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Amazon to add 120,000 hires, as holiday shoppers pick online over in line

As brick-and-mortar retailers scale back, Amazon has announced that it will hire more than 120,000 seasonal workers for the holiday season.

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    At an event in Chicago, Amazon employees from nearby fulfillment centers packed 2,000 care packages to send to soldiers abroad who are not able to come home for the holidays on Dec. 4, 2015. Amazon plans to hire 120,000 seasonal workers for the 2016 holiday shopping season.
    Peter Wynn Thompson/AP Images for Amazon
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This year’s holiday shoppers may be less content to wait in line, and more inclined to shop online.

Amazon has announced that it will hire more than 120,000 seasonal workers this holiday season – 20 percent more than in the previous year. Brick-and-mortar retailers such as Macy’s, Target, and Kohl’s will either scale back temporary employment or leave hiring goals unchanged.

The move may reflect changes not just in the way Americans shop but also in the way they view the holiday rush.

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Rising consumer optimism means shoppers are more likely to skip trips to the store in search of special holiday deals. Instead, they increasingly prefer the convenience of online shopping.

“We recognize the Thanksgiving weekend shopping experience is much different than it used to be as just as many people want that unique, exclusive online deal as they do that in-store promotion,” National Retail Federation president and chief executive Matthew Shay said in a press release following 2015 Black Friday sales results. “It is clear that the age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities.”

Meanwhile, several malls and retailers are reversing the trend of “Christmas creep” shopping. Each year, stores have opened earlier on Thanksgiving to accommodate so-called Grey Thursday shoppers ahead of the usual Black Friday rush. But last week, the Mall of America announced that it will remain closed on Thanksgiving. So will Staples, Sam’s Club, Costco, Ikea, Home Depot, and Patagonia, among others.

"We think Thanksgiving is a day for families and for people we care about," Jill Renslow, the Mall of America's senior vice president of marketing, told The Associated Press. "We want to give this day back."

And thanks to an improving economy, holiday business may not take such a hit from closures. The National Retail Federation anticipates that holiday sales will increase 3.6 percent this year, significantly higher than the average rate since the recession; non-store sales could increase 7 to 10 percent, the federation announced. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that shoppers are planning to spend 10 percent more this year compared to last, although many of them are more likely to be shopping online.

Last year, more than 14,000 of Amazon's seasonal workers obtained full-time jobs after the holidays. The company expects that number to increase in 2016, Reuters reports.

But despite the success of its online model, Amazon has begun to push its business into the physical world, as well. The company now plans to build a series of convenience stores, selling produce and other perishable goods, as well as drive-through pickup locations for online purchases.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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