Businessolver Blog

For Many Retailers, ‘Tis The Season for Seasonal Employees

For Many Retailers, ‘Tis The Season for Seasonal Employees
Posted on Thursday, November 21, 2019 by Businessolver Team

Historically, retailers have hired armies of temporary staff to deal with the rush of year-end shopping.


And, while reports indicate hiring might not be quite as robust as in years past, with a positive outlook for 2019, retailers have significantly increased their headcount. Some started as early as the summer to get a jump on filling positions with the headwinds of low unemployment.

(And there are still plenty of openings. A quick search on yielded over 60,000 temporary retail jobs, and that likely doesn’t include all the distribution and fulfillment gigs available.) 

Reports of its demise notwithstanding, retail is far from teetering on the brink. Yes, brick-and-mortar store closings are increasingly common, and malls across the country are suffering from reduced foot traffic. But, it’s not a death knell; instead it’s a renaissance as retail shifts increasingly to e-commerce. The way people interact with information and each other is changing, and retail is changing along with it.

And, that change has been successful overall. Last year’s holiday season was the best in more than half a decade, and Deloitte projects increased spending of 4.5-5% this year, with the average household slated to shell out just under $1,500.

Part of the shift has been in the number and types of employees retailers need to manage the influx of customers and orders. While there is still a great need for people to work in stores, there’s a growing demand for workers to process, fulfill, ship and deliver all of the items purchased online. UPS alone plans for up to 100,000 seasonal employees to manage the year-end volume.

With the tight labor market, attracting the foot soldiers for this temporary retail army is increasingly challenging. Prospective employees may already be working elsewhere, or they have other options—even among temporary jobs.

Retail jobs have often offered entry-level opportunities, but with workforce participation among the youngest cohort contracting, it’s become harder to snag people looking to start their careers.

Competition for talent impacts employers in multiple industries, and many are looking at their benefits offerings as an increasingly important want to attract and retain talent. One emerging trend has been extending benefits to part-timers.

Employers that rely on seasonal employees have begun to follow suit by extending limited benefits to temporary staff. For example, UPS offers the opportunity to earn tuition reimbursement dollars, and many retailers offer discounts on merchandise.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Employers now have options for connecting seasonal or temporary employees with comprehensive benefits.

One option is to offer employees access to individual coverage through an online marketplace. Businessolver offers MyChoiceSM Market, that offers a curated suite of benefits options from healthcare to voluntary coverages. Using the marketplace, employers can connect employees—including seasonal employees—to high-quality, competitive benefits options.

A new type of health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) offers another option for employers. These new Individual Coverage HRAs (ICHRAs) allow an employer to establish and fund an account that an employee uses exclusively to purchase individual healthcare coverage. An employer can offer this arrangement to a subset of employees—for example, seasonal or temporary employees and there is no minimum or maximum funding requirement.

To help attract seasonal employees, the employer could fund some portion of individual healthcare premium each month in an ICHRA, say $50 or $100. This can create a significant competitive advantage as potential employees review their employment options.

(And, while the subject of this blog is retailers, any employer that leverages seasonal or temporary employees could take advantage of this new funding option for healthcare benefits.)

Retailers have always relied on seasonal staff during this time of year, but they haven’t faced such a tight labor market. With workforce shortages projected to continue for the next decade, retail employers have an emerging opportunity to use benefits strategically to attract and reward those vital seasonal hires who help them finish the year strong. 

With retail associates bringing in only $26,000 per year on average, they are among the most financially fragile of American workers. And, that could hurt your business. Find out more in our guide below.