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Target expects payroll to rise $50 million to staff for busy December

Target Team members meet before Black Friday in Chicago.

John Gress | Corbis | Getty Images

NEW YORK — Say goodbye to the “December lull.”

Typically, during the holidays, shoppers rush to stores to scoop up deals on Black Friday, comb the internet for Cyber Monday bargains and then take a break before returning to finish their holiday shopping in a last-minute rush.

This year, however, there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2019 — making for the shortest possible holiday season. And Target predicts shoppers won’t have time for that December pause.

“We have one less weekend during this holiday season,” CEO Brian Cornell said during a media event, held in Manhattan, on Wednesday. Because of that, “I think we are going to see a very consistent rhythm and drumbeat” of shoppers during December, he added.

“We will staff accordingly,” Cornell said. “Every day is going to count.”

In order to keep up with peak demand, Target said, it expects it will spend $50 million more on payroll during the fourth quarter than it did a year ago. It said it will use the funds to offer more overtime and increase the number of workers in stores at the busiest hours.

Target said in September it was looking to hire more than 130,000 seasonal workers, up from its goal of 120,000 workers in 2018.

According to Cornell, hiring so far is “right on track.”

Walmart on Wednesday echoed similar sentiment. It said it’s kicking off deals online “earlier than ever” this year, beginning at midnight ET Friday, to deal with the shorter season.

Like it did last year, Target is making shipping free for all shoppers, with no minimum purchase required, beginning on Nov. 1 and running through Dec. 21. It continues to expect that its services such as curbside pickup and same-day delivery via Shipt will boost e-commerce orders.

It also has 25 Disney stores within certain Target stores — a first for the company this holiday season — which could be a boon to its toys business. And Target announced earlier this month it’s partnering with the parent company of the Toys R Us brand, TRU Kids, to relaunch ToysRUs.com. Anyone who visits ToysRUs.com to buy something will be redirected to Target.com to complete the purchase.

Cornell said 2018 was Target’s “most successful holiday in more than a decade.” Last year, Target rang up $22.98 billion in sales during the busy fourth quarter.

After investing in store renovations, adding more private brands and bulking up its delivery offerings, Target’s total same-store sales last year increased 5%, the strongest growth since 2005. Target’s e-commerce sales climbed 36% in 2018.

Cornell said the momentum, so far, has continued ahead of this holiday season.

Target shares are up more than 68% since the beginning of this year. The stock hit an all-time intraday high of $114.83 on Tuesday. The S&P 500 Retail ETF is up just about 7%.

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