“Everyone is supremely overworked,” I complained a friend in HR. “At first I thought that it was just me, that I couldn’t keep up, but everyone I talk to in every department feels the same way. And people I know at other companies feel that way, vendors – even my relatives who are doctors feel the same way.”
She had a theory: When the economy tanked in 2008, revenues dropped suddenly, boom, off a cliff. And companies and organizations cut just as quickly, releasing huge numbers of people. But the work still had to get done – and it really had to get done if you wanted the company to survive so you’d still have a job. And the rest of us picked up the slack. When the recovery started, it came back gradually, boiling the frog slowly, and we didn’t recognize that the work was scaling back up. And upper management just kept thinking, “Well, we don’t need to hire another body because you’ve been doing the work by yourself for years and you should be able to continue doing it by yourself.” And that’s how we all found ourselves pursued by a bear.
A wise retailer I know is convinced that the “Retail Apocalypse” actually began in 2008 when the economy tanked, and he blames the fashion retailers. Have you noticed that the clothing stores have 40% off sales at least once a month now? That didn’t used to be normal. They didn’t do this before 2008. When the economy dropped, they had to do something to entice customers to come back, so they all started giving away the farm once a month. But here’s the thing: fashion can afford to do that because they set their own prices. So the 40% off that you’re getting – that’s the regular price, that we used to get before 2008. The fashion retailers trained everyone to shop only when there’s a sale. That’s fine for them and for anyone else who sets their own prices – but, in some industries, the manufacturers set the prices, and those retailers don’t have that option.
I agree that anyone who pays full price for clothing now is a fool. Take it from me, I come from a long line of competitive shoppers: I don’t pay full price unless I’m desperate. In fact, I don’t even pay 25% off or 30% off, and you can just forget all that BOGO silliness (kids, stay in school, learn math, BOGO is just 25% off).
I’m reading a lot of articles now about experiential shopping – well, you see where that got C. Wonder. The only “experience” I want when I shop is fully-stocked shelves, clean stores, helpful salespeople, fast cashiers, and the ability to try on clothes in my size in a pleasant dressing room (without pins in the carpet, Lord & Taylor). I don’t need dancing salespeople, flashing lights, scratch-off cards, wine, trunk-sales, beacons talking to my phone. I rarely buy clothes online because I like to try them on, and I know very few women who are comfortable enough with their body shape and the variations of women’s commercial sizing to buy online without trying in-store. And I like immediate gratification, so if I try it on and it fits (and it’s 40% off or more), I’ll buy it and take it home with me.
But that’s for clothing. For everything else, I’m an easy sell. Want me to buy a bottle of wine? Tell me about the grapes, how you grew them, what makes your wine different. Want me to buy a piece of pottery? Show me your kiln and talk to me about how you chose the clay. Want me to buy a book? Put it in my hand and say, “I loved this. You will, too.” (Yup, I’m a little too easy there.)
Where was I going with this?
Why we’re all so darn busy and why retail is so messed up right now. Right. Somehow they’re connected in my mind.
Are they connected in yours, too? Tell me what you think.