UKG survey reveals the evolving retail trends keeping the shopper and employee experience alive amid the pandemic as 91% of retailers are confident stores will be open Black Friday

Examining the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on safety and staffing practices in the retail sector, a survey of retail leaders1 by UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) finds U.S. stores are approaching the holiday shopping season with optimism despite risks posed by perpetual understaffing and a lack of contingency planning that threaten to disrupt business and intensify holiday stress for employees and shoppers.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

“Retailers Rethink Holiday Season Strategy: Store safety, staffing, and shopping trends in the COVID-19 era,” an in-depth study by UKG, examines survey responses from 302 U.S. retailers, more than half of which operate 100+ physical stores (61%) and employ more than 5,000 employees (55%), to reveal what’s in store—the good and the bad—for store managers, associates, and shoppers this holiday season.

News Facts

  • Store safety, success, and employee experience: It’s all riding on retail managers

    • The demands of COVID-19 bring added complexity to the role of the manager—already the backbone of the store—who have assumed new responsibility for overseeing and enforcing heightened safety mandates (72%) and establishing cleaning protocols for their location (66%), and are expected to be far more visible on the floor this holiday season (47%).

    • Three in 4 retailers recognize that uncomfortable or unsafe customer interactions in stores—i.e., if a customer refuses to comply with safety requirements—could lead associates to quit, so two-thirds (66%) are training store managers to intervene on behalf of employees.

  • Evolving for the new normal: Hiring, curbside pickup, sweeping safety measures, and augmented staff roles keep the store experience alive, despite perpetual understaffing

    • COVID-19 gives curbside pickup a major boost in 2020: 4 in 5 retailers (83%) will offer curbside options this season—compared to just 44% in 2019 and 34% in 2018—while nearly half say all stores will offer curbside pickup (48%) and call it a “top priority” for staffing (47%).

    • In-store safety is trending: 4 in 5 retailers will require employees (83%) and customers (82%) to wear masks and will increase cleaning frequency (80%), as many others will enforce social distancing (73%); provide PPE (personal protective equipment) for staff (67%); use transparent shields/barriers (60%); and manually monitor and limit store occupancy (50%).

    • To fill seasonal roles—including newly created seasonal positions dedicated to helping stores manage and enforce safety protocols—3 in 5 retailers (59%) are seeking new, best-fit talent, while half (51%) look to re-hire former seasonal employees based on their existing familiarity with the job. Additionally, 2 in 5 (41%) aim to recall store employees who were furloughed due to earlier COVID-19 shutdowns.

    • As 4 in 5 retailers (81%) brace for holiday shifts to be regularly understaffed due to employee quarantining, and 86% say their stores have already experienced understaffing related to COVID-19, more than 1 in 4 (28%) are prepared to offer associates additional compensation or other rewards to come into work if COVID-related concerns become prevalent.

Supporting Quotes

  • Amanda Nichols, senior manager, retail, hospitality, and food service practice, UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)
    “Retail stores continue to demonstrate remarkable resilience as they evolve to provide more curbside pickup, online options, and augmented staff roles to keep the shopper and employee experience alive this holiday season. While two-thirds of U.S. retailers believe their business will not only survive but emerge stronger from this pandemic, they must also acknowledge the tenacity of their frontline workforce—who are keeping their brick-and-mortar business afloat while facing legitimate risks—and invest in technology and processes to make employees’ experience at work as safe and engaging as possible.”

Supporting Resources

  • Note to editors: Please refer to this as “Retailers Rethink Holiday Season Strategy: Store safety, staffing, and shopping trends in the COVID-19 era.”

  • About UKG.

  • Follow UKG on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

  • UKG previously predicted seasonal hiring trends to watch in 2020—see what’s relevant today, and read up on the latest trends on the Industry Insights blog.

  • Subscribe to The Workforce Institute at UKG and follow the think tank on Twitter for insight, research, blogs, and podcasts on how organizations can manage today’s modern frontline workforce to drive engagement and performance.

  • The UKG U.S. Workforce Activity Report explores week-by-week workforce data with near real-time indicators—including shifts worked, employee new hires, and terminations—to help economists and policy makers gauge the health of the economy.

About UKG

At UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), Our Purpose Is People. Built from a merger that created one of the largest cloud companies in the world, UKG believes organizations succeed when they focus on their people. As a leading global provider of HCM, payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions, UKG’s award-winning Pro, Dimensions, and Ready solutions help tens of thousands of organizations across geographies and in every industry drive better business outcomes, improve HR effectiveness, streamline the payroll process, and help make work a better, more connected experience for everyone. UKG has more than 12,000 employees around the globe and is known for its inclusive workplace culture. The company has earned numerous awards for its culture, products, and services, including consecutive years on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. To learn more, visit

Footnote 1: Survey Methodology – This survey was commissioned by UKG and conducted online by Qualtrics from September 2-11, 2020, among a pool of 302 retail managers, directors, executives, and owners in the U.S. spanning numerous industry segments, from big-box and department stores to apparel, consumer electronics, discount, drugstore, hardware, home improvement, housewares, sporting goods, and luxury retailers—more than half of which operate 100+ physical stores (61%) and employ more than 5,000 employees (55%). For questions about the survey methodology, please contact [email protected]

© 2020 UKG Inc. All rights reserved. For a full list of UKG trademarks, please visit All other trademarks, if any, are property of their respective owners. All specifications are subject to change.

View source version on


Tonya Eckert
+1 978.947.1688
[email protected]