless hiring experience. Interested candidates can visit TargetSeasonalJobs.com to apply for store positions and distribution center roles.
Applicants interested in Walmart positions can visit walmartcareers.com/fcjobs or text “FC” to 240240 to apply for a variety of positions, including order fillers and power equipment operators. Seasonal employment will begin immediately upon hiring with shifts scheduled as quickly as 48 hours from applying, and it will continue through Jan. 1, 2021.