REUTERS: Target Corp said on Wednesday it would hire 100,000 workers for the holiday season, 43 percent more than last year, as the retailer goes all out to attract customers at a time when rivals are closing stores and cutting costs.
The company's shares rose 3.4 percent as the move, coming off four years of flat seasonal hiring, signals improved expectations after the retailer posted its first increase in comparable-store sales in five quarters last month.
"I think (Target) sees an opportunity to take market share in an environment where we have so many store closures in the specialty apparel and department store space," said Retail Metrics analyst Ken Perkins.
Retailers including Sears Holdings Inc and Macy's Inc have announced plans to close hundreds of stores in the last few months as they struggle with increasing competition from Amazon and fast-fashion retailers such as Forever 21.
Seasonal hiring plans give a glimpse into retailers' holiday sales expectations as the companies make nearly a third of their annual sales and generate nearly 40 percent of their profits during the period, which starts a day after Thanksgiving and continues into early January.
Other major holidays season employers including Amazon, Macy's and Kohl's Corp are yet to announce their hiring plans. But Perkins said it was unlikely they would match Target's hiring plans.
"I would be stunned if we see other retailers increasing their seasonal hiring by 43 percent for the holiday season."
Wal-Mart has been spending more on paying higher wages and acquiring online retailer and so is unlikely to boost seasonal hiring to the same extent as Target, he said.
Others, including Macy's and Kohl's, have been looking to reduce costs and sell more exclusive brands.
Moody's analyst Charlie O'Shea, however, said he expects retailers looking to cut costs to hire more temporary workers during the holiday season.
"There's a lot of flexibility in the workforce when you (hire temporary workers)... Hiring seasonal employees is a way to test what you really need."
Target also said it would hire 4,500 people for the holiday season at its distribution and fulfillment centers, which supply products to its 1,816 stores and fulfill online orders.
The company had hired 7,500 workers to work at the centers last year as it required additional staffing for three new facilities.
Target said last month it would roll out ship-from-store facility to more stores ahead of the holiday season, allowing more than 1,400 stores to ship products directly to customers.
(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)