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Retailers are ramping up hiring for the holidays.
Retailers are ramping up hiring for the holidays. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

Many of the nation's biggest retailers plan to sharply increase hiring for the holiday shopping season as consumers look to spend more, according to reports out today.

Macy's, Kohl's, Walmart, Amazon and Game Stop are among the retailers planning seasonal hiring increases, by 45 percent for Kohl's and 47 percent for Game Stop. Target, Toys R Us and JC Penney plan to hire the same number as last year, according to figures compiled by outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

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Retailers are ramping up hiring as they plan to extend holiday shopping hours, with many opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving as a kick off to the Black Friday shopping weekend.

And store operators are counting on consumers being in the mood to shop.

"Consumers should find more money in their pockets heading into the holidays, thanks to job gains and falling gas prices," John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm, said in a statement.

Shoppers plan to spend an average $804, up 5 percent from last year's actual $767,  according the the National Retail Federation's annual holiday  spending survey, released today.

Spending per consumer includes gifts for family, friends, co-workers and pets as well as decorations and food.

"While not completely throwing caution to the wind, Americans' frugal spending habits will still be visible this holiday season as they continue to rely on discounts and sales and comparison shop," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO.

UPDATE: In a separate survey just released by the International Council of Shopping Centers, just over a third of consumers said they have started or will have started holiday shopping by the end of October. But 86 percent will have started by the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

"Consumers seem to be interested in getting out to stores early this season," said Jesse Tron, ICSC spokesman. "As a result, the importance of November to the overall season can't be overlooked."

The shopping center trade group had a slightly lower estimate of consumer spending, expecting shoppers to shell out about $677 on holiday-related items, with most people -- about 70 percent -- planning to spend the same or more than last year. More than half the consumers said they plan to buy electronics, up from 27 percent last year.

Online shopping will play a bigger role than ever this year, with 56 percent of consumers planning to take that route. The average shopper will make well over a third of purchases online, NRF said.

To handle the rush, FedEx and UPS both plan sharp increases in seasonal hires for the first time since 2012, the Challenger report said.

Challenger said he expects September's sluggish retail sales to rebound in October thanks to spending on Halloween costumes and decorations, with momentum carrying over into the holidays.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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