Shoppers may want to go online for their purchases more than ever this Christmas season because there will be fewer holiday help inside the stores. Macy’s Inc. is among the big retailers ramping up its workforce in fulfillment centers, while cutting back at brick-and-mortar stores.

Macy’s is hiring 85,000 temporary workers this holiday, 1,000 fewer than last year. But the retailer is increasing the number of e-commerce hires to 12,000 from 10,000, or 14.1 percent of the total group. Last year, Macy’s only used 11.6 percent of the seasonal workforce for fulfillment. It’s not surprising the department store needs to boost employment in fulfillment since the company has said it plans to increase same-day delivery to nine markets.

John Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said, “Job seekers hoping to take advantage of seasonal hiring should be prepared to look beyond the traditional retail store fronts. Some of the best opportunities could be in the backroom, handling incoming and outgoing shipments.”

That is definitely true at Kohl’s, which is hiring 69,000 seasonal workers this holiday, with 9,500 of those employees going to the distribution and e-commerce fulfillment centers. That’s 2,000 more workers than last year and an extra 200 workers for the distribution center. Kohl’s has been heavily promoting the idea of ordering online, but picking up in store, saving the company money on shipping materials and hoping the customer will spend more once they come into stores.

Wal-Mart is taking the same strategy as Kohl’s. The discounter’s seasonal hires are flat this year at 60,000 with the addition of department managers in more than 3,500 stores to serve customers picking up online orders. Not surprising that budget-conscious Wal-Mart shoppers choose this option. According to Forrester Research, 70 percent of shoppers who do this like to avoid shipping costs.

Target said it would hire 70,000 holiday team members for the season, which is flat from last year, although the hiring at the distribution and fulfillment center is already under way. This area wasn’t even mentioned in last year’s holiday hiring announcement.

Belk is adding 350 seasonal workers at its e-commerce fulfillment center in Jonesville, S.C. The positions are full-time jobs and could result in permanent positions.

Overall, Challenger expects holiday hiring to be mostly flat. “We’ve seen increased hiring earlier in the year, which may preclude the need for a lot of extra hiring as the holidays approach,” the company said.

If the retailers are scaling up their shiny new distribution centers, it won’t be cheap. Logistics hiring firm ProLogistix said e-commerce jobs will cost companies more this year due to high demand for warehouse workers. The pay range has increased from an average of between $9 and $11 to between $11 and $13.50.

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