Now that Halloween is behind us, the time has come to focus on bigger things: the 2017 holiday season. Retail imports have been on the rise as the industry braces for the busiest time of the year. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) latest projections call for a 3.6 to 4 percent increase in holiday sales for 2017 over the same period in 2016. That makes for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year. Most estimates see e-commerce shopping increasing by as much as 20 percent this year. With so much shopping to be done, retailers and shippers are bracing for the rush. Here are how some of the largest companies are preparing.
UPS is preparing for a surge in packages this year, although the company has not released its holiday projections yet. On average, however, the company handles 19 million packages a day; during the peak holiday season, that number jumps to more than 30 million packages a day. To meet the increasing demand, UPS plans to hire 95,000 seasonal employees, which is roughly the same number as last year. These employees will cover areas such as drivers, package handlers, and other warehouse tasks. Rather than increasing the number of seasonal employees, UPS is offering weekly retention bonuses, which can increase hourly pay by several dollars an hour, or as much as $200 a week. As reported earlier, UPS is also adding delivery surcharges during peak holiday times. This includes a 27-cent charge on all ground packages sent to homes between November 19 and December 2, and an extra 27 cents for each ground shipment, 81 cents for next-day air, and 97 cents for two- or three-day delivery between December 17 and 23.
FedEx is also hiring a similar number of seasonal employees when compared to last year. The company plans to hire 50,000 workers as drivers, package handlers, and warehouse logistics professionals. FedEx will also offer extra hours to current employees rather than bringing in even more seasonal workers. FedEx has engineered its networks to add more sortation and delivery capabilities in order to accommodate the increase in demand for larger and heavier packages. This includes entire facilities that are temporarily dedicated to oversized packages. In addition, like UPS, the company is implementing holiday delivery surcharges. FedEx’s surcharge will be in effect from November 20 to December 24. The surcharge includes FedEx Express and FedEx Ground shipments in the United States and Canada, and will increase by $3 per package for additional handling, $25 per package for oversized goods, and $300 per package for oversized goods.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has not announced its hiring numbers yet, but projections appear to be in line with last year’s number of 35,000. The USPS is expecting a 10 percent increase in the number of pieces of mail (15 billion) and packages handled (850 million) compared to last year. This year, USPS has added a new online tool that enables package recipients to reschedule delivery times to ensure someone is home when the package arrives. While Sunday delivery is available in many areas, the Postal Service will increase the number of areas covered to handle the increase in deliveries for the peak season.
Much like the three aforementioned companies, Amazon is hiring about the same number of seasonal employees this year as it did last year: 120,000. The seasonal employees will be spread over 75 fulfillment centers in 33 states. One of the main reasons that Amazon will not be hiring more seasonal staff this year is the fact that the company has expanded its fulfillment center footprint, and now employs 125,000 workers at these centers, 90 percent of which are full-time. Amazon will continue to look at other delivery avenues to reduce its reliance on UPS and FedEx, including the use of its private fleet and the newly tested “Seller Flex” program which allows Amazon to oversee the pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants selling goods on Amazon.com and their delivery to customers’ homes.
Between UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Amazon alone, seasonal hiring should hit approximately 300,000 workers or more. Clearly, these are not the only companies making holiday plans. Macy’s plans to add 80,000 temporary workers this holiday season. The positions include in-store jobs and associates to work by phone, email and online chat, as well as 18,000 positions in direct-to-consumer fulfillment facilities around the US. Target plans to hire 100,000 seasonal employees, which is a 43 percent increase over last year. This number does not include an additional 4,500 seasonal jobs available at distribution and e-commerce fulfillment centers across the US.
Walmart is taking a decidedly different approach this year. While it hired around 60,000 seasonal employees last year, the company has decided not to hire any temporary employees this year. Instead, current employees will be given additional hours to cover the surge. Best Buy has not released hiring numbers yet, but the company is rolling out its annual “free holiday shipping” program once again. Best Buy has also announced plans to expand its same-day delivery service with an increased partnership with crowd-sourced delivery option Deliv.
All in all, seasonal hiring will be close to a quarter of billion jobs, which is pretty similar to last year’s numbers. There is a heavy emphasis on e-commerce fulfillment as more and more consumers ditch the trip to the mall and shop online instead. These plans will continue to evolve, but the rush is about to begin.