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Retailers Start Hiring Holiday Workers

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Toys R Us employees clap as Black Friday bargain hunters enter the store. (credit: Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

Toys R Us employees clap as Black Friday bargain hunters enter the store. (credit: Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - The holidays are fast approaching — only 91 days until Christmas — and several retailers across the area are preparing for the busy shopping season by increasing their staff over the next few months.

Specialty toy retailer Toys R Us announced on Tuesday that they are planning to hire 45,000 employees to staff their stores and distribution centers nationwide during the holidays. This number, the company said, is on par with how many additional workers were hired last year.

The store chain relies on holiday employees in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as brick-and-mortar locations become filled with parents and families, and the company’s website reaches a peak in traffic.

“We’re proud to create thousands of jobs across the country as we prepare for our busiest time of year in stores and online,” said Elizabeth Wood, senior vice president of human resources for Toys R Us. “Part of what differentiates us as a specialty retailer is having knowledgeable toy-trained associates in stores to help parents find the perfect present for their child.”

Seasonal positions include sales associates and inventory replenishment workers. Hiring begins this week at Toys R Us locations across the country, and will continue through December. Other seasonal jobs are available to help fulfill online orders. The company’s 10 distribution centers — one of which is located in Midlothian — are also looking for employees through November.

Toys R Us said that nearly 7,000 seasonal workers from 2011 returned to the company in 2012, and 15 percent of seasonal employees from last year remained with the company after the holidays, taking on permanent positions.

Walmart is also planning to hire additional workers for the holidays. The retailer said that 55,000 new employees would be brought on, and more than 35,000 current part-time workers would be moved into full-time positions. This shift is significant because it now offers benefits to more Walmart employees. The company had been criticized by labor groups arguing that not enough workers were eligible to receive full benefits.

“Our associates have always been the key to Walmart’s success, and that’s especially true during the holidays,” said executive vice presdient Gisel Ruiz. “In addition to the traditional hiring of seasonal help, we are expanding opportunities for the people that already work for us.”

Walmart employs about 1.3 million full-time and part-time workers across the country.

Another 35,000 current temporary Walmart workers would be tranferred into part-time positions — giving expanded roles to roughly 70,000 employees. That is all in addition to the 55,000 new positions being created for the holidays. In comparison, last year, the retailer only hired 50,000 new workers, while only promising additional hours to current employees.

But while Walmart is adding far more employees than last year, Target will be cutting down holiday hiring by about 20 percent. The retailer plans to bring on just about 70,000 seasonal workers, aiming to be more efficient in their hiring practices and help satisfy their current staff members.

According to Target, permanent employees wanted to get first dibs on working extra hours for the holiday season. Vice president of human resources Jodee Koziak said that one third of last year’s holiday hires were eventually moved into permanent positions.

Target also wants to respond to the anticipated peaks and valleys of consumer traffic. Many shoppers are being more choosy in when they head to the store, only purchasing when they feel they are getting the best deals. “We’re getting smarter in terms of anticipating how many resources we need when guests are really going to be shopping the hardest,” said Koziak.

Department store chain JCPenney is also planning to hire additional workers to help keep them well-staffed throughout the holiday season. The Plano-based company said on Tuesday that they will be adding 35,000 employees across 1,100 of their stores. Last year, the retailer did not disclose how many new workers were hired for the holidays, so there is no point of comparison.

Kohl’s announced last week that they plan to hire 53,000 seasonal workers, up slightly from last year.

Holiday shopping can typically account for as much as 40 percent of a store’s annual revenue. However, this year, retailers are bracing for a tough season. Analysts study the holiday hiring figures from retailers for clues about employment trends and sales expectations. Bob Funk with Express Employment Professionals said, “We’re seeing hiring, but not at the magnitude of past years.”

Holiday hiring is expected to be relatively flat because of cautious consumer spending and uncertainty about the economic environment.

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