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  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Has Shein reinvented teen e-tailing?

    Let's be honest here, everyone. SHEIN has not re-invented teen e-tailing. What it has done has taken online commerce's already easy accessibility with ordering and combined it with what attracts the vast amount of consumers, young or old, and that is to buy things that they may or may not need via low prices and fast delivery. While what they're doing so nimbly may make them startlingly successful, it also makes them rather deliberately insidious. As others have already pointed out, at what true cost does all this flurry have? The bigger irony, doubled up with their added appeal to heretofore underserved customers, is it's coming at a time when we are thinking/hoping/expecting younger people to be more conscious environmentally, economically and (we can only hope) intellectually. That it is an indicator, otherwise, of a company exploiting what might just be basic human nature (to get, and get, and get) is the real SHEIN story.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2020

    Will others follow Mall of America and provide free space for struggling moms and pops?

    This is a definite win for MoA and the “mom and pop” retailers included. But the greatest majority of smaller businesses could not take advantage of this kind of opportunity. Case(s) in point, the condensed areas where most are at risk of going under (as some already have) —the neighborhood business district — need pure physical presences to ensure the vitality of the entire enterprise. This is for their own sake, as well as for all their neighbors’ businesses. So even though MoA’s undertaking is demonstrably beneficial to all involved, it is left to the heads of commerce, in cities grappling with the threat of one closure after another, to find ways of duplicating this process in a more wide-open environment. Is it their offices imploring commercial landlords to defer or reduce rents to these “one-offs”? Is it finding ways to corral businesses from barely managing to prospering, within these areas, to offer goods and services in unison with each other? In a controlled environment, like that of MoAs, creating a solid structure taking into account many variables is quite doable. But while something like this idea should be considered therein, its creation is something else entirely to consider when dealing with a very fluid and free market, neighborhood business district. Still, anything like it must be entertained. Otherwise, a win in one place is a loss in another. And another.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2020

    A successful diversity initiative led to an unintended consequence at Walmart

    As one who has worked where hires based on notable gender/race initiatives were in place but proved far less effective than promised, one has to wonder if the intentions were real. Or, all along, was the plan to bring in more from one group minus that of another, while maintaining as much status quo among the more powerful ranks? I can't say this was in the minds of execs at Walmart. But I also highly doubt they were not aware of just how many "shares of the pie" they were willing (or able) to dole out. Further, if the idea is to represent all types in the upper echelons as they compare to the diversity of their general workforce, isn't all that data readily apparent? To make the basis for higher-up hirings about something else (or, oops, creating unintentional consequences) seems a pretty flimsy argument. Also, for the mere sake of "ticking off boxes" (and I hope this does not sound flippant), would a company hiring a POC, trans, non-binary, handicapped person be allowed to cross off four diversity marks with one hired person? The truth is, but in a business world that does not (yet) exist, whether from on high or lower, all of a company's employees should be brought on through merit/qualifications simultaneous with "blindness" as to where they reside on the diversity-inclusion range. If there is a "tie" between jobseekers qualified for a single post, then, absolutely, the unique makeup of one over another should be taken into account. But again, such corporate (or civic) transparency and truths vs interior calculus is hard to come by, if it even exists anyplace.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2020

    Will locals choose Brooklyn over Bezos?

    There are few who don't see the benefit of buying locally. It helps individual communities on so many basic levels, that there's little (if any) winning argument to the contrary. But here lies a conundrum: the idea of gathering local merchants to enable local citizenry to shop online sounds great; but isn't it just for a time? It seems the overarching reason for this type of one-stop shopping site is to take care of the anxious needs of customers still fearful of going out to buy things. Once (if/when) we get back to shopping more normally and locally, in physical terms, doesn't it make such operations moot? Besides, is not the real strength of "supporting local businesses" founded greatly on in-person transactions? A few other considerations. Curated in this instance means the merchants are doing more of the decision-making for the consumer. That's fine, if the buyer is disinterested, at the moment, in "browsing." It is also a process of selection that works for some essential items, but definitely not for those one wants to consider more closely. Since use of this site is a great deal about needing it ASAP, it will likely experience its vast amount of traffic before the 10 a.m. cut-off for same-day delivery, but far less after. That is hardly a solid business plan (which also presumes employees working in a rush to take and fulfill orders by then, too). And what about businesses that compete with each other with similar (or even exact) items; who decides what from whom is listed? Further, and we all know this is key when shopping online, how is it determined which piece from what merchant appears higher (first) on every landing page? One might think I do not believe this is a great idea. I do, really, and there is great reason for it to be. As being and buying local is fundamental to the success of every neighborhood in every city. But this particular manifestation is a lot like a shiny object that in reality may be more rhinestone than diamond.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2020

    Will cities, and the retailers in them, bounce back?

    There's a great paradox brewing here. In that, yes, depending on the city, future fortunes rest greatly on whether your core infrastructure systems functioned well, or did not, going into the pandemic. That included how reliable was your mass transit; inescapable/endemic were your attractions; deeply imbedded was your office presence; unique was your retail; and so on. Where I used to live, Midtown Manhattan: its retail, office, and entertainment aspects felt solid AND necessary. And though its mass transit had its issues-it was reliable enough; and there was always walking the grid, easily. Transpose that to where I live now, hilly San Francisco. Of the same modes, it has always felt they existed here because it was expected-but NOT because it was absolute. Imagine if "working remotely" was something a decade ago; would tech companies have built or leased so large here in the CBD? The grandness of Union Square shopping is long gone. And who lately came to "the city by the bay" for its entertainment value? Add in an underground transportation system that prior-to worked well only marginally to actually shutting down after just re-opening, to the void created with fewer tourists/workers in the city's core for, in their wake, a seeming overwhelming homeless presence-and our great city's wounds only got bigger with COVID. It feels that only SFs geographic-cum-structural beauty will always make it a draw (over NYC's more skyscraper-based typography). But how many more times than once will visitors want to see the Golden Gate Bridge and walk its famed hills? So, truly, some bigger cities, like ours, will take longer to come back, if at all, and because some problems run deeper. Smaller cities, which will, undoubtedly, benefit from all this, can take that as guidance and warnings for how to grow themselves better.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2020

    Will other booksellers follow Powell’s in just saying ‘no’ to Amazon?

    A small retailer's independence relies on its expectations. If they can be successful within the smaller confines defined by their immediate reach and are, as a company, happy with those limited results, then so be it. However if one is looking to compete on a larger stage: beware. Meanwhile, circumstances enabling or undermining an independent's chances for success are very often out of the total control of that operation. Rent, business zoning laws, a neighborhood's changing or stagnating demographics, a worker/talent pool living nearby (over commuting), customer interest-cum-loyalty and, hell, even things like weather and parking, among other factors, all play a part in this game. The gist is this, though: within the social context of each city - and for argument's sake, let's make it just a bunch of American ones - there should be a sense of unique "flavor." This individuality of an urban environment used to come from its one-of-a-kind retailers, which often hewed their message and merchandise to the likes of neighbors (and visitors looking for local tastes). That unique spirit can still work, as long as it is supported by the just-listed outside forces; and assuming that the business owner and business model is satisfied with this mindset. It is the idea of sameness that eventually kills one's reasons to buy locally over online or in a big-box concern. Transactions in either are, in and of themselves, without boundaries, vague and redundant. So there you have it: if Powell's - and others like them - are wanting to stay true to themselves and can take and manage what is available nearby (while always looking to maximize whatever "that" may be) then more power to them, and to all the other "little guys and gals" out there!
  • Posted on: 07/27/2020

    Are boycotts becoming bigger risks?

    I am with those who are saying that, specifically with Goya Foods, the CEO knew what he was doing when he lavished praise on Trump. To do so, on the side of such an obviously politically polarizing figure, would be impossible to imagine otherwise. As such, whether the entire company deserves the potential downsides of boycotting notwithstanding (and they will not), the owner will (or should) get his due -- and be ready to handle it. Now, to imagine the reverse: his possibly not knowing the cultural landscape and still speaking with such positivity for and about Trump is equally problematic. It portends of the CEO living in an "ivory tower." There is nothing better about that scenario. Not in this newly conscious world we are dealing with. In either case, watch for some drop in the buying of Goya products. (Though a fan, I will be included in those holding back purchases until some suitable redress is offered.)
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Retail shrink rose to all-time high in 2019

    In San Francisco, retail shrinkage is a particularly acute problem. Inasmuch as the city (law enforcement) considers these crimes too small -- and, oddly, too numerous -- to handle with absolute control. The thinking goes: petty thefts overwhelm the system. So, with them being perceived as not very punishable, thievery on this level has become rampant. In more instances that I could believe were possible for me to witness (make that: times the city's population), I have seen persons enter stores (drug, grocery and apparel) to quite brazenly "grab and go." But not even "on the run" after the act. They seem to casually saunter out, knowing their chances of being 1) apprehended; or 2) punished, as nil. Things are further exacerbated with the city having a long-running and literal "open door" policy contrasted with a lack of interest or financial resources to employ security at these portals. Plus, to even think of having staff act as barriers is a big (and very understandable) NO. All of it has become a bit of a "slippery slope," wherein as these lesser crimes go unchecked they invariably lead to larger acts of larceny. The reality is, cities MUST determine what is and is not okay behavior for their citizens. Further ironic is the growing case for "defunding" of police. Yes, it does make sense to deal with incidents based more on the types of individuals involved. Drug-addicted with drug counseling; mental health with well-being professionals. But in the meantime, the sense of lawlessness -- here especially -- is growing daily.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2020

    Should workers accept pay cuts in exchange for working remotely?

    I am no "expert," but I can clearly comment on this topic as a constant and thoughtful witness to the distinct peculiarities of it through one who is. My partner, during the entirety of "shelter in place," has been able to work from home rather successfully. But then it is a matter of how one defines success. As such, he is experiencing the ups and downs of this in two remarkably different ways. Since the confines of time/effort/expectations are now vague -- as opposed to the perceived clarity of being monitored by associates and higher-ups in a real time physical space -- it is left to the individual how their particular work ethic plays out. To whit, whether a worker will take advantage of additional down-time opportunities and slack some; or increase their output because the typical constraints are no longer in place to properly edit one's responsibilities. My partner definitely falls in to the latter category, in that he has always done more than had been called for in his executive position; and now, without the usual parameters, he has taken on even more of a work load than what was originally tasked to his role. Therein, a pay increase, not a decrease, should be in order. Meanwhile, part of his duties also includes the hiring of persons to fill subordinate spots. Because we live in San Francisco, an area known for its high cost of living, compensation has needed to reflect this area's particular economics. Thus, a certain higher amount has to be offered the prospective employee as to make sure they can AFFORD to take the job and live (adequately) in an egregiously expensive area. But when he looks to hire people with similar duties but in lesser costly markets, the monies offered are always markedly lower. So, yes, the reality is: if you live (or choose to move and live) in a less pricey area, than you must expect to be paid less. Overall, it is only when a person who is working remotely and continues or exceeds the completion of their workload AND remains in the same market where they were hired should they expect the same compensation. Further, if a worker exceeds their duties from home then greater pay should be considered by the employer. Much as a raise would be mulled over in a typical office work space environment for a job well done. Lastly, cost reductions in rent/leases for companies take a great deal of time to negotiate, and they are never a given. The same goes for how much floor space a company rents. Besides, even if it is not in immediate use, it could be at any moment in the future. This is a complicated process, especially when factoring in what is considered a temporary (albeit serious) situation. Unless all these dynamics are settled, they cannot be factored in to salaries.
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