Restaurants, cafes, and stores in South England are struggling with staff shortages.
I went on vacation there recently and saw lots of recruitment ads and worker shortage signs.
Some businesses were happy to hire people with no prior experience.
Devon, a popular tourist destination in South West England, is suffering from a severe shortage of staff in stores, cafes, and restaurants. A recent survey showed that 58% of businesses in the area are struggling to fill open roles.
When I went on vacation to Devon, I noticed lots of hiring posters in windows. Some of the stores, such as the optician chain below, were looking for people with no previous experience.
Big brands, such as Clarks shoe store in Exeter, were advertising for various jobs and encouraging people to apply via their websites.
I visit Devon a couple of times a year, but I had never seen so many job advertisements until my most recent trip.
Some cafes had signs reminding customers to be kind to workers because they’re short staffed.
One day, I took a steam train from a small town called Paignton to Kingswear, a village with a harbor.
But even the office at the steam train station had a poster saying it was closed because it didn’t have enough staff to keep it open.
After getting off the steam train, I hopped on a ferry to Dartmouth, which is in the South Hams district on the south coast of Devon.
Dartmouth was flooded with hiring notices and labor shortage signs. Some small stores were looking for as many as three employees.
Cafes and restaurants were on the hunt for staff, especially as the school holidays brought more tourists to the seaside town.
“The South Hams, along with the rest of the country, is having problems with recruiting staff in some local businesses,” Cllr Hilary Bastone, South Hams District Council’s executive member for economy, told Insider.
The pandemic, Brexit, the regional housing crisis, and national supply chain issues have had an impact on the local workforce. This resulted in issues when hiring much-needed staff and triggering “a perfect storm for local businesses,” Bastone told Insider.
Bastone said that although retail and hospitality are struggling to hire staff, the South Hams has one of the lowest employment rates in the UK, standing at 2.9%, compared with 5% nationally.
I came across many stores that were closed up. The clothes store below had shut in August and was still empty.
Other stores had advertisements saying they were available to rent out.
“The retail industry has been calling for action on labor shortages for some time and government needs to find a long-term solution,” Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told Insider.
Amazon has huge plans to expand its Fresh grocery business.
That includes a bigger physical-store network and many new projects, such as a smart refrigerator.
But Fresh employees say there’s a “toxic” work culture, as well as a “burnout” environment.
Amazon has for years tried to make inroads to the highly competitive grocery market, primarily through its Fresh delivery service.
Those efforts took a serious turn in 2017 when Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. In recent years, Amazon also launched its own Fresh-branded physical grocery stores and expanded delivery offerings for its Prime members.
Still, many questions remain on where the business is headed and how Amazon plans to attack the multitrillion-dollar grocery market.
Here’s a rundown of the latest news about Amazon’s grocery business that covers its Fresh delivery team, brick-and-mortar stores, and initiatives, like partnership ideas and secret hardware projects.
Amazon has big plans for its Fresh grocery stores
Amazon opened its first Fresh brick-and-mortar grocery store last year. A year later, it launched a Fresh store with the cashierless “Just Walk Out” technology.
And that’s just the start of a very ambitious plan to launch hundreds of Fresh cashierless stores in the US, according to internal documents obtained by Insider. Last year, Amazon projected it would open 580 Fresh cashierless stores in the country by 2023, though it appears the company is already falling behind schedule.
One important factor to the expansion plan is the declining cost of the “Just Walk Out” technology. Amazon expects those expenses to drop by almost 75% between 2020 and 2023, according to one of the internal documents reviewed by Insider.
As Amazon’s expectations grow for its grocery business, employees are feeling the strain.
In February, an Amazon grocery executive had to address concerns of a “toxic” culture and “burnout” at work. In August, employees raised similar worries during an internal all-hands meeting, saying that the grocery service was “subpar” and that the company had a “bureaucratic” culture.
Fresh employees also raised concerns about the company’s opaque performance-review system and the increased number of executive departures in recent years. Amazon’s grocery vice president, Stephenie Landry, played that down, calling reports about some of those issues “fake news.”
The Fresh team is coming up with a bunch of new ideas to expand its business.
One of the more creative ideas is to use some of the computer-vision technology found in its cashierless stores in a new smart refrigerator. The appliance would be able to automatically detect low-stock items and make purchase recommendations.
Amazon is also working on a type of point-of-sales system that could be sold to other retailers. It wants to take some of the features found in its stores and link them to other Amazon services, like the Prime membership, Flex delivery, and the One palm-payment system.
Another idea Amazon has is to partner with other retailers to build its Amazon Go stores within an existing venue. For example, it held discussions with Starbucks about launching a new lounge-type coffee shop that has a separate section for its Amazon Go cashierless store.
In September, a recreational cannabis “club” quietly opened in Manhattan.
The store appears to be operating in a legal gray area, as dispensary regulation has yet to be written.
New York’s office of cannabis management said, “those attempting to sell illegally must stop immediately.”
On a beautiful fall afternoon in New York City, one of Empire Cannabis Clubs’ owners stood out front on 8th Avenue and told anyone walking by the good news: “Recreational cannabis inside, folks! 18 and up! No medical card required!”
It was a somewhat brazen act for an already brazen business.
That isn’t stopping Empire Cannabis Clubs, which opened its doors in September as an unregulated recreational cannabis shop operating in the Big Apple.
Empire is “a full recreational shop with 30 different delta-9 THC strains of flower, distillate cartridges, and delta-9 THC edibles,” co-owner Jonathan Elfand told Insider.
A recent visit to the shop confirmed exactly that:
When I first entered the store, a host checked me in near the front door and scanned my driver’s license.
After that, I was ushered past the checkout area into a brief tour of the space.
A display case full of various edibles was first up, with everything from cannabis chocolate bars to THC-infused corn chips available for purchase in a variety of prices. A display case on the opposite wall showcased various vaping options: disposable half-gram cartridges and full-gram refill cartridges with varying prices and packaging.
Finally, we reached the big star of the show: two long display cases filled with little cubes containing a few buds each of what’s known in the dispensary world as “flower,” or more commonly called “weed.”
The gentleman behind the counter was happy to talk through various strains, and even offered to open the containers so I could get a closer sniff.
A card accompanying each strain offered even more details, from how the cannabis was grown to what type of high to expect. I was able to talk through several strains with the employee and ask about pricing.
Customers could get quarter ounces of strains like Gorilla Glue and London Russian Cream for just shy of $100, with a $15 “membership fee” for the day (a $25 monthly pass is also offered).
Technically, Empire Cannabis Clubs says, customers are not buying any cannabis – they’re paying for the “acquisition and transfer” of the cannabis they’re being given as part of the membership. That’s how the company describes the transaction on its website, apparently as an attempt to get around the ban on sales of cannabis by unlicensed sellers.
Everything about the experience of visiting Empire Cannabis Clubs felt like going to any other legal dispensary – despite the fact that it appears to be operating in a kind of legal gray area.
Rather than calling itself a retail store, Empire Cannabis Clubs operates a “membership service in which the club will acquire cannabis products for its members,” according to the dispensary’s website. When you buy cannabis or various cannabis-based products, you’re paying for “the cost to facilitate the acquisition and transfer of said products,” the website says.
The company apparently sees this as a legal loophole in New York’s current limbo between legalization – which was signed into law in March – and the beginning of legal sales, which aren’t expected until late 2022 at the earliest, and more likely in early 2023.
It’s unclear whether that loophole argument would hold up in court, according to Benjamin Goldburd, a lawyer at the New York City firm Goldburd McCone LLP.
“In a situation like this, it’s decriminalized at the patron level,” Goldburd told Insider, meaning customers purchasing small quantities of what a dispensary is selling are unlikely to face criminal charges. “But at the business level? Especially due to the fact that this is now a moneymaking product for New York? I can’t imagine that they’re not going to try and enforce that that licensing is a requirement.”
In plain terms: Because Empire Cannabis Clubs hasn’t gone through the licensing process (which isn’t set up yet), and it’s not being formally taxed for the products it sells (which also hasn’t been set up yet), New York State could have a reason to pursue legal action.
And even though Empire Cannabis Clubs says customers are paying for membership, rather than paying for cannabis, that may not be a strong enough argument to hold up in court, Goldburd said.
Since the state has yet to issue licenses for recreational dispensaries, or to set up how taxation will work, or any other number of policies regarding the newly created adult-use cannabis market, it’s not clear if so-called “clubs” like Empire will face legal action from the city or the state.
One thing is clear: New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management believes any unlicensed sale of cannabis is illegal.
“The unlicensed sale of cannabis remains illegal in New York State and the state will work with its local partners to enforce the law,” a statement from the Office of Cannabis Management communications director Freeman Klopott provided to Insider said. “New York State is building a legal, regulated cannabis market that will ensure products are tested and safe for consumers. We encourage New Yorkers to not partake in illicit sales where products may not be safe, and those attempting to sell illegally must stop immediately. We will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers have a pathway to sell legally in the new industry as we work to deliver economic justice.”
Empire, meanwhile, has plans to expand to at least two more Manhattan locations in the near future.
Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (email@example.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.
The retailer is now using the company Affirm, which partnered with Walmart in 2019, to replace layaway. Instead of having stores hold items from late August through mid-December while customers make payments until paid in full, shoppers can now take the item home immediately and pay it off with Affirm.
Unlike layaway, purchases made with Affirm can rack up interest over time. Although Affirm does not charge any hidden or late fees for using its services, customers can have an APR rate on purchases of 10-30% depending on their credit and 0% for select promotional items on Walmart.com.
Not all Walmart customers may be eligible to use Affirm depending on their prequalification status. The service can be used on purchases ranging from $144 to $2,000 and excludes items like alcohol, groceries and food, personal care products, and pet supplies.
“We’ve learned a lot in the past year as our customers’ needs and shopping habits have changed,” a Walmart spokesperson told Insider. ” We are confident that our payment options provide the right solutions for our customers.”
Affirm’s services operate alternatively to a credit card. Customers will purchase the item immediately, and pay for the items over a three to 24 month period. Customers can select their own payment plan and Affirm will match them with a lender who will provide them with a loan for the financed item.
Walmart shoppers can return any purchases made with Affirm for a refund, but the amount they paid in interest will not be refunded. Partial payments or late payments may impact a consumer’s credit score or ability to receive new loans with the company, according to Affirm.
Some Walmart customers expressed concern on social media, worried about how families would be able to purchase gifts for the holiday season if they don’t qualify for Affirm.
“Walmart took away layaway and replaced it with Affirm, which checks credit… right before Christmas,” one Twitter user wrote. “So many low income families are not gonna be able to give their children gifts.”
Some customers seemed to not mind the change, making jokes that without layaway they have no place to hide their children’s gifts during the holidays.
In their heyday, they were the traffic-driving engines of shopping malls, occupying the giant spaces at mall entrances that helped adjacent smaller chains thrive. But over the years, a combination of factors including over-expansion, shifting spending habits, and the rise of e-commerce drove shoppers away from department stores. As these stores struggled, they took down hundreds of malls with them.
There are six key reasons that make this a savvy strategy for Amazon.
These stores would allow Amazon to showcase categories of products like home goods and apparel that customers may not associate with the tech giant as readily as items like batteries and light bulbs.
They would enable customers to see and touch items in person that they might not want to buy online. Despite the accelerated adoption of online shopping amid the pandemic, a large majority of retail sales still happen in stores.
Amazon can strategically open stores in areas that already have high foot traffic away from traditional shopping malls. Off-mall department stores including Kohl’s and Ross Stores have been faring better in recent years than many mall-based outlets, such as Sears and Lord & Taylor.
Amazon can keep overhead costs lower than traditional department stores by opening smaller stores. Amazon is considering opening department stores that are roughly 30,000 square feet, according to the Journal. By comparison, the traditional department store is 100,000 to 150,000 square feet.
Amazon could use the stores as mini logistics centers to help fill online orders or take customer returns.
If successful on a larger scale, the stores could help Amazon better compete with one of its main rivals, Walmart, whose key advantage over Amazon is its massive physical footprint.
We headed to Victoria’s Secret’s flagship store in London on a sunny afternoon.
It’s located on New Bond Street, one of the more upscale shopping areas in London.
The most immediate difference we noticed was the marketing in its store windows.
In the past, these would have shown racy images of its Angels. But with the Angels brand behind them, these were swapped out for more body-positive campaigns where the focus is on a day-to-day, toned-down look of underwear.
The store seemed radically different when we walked in. Previously, the lights were dimmed, music was booming, and images of its Angels (that have been described as borderline pornographic by some shoppers) covered the walls.
On this visit, it instantly felt more modern and light inside.
But as we headed deeper inside the ground floor area, it felt a lot more similar to the old Victoria’s Secret than we had first thought.
The lights may have been turned up but its signature pink, black, and white interior remained…
A spokesperson for Victoria’s Secret told Insider that it plans to completely redo all its stores eventually. For the moment, some stores will only have more minor aesthetic changes.
…as did its boudoir-like fitting rooms.
While we weren’t expecting the interior to be completely redone, we were expecting to see the more toned-down lingerie that appeared in the windows to be front and center of the store.
Instead, it put its most risque lingerie near the entrance, including its “Very Sexy,” “Luxe,” and “Dream Angels” collections.
It might have abandoned the Angels and its racy marketing but it felt like it’s not quite ready for the product to match that.
Its signature push-up bras were in prime position but plus-size mannequins, maternity bras, and more casual underwear were nowhere to be seen.
As we headed to the staircase at the back of the store we noticed a major change.
In the past, videos of its Angels walking its annual runway show would have run on a loop on the screens behind the staircase. When we visited, these videos had been swapped out for shots featuring curvier women.
As we headed up to the next floor, we were immediately greeted by a stand showcasing one of its partnerships with a British lingerie brand.
The brand on display, Bluebella, was outspoken about the lack of inclusivity in the lingerie world before it partnered up with Victoria’s Secret. The tagline of its new collection for Victoria’s Secret is: “Lingerie designed for women who buy lingerie to please themselves.”
This was our first glimpse of its swimwear collection.
Victoria’s Secret scrapped swimwear along with some of its apparel offerings in order to focus on underwear in April 2016. It brought this back in 2018.
This area of the store was dedicated to its more laid-back styles, including athleisurewear.
We were surprised to see that there wasn’t a bigger focus on these casual styles at the entrance of the store.
We found a mix of sports bras and casual T-shirt bra styles here.
Next, we headed down to the bottom, and final, floor of the store.
This sprawling section is devoted it its Pink brand, which is targeted at college-age and teen customers.
This was the first time we spotted its new fuller-sized, mannequins. Victoria’s Secret is promising to bring these to all of its stores.
While analysts have praised the mannequins as a more inclusive move, some shoppers say it’s still falling short by not offering enough extended sizes.
“If I’m a size 14, which is on the smaller end of the plus-size range, and the largest panties Victoria’s Secret makes are uncomfortably tight on me, I think about the 50% or more of women who are still unable to wear the brand,” writer Mandy Shunnarah said after visiting Victoria’s Secret’s pilot store in Columbus.
Victoria’s Secret said it offers up to a size 20, though not in all styles.
The Pink brand was once the strongest part of Victoria’s Secret’s portfolio from a sales perspective. But around 2018, sales slipped at the brand and it was forced to lean on heavy discounting to shift stock.
While we still spotted a discount section at Pink, there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of product on sale.
At that time, other teen-focused brands such as American Eagle’s Aerie started to take market share with more inclusive marketing and body-positive campaigns that resonated with young shoppers.
Pink is clearly doubling down on this now. Videos promoting its campaigns around diversity and inclusion were playing in the background of the cash register for customers to watch while they check out their shopping.
Pink is known for being a logo-heavy brand, something that analysts have said can be detrimental. If a brand stops being seen as trendy, shoppers no longer see the value in their logos and they spend elsewhere, for example.
Many US retail and service-industry jobs that went away during the pandemic weren’t expected to return, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.
“The real issue, I think, is that a lot of the jobs that folks lost are the kinds of jobs – let’s say, for example, in retail or services industries – that might not be coming back, or coming back in the same numbers,” Raimondo told CNBC on Thursday.
Earlier, the Labor Department reported 364,000 jobless claims for the previous week, marking a pandemic-era low. Raimondo’s comments came ahead of Friday’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed the US adding 850,000 payrolls in June, beating expectations.
But the future of work for retail employees and others remained more complex, as the world slowly returned to normal following the COVID-19, Raimondo said.
“To be very honest, it’s so hard to tell in the data” why people weren’t returning to work, Raimondo said.
Teenagers, for example, were taking fewer jobs in June than they had been in the spring, perhaps because the labor shortage allowed them to choose the highest-paying jobs.
Raimondo on Thursday said the US had to “lean into” job training and apprenticeships, in part because of the shrinking amount of retail jobs available.
“Because the jobs that are being created in cybersecurity or in the digital economy and in the tech economy are there, and are good paying,” she said on CNBC. “We need to make sure that the folks who are unemployed have the skills that they need to get those jobs.”
Bed Bath & Beyond shares were knocked sharply lower Wednesday after first-quarter sales results from the housewares retailer fell short of Wall Street’s target.
The company on Wednesday posted quarterly adjusted earnings of $0.40 per share, higher than the analyst consensus estimate of $0.41 per share from Refinitiv and up from $0.38 per share a year earlier.
Sales for the quarter ended Feb. 29 fell by 16% to $2.62 billion from $3.11 billion a year ago, slightly missing the $2.63 billion that Wall Street had anticipated.
Shares fell as much as 15% to $23.68 in heavy volume before the losses were pared to 10% during the session. The company’s stock has soared over the past year from about $4 each.
Bed Bath & Beyond, which is executing a turnaround plan, said quarterly sales were hurt in part by divestitures and permanent store closures. Bed Bath & Beyond in January sold Cost Plus World Market to private equity firm Kingswood Capital Management and in November completed the sale of Christmas Tree Shops and its institutional Linen Holdings business.
First-quarter comparable store sales decreased 20%, the company said. Total enterprise same-store sales rose by 4% while online sales surged by 86%. The company said its strongest categories during the period included bedding, bath and kitchen food preparation.
The company reaffirmed its fiscal 2021 outlook for net sales of $8 billion to $8.2 billion and its adjusted EBITDA guidance of $500 billion to $525 million.
“As our transformation continues to take hold, we will show up differently for our customers with enhanced omnichannel experiences and modern stores,” among other actions, said Mark Tritton, Bed Bath & Beyond’s president and CEO, in the earnings statement.
As Walmart looks to launch a fintech startup, the retailer is turning to Wall Street veterans to help it move into the banking world.
Walmart Inc. has picked up two senior bankers from Goldman Sachs to help lead the retailer’s new fintech startup arm, Bloomberg reported on Sunday. Omer Ismail, the head of Goldman’s consumer bank, and David Stark, one of his top lieutenants, will leave the bank to help bolster Walmart’s venture into financial services with investment firm Ribbit Capital, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The departure of Ismail, who runs Marcus, was a “surprise,” the sources told Bloomberg.
Walmart announced earlier this year that it was partnering with Ribbit Capital, the firm backing fintech startups such as Robinhood, Affirm, and Credit Karma, to offer financial products for customers and employees. The startup, which has yet to be publicly named, will be mostly owned by Walmart and will include several Walmart executives on its board.
Customers have “made it clear they want more from us in the financial services arena,” president and CEO of Walmart US John Furner said previously in a statement. Walmart’s current financial service offerings include the Walmart CapitalOne credit card, the prepaid Walmart MoneyCard, and the ability for people to cash checks in stores.
“Walmart’s newly-announced fintech joint venture with Ribbit Capital will provide myriad growth opportunities, with the leveraging of its massive customer base at the center of the initiative,” Moody’s Vice-President and Senior Credit Officer Charlie O’Shea, said in a note to investors, Insider reported previously. “Walmart has been slowly and tactically expanding its financial service offerings to its customers, and measured expansion of these capabilities makes sense as it will deepen these all-important customer relationships.”
Walmart’s latest move represents a commitment to forging a path in the financial world. The retailer could also possibly have an advantage by eventually using its thousands of stores to market its new product and display advertisements to a large array of customers.
In February, Walmart reported $152.1 billion in total sales, up over 7.3% year over year.
Walmart and Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Home Depot’s sales growth and the potential for up to $10 billion in share buybacks are among five reasons to buy into the home-improvement retailer, Bank of America said Wednesday, raising its price target on the stock to $360 from $355.
In a note on Wednesday, the investment bank reiterated its buy rating on the company. The higher call would represent upside of 35% from Tuesday’s closing price of $267.24.
Home Depot’s fourth-quarter revenue of $32.26 billion was higher than a year ago and beat Wall Street’s expectations of $30.7 billion.
Bank of America said Home Depot’s fourth-quarter results marked the third consecutive quarter of same-store, or comparable, sales growth of more than 20%. It said monthly comparable sales figures have run consistently above 20% since May 2020 and that Home Depot has indicated it was seeing that pace in February.
“This illustrates HD’s consistent and strong execution within a strong category of retail,” wrote BofA research analysts led by Elizabeth Suzuki.
Alongside sales growth, BofA outlined four other reasons it said investors should consider Home Depot shares worth buying:
Capacity for share buybacks
Home Depot had $7.9 billion in cash on its balance sheet as of January 31, which the investment bank said is more than 3 times the average year-end cash balance of the previous five years. The retailer plans to keep a cash cushion of at least $4 billion throughout 2021 but BofA expects the company to spend at least $6 billion on share repurchases throughout the course of the year.
Home Depot, however, “could buy back as much as $10 billion in shares without cutting into its cash threshold, by our estimates,” the analysts said. “We view this as a significantly underappreciated upside risk” to per-share earnings.
Above-average wallet share
There should be a shift in consumer spending to “away-from-home” categories in the second half of 2021, but “home is still the place to be (and spend) for now,” said the bank as it referenced year-to-date spending data and its proprietary indicator of consumer spending at home improvement stores.
Taking market share
Home Depot estimates it has captured 275 basis points of market share growth between 2018 and 2020 as a result of its One Home Depot initiative, according to the note.
The “company’s performance during the pandemic underscores the benefit of these initiatives, and illustrates the advantage of being the #1 retailer in the category with a very healthy balance sheet, i.e. the ability to out-invest competitors,” wrote BofA.
The right investments
In terms of investments, the acquisition of industrial products company HD Supply late last year could add another “4-5% in top-line growth in 2021 above comp” and provide exposure to post-pandemic “reopening” opportunities through the maintenance, repair & operations, or MRO, market.
“Additionally, HD’s investments in hourly wages and benefits for associates should attract talent, engender loyalty, and limit attrition as other retailers follow suit,” said BofA.
Shares of Home Depot traded at $254.84 at 11:57AM E.T. on Wednesday.