Kohl's to hire 69,000 seasonal workers, yet apparel sales remain sluggish

Kohl's announced Monday that it would employ about the same number of temporary workers in the United States for the holiday shopping season as it did last year, as it and other clothing retailers report disappointing sales.

Courtney Sacco/Corpus Christi Caller-Times/AP/File
Shoppers push a cart of items as they leave Kohl's in Corpus Christi, Texas, in November 2015. Kohl’s plans to hire more than 69,000 additional workers for the 2016 holiday season to meet demand at more than 1,100 stores nationwide.

'Tis the season for seasonal work.

As retailers ready for holiday shopping, department store operator Kohl's Corp. announced plans Monday to employ 69,000 temporary workers in the United States. 

But retail sales remain low, so the number of seasonal hires is on par with those of last year, as is also true at other retail companies. Target Corp., for example, says it will hire 70,000 in-store workers for the holiday season, the same number the company has hired for the past three years.

Target and department stores like Kohl's and Macy's Inc. have been facing low sales over the past few quarters, thanks to online rivalry from companies like Amazon.com, a lower demand for apparel, and unseasonable weather. 

It's not surprising that Kohl's is hiring the same number of seasonal workers as last year, said Mark Altschwager, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

"Amid a generally sluggish apparel sales environment, retailers are keeping close watch on inventory and expenses in order to protect their bottom lines," he told Reuters. "Nobody wants a repeat of deep margin cuts experienced last year."

Kohl's has more than 1,100 stores in 49 states, and had 32,000 full-time employees and 108,000 part-time employees as of Jan. 30. The seasonal workers will be added to the company's distribution centers, e-commerce fulfillment centers, credit operations, and the stores themselves. 

The seasonal hiring began last month, and most jobs will be filled by mid-November, the company said.

Macy's has yet to announce its projected seasonal hirings. 

Department stores have been taking a hit amid shifting consumer demands and the rise of other types of retailers, such as fast-fashion and discount clothing retailers. Just last month, Macy's, the nation's largest department store, announced a plan to close about 100 stores. This move would shift the company's focus to other areas, like online sales. 

In May, the 158-year-old department store reported its steepest quarterly sales decline since the Great Recession, reports The Christian Science Monitor's Lonnie Shekhtman. And other clothing retailers have filed for bankruptcy this year. 

According to market data, consumers are spending more money on home improvement and travel. Millennial consumers are still buying clothes, but they are opting for discount stores like T.J. Maxx or fast-fashion stores like H&M, or shopping online. 

"Clearly our industry is in something of a rough patch ... but the consumer seems to be doing OK," Macy's CFO Karen Hoguet said on a May analyst call, according to CNBC.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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