Walmart is taking early steps to greet a strange, new holiday season by hiring 20,000 people to boost its e-commerce offerings before the holiday season.

a group of people riding on the back of a car: Customers walk through the parking lot of a Walmart on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in southwest Houston.

© Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Customers walk through the parking lot of a Walmart on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in southwest Houston.

Based on its observations of shopping patterns during the pandemic, the company said, it expects people to start shopping earlier this year and to order more of their gifts online. That’s why it isn’t waiting to hire seasonal associates for its online fulfillment centers.


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Online sales have taken more of the holiday shopping pie each year, but retail analysts expect unusual growth in e-commerce in 2020. A new report from consulting firm Deloitte predicted e-commerce sales will increase by as much as 35 percent over last year’s holiday season, generating $196 billion in revenue. E-commerce sales grew by about 15 percent last year over 2018 figures, Deloitte said.

Walmart’s 20,000 new employees will work in fulfillment centers across the country. The company declined to be more specific about hiring totals in Texas. The jobs will include tasks such as fulfilling orders and operating power equipment and will range in pay from $15.75 an hour to $23.75 an hour.

“In many instances, these positions will have the opportunity to convert to regular employment,” the company said.

Walmart has hired some 500,000 people since March to meet new demands during the pandemic.

Saying consumer tastes have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, the company is rolling out a holiday mix that includes such things as athleisure, outdoor sporting equipment, electronics, pet supplies and educational games.

Venky Shankar, research director of Texas A&M University’s Center for Retailing Studies, said Walmart’s steps are in line with projections — more holiday sales will be online, and so more of the holiday jobs will be in fulfillment centers.

“Executing those orders will require a lot of additional labor,” he said.

Like Walmart, most of the major retailers will roll out holiday sales early, he said, and will stay closed for Thanksgiving in hopes of keeping Black Friday crowds at bay in the name of social distancing.

“It’s probably a wise decision on their part,” he said.

And people will be shopping early and buying different things, Shankar said, shifting away from traditional apparel and buying more electronics and gadgets.

With big retailers such as Walmart acting early to scoop up market share, other stores will have to work swiftly to compete. It’s a race that some cannot win, he said.

“Many retailers may not be prepared to start their sales so early, in October,” he said. “They will have to move very fast.”

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