What you describe about being shielded from the public is exactly why the service industry is having such difficulty attracting employees. Add to it the safety concerns you mention above in the post and you can somewhat understand why things have gotten how they have.
Supply chain concerns as a generic statement are overstated. There is plenty of clothing in the supply chain, it is overstocked as always. But if you want an appliance, have fun. Certain toys, have fun. Electronics, again, have fun. But once you start looking at certain product categories they are not overstated.
Not only was the traffic thin but the amount of product people were buying seemed much less than in previous years as well.
Promotions were fewer this year. Staffing levels were way lower than a typical Black Friday, yet I also did not observe any long lines (I observed some lines ... of 3-4 people maximum) and also did not see nearly every register open anywhere.
Was in stores all day Friday; usually on Black Friday the stores I go into on Friday night are completely trashed and a mess from all of the traffic. This time, I saw no messy stores other than stores that were already a mess before Black Friday (those Walmarts with unstocked, boxed-up pallets all over the sales floor).
With all of this said, expenses were clearly cut this Black Friday on the staffing and promotion side. Will the retailers actually come out ahead this way vs. the previous chaos that was also likely difficult from an expense control standpoint?
Kroger used to already have a good program for these categories (especially kitchen) in the Fred Meyer Stores and that merchandise was also in other locations (larger stores or Marketplace Stores). Over the years that Fred Meyer program seemed to go downhill somewhat, fewer private labels, less cohesive merchandising, etc. I guess this is the solution.
There is a grocery store in my area of a 125 store regional chain that decided to convert to an "organic nutritional education" format and removed all mainstream brands like Coke, Pepsi, Kraft Mayo, etc. from the 60k square foot store. They also did a price increase on everything in the process (even the items that stayed). They took a store that was easily doing close to $1m a week and I suspect lost 50-70% of the business; they timed change to this format at the same time a competitor opened a new full size store nearby. At the time they did the conversion they were saying they wanted to convert their entire 125 store chain to this new format missing various mainstream branded groceries.
Their comments to the MANY negative customer reviews which were literally everywhere -- Facebook, Yelp, Google Maps, Nextdoor -- were a classic example of how NOT to respond to negative feedback. They were basically telling the customer this is how it is going to be and you will take this changed store and you will like it.
They were responding to reviews in the above manner as recently as last week.
As of last week, the store added back various items that were removed -- but to the bottom shelves, like Coke, Pepsi, Kraft Mayo, etc. You would think they would go update their responses to negative reviews to note they have brought conventional items back. Not yet.
It was tough to find a good choice; most of the good choices are long retired or did not want to get anywhere near JCP.
We will see how this goes.
Maybe the past year and a half has shaken JCP up in a way that it can start fresh in enough ways that it can somehow reinvent itself. The physical HQ was closed and vacated/sold, not clear how much of the HQ staff is still around or has turned over. Stores continue to deteriorate. I guess we will see what happens.
Sears is just about done closing itself and what is left of Sears has little inventory the past year, so JCP can no longer count on a nice ongoing stream of Sears closures to drive traffic into its stores like it has during the tenure of the past 3 CEOs.
Yes, it is over for formal clothing in the workplace, largely speaking. People are done with it. It just adds time and complication to people's day. As white collar workplaces demand more and more hours from their people, wasting time on managing formal ware (including needing to change to go out for a run at lunch, all those dry cleaner drop offs, etc.) simply is no longer practical.
Look at the casualization (frankly, decline) in employee attire at various retailers over the years.
It is definitely a decline in standards ... but it is a sign of the times.
I am not all there yet when I am on a Zoom and there are people who I used to see in person dressed formally in t-shirts, though ... too much change, too fast.
What if I only want one cucumber or one green pepper?
If one of the two green peppers, or cucumbers, in that bag of peppers is bad, the entire bag gets tossed. If these items are loose, the bad one gets tossed and the good one is still out for sale.
Oh, and also all of those mandatory thick printed plastic bags with the branding, much thicker and heavier plastic than the optional produce plastic bags at present are to place loose items in.
It may cut down some labor in the produce department though.
There are already many "brand" stickers on loose produce items. The summer fruit at Kroger this year was mostly tagged "Family Tree Farms" via the PLU sticker. Many green vegetables like lettuce have a branding on the PLU label. Many years ago around 2005 right before the first time it went down, Albertsons tried to brand all of its summer fruit like peaches, nectarines, etc. as "Pick'd Fresh" via the PLU sticker.
This is the problem. The problem with Walmart is not the product. The problem with Walmart is the store operation, attitude of the people operating the store, and attitude of other customers. And in a clothing operation, these problems add up to create a bad experience real fast.
Walmart's clothing program is quite good for basic clothing. Some stores from time to time will get branded items from brands that were once sold in higher priced stores as well. US Polo, Swiss Tech, Reebok. The problem with Walmart's clothing program is Walmart's reputation combined with poor in-store execution.
Did everyone know Walmart had a program to copy Target's Dollar Spot for the summer? I recently found this out as throughout September the Walmart I visit has had a bunch of summer-themed Target Dollar Spot lookalike items -- on the clearance aisle at $1 or 50 cents. New items were showing up every week. They evidently didn't get the stuff out on the floor when they were supposed to so now, months later, it goes to the clearance aisle.
Hopefully they will get the clothing out on the floor at the right time and it won't get lost in Walmart's sea of pallets until Easter.
It is a lot more than just higher wages. They need to offer more consistent scheduling, better benefits, etc.
Many employers in my area offering the magic $15/hr still can't get anyone, especially restaurant/fast food type places. When they offer $15/hr but want you to be available 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., still only work on a part time basis, and put you into a bad work environment (understaffed, etc), it still doesn't quite pan out.
Walgreens wage increases are not yet in effect and were not yet announced until August 31, 2021. So that would not explain any attitude changes over the past few months. Further, the wage increases are going into effect "in stages" beginning in October 2021 and "expected" (their word, not mine) to be fully implemented by November 2022.
From what I am seeing lately, various business, especially fast food, are not able to maintain normal operating hours due to lack of employees. It is almost as if the tide has turned and suddenly the employees are more important than the customer in some markets. I am talking literally fast food places only open 8 AM to 5 PM and drive through only, and not opening at all some days.
There is a Taco Bell I drive by regularly during daytime hours -- it hasn't been open in weeks. Signs out front say open interviews 2 PM to 4 PM everyday, but there is nobody in there to do interviews. A couple miles away is a Jack in the Box that has been going drive through only 8 AM to 5 PM (and doesn't open every day) again due to staff shortage.
I know that isn't retail and this is RetailWire, so okay, I'll go with a retail example. A Rite Aid (typical operating hours 8 AM to 10 PM) has been running with temporary hours of 10 AM to 6 PM for weeks now and often only one employee on duty for the front end and 2-3 in the pharmacy (this is a 25,000 square foot box that is relatively busy).
Let's get some honest data from the CDC first regarding how many "breakthrough" cases there are. Those are not currently being reported by the CDC. They just say it is "rare." Yet there are reports of dozens or hundreds of people who are vaccinated getting COVID after attending events with a lot of people. So why not track those cases? Why not report that? That would give the public a real lens into how effective these vaccines are.
Given the amount of Delta variant of COVID spreading among groups of 100% vaccinated individuals, I think the question at this point is do these vaccines need to be reformulated (quickly...) to actually be effective at stopping the spread of COVID? Given the current sales pitch it that it stops hospitalization or makes hospitalization less likely, that is great, but the vaccines were advertised to "stop the spread" of COVID and that is my expectation of what they should be doing.
My point is this is not necessarily the right time to force vaccines that are not working as they were advertised to work.
And I've said it in a different thread and I'll say it again -- you mandate vaccines, 30% of the public is not going to be taking these vaccines at least in their current form. Can you afford to lose some percentage of your revenue? Given staffing shortages, can you afford to lose some percentage of your staff?
I don't really care much if a retail store is understaffed. It will be messy, won't generate as many sales as it would if properly staffed, etc. What really concerns me is medical groups mandating the vaccine for employees and then when people quit who won't take the COVID shot, taking understaffed hospitals and making them even more understaffed. Sure, the media reports on one hospital in Texas where 2% of the employees refused the COVID shot and got fired to make it out like it is no big deal, so few staff had to be fired. Again let's get some better, honest data across the board -- is it really only 2% at every hospital mandating this?
Also back to retail, saying the 3 employees have to be vaccinated but then letting 20 customers into the store who don't have to be vaccinated -- what's the point of subjecting the employees to it but still letting in all those customers? So in short, no, retail employees should not have to be vaccinated.
Put bluntly, I have dealt with more COVID cases among employees this month than the number of cases combined through the entire pandemic up to this month. And every single one of them was fully vaccinated. And they were going out and about, attending large events, in airplanes, etc. And they all got sick. Nothing too sick -- just fever/congestion type symptoms. Not all of them even had the fever. Again, they were all vaccinated.