Robert Bush 6:31 p.m., May 18
Sink or Swim--Adjusting to the Changing Times
Today I had to tell one of my best friends at Albertson's that I am thinking of her and the other cashiers. As you may have heard on the news, the floundering grocery-store chain is on the brink of bankruptcy and will be laying off ten workers from every store nationwide.
Yesterday in the North County Times, an article talked about Kroger's and how well it is doing in other states. It has experienced 4 percent growth in the last year, while other stores are staggering under the weight of rising prices, particularly in the area of oil.
When I hear about the companies such as Borders, Dorchester Media, and now Albertson's going under, I can't help but think about what Diedre Knight, author and literary agent, recently said at an RWA meeting. She mentioned that her dad once owned a thriving auto parts conglomerate, but because he refused to keep up with the change in the market, he lost everything.
Borders failed to hop aboard the e-book train. Dorchester Media, the oldest mass paperback publisher in America, failed to keep up with the times in terms of its book line and its confession magazines. In my opinion, they needed to turn away from the girl-next-door characters, and publish stories that were darker, more urban, and maybe even a little more fantasy. Turning its attention to the ever-growing Latino market may have been an option as well. According to the North County Times, many Latinos don't have computers in the home and that's why closing the east branch of the Escondido Library was such a disaster. Maybe Latinos would have been more willing to pay for magazines since their access to the Internet world was limited. I don't know...
Today, I was talking to an employee at Petco about my displeasures at being hounded when I shop. She was about my son's age and so I was very impressed that she seemed savvy enough to understand what I was saying. I told her that I feel the pressure when I walk into stores. People are right beside the door to greet me as I walk in. They try to hand me coupons and at least two or three other employees will ask if they can help me find anything.
This strategy, that I'm certain is pushed onto employees by the guys on top, reeks of desperation. I found it particularly annoying when an Albertson's employee stood in front of the store handing out the game boards to that stupid monopoly game so popular at McDonald's more than twenty years ago.
I am fifty-three and so I'm quite aware of the changes in retailing that have taken place. And I find it scary that like politicians, corporate suits are completely out of touch. When I read the women's magazines, I frequently come across articlies claiming that young workers are now under more stress than ever. They are never off the clock because their cell phones make them accessible to employers 24-7. Nowadays, it's not uncommon for a young mother to be seen pushing a baby stroller and walking while talking to her boss at the same time.
These articles lead me to one conclusion--people no longer have the time or wherewithall to play stupid board games for prizes that probably don't exist in the first place.
Kroger's success is attributed to target discounts on certain products, and a willingness to lower prices, even though it means not earning as much money. The chain is managing its expenses as well.
As a graduate of SDSU with a bachelor's degree in economics, I feel confident when I say that in order to sell more product, you must lower prices. There is no getting around it. My friend disagrees. He, like the corporate dumbos on the east coast, say good sales skills are everything.
In this economy, lower prices are key. No matter how friendly you are, no matter how much you kiss their asses, consumers are not going to be able to spend more than they have. And if you're 23 and never had a job, the idea that you'll buy an extra bag of dog food because someone greets you at the door is ludicrous. People can't spend what they don't have. Period.
Last night, Debra Norville (Inside Edition) reported that zombies in all forms are the biggest trend going these days, which explains why Amanda Hocking just signed a $2 million book deal with St. Martin's Press. The concept is bit frightening to me because zombies represent the end of the world. Has civilization really sunk to this? Do kids these days really think it's the end of the world?
With gloom like this becoming the most popular trend, I would hope that our people in Washington and the corporate czars would get a clue. We are facing some massive issues that aren't going to be solved with a "Get out of Jail Free" card.
To Pat, Virginia, Patti, Cindy, Eric, and Blanca, employees of Albertson's on West Valley Parkway, I appreciate the great service you've given me over the years. I know the kind of tension you've been living with in the past few months, and I wish you guys all the best.