The holiday sales outlook isn’t quite as glowing for Metro Detroit as it is nationally, but local retailers are gearing up for a robust season with increased holiday hiring.
Many Metro Detroit retailers say they intend to hire more seasonal help than they did last year, and plan to make more of those positions year-round, after the Christmas trees come down.
That gels with the positive nationwide forecast predicted in a September report from outplacement and research firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Retailers added 786,200 jobs in last year’s fourth quarter, and the Challenger report suggests they could add as many as 800,000 this year — “levels not seen since the height of the dot.com boom,” according to CEO John Challenger.
Local economic experts are more guarded than the Challenger report, but still optimistic about Michigan’s fourth quarter this year. University of Michigan economist Don Grimes noted that the national savings rate has dropped, but people seem to be spending their extra cash on big-ticket items such as cars. Grimes predicted a “moderate bounce” in state spending and hiring this holiday season.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of extra money that people can then put just toward the holiday season,” Grimes said. “But because the economy overall has been pretty good, I think we’ll get some sense of people spending more. They’re not as scared as they were a few years ago.”
Bruce Weaver, an economic analyst at the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said the state has consistently added 18,000-20,000 jobs in the fourth quarter since 2010. Although that number slumped from 20,100 in 2012 to 18,500 last year, Weaver was positive about this year’s outlook.
“I don’t see anything in the data so far in our retail to suggest that we wouldn’t again have a pretty healthy gain in retail employment in the fourth quarter of 2014,” he said.
Hiring plans among local retailers present a confident picture of the upcoming season. Twelve Oaks Mall marketing director Emily Taucher said a recent mall job fair “met expectations” for job-seeker turnout, but retailer interest exceeded expectations. Space for the event was at its capacity of 50 retailers, but Taucher said a few additional retailers were added at the last minute, because of late demand.
“If there’s any correlation between the increase in hiring and spending, we will be looking at a pretty strong holiday season,” she said.
Catherine O’Malley, general manager of Fairlane Town Center, said retailers at the Dearborn mall also plan to increase their holiday hiring this year. She said that’s thanks to an overall improved economic climate in 2014, with hopes that winter weather won’t be “sub-zero with huge storms” as it was last year.
“I think [retailers] are looking at what the trends have been, and so far the trends are inching up,” O’Malley said.
Shipping jobs will increase locally as well. FedEx spokeswoman Jennifer Cordeau said the company plans to add 50,000 seasonal positions this year — a huge increase over last year’s 40,000. Two hundred of those jobs will be in the FedEx district supporting Detroit. Although FedEx drew criticism last year for delayed shipments that in some cases arrived after Christmas Day, Cordeau said this year’s hiring boost “is directly tied to overall growth in e-commerce.”
At FedEx and among other employers, many seasonal hires will have the opportunity to stay on after the holiday season. Frank Guglielmi, senior director of communications for Meijer, said the company plans to hire 10,000 this season, half of them in Michigan. Although that number is roughly the same the company hired at the end of last year, Meijer opened nine stores this year — including two in Michigan — that will need year-round employees.
“We have stores right now that are understaffed in terms of the regular roles,” Guglielmi said. “So there’s a lot of stores where there’s an opportunity to step in right now into ... an ongoing part-time role, rather than seasonal.”
Several Metro Detroit Target stores reported similar hiring plans for the season.
“We had more permanent positions in the past,” said Julie Holiday, human resources executive at Target’s Allen Park store. “We’re actually trying to hire more permanent team members, but we will be hiring seasonal also.”
Although optimism is pervasive among retailers, the job market still presents a frustrating landscape for some local job seekers.
Redford resident Sharon Lyons, 53, was laid off from Delta Global Services in April when the aviation services company lost its contract at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Despite 20 years of experience in retail management, Lyons has had no luck finding a new job. She attended the Twelve Oaks’ job fair in hopes of finding a permanent position, but said she’s realized she might have to take a seasonal job in order to get a chance at year-round work.
“I feel that I have a lot of experience and skills to offer, but to really get a call-back, and sometimes even an acknowledgment of receiving your resume, can sometimes be here and there,” Lyons said. “It’s not consistent. So as a person who is seriously looking for a job, putting in applications constantly and consistently, I don’t see the return in the work.”
She is still awaiting a call for a Twelve Oaks job.
■Macy’s: About 86,000 seasonal holiday workers nationwide, a 3.6 percent increase from last year. This year, about 10,000 of the seasonal workers will be based in eight distribution centers across the country. Last year, that figure was 7,000.
■Meijer: 10,000, including 5,000 in Michigan. That’s roughly on par with last year.
■UPS: 95,000, up from 85,000 last year.
■Wal-Mart Stores Inc.: 60,000, a nearly 10 percent increase over last year.
■Kohl’s: More than 67,000, a 15 percent increase. It expects to hire an average of 50 associates per store, up 25 percent from a year ago. Kohl’s has 45 stores in Michigan, including 24 in Metro Detroit; it will hire an average of 50 seasonal workers per store.
■Target Corp.: 70,000, even with 2013.
■GameStop: 25,000, 47 percent more than last year.
■JCPenney: 35,000, the same figure as a year ago.
■Toys “R” Us: 45,000, the same as last year
Source: Challenger, Gray and Christmas