What is retail’s role in building a better society?
Look around and you will see many examples of retail industry leaders taking definitive action to protect and serve public interests when other systems don’t or can’t. Top-of-mind topics are healthcare, gun safety and disaster response.
These are complex issues that impact stores, employees, customers and general public well being. They challenge retailers to balance business risks with loyalty, sales and profits. They also present growth opportunities.
I recently got a notice from CVS reminding me they quit selling tobacco five years ago. It was a bold move at the time. Since then, CVS and other retailers have expanded retail clinics, prescription services (like CarePass and PillPack) and insurance programs that increase access to healthcare of all kinds at a reduced price point. All major drug chains, supermarkets and mass merchants now provide alternative healthcare treatment options for consumers. These services could cut overall costs, promote the use of cost-effective preventive care at easily accessible locations and improve quality of life for many who are under- or not insured.
The RetailWire Braintrust had a spirited discussion on Walmart’s recent decision “respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms” and to discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition in the wake of more mass shootings. Walmart previously took steps to ensure store and customer safety in the past by raising the minimum age to purchase firearms and allowing only trained employees to sell them. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, Starbucks, Wegmans, Kroger, Walgreens and others have acted as well.
Disaster response, relief and recovery
The Home Depot’s Disaster Response Command Center is well known for stepping in to help in times of need, especially in response to hurricanes and other natural disasters. Lowe’s and a slew of 3PL’s also provide response, relief and recovery products and services. The retail industry ecosystem brings expertise, people, products and facilities that can provide and deliver supplies where they are most needed.
Given other systems aren’t enacting policies to improve health and safety — even though there is widespread public support — retailers are stepping in and up.
- CVS to walk away from $2 billion in cigarette sales – RetailWire
- CVS subscription program goes big to outdo Amazon Prime – RetailWire
- Poll: Most Americans Want To See Congress Pass Gun Restrictions – National Public Radio
- Behind the Scenes: Home Depot’s Hurricane Headquarters – Home Depot
- Would you go to Walmart to see a doctor? – RetailWire
- Will Walmart’s customers accept its rejection of the firearms status quo? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it the responsibility of retailers to address gaps in society’s well being? Do you think that doing good correlates with doing well in business?