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Seasonal work can lead to permanent employment

Many seasonal retail workers could find themselves with lasting jobs after this year’s holidays are past.

Retailers including Wal-Mart, Target and have announced plans to convert thousands of the temporary workers they are hiring for the November-December shopping season into permanent employees.

Target Corp. offered more than a third of last year’s seasonal workers year-round positions at its company, and Toys “R” Us retained 15 percent of its seasonal workforce after the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. The practice allows retailers to reward their best associates with job opportunities, while saving themselves the expense of recruiting and training new workers, federation officials said.

Seasonal hiring is a “great opportunity to find good people, and as we do, make those opportunities available to move from temp to part-time to full-time, and be promoted up into the jobs with more responsibility,” said Kory Lundberg, a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokesman.

Wal-Mart announced plans to hire 55,000 seasonal workers this year. The company also plans to transition more than 35,000 associates from temporary to part-time, and another 35,000 from part-time to full-time.

Online retail giant last week announced that its creating more than 70,000 full-time seasonal jobs at its U.S. fulfillment centers this holiday season, a 40 percent increase over last year.

Amazon this year has converted more than 7,000 temporary U.S. employees into full-time regular roles, and the company intends to convert thousands more after this holiday season, said Dave Clark, vice president of worldwide operations and customer service.

“Each year, seasonal jobs lead to thousands of long-term, full-time roles in our sites,” Clark said in a statement. The Seattle-based company has fulfillment centers in 15 states, including four centers in Indiana.

Target plans to hire about 70,000 seasonal workers, down from 88,000 last year. However, the company plans to offer its year-round employees from 5 to 10 percent more hours for the holiday season.

Many seasonal workers may not have been seeking a job earlier in the year, but now are looking to earn extra money for the holidays, Lundberg said.

Seasonal employment allows them to experience what it’s like to work for a retailer such as Wal-Mart, and many will then transition to regular roles because they enjoy the paycheck, the work environment or working with the customers, he said.

“Every year we do see a number of the temporary folks who come on for the holidays stay on, just because there are needs in the store with turnover and store growth and things like that,” Lundberg said.

Seasonal employment also can lead to a career, such as a temporary worker last year in Denver who is now managing the toy department, or a store manager in Miami who started as a temp 16 years ago, he said.

“A lot of people find it an opportunity to get their foot in the door, and then they can go as far as they want to in terms of what they are looking to do with their work career,” Lundberg said.

Overall holiday hiring this year could reach the 700,000 range, but job gains may struggle to match the 751,800 seasonal workers added last year between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Last year’s seasonal hiring represented a 12-year high, the firm said.

The National Retail Federation last week forecast holiday season sales of $602.1 billion, a slight increase of 3.9 percent over 2012’s actual 3.5 sales growth in the months of November and December. The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3 percent.

The holiday season can account for 20 percent to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales, and accounts for about 20 percent of total industry annual sales, federation officials said.

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