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.

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

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Online sales have taken more of the holiday pie each year, but retail analysts predict unusual growth in e-commerce in 2020. A new report from consulting firm Deloitte predicted e-commerce sales will grow 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 the previous year, 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 also hired some 500,000 people since March to meet new demands during the pandemic.

Customers tend to want different things in the coronavirus era, Walmart said, so it’s rolling out a holiday mix that includes things like athleisure, outdoor sporting equipment, electronics, pet supplies and educational games.

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