From spook30: Food Lion is selling knock off "scout" cookies and created a "cookie booth" to sell them.
From spook30: Food Lion is selling knock off "scout" cookies and created a "cookie booth" to sell them.
(Reuters)Wal-Mart US CEO Greg Foran has spent a lot of time visiting the company's stores since he took the helm eight months ago.
With sales in the US lagging, Foran has traveled to Wal-Mart stores across the country in search of ways to improve customers' experiences with the retailer.
Foran shared what he learned during his travels in a meeting with investors on Wednesday. Here's what he said:
1. Many Wal-Mart stores lack cleanliness and tidiness.
"We want this year to be the year of improving our stores," Foran said, according to a transcript of his remarks. "So by the time we hit holiday season, our stores are clean, tidy, well merchandised and run by engaged associates. Today in the main, we’re not."
2. Stores aren't restocking shelves fast enough. "We’ve got too much inventory in the back rooms and our processes are not where we want them to be and that’s causing some undue shrinkage and some out-of-stocks," Foran said.
The company has already started to implement some changes to fix these issues, such as marking down foods that are nearing their expiration date to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste.
"Both Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets have potential to be better" when it comes to layout, design, lighting, and even store temperature, Foran said.
"Some of the stores recently opened in our opinion are not quite as good as ones that we had opened in previous years," he said.
4. Digital services need to be integrated with physical stores.
For example, Wal-Mart wants to expand its service allowing customers to order groceries online for in-store pickup and delivery.5. The retailer needs to improve traffic-driving side businesses like gas, care clinics and financial services.
"We have a mindset that we are building scalable profitable businesses whilst driving additional traffic to our stores," he said. "Consider how important pharmacy is to Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets as a traffic driver."
6. Prices aren't always as low as competitors'.
"While we have pockets of leadership [on price], in more competitive markets, our gain is too small," Foran said.
7. The brand needs to offer a wider product assortment in general merchandise, fresh produce, grocery and private label.
"When we get the assortment right, we know that the customers respond," Foran said.
8. The Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters needs to be focused on customer service.
"Our job at the home office in Bentonville is to serve the stores to in turn serve customers. Sam Walton, founder of our business based on this principle," Foran said. "But to be frank, in some recent years, we’ve slipped a little away from this. We’ve recently undertaken some important activities to simplify our organization and empower our stores, our associates in our stores to make decisions, but [there's] more to do."
From Huff Po:
Some of the country’s biggest employers are finally raising wages amid mounting pressure from protesters and a hardier job market.
McDonald’s on Wednesday became the latest major company to give workers -- albeit a fraction of its total workforce -- a pay bump that will lift average hourly pay to $9.90 from $9.01. The move, which will go into effect on July 1, follows a similar change made in February by Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer.
What, after years of stagnant wage growth for low-paid workers, is causing corporations to shell out more to their staff?
or some companies, the pay raise has been compelled by a sense of ethical leadership.
Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini raised the minimum wage at the health insurance company to $16 per hour after reading French economist Thomas Piketty’s bestseller Capital In The Twenty-First Century, which warns of the increasingly wide gap between rich and poor.
Other firms have been motivated by the desire to maintain market share.
“We’ve known for a really long time that if you look like a good corporate citizen, that’s good for sales,” Bob Keener, spokesman for the nonprofit Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, told The Huffington Post. “If you make a big public announcement about how you’re going to raise wages, you look like a good corporate citizen, and that’s going to increase your sales.”
Competition is also driving wages up. Call it a wage-hike domino effect. As the U.S. economy continues to add jobs, even retailers who claim to keep prices low in part by minimizing payroll expenses must increase how much they pay their workers to avoid losing them.
“When other large, low-wage employers boost their wages, McDonald’s has to be concerned about its employees moving to another employer where they can get another buck per hour,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the nonprofit National Employment Law Project. “There is undoubtedly some tightening in the labor market at the low end that is having an effect on wages.”
For every extra $1 a company spends each month in payroll, it could get back anywhere from $4 to $28 in monthly sales, according to a 2007 study by professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and elsewhere.
Companies are also facing intense pressure from protesters to pay a living wage. Workers united under such groups as the "Fight for 15," which advocates for a $15 minimum wage, have led rallies in cities across the world, including a major gathering outside McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, last May. Fight for 15 is also planning a series of strikes for later this month.
Protests for higher pay are gaining steam. This week, Seattle began the process of raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour. Los Angeles is considering bumping the minimum wage for the city’s hotel workers to $15.37 -- making it the highest in the country.
While both McDonald’s and Walmart aim for a $10 average wage by next year, that is still $5 below the wage that protesters are demanding. Critics worry that these incremental pay boosts could be an attempt to undercut a movement that is gaining serious clout.
“This is a PR and a political move meant to knock the wind out of this growing and increasingly militant movement,” Peter Dreier, a professor of urban policy at Occidental College, told HuffPost. “The companies are now competing with each other not to look like they’re the worst employer in the world.”
From The Washington Post:
Shanna Tippen was another hourly worker at the bottom of the nation’s economy, looking forward to a 25-cent bump in the Arkansas minimum wage that would make it easier for her to buy diapers for her grandson. When I wrote about her in The Post last month, she said the minimum wage hike would bring her a bit of financial relief, but it wouldn’t lift her above the poverty line.
She called me the other day to say she didn’t get to enjoy the 25-cent hike for long. After the story came out, she says she was fired from her job for talking to the Post.
I spend a lot of time writing about people at the low end of the economy, and I see up close how narrowly they get by day-to-day. In this case, writing about Tippen’s plight may have made her situation worse.
Tippen says she was fired by her boss, hotel manager Herry Patel. Earlier that day, Patel had called The Post to express frustration that he had been quoted giving his opinion about the minimum wage hike. (He objected to it.)
It was soon after, Tippen says, that Patel found her in the lobby and fired her.
“He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [The Post],” Tippen said. “He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, ‘Because he’s a reporter; that’s what he does.’ He said it was wrong for me to talk to you."
A man who sounded like Patel, reached recently at the Days Inn, declined to comment in several separate phone calls. On one call, the man said he’d never met Herry Patel and did not know who he was. On another call, he threatened to call the police if “you keep bothering us.”
(Several hours after this story was published, Patel called the Post and contested Tippen’s version of events. He said that Tippen was not fired, and instead walked out on the job after a disagreement. Patel said that he’d approached Tippen to ask about her past criminal record, which was described in the original Feb. 17 article.
Patel said he would not rehire Tippen because of the way she’d spoken to him during the dispute. “She walked out herself,” Patel said. “I didn’t fire her.”
Tippen, in a conversation Monday evening, reaffirmed her version of events. She said that Patel never questioned her about her criminal record and that the two spoke heatedly only after she was fired.)
Initially, Tippen was uncertain whether she wanted to publicly share the story of her firing, but she decided to because she feels increasingly desperate. She lived paycheck-to-paycheck during her two-plus years at the Days Inn, and now, she and her family are living off a recent tax refund check that won’t last past March. Tippen says she’s looking for another job but hasn’t found one yet.
“As of now, I’m looking for any kind of job at all,” she said. “Flipping burgers. Cleaning. Anything. It doesn’t matter.”
Wyndham Worldwide, which operates the Days Inn brand, said in a statement that “while we do not control or oversee staffing decisions at our franchised locations, we do require that each independently owned and operated hotel comply with all local, state and federal laws, especially as it relates to employment practices. While we can’t speak to the specifics of this or any particular situation at a franchised location, please know that ours is an organization which values and respects the contributions of all associates and that we encourage each of our franchisees to do the same.”
Patel introduced Tippen to me. During a trip to Pine Bluff, Ark., in mid-January, I went to numerous businesses across town and found Patel in the hotel lobby and introduced myself. There, I interviewed him for several minutes. Patel then suggested I speak with Tippen, who was cleaning up the continental breakfast bar. I interviewed her during her work shift, during a slow afternoon as she manned the front desk.
Several days later, after I’d spent additional time with Tippen, Patel called me and threatened to sue if an article was published. Tippen, though, felt it was important to tell her story; she said many people shared her experience earning the minimum, and she had nothing negative to say about her employer.
From Huff Po:
NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks baristas will no longer write "Race Together" on customers' cups starting Sunday, ending a visible component of the company's diversity and racial inequality campaign that had sparked widespread criticism in the week since it took effect.
The company had planned all along to end the cup messages on Sunday and continue the campaign more broadly, Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said.
The cups were "just the catalyst" for a larger conversation, and Starbucks will still hold forum discussions, co-produce special sections in USA TODAY and put more stores in minority communities as part of the Race Together initiative, according to a company memo from CEO Howard Schultz said.
The campaign has been criticized as opportunistic and inappropriate, coming in the wake of racially charged events such as national protests over police killings of black males. Others questioned whether Starbucks workers could spark productive conversations about race while serving drinks.
The phase-out is not a reaction to that pushback, Olson said. "Nothing is changing. It's all part of the cadence of the timeline we originally planned."
He echoed the company memo, saying of the Race Together initiative, "We're leaning into it hard."
Schultz's note to employees acknowledged the skeptics as an anticipated part of the outreach.
"While there has been criticism of the initiative — and I know this hasn't been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn't expect universal praise," it read.
He said the campaign at its core aims to make sure that "the promise of the American Dream should be available to every person in this country, not just a select few."
But the campaign didn't sit well with some Starbucks customers. Many voiced on social media and elsewhere that they didn't want a debate with their brew.
At a Starbucks in Pittsfield Township, Michigan, near Ann Arbor, two customers said on Sunday they didn't think a coffee shop was the right place for race relations dialogue.
Ninette Musili, a junior bio-molecular science major at the University of Michigan, said the campaign seemed to her like an insincere publicity stunt that wasn't executed properly.
Like many who criticized Starbucks, she goes to the shops either before class or later in the day to study. At neither time does she want to discuss race relations.
"Most people come to Starbucks for coffee," said Musili, who is 19 and African-American. "Race is an uncomfortable thing to bring up, especially in a Starbucks."
She said such discussions are important, and that Starbucks should have set aside time during the evenings for race discussions and invited people to attend.
Another customer, Shane Mulholland, 46, of Ann Arbor, also said Starbucks isn't the venue to talk about race.
"They're here for coffee. They're not here to push their political agenda," he said. "I even contemplated not coming here because of it."
He said Starbucks should remain neutral on such topics because it's an established brand, rather than risk alienating customers. "There are other ways you can go about doing things to stimulate interest in what you're doing," said Mulholland, who is white and runs an edible mushroom-growing business. "They must be doing so well they don't have to worry about losing customers over that," he said.
The campaign, he said, didn't start any discussions about race with him.
Discussions about race are necessary, but getting a message about it on a coffee cup is silly, Stephanie Nelson, 45, said at a Starbucks in Seattle, the chain's home.
"That was pushing it a bit," she said. "The broader discussion is good. Why not use your platform (as a company) for positive?"
From Huff Po:
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said his administration would soon release details of a highly anticipated reform to the nation's overtime rules, telling The Huffington Post on Friday that many Americans were being "cheated" out of time-and-a-half pay.
"What we’ve seen is, increasingly, companies skirting basic overtime laws, calling somebody a manager when they’re stocking groceries and getting paid $30,000 a year," Obama said in a sit-down interview with HuffPost. "Those folks are being cheated."
A little over a year ago, Obama directed the Labor Department to revise rules that determine who's eligible for a pay premium when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Current rules, implemented by the George W. Bush administration, are ungenerous to workers, and Obama clearly wants to expand them.
The question now is just how aggressive the White House will be and how willing it is to rankle the business lobby.
The key to the reforms is the so-called salary threshold. Salaried workers who earn less than a certain amount of money in a year are automatically entitled to time-and-a-half pay, no matter their job duties. Right now, that salary threshold is $23,660. The administration will raise that threshold to make more workers eligible for overtime. The higher the threshold, the more employers will have to face a choice: Either don't allow workers to exceed 40 hours a week or start paying them for the extra time they work.
Asked what sort of number he had in mind, Obama declined to say.
"I’ll tell you when we announce it," the president said.
Progressive Democrats have been urging the White House to be bold. Senate Democrats sent a letter to the administration in January recommending a salary threshold of $56,680, which would qualify roughly half of salaried workers for overtime pay. Some House Democrats have pushed for a more ambitious threshold of $69,000, which would cover an estimated 65 percent of salaried workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
As of 2013, just 11 percent of such workers were overtime-eligible under current rules, compared with roughly 65 percent back in 1975.
One problem, alluded to by Obama, is that companies can dodge overtime pay by classifying workers as managers, even if those workers spend most of their days doing manual labor. So long as their salaries are above the low threshold, employers can work them as long as they want while paying only the base salary. Such practices are rampant in the retail industry, and particularly in the world of dollar stores, as HuffPost reported in 2013.
Obama said his administration has been working on the overtime rule with Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and details should be released "relatively soon."
The goal, he said, is "to set a standard that is fair and that acknowledges the history of people getting paid their fair overtime wages."
Watch The Huffington Post's full interview with President Obama here.
From Huff Po:
WASHINGTON -- Back in 2008, a worker named Jdimytai Damour died beneath a crowd of shoppers who poured through the doors of a Long Island Walmart on Black Friday. The tragedy made national news and prompted an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA ultimately faulted Walmart for Damour's death, arguing that the company had failed to provide him with a safe workplace. The agency fined the world's largest retailer $7,000, the maximum amount it could levy for a serious violation. As The Huffington Post reported in November, Walmart has been fighting the relatively tiny fine on appeal ever since.
That fight is now over.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which is tasked with reviewing such cases, confirmed to HuffPost that Walmart withdrew its appeal on Wednesday, meaning the fine will stand. The company hasn't yet paid it, but Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said it plans to.
David Michaels, the head of OSHA, applauded Walmart's decision on Thursday in a statement to HuffPost.
"We were delighted to hear that Walmart has withdrawn its appeal of our citation and fine," Michaels said.
For Walmart, which had sales of $482 billion in fiscal year 2015, the appeal was never about the money. The company has spent more than $1 million in legal fees just fighting the $7,000 fine, The New York Times reported. Instead, the appeal was about principle.
OSHA used what’s known as the general duty clause to fault Walmart for the death. According to the clause, employers have a general responsibility to provide a workplace that’s "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees." OSHA basically said that Walmart should have foreseen what could go wrong with a Black Friday crowd, and an administrative law judge agreed.
Because it's not very specific, OSHA doesn't often hang its citations on the general duty clause; employers like to say that it's not a strong enough foundation for an argument that finds them at fault. In fighting the fine, Walmart argued that the circumstances of Damour's death never could have been predicted.
Although Walmart is dropping its appeal, Hargrove said the company still believes the citation wasn't warranted.
"We maintain our position that the citation from OSHA should not have been issued, because it imposed standards that did not exist and were unknown to the retail industry at the time of the incident," he said. "With the likelihood that this would not conclude for a long time, we decided to put it behind us and withdraw the appeal."
Walmart may have simply been cutting its losses in deciding to give up the fight. In another high-profile case, OSHA fined SeaWorld for the death of a whale trainer killed during a performance in 2010. The agency based its citation on the general duty clause. Like Walmart, SeaWorld fought that fine for years -- and lost on appeal last year.
Another consideration Walmart may have had in dropping its appeal is public perception. Put simply, it looks bad to spend years fighting a small fine when a man has died. (HuffPost, for one, was starting to make a Thanksgiving tradition out of reporting on this case.) Hammered for years over its pay and working conditions, Walmart recently took a big step in rehabbing its image when it announced it would have a $10 minimum wage in its stores by next February.
After Damour's death, OSHA began issuing guidance to retailers every year on how to handle Black Friday shoppers, and retailers started taking the possibility of disaster more seriously. Walmart consulted with experts to develop its own crowd-control measures. It also started staggering sales on particular items to limit the mayhem. Hargrove said Walmart's measures have served "as a model for the retail industry."
"More important than the penalty is knowing that Walmart and other large retailers recognize the potential for danger," OSHA's Michaels said.