The fourth quarter has become a sort of retail free-for-all where stores try increasingly desperate tactics to lure in customers. From opening on Thanksgiving Day to heavy discounts and aggressive promotions, retailers pull out all the stops.

That makes sense because the importance of the period seems to grow each year. In 2017, early predictions from Deloitte show that total holiday sales, excluding automobiles and gasoline, will reach $1.04 trillion to $1.05 trillion between November and January, up from $1 trillion last year. And while the digital portion of overall sales has grown, e-commerce sales will only account for $111 billion to $114 billion of that total -- an 18%-21% increase over $93.8 billion in 2016.

Servicing all of those sales requires workers. In Q4, really toward the end of Q3 in September, many retail and retail-adjacent companies have traditionally hired a lot of people. This list will expand as the season gets closer, but there are a lot of jobs out there in a market that's already near historically high employment rates.

Unlike last year, these jobs may not be easy to fill, a fact that has already caused Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) to decide against hiring temporary workers. Instead, the retailer will fill its need by offering overtime to existing employees. Some of the companies on this list may end up following Wal-Mart's lead if they can't find enough qualified applicants, but for now, here's the list of companies that are hiring and how many people they need.

A group of target employees gather

Retailers will be hiring tens of thousands of workers for the holiday season. Image source: Target.

These retailers are going big

Even though Wal-Mart has elected to sit out the hiring season, most of its rivals have different plans. There will literally be hundreds of thousands of openings in everything from front-end, consumer-facing positions, to backroom warehouse jobs, and digital fulfillment positions:

  • Target (NYSE:TGT) plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers. Most will be in its stores, but the chain also plans to add 4,500 workers at its distribution and fulfillment centers to help with digital orders.
  • Toys R Us may have filed for bankruptcy protection, but it still plans to hire about 12,000 part-time workers for the holiday season in top markets in the U.S. The chain does not disclose the full number of jobs it plans to add nationwide, but it will be higher than that. Jobs available include cashier, toy demonstrator, warehouse associate, and work-from-home customer service jobs.
  • Macy's, another struggling retailer plans to add 80,000 seasonal positions. That's a slight dip from last year's 83,000. That makes sense given the chain's shrinking store count. In addition, MarketWatch reported that 18,000 of the temporary workers will be hired to work in the chain's digital fulfillment centers. 
  • Gap Inc., which includes The Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic, has not specified how many openings it has, but it does have a number of seasonal openings listed on its careers web page.
  • Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) hires so much it's actually hard to tell what it's doing for the holidays specifically, and the company has not announced any Q4 plans. It has, however, began listing seasonal jobs in its warehouses and seasonal work-from-home positions on its jobs website.
  • Best Buy has not released a nationwide holiday hiring plan, but it has begun adding seasonal workers in a number of markets across the country.
  • J.C. Penney has struggled along with many other retailers, but it enters the holiday season planning to add 40,000 workers. That's the same as last year, and it comes at a time when the chain has recently made toys a permanent addition to all its stores.

These are not the only retailers with holiday hiring plans, just the ones that have come forward so far. Kohl's, Nordstrom, and many other chains are planning to add workers. In many ways, it's a job-seeker's market, with applicants being able to weigh things like pay and benefits against the possibility of becoming a permanent hire when deciding where to apply.

It's not just retail 

The rise of digital sales has put tremendous pressure on the companies that deliver online orders. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has posted job listings in a number of markets looking for both seasonal and permanent workers. The number of openings varies based on the market, but the overall job count seems significant.

Not to be outdone by the government, both United Parcel Service and FedEx plan to hire. UPS plans to add about 95,000 seasonal workers, while its rival hopes to hire 50,000 while also offering more overtime for existing employees.

A foot in the door

In many cases seasonal jobs go to college kids, people working a second gig, or those not looking to enter the workforce full-time. For those seeking permanent employment, however, a seasonal job can be a way to get your foot in the door at a company you want to work at.

Every company on this list has both full and seasonal openings, but if your goal is a permanent job, it may be best to take seasonal work at a thriving company. Amazon, for example, is likely to keep more temporary workers than Toys R Us or Macy's simply given the trajectory of their businesses. Still, a chain like Target may be facing challenges, but it's doing well enough that exceptional seasonal workers can probably find a full-time, permanent job after the holiday season.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends FedEx and Nordstrom. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.