Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?

Photo: Walgreens
Sep 13, 2021

The White House’s plan to require companies with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccinations or conduct weekly COVID-19 testing was applauded by many trade and business groups, but a number are seeking more details around the logistics of such a requirement.

Describing the plan as a “colossal undertaking,” The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) said in its statement, “Coordination with industry and all levels of government is essential to avoid a chaotic and counterproductive situation. Further, testing capacity is already stressed and must be scaled immensely to meet the enormous demand that will result from these new requirements.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) appeared to have concerns about making vaccinations a requirement. NRF said in its statement it “will continue to encourage Americans to voluntarily protect their own well-being and that of their families by getting vaccinated,” noting that several of its members, including Walmart, are mandating vaccinations for some or all employees while others are offering monetary incentives and paid time off.

NRF said, “We appreciate the administration’s commitment to ensuring workplaces are safe despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. We look forward to working with the Labor Department as it promulgates this rule.”

Among those offering fuller praise were the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), which said, “The only way to address the economic fallout from COVID-19 is to resolve the underlying health crisis.”

The Business Roundtable, a lobbying group that includes CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the U.S. including Amazon, Apple, Home Depot and Walmart, also voiced its support.

“America’s business leaders know how critical vaccination and testing are in defeating the pandemic, which is why so many have invested resources in encouraging and incentivizing their customers and employees to get vaccinated, including providing paid time off,” said Joshua Bolten, president and CEO. Over the past several weeks many companies have decided to implement a vaccine mandate for some or all of their employees, a decision we applaud.”

Corporate leaders have become increasingly open to vaccination mandates given the rapid spread of the delta variant and the universal accessibility of vaccines. A government-mandated program eases fears by some firms that workers would jump to competitors without mandates.

Still, a survey from labor law firm Littler conducted in early August found resistance from employees and the impact on culture and employee morale continuing to be the two primary concerns around mandates.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will most consumers be more comfortable or less shopping in stores where they know all associates are vaccinated? What will be the keys to implementation at retail and how might it affect the already tight hiring situation?

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"Ensuring that store personnel are vaccinated is essential, and providing a high level of comfort for the in-store shopper remains a priority."

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32 Comments on "Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?"

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Mark Ryski

As controversial as mandates are, this will be very helpful for retailers and most shoppers. There’s nothing more important than the health and safety of frontline workers and customers. Retailers have an obligation to ensure everyone has a safe working/shopping environment, but applying internal protocols have proven to be problematic as some customers act out or become belligerent, taking their scorn out on retail workers. A Federal mandate should relieve some of the pressure on retailers, and redirect it to the Federal government where the responsibility should have always been – not with retailers.

Neil Saunders

The plan is very light on detail, which is why many business groups have asked for clarity over points like implementation dates, applicability to remote workers and so forth. They are right to do so: the government should thoroughly think through actions before announcing them so that companies can plan properly. This is especially applicable for retail as we start to enter the busy holiday season.

Bethany Allee

Regardless of how they feel about the action of mandating, those consumers and employees who appreciate the vaccine will be more comfortable and they will gravitate towards retailers who adhere to the mandate. For consumers and employees who don’t want the vaccine, they’ll actively support retailers who defy the mandate. The real benefit to retailers is more vaccines means more consumers feeling safer and more footfall.

Georganne Bender

As a consumer, I would be more comfortable shopping in a store where I know everyone who works there is vaccinated – if there was no one else in the store with us. And that’s the rub: Who knows about the other shoppers?

Look, I desperately want the pandemic to be over. I want my family to have the best defense available against COVID-19 that’s possible, that’s why we are all vaccinated and wear masks indoors when in public places, hoping it will help. But do I think we can force people to get vaccinated against their will? I am torn on that because this is America after all, and here we have the freedom of choice.

Until this all gets sorted out I think retail workers are in for more of the same disrespect that is being leveled at them from too many customers. It’s been over 18 months, surely we should have figured it out by now.

Jeff Sward

It’s good for everybody. Just like all the other vaccinations we take without so much as a bat of the eye.

Cathy Hotka

Our society cannot get back to normal until vaccination is the norm. Once that is the case, consumers can return to stores as normal and we can all start living again. I’d love to enter a store without a mask — maybe someday I can!

Paula Rosenblum

The number of thumbs down on any post that agrees this is a good thing tells you just how divided we are in the US. And that our messes are nowhere near behind us. COVID is just one of our many deep divisions.

Cathy Hotka

I’ll never understand it.

Karen S. Herman

COVID-19 and the emerging variants remain a global public health crisis whose first victim has been people and whose second victim has been our economy. In particular, retail and how today’s consumer is shopping has transformed at every step. In fact, the consumer has transformed, period.

Ensuring that store personnel are vaccinated is essential, and providing a high level of comfort for the in-store shopper remains a priority. Some shoppers look for masks on staff and other shoppers, and most continue to observe social distancing. But to really get consumers back in-store, especially as we move into the holiday season, a retailer has to offer consumers a mix of digital first choices. Curbside pickup, BOPIS, virtual queuing, QR codes, mobile vending, scan, pay and go and virtual assistants are advances to protect shoppers and they provide control and comfort.

Casey Craig

As a father of a nine-year-old that is not eligible for the vaccine, I would feel more comfortable shopping in stores where all associates are vaccinated, as would most consumers.

Paula Rosenblum

Gonna keep it short and sweet. In a word, yes.

It gets retailers out of the middle of what has become a really stupid debate

Ricardo Belmar

Very simply laid out, Paula! if only this level of clarity could reach everyone!

Paula Rosenblum

Thanks Ricardo! Clearly there is a very vocal minority that disagree. It’s sad, and I’m writing a blog about it today. No one likes to see all those “thumbs down” but it does tell a story.

DeAnn Campbell

The majority of U.S. consumers have grown weary of the anti-vax hype and simply want to move forward whatever way it takes. Recent polls have shown the majority of Americans are strongly in favor of a national vaccination requirement. All businesses should do their part to break the COVID-19 spread as well as the risk of variants. Because of their high interaction with customers, it falls to retailers to lead the way. And giving employees every assurance possible that they will be safe, including a vaccine mandate, might actually help retailers with their ability to attract, hire and retain employees.

Venky Ramesh

As DeAnn mentioned, retail is one of the few industries that brings people together in close proximity to others – so the industry needs to take on more responsibility to ensure it doesn’t play a role in the spread of the virus. Retail employees have been the heroes during the pandemic, ensuring people get essential supplies during the lockdown. Retailers will need to continue to treat them as saviors who continue to shoulder great responsibilities to keep the people safe.

Gary Sankary

At this point, the issue is so polarizing I’m not sure you’re going to change anyone’s mind. That said, I expect that most customers will feel more comfortable in a store where they know that all the employees are vaccinated. I haven’t heard anyone, but the most extreme conspiracy folks suggest that vaccinated people are somehow dangerous. Implementation? that’s going to be another story. There is so much energy in some political circles these days to stop mandates, motivated by an idea that a vaccines somehow are a “victory” for the their political opponents, that in some places compelling compliance will be an issue.

Shep Hyken

This is a touchy subject. There are those that are for and against the mandate. But consider this. The government mandate takes the pressure off of the retailer enforcing the rule.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

Assuming the details of the plan are relevant and operational, this is a step in the right direction to protect both employees and customers. We know consumers are more worried about the Delta variant than they were the original strain. Any positive action to alleviate these concerns will be good for retail. As usual, the devil is in the details. However if the details are correct the results should be positive.

George Anderson
I don’t think there were many retailers who started off thinking that mandates were the way to go. That was a position I shared months back because I expected that the American public would step up for their own good as well as the safety of family, friends and others to be vaccinated as they had done throughout history with new vaccines such as polio. The reality, we now know, is that 80 million people have chosen for various reasons not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the reality is this: They are getting ill, passing the virus along to others and creating a healthcare crisis that is causing fellow Americans to die. It seems daily we read about cases of people on their deathbeds lamenting their failure to be immunized. A report this weekend spoke of an Alabama man who died from a coronary issue because he could not been seen by more than 40 hospitals because COVID-19 cases were overwhelming their resources. The Supreme Court ruled more than a hundred years ago that… Read more »
Rich Kizer

Will most consumers be more comfortable or less shopping in stores where they know all associates are vaccinated? There is no down side here! The other option is customers gambling on visiting stores where they don’t know if the staff is vaccinated or not. I think most people will be pleased at a positive response here. And most store employees would feel the same about their customers.

10 days 19 hours ago
As one who has worked in retail all throughout this time, and done a lot of in-person shopping, I believe that this mandate is necessary. It won’t solve the problem, but it will make resolving it that much more likely. (It has been too much like a “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” of trying to navigate through the myriad of different ways all manner of businesses have made themselves available to employees and customers alike. This will, in effect, soften a lot of those curves.) Meanwhile, this is still too much about YOU, the customer/visitor, being more comfortable bringing yourselves around and dealing with us, the workers. Which I take as an all-too inescapable indication, albeit subconsciously, of how retail/restaurant associates have always been perceived as not much more than as facilitators. And in too many cases, something of an inconvenience when it comes to your getting what you want, when you want it, and with as little interaction as possible. What this entire 18 months has done — aside from the few allusions to our… Read more »
Joan Treistman
Since there are so many people willing to take the horse de-wormer Ivermectin to combat Covid, it makes me believe that most people realize that Covid is not a hoax. Vaccines have been mandated since George Washington imposed a mandate for small pox vaccine. People who don’t want to take the vaccine have a myriad of reasons. Most of those reasons are based on how they feel about the impact on them, without taking into account others around them. I don’t think I every heard an anti-vaxxer say something like “I’m not going to get vaccinated because I care about the health of others.” I’m definitely in support of vaccine mandates because I believe that ultimately vaccines will make everyone safer. President Biden’s announcement is based on the notion of taking care of everyone’s health, not just those that get vaccinated. I agree with all those who have written about feeling more comfortable and safer in a retail environment where I know the staff has been vaccinated or tested (recently). But when I think about… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar
No doubt consumers will feel safer shopping in stores and malls with these mandates in effect. The science is quite clear — the way out of this pandemic is through vaccines. That means the 80 million people not getting vaccinated need to be vaccinated if everyone wants to return to stores without worrying about masks, social distancing, or becoming ill. There are quite a few thumbs down on this discussion today and that is very telling. You have to wonder if everyone clicking a thumbs down is equally opposed to all the other vaccines our children have been getting, via mandates, at younger ages than the eligible age for COVID vaccines when they entered school. And there are many such vaccines that school-age children receive every day without the fanfare and resistance we’re now seeing. We also know the government has a Supreme Court-approved ability to issue such mandates. For retailers, this action takes some of the pressure away — it’s no longer the retailer’s sole discretion to vaccinate their employees which hopefully means they’ll… Read more »
Mel Kleiman

Based on the discussion, I think we should look at all the laws we have in effect in this country and begin to evaluate why we have them. Let’s start with a traffic light law that requires everyone to stop on red. If I do not like the law I still have to obey it.

Do beauticians really need to be licensed? What would happen if I wanted to open a beauty salon but did not want to get a license.

If you don’t like gun control move to Texas. They just did away with gun control. I guess some people feel a lot safer.

We don’t need dumb laws, but we do need laws and we need to enforce them.