Walmart says shoppers aren’t going to start acting radically different when the holiday shopping season begins.

The world’s largest retailer expects the habits shoppers have developed during the pandemic to define the 2020 holiday shopping season, and it’s planning accordingly.

Walmart is hiring 20,000 seasonal workers for its e-commerce fulfillment centers to meet online shopping demand.

Known for its 24-hour, 7 days a week schedule, Walmart stopped keeping stores open overnight after the pandemic started to give employees time to clean and sanitize stores and stock shelves. That’s going to continue throughout the holidays, including Black Friday.

The number of new hires is a big departure for how the company has handled its busiest time of the year. While some Walmart stores hire extra temporary workers for Christmas season, the company generally pays workers overtime instead. The last time it hired a large number of seasonal workers was in 2015.

Walmart recently launched a new membership service for shoppers that it hopes can compete with Amazon Prime. Called Walmart+, it will cost $98 a year or $12.95 a month, and give members same-day delivery on 160,000 items, a fuel discount at certain gas stations and a chance to check out at Walmart stores without having to wait at a register.

The new temporary jobs will pay $15.75 to $23.75 an hour depending on location, position and schedule, the company said. Seasonal workers can start within 48 hours of being hired and work through Jan. 1. Many jobs will convert to permanent employment, Walmart said.

The company’s hiring during the pandemic has dwarfed its previous holiday hiring. Since March, Walmart has added 500,000 new employees in its stores and e-commerce operations to handle the increased business.

Wish lists have evolved, too. The retailer believes the new at-home lifestyle will continue through the holidays. So it’s going to stock up on athleisure, loungewear and pajamas, outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment, and outdoor sporting equipment.

It’s also paying attention to the store environment, offering more contactless pickup and delivery services and payment options.

“Over the past six months, our customers have been shopping differently, and we expect that will continue into the most important shopping season of the year — the holidays,” said Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer of Walmart U.S.

Walmart already said in July that it will not open on Thanksgiving, reversing a 30-year practice.

Retailers have been trying to get shoppers to start shopping earlier, and this may be the year when it happens as shoppers worry about shortages and shipping times.

Walmart's first distribution center training academy in Sanger.

AlixPartners said Monday that it expects holiday sales to rise by at least 1% from a year ago. It also added October to its holiday forecast for the first time and says shoppers seem ready to start early this year. According to its latest survey, about 49% of consumers plan to start holiday shopping by Halloween or earlier, an increase of 7 percentage points from last year.

“We’ve heard from our customers that many plan on starting their holiday shopping well before Black Friday, and that they’re looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle,” McCall said.

Discounts will come earlier too, McCall said, with Black Friday deals offered much earlier than the day after Thanksgiving.

Walmart has two e-commerce fulfillment centers in Fort Worth. The first one opened at 5300 Westport Parkway in 2013. The second one opened in early 2016 at 15101 N. Beach St.

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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