Tri-City retailers are hiring even as holiday shopping heads online

Tri-City retailers are staffing up for the holiday shopping season even as customers head online because of the pandemic.

U.S. shoppers will spend more than $189 billion online during the holiday season, a 33% increase that represents two years’ worth of typical growth, according to the Adobe Analytics Holiday Forecast 2020.

The report notes that online spending will surpass $200 billion if there is another round of federal stimulus payments or if physical stores are closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Washington Employment Security Department has not released retail projections for the 2020 season.

Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist, noted that retail jobs are thriving in the pandemic, with 500 more jobs now than a year ago.

It has been a bumpy ride. The sector dropped 500 jobs in April, the first full month after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order took effect.

By June, hiring resumed and by September it had surpassed 2019 levels.

“Most of our retail is big box all-around shopping centers — Home Depot, Costco, Walmart, Fred Meyer, Lowe’s. That is what dominates retail trade in our community. They hire and have a lot of jobs,” she said.

Retail is the third largest employer in Benton and Franklin counties and represents 10.3% of all jobs when agriculture is included. The average annual wage was $32,982 in 2019, up $400 from the prior year.

Retail openings in Benton and surrounding areas posted to the state’s WorkSource system include positions in large and small firms alike. Some, such as J.C. Penney and Macy’s, post jobs to their own sites rather than the state one. Many are filling posts left vacant when staff did not come back after retailers were allowed to reopen under the state’s Safe Start plan.

Suljic said it is unclear if hiring will match non-Covid years, but retailers need people for their growing pickup and delivery business.

“It looks like there are plenty of opportunities,” she said.

As for shoppers, they increasingly shop on mobile devices and will seek out great deals.

Mobile spending will account for 42% of online sales, according to the Adobe Analytics forecast.

Thanksgiving Day sales are expected to rise 42.3% to $6 billion, Black Friday by 39% to $10.3 billion and Cyber Monday by 35% to $12.7 billion.

Small businesses will see a 107% holiday season revenue boost while large retailers will see an 84% boost.

The report noted the best days to buy as well. Black Friday is the best day to buy appliances and TVs. Nov. 28 is the best day for computers, while Nov. 29 is best for furniture and toys. Dec. 13 is the best day for sporting goods. Dec. 18 is tops for electronics, and Dec. 26 is the best day for tools and home improvement.

More than half of shoppers said they will support small and local retailers on Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28.

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