A target store advertises for workers near its entrance in Encinitas, California, May 24, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Target said Thursday that holiday hiring will be in line with last year, but it is rethinking its approach to roles for those workers to adapt to customers’ new shopping habits during the coronavirus pandemic.
Twice as many Target employees will be dedicated to same-day curbside and in-store pickup of online purchases compared with the first half of the year. Distribution centers will have more workers than last holiday season to make sure stores don’t run out of popular items. Some workers will focus on safety and cleaning. And across stores, employees will be cross-trained so they can switch from task to task as needed, from disinfecting shopping carts to helping with curbside pickup during peak hours.
Cornell said its approach to staffing and serving customers over the holidays will emphasize flexibility — a theme that all retailers have had to embrace as the pandemic shakes up the way Americans shop. He said he expects “certain trends from earlier this year will continue during the holiday season,” such as customers wanting to feel safe at stores and seeking good value.
“Certainly, we continue to see the guests gravitate towards the ease and convenience and contact-free ways to shop through our digital channels,” he said.
Early holiday forecasts anticipate that holiday sales will rise this year, but only slightly, as consumers cope with an uncertain economy or pull back because of the recession. Consulting firm Deloitte predicted that holiday sales could rise by 1% to 1.5% this year, but said it will depend on whether high-income consumers splurge and if lower-income families rein in their spending.
Cornell declined to provide an outlook for the typically busy shopping season. However, he said the retailer will make other pandemic-related changes, such as beginning holiday deals in October.
“We do expect this to be a very different holiday season,” he said. “We expect guests to start shopping earlier and shop throughout the season. We’re not expecting long lines on Black Friday morning. But we certainly expect a very engaged consumer and a Target guest who’s looking forward to celebrating the holiday season.”
Target’s chief human resources officer Melissa Kremer said current employees can get additional hours and opt for duties outside of their typical department, such as fulfilling online orders. More than 90% of the retailer’s online orders are fulfilled at stores.
The company’s total holiday hiring will look the same as last year — despite soaring sales. Last year, Target hired 130,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, up from its goal of 120,000 workers in 2018. About 40% of those hires typically are retained as employees.
Target has seen sales boom during the pandemic, particularly in the second quarter that ended Aug. 1. It blew away Wall Street’s expectations, hitting a record for same-store sales growth of 24.3%. Its comparable digital sales nearly doubled.
Same-day services, in particular, have fueled its sales throughout the pandemic. Target offers three options: Shipt, an online home delivery service that can deliver groceries to customers’ homes; Drive Up, its curbside pickup service; and Order Pickup, in-store pickup of ready-to-go purchases. Sales through the services grew 273% year over year in the second quarter. DriveUp saw the sharpest growth — a 700% jump.
Cornell attributed that growth to the different ways families spent money as they couldn’t go to the movies or on typical summer vacations. Some also discovered Target’s e-commerce options, he said.
Like other retailers, Target has seen a shift towards e-commerce. During the first half of fiscal 2020, more than 10 million new customers shopped on its website. Demand for its same-day options — which are all purchased online — quadrupled.
Yet unlike big-box competitor Walmart, Target has not hired hundreds of thousands of new employees during the pandemic. Walmart has hired more than 500,000 workers across its stores and supply chain during the pandemic and said it plans to hire 20,000 seasonal workers for its fulfillment centers for the holidays.