business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we took note of a Bloomberg story about how "a year of Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated the transformation of big-box stores into e-commerce warehouses, causing ripple effects for hourly workers and a struggling real estate sector.

"Shopping center mainstays Walmart Inc., Best Buy Co. and others are becoming fulfillment centers where workers assemble local deliveries and socially distanced consumers wait in parking spaces for their trunks to be filled. Space once devoted to t-shirts and TVs will now be used to pick and pack online orders or generate revenue by displaying ads for big brands like Samsung.

"There’s no going back because consumers have embraced the web like never before during the pandemic. Stores will be smaller and integrated with digital operations, or risk becoming irrelevant."

The question is, what comes next?  And who will live up to the challenge?

I commented:

There is no question that the big guys have had the resources to adapt to the pandemic world to a degree that a lot of other companies have not been able and there's every reason to believe that many of them will be able to adapt to the after-times as well.

The  challenge, it seems to me, will be remaining customer-centric in a way that does not put process first … it will be critically important to keep focusing relentlessly on ever-evolving customer desires and to stay connected to them in intimate ways.

"Fulfillment" ought to be the keyword - in all its permutations.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Fulfillment” is absolutely the word.

Customer ‘fulfillment’ is analogous to ‘customer satisfaction’.  The retailers that understand that “fulfillment’ is not merely product replenishment, but the ‘fulfillment’ of their customers satisfaction...will in the end WIN.  As a well developed ecommerce consumer of both leading Ecommerce retailers, I find that I am frequently less “fulfilled’ by consistently late deliveries and less satisfying ‘product fulfillment’- even though I still pay for premium service.  Interesting. My local grocery retailer (who I still patronize several times a month) still knows me by name, bags my groceries, and has the freshest produce around....perhaps they will also ‘WIN” in the future of retail....yes- ‘Fulfillment’ is absolutely the word!

On the subject of a federal minimum wage increase, one MNB reader wrote:

In January we raised our entry level rate to $15 in an effort to attract more applicants. But it has not worked. Too many people are enjoying the extended benefits from unemployment and  I guess are managing ok without a job. And this week we encountered another issue … once the stimulus checks started to arrive, the sick calls increased. In order to cover shifts we are being forced to limit our hours of operation.

Of course now our customers are inconvenienced, sales will drop, and the vicious circle begins! Lower sales means less hours for the employees. How do we attract more applicants now?

But MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

As an employer I followed Henry Ford’s model. I had entry level jobs but I never referred to them as minimum wage jobs. I never paid minimum wage - always at least a nickel or a dime above that. Not much, but that way I did not have to look at an applicant, tell them the job I was hiring them for was important and then say it paid minimum wage. Tell someone their worth is minimal and you increase the odds you will get minimal performance; not to mention costly turnover. Ford said if he paid the worker sweeping the shop floor a living wage he would bend over and pick up small tools and not just sweep them into the bin.

On a grander scale, if people have more money they are more likely to participate in the economy. Ford, known as a pretty cold-blooded operator, knew that if he paid his employees at least enough to be able to purchase a Model-T he was creating a market. He said something like “a business’ employees ought to be its best customers.”

If paying your employees a living wage (and investing in their personal and professional development) is going to cause you to go out of business, you aren’t much of a manager or business person. Take a hard look at how you operate, top to bottom.

On the subject of the ending of mask mandates in Texas, MNB reader Mike Springer wrote:

First of all, I’m a Texan (DFW area) who chooses to still wear a mask out in public as do most people I’ve noticed.  I honestly do it primarily out of respect for others more so than the fear of getting Covid (I do plan on getting my vaccine soon!); however, please give our state’s Legislatures a little credit for the decision IF it proves to be the right move.  You of all people understand the impact that the constraints of this pandemic has had on local businesses, mental health, quality of schooling etc…  We cannot ever remove 100% risk from the equation of life and this is just one more step in creating a new normal.  I’m proud to live in a state that recognizes and elevates individual freedoms… not recklessly but wisely (IMO)!   Apparently several thousands of Californians do as well! 

I respect your opinion.  We're just going to have to agree to disagree about what is appropriate public health policy.