By Brecken Branstrator
Macy’s said it would hire 80,000 holiday workers this year, down from the 83,000 it employed seasonally in 2016, but would allocate a larger number to direct-to-consumer fulfillment facilities. Pictured here is the Macy’s store in West Palm Beach, Florida.
New York--Predictions for the 2017 holiday season are rolling in, giving some indication of how much consumers are expected to spend in November and December.

Deloitte is predicting retail holiday sales to increase by between 4 to 4. 5 percent over last year, while its forecast for e-commerce growth is an increase in the range of 18 to 21 percent.

Meanwhile, the NRF said last week that it expects holiday retail sales in November and December, excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants, to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent.

Aside from predictions, one of the most telling signs of holiday success (or failure) to come is the major retailers’ holiday hiring plans: how many seasonal workers they plan to add, and how that compares with last year.

Global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said that seasonal retail employment during the last three months of 2016 was up by 641,000, the lowest number since 2009 and almost 10 percent lower than the prior year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that there could be high demand for seasonal jobs this year: “The competition among major big-box retailers will incentivize consumers to spend more this holiday season. These stores will need to add staff in order to meet demand,” CEO John Challenger said in a press release.

The NRF said during its holiday conference call last week that it expects retailers to hire between 500,000 and 550,000 temporary workers this holiday season, down from last year’s 575,000.

(The NRF did note, however, that it relies on data from government sources, which covers primarily hires for physical stores and hasn’t been updated to reflect the changes in the industry, especially in regards to hires for distribution, warehousing, logistics and more.)

Meanwhile, announcements from the majors on their holiday plans are coming in, offering a look at how they’re actually feeling about the upcoming season, and it’s a mixed bag.

Here’s what a few of them are doing this year.

Target is hiring 100,000 new employees for the 2017 holiday season to fulfill a variety of roles, including in-store help and fulfilling online orders at stores as it expands order pick-up and ship-from-store capabilities, a large jump from the 70,000 it hired last year.

The retailer also specified that 4,500 of the open positions would be reserved for the distribution and fulfillment centers, which is down from the 7,500 positions it dedicated to such roles in 2016.

Macy’s announced plans to hire 80,000 seasonal employees for positions at its Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores, call centers, distribution centers and online fulfillment centers across the country, slightly less than the 83,000 it hired last year.

The retailer specified that 18,000 of those seasonal positions will be based in direct-to-consumer fulfillment facilities to support sales generated by the company’s omnichannel business (an increase of 3,000 compared with last year) and approximately 1,000 hired for customer service roles via phone, email and chat.

JC Penney is planning to hire more than 40,000 seasonal workers this year, which is comparable to what it did last year. The positions will be available in stores, at facilities and customer care centers across the country.

Walmart, meanwhile, said it is taking the same approach as last year. Rather than hiring new seasonal workers, it instead will offer the extra hours to its current associates.

The extra hours will staff traditional roles for the retailer, like cashier and stocker, as well as newly created “technology-powered positions,” like personal shoppers and pickup associates. Walmart also will bringing back the Holiday Helper program to help customers get through stores faster and will be increasing the number of helpers in each store this year.

Kohl’s is not releasing any specific numbers on its holiday hiring, saying only that it will vary by location and that it expects hiring to be at similar levels as in recent years. In 2016, the company hired about 69,000 and the year before that it was 67,000.

A spokesperson for Sears Holdings told National Jeweler the same thing, noting that each Sears and Kmart store bases its hiring on its own needs and that they can’t provide specific projections on hiring for 2017.

Amazon has not yet announced its plans for the holidays.

Independent Hiring
As independent jewelry retailers also start looking to add seasonal help, Jewelers Mutual offered the following tips to make sure the right people are employed.

1. Check with the U.S. Department of Labor to determine any specific laws that might apply in each individual state. Also, remember that seasonal employees still fall under many federal laws, and business owners must comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes things like requirements for overtime pay, ADA laws and anti-discrimination.

2. Keep appropriate records of wages and hours at all times. Written company policies, include break policies, work hours and pay, should be provided to all seasonal employees.

3. Take the same steps as when hiring a full-time employee; if there is a formal vetting policy, that shouldn’t change when hiring a seasonal employee.

4. Make sure the store and the employee mutually agrees upon the term of this employment, and communicate the relationship is “at-will.” This should be in writing, and the employee needs to sign the document.

5. Make time to train all new employees on the ins and outs of the business. Even though they might be seasonal, the store wants to put its best foot forward when dealing with every customer.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.