By Joshua Burd
This year’s shortened holiday shopping season has placed added pressure on retailers and their shipping partners, prompting new in-store solutions for delivery and returns and the need to hire additional seasonal workers for distribution and fulfillment.
Those are among the findings of an annual report by CBRE, which highlighted four trends that are shaping the abbreviated, 26-day retail season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The firm’s Holiday Retail Trends Guide found that the demand for same-day, next-day and free delivery and returns has been amplified during the shortened window, driving heated delivery competition in the face of earlier and rapidly approaching shipping deadlines.
Retailers have responded in part by offering buy-online/pick-up-in-store options, CBRE found, noting that Amazon now offers free one-day delivery and free returns for Prime members in more than 1,150 Kohl’s locations. That has pressured other retailers that are already struggling to keep up with two-day delivery and quick, convenient returns.
“Retailers are responding by increasing their seasonal workforce dedicated to fulfillment and delivery, while UPS and FedEx are strategically aligning with retailers to make the delivery and return process as easy and seamless as possible for shoppers,” CBRE researchers wrote. The report added that the National Retail Federation expects retailers to hire 530,000 to 590,000 temporary seasonal workers in 2019, which is on par with 2018.
Researchers also pointed to “a dramatic shift” amid the growth of holiday e-commerce sales, as retailers have deployed many of those seasonal employees to support the fulfillment of online orders, delivery and returns. For example, Target is increasing workers in its distribution and fulfilment centers to 8,000 this year from 7,500 in 2018 and doubling the number of in-store seasonal employees focused on fulfilling e-commerce orders.
CBRE also reported that UPS is hiring 100,000 seasonal workers from November to January to handle roughly 40 million packages per day. What’s more, the logistics giant expanded its retail store locations by installing UPS Access Points in 1,100 Michael’s craft stores in October.
Other UPS retail partners include CVS and Auto Zone, allowing customers to ship to and pick up from store locations, the real estate services firm wrote. Meantime, FedEx is hiring 50,000 seasonal employees and has an expanded partnership with Walgreens this holiday season to provide shipping and return services in 7,300 stores nationwide.
FedEx also is providing pick-up and drop-off services in 8,000 Dollar General stores.
The CBRE report detailed other trends taking shape during the year-end shopping craze, including an earlier start to holiday promotions, a proliferation of pop-up stores and the growing popularity of resale goods as gifts. The real estate services firm and others expect consumer spending to stay resilient despite uncertainty about international trade and a slowdown in global economic growth, while e-commerce sales this season are expected to grow by 11 to 14 percent.
“The consumer continues to demonstrate a growing desire for fresh goods,” said Steven Gartner, an executive vice president with CBRE. “Many use the holiday shopping season simply as an excuse to buy, even if not for gift-giving, but for ‘self-giving.’ Additionally, merchants continue to perfect successfully melding both their in-store and online offerings.”