Korn Ferry Survey: Retailers Ramp Up Distribution Center Hiring as Online Holiday Shopping Soars


As retailers prepare for the busiest season of the year, they are changing their business models to focus more on ecommerce, according to a new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) survey of more than 50 major U.S. retailers.

Nearly half (42 percent) of survey respondents say they expect at least 20 percent of their sales will be online, with one in five (21 percent) saying more than 35 percent of their sales will be via ecommerce.

“Pre-pandemic, ecommerce accounted for about 15 percent of total retail sales, but with new waves of COVID-19 keeping shoppers inside, online shopping is skyrocketing,” said Korn Ferry retail expert Craig Rowley.

To accommodate for the shift, the majority (57 percent) of retail survey respondents say they are hiring more distribution center employees. Nearly two-thirds (59 percent) say they are offering hiring incentives for distribution center workers, including premium holiday pay and bonuses.

While more than a third (36 percent) of retailers expect to have fewer holiday workers overall this season, 39 percent say they are finding it difficult to find qualified employees.

Retailers are mixed on their sales expectations, with 27 percent saying business will be down, and 45 percent believe business will be better than last year.

“As we have seen throughout the pandemic, retailers who sell essential goods such as grocery and home improvement stores have fared very well, while other categories such as specialty clothing stores have suffered,” said Rowley. “Retailers are being cautious as they enter the holiday season by managing inventory to avoid a glut of post-holiday markdowns.”

About the survey

The Korn Ferry survey of more than 50 major U.S. retailers, with annual revenues between $50 million to more than $20 billion, took place in early November 2020.

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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