Member Exclusive   /   December 3, 2020

Modern Retail Research: 50% of brands have downsized their brick-and-mortar staff this holiday season

So much for staffing up on seasonal store associates.

According to a November 2020 Glossy and Modern Retail survey of brand workers, in preparation for this holiday season, brands shifted their resources away from stores to investments that better serve online shoppers.

Sales results of Thanksgiving weekend show that doing so was smart: According to National Retail Federation, the number of in-store shoppers on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. dropped by 55% from last year, and those on Black Friday dropped by 37%. From Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, online-only shoppers increased by 44% year-over-year, to 95.7 million.

Two out of three survey respondents working at brands that have retail stores said they expect holiday revenue earned in-store to be less this year, compared to 2019. Only 7% said the same of their e-commerce sales. That’s no doubt due — at least, in part — to retail closures. Forty-seven percent of participants from brands with stores said they now have fewer store locations than during holiday 2019. However, 29% of participants said their workplace has opened more fulfillment centers for online orders since this time last year.

At the same time, brands have downsized their payroll for store associates. Fifty percent of survey participants from brands with stores said they have less retail staff now, compared to holiday 2019. Where brands have bulked up their staff are in warehouses and fulfillment centers (up 50% year-over-year), as well as in customer service roles outside of the store setting: Forty-eight percent of brands now have more customer service staff, according to survey participants, and only 15% have cut customer service staff. That’s no doubt to the new e-commerce standard of offering virtual stylists, styling appointments and the like.

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