A Walmart worker arranges Christmas products at a Walmart store in Teterboro, New Jersey.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
Walmart said it will hire 20,000 seasonal employees who will help pack and ship online purchases at its fulfillment centers as it expects more Christmas shopping to move online during the coronavirus pandemic.
It marks the first time in five years that the large retailer has announced significant vacation hires. The company is adding seasonal workers, even after its pandemic-fueled madness. Since March, it has hired more than 500,000 employees in US stores and supply chains to keep up with demand for a wide variety of items, from grocery shopping to hair dyeing and bicycles.
In recent years, Walmart has largely given its existing employees extra hours to keep up with the pace of holiday shopping.
However, the coronavirus pandemic could complicate the season this year. New cases of Covid-1
In a press release Wednesday, Walmart said it will stretch Black Friday sales during the holiday season and have more offers online, rather than squeezing them into a single day filling the stores, although it has shared some details on specific offers.
According to an estimate from consultancy Deloitte, holiday sales could increase between 1% and 1.5% this year. However, he said actual spending will depend on how much high-income consumers spend on lavish gifts and how much low-income families retire due to unemployment or uncertainty.
Another consultancy, AlixPartners, said many Americans will start shopping for holiday gifts before Halloween, as traditions like “door sales” and one-day Black Friday deals fade. Several retailers including Walmart, Target and J.C. Penney have already stated that they will be closed on Thanksgiving. For this reason, AlixPartners includes October in its holiday sales forecast and estimates a 1% to 2.6% increase in sales over the same three-month period last year.
Walmart said it anticipates that many trends that began during the pandemic could continue or intensify during the typically busy shopping season. For example, she said, people’s vacation wish lists could reflect their new, simpler routines. They might ask for items like exercise equipment, since they don’t go to the gym. Customers can purchase leisure clothes or sleepwear for their family and friends to relax at home. And people can treat their new friend who works from home with a new comfortable dog bed or squeaky toy.
“Over the past six months, our customers have shopped differently and we expect it to continue into the biggest shopping season of the year, the holidays,” said Scott McCall, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S. in a press release. “We have heard from our customers that many plan to start Christmas shopping well before Black Friday and are looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle.”
Other retailers have also started offering glimpses of what they see ahead. Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette predicted that consumers will purchase beauty and household items, as people exchange fewer experiential gifts like a spa gift card or movie tickets. Lowe’s accelerated the installation of lockers in major subway markets, anticipating that people may prefer to recover their online purchases of Christmas decorations or a gift of power tools without interacting with employees or other customers. Home Depot said it has partnered with Pinterest to inspire homemade gift ideas, an option that could appeal to the growing number of Americans tackling DIY projects or tightening their belts due to the recession.
And numerous companies are trying to reduce crowds and encourage shopping by extending promotions over a number of months. Home Depot, for example, said its Black Friday specials will run for nearly two months. Target said the holiday deals will start in October. And media reports have suggested that Amazon will hold its delayed sale event, Prime Day, on October 13.
However, some aspects of Walmart’s shopping experience will remain the same – the retailer said it will stick to safety procedures, such as requesting masks. It will also continue to shorten store hours, something that will keep the stores clean and stocked, but could also cut down on parents’ overnight shopping trips.