An Analysis of Retail Layoffs During the Recession

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Even through the recession some companies are still in business because of solid business principals, good management and great decision making. Some are still in business because they had good investments to carry them through financially, and then some really make me shake my head in disbelief because they may make it out of this downturn, but they either had a lot of luck going for them or some kind of secret potion because they sure weren’t showing good business management practices throughout this difficult period. 

I have a feeling that part of what I was seeing is the “lemon squeezing” analogy, because the companies (made up of people, by the way) were being squeezed until they were dry and I think that there were some very bad staffing decisions put into some inexperienced hands that were ill prepared to take on some of the real responsibilities of front line management in a recession. 

One strategy I had been hearing about time and again last year is that stores (mostly department stores) would hire on new people and you could only work a few hours a week at minimum wage, (not a new concept, but still even less hours and wages than before) in essence not enough to get benefits of course (that’s an old game), but 3-4 hours a week, split into 2 days or so per week. Now, if you drive across town or take a round-trip $5.00 bus/train ride for 1-2 hours to work at minimum wage, you don’t have much left over. And these jobs are not the kinds that were promoting any time soon either. In essence some of these jobs were previously filled by students and people who wanted part time work, but it seems the positions that were already sliced and diced were on display again only even leaner? 

Managers of retail locations across the country have had to have the intuition of when to hold on to staff and when to downsize and that has not been an easy task. Never before had we been on such a stormy economic ride that every week was another staffing crisis and they had to be dealt with. Retail was always in the top percent of the most difficult to keep any good employees and just before the recession hit that was evening out a bit. Better benefits, employers treating their staff as human beings rather than livestock, even the public was showing more respect. 

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the next 2 years in the retail industry. These last 3 years or so has also proven that we as consumers do not want to give up our “hands on stores” for internet shopping only. I appreciate having my customer service attendant be a human being and not a machine. So the layoff’s that have taken place will be overturned and we will again see a scramble to find those people who excel at our favorite retail outlets.


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