How Retailers Hired for Holiday 2023—and What It Means for 2024

Karen Axelton
February 12, 2024
4 min read

Holiday retail hiring has always been a challenge, but recent years have added new hurdles. What trends affected retail employers’ hiring practices in 2023, and what lessons do they hold for 2024?

Rebounding holiday retail sales, customer demand for promotions, new approaches to seasonal hiring, and worsening warehouse and transportation worker shortages all impacted retail holiday hiring this year.  Here’s a closer look at what these trends mean for your organization’s hiring plans.

Retail sales rebound

The number of consumers shopping over the holiday weekend from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday hit a record 200.4 million, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reports. Overall, 2023 retail holiday sales rose 3.1% compared to the previous year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Clearly, concerns about inflation didn't dampen consumer spending. Couple this growth with waning inflation predicted for the coming year, and retailers may be looking toward a strong 2024.   

What it means for hiring

Strong consumer spending may require more staff to meet growing demand throughout 2024 and into next year’s holiday season. Retail labor shortages are easing; UKG, a workforce management solution provider, reports fewer retailers were “desperate for talent” this year than during the 2022 holiday season.

However, frequent turnover and understaffing remain serious concerns. In a survey by UKG, retailers predicted their stores would be understaffed an average of four days per week during the 2023 holiday season. Almost three-quarters (74%) believe understaffing will be a concern throughout 2024. Ongoing recruiting efforts can help prevent staffing shortfalls, as can focusing on employee satisfaction to retain existing workers. Offering schedule flexibility, weekly payouts, and competitive pay can help you attract and keep retail workers.  

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Promotional events pay off

Consumers were more strategic about their holiday spending in 2023. Successful retailers lured shoppers by launching holiday promotions early and using creative marketing tactics, such as pop-up shops, social media-based sales, and virtual reality events. The tactic worked: NRF data shows 55% of shoppers participated in early holiday sales. Stretching retail promotions out over several months enabled cost-conscious shoppers to spread out spending, too, while biding their time for the best value.

What it means for hiring

Extended promotions and creative marketing tactics will likely continue to find success in 2024, with social media sites such as TikTok and YouTube proving popular retail sales channels. Consider whether promotional events planned for 2024 will require filling extra roles, such as in-store sales associates, customer service representatives, marketing staffers, warehouse and fulfillment workers, or delivery drivers. Create a strategy for how and when you’ll hire and onboard those positions.

Seasonal hiring evolves

In past years, retailers have announced huge hiring pushes ahead of the holidays. But in 2023, some retailers took a different tack. While Amazon followed a traditional approach, announcing plans to hire 250,000 new workers, Walmart focused on growing its staff throughout the year, eliminating the need for holiday hires and offering existing hires extra hours instead. 

What it means for hiring

Should you expand your year-round team early to avoid massive seasonal hiring efforts, or hire traditional seasonal help? Consider how well the hiring approach you used this year worked, and whether you should mix it up. Inflation or no, employees are usually eager to make extra money at the holidays. You may need to weigh the cost of overtime pay against the cost of recruiting, onboarding, and training seasonal workers.

Retail jobs are still taking longer to fill than prior to the pandemic, so it’s important to plan early. Most employers list holiday jobs in September—the month workers are most likely to start seeking seasonal employment, according to hiring platform Snagajob. Crafting your hiring strategy in August or even July can put you ahead of the game. Agility is important, too: As the holiday season progresses, stay on top of staffing needs and adapt your hiring strategy appropriately.

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Warehouse & shipping labor shortage grows

While retail staff labor shortages eased in 2023, employers seeking to fill retail warehouse and transportation jobs felt the squeeze. Total employment in transportation and warehousing employment decreased at the end of 2023 compared to the prior year. Greater supply chain stability than in 2022 helped retailers right-size inventory levels. However, many employees in these roles seek full-time positions, which can make filling seasonal roles especially challenging.

What it means for hiring

Warehousing, shipping, and transportation employees are more important than ever. In 2023, concerns about delivery delays or damage to online purchases prompted many consumers to shift to shopping in-store or use buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) options. But insufficient warehouse staff means empty shelves—and unhappy customers. 

To prevent these problems, get a head start on filling out your warehouse and delivery team earlier in 2024 so your goods can get where they need to go come the holiday surge. Pay special attention to commercial driver roles, which may require Department of Transportation (DOT) background checks and health screenings.

Meet retail hiring challenges with Checkr

Over 4 million retail jobs remained unfilled in 2023, according to the NRF. Adjusting your hiring strategies, recruiting seasonal workers early, and planning for all the roles you need can help your retail organization overcome the hurdles of seasonal retail hiring.

Implementing the right background check solution can help, too. Checkr’s modern background check platform delivers fast, accurate background checks that support your compliance. Hire quickly and confidently with automated workflows that streamline your hiring process and reduce manual effort. Checkr’s user-friendly candidate portal keeps candidates engaged and gives you a competitive advantage in hiring at the holidays…or any time of year.

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The resources and information provided here are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult your own counsel for up-to-date legal advice and guidance related to your practices, needs, and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

Karen Axelton writes about business topics and best practices. She has written hundreds of articles on business subjects, including background screening, hiring and employment trends, human resource management, and the use of technology in the workplace. Her work includes educational articles, e-books, white papers, and case studies.

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