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Is 50,000 more employees enough?

The holiday season is competitive on many fronts, including which retailer plans to hire the most seasonal workers.

Walmart wins on the temporary worker front, announcing plans last week to hire 50,000 seasonal associates and allowing existing employees to work more hours. While 50,000 is a big number – it works out to about 12 people per Walmart store – the increased labor hours are critical for the company to maintain even the most basic levels of customer service. Its stores have a tendency to appear chronically understaffed at other times of the year so failing to allocated increase labor to the stores during the holidays isn’t really an option - unless Walmart wants to cause a revolt among hourly employees and inflict pain and suffering on customers.

Christmas is the busiest time of the year at Walmart, but that’s even more the case at Toys "R" Us. The toy retailer’s plans call for hiring 45,000 seasonal workers, nearly as many as Walmart, even though the company operates only one fourth the stores as Walmart. Last year, Toys "R" Us said it hire 40,000 temporary workers. The increase this year is driven in part by new order fulfillment positions in stores related to the company’s recent addition of a "buy online, pick up in store" service similar to the "site to store" service Walmart has offered for years.

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