Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

New Year's post #2: chain stores, local employment and responsiveness

1.  There's a lot of writing by conservatives about minimum wage laws and how raises are so pernicious to the free market and limit employment at low level jobs, along with a lot of waxing poetic about the value of work and these kinds of jobs as entry level positions.

I don't think that these conservatives (e.g., this piece by Ben Carson, "Getting to the top by starting at the bottom," Washington Times) recognize that as independent businesses, especially at the retail level, have been overtaken by chain companies, either owned and operated stores (like a Safeway or CVS) or a franchised operation (like most fast food restaurants), the opportunities for people under the age of 18 to get a job is significantly eliminated, mostly because of insurance, risk management and other rules.

From the article:
I vividly remember as a teenager obtaining my first job with a regular paycheck as a high school biology-laboratory assistant.  It’s hard to describe how excited I was to be receiving a salary and contributing to the upkeep of my family’s household, but the biggest thrill was doing something important while at the same time acquiring many skills that would prove useful in the future.
Similarly the decline of newspapers limits the opportunity for kids to "deliver" the local newspaper and learn about work that way.

Hey I delivered the Detroit Free Press as a kid, and at 9 yeas old when I lived in South Lyon, Michigan I did odd jobs for the pharmacy and the supermarket across the street (I lived in the commercial district).  I got my first payroll job at 16, at a local Big Boy--my friend, who worked there got a job because of his sister, and he got a job for me.

I understand the sentiment.  But it's nostalgia for a work environment that doesn't exist any more.

b.  Note though that's why I suggest that urban high schools develop cooperative education programs that incorporate workforce learning within the curriculum, to deal with the risk management issues and provide opportunities for employment-related learning and income.

2.  Similarly, chain stores aren't great for responsiveness to local customers.  More than 2 years ago but less than 3 years ago, Giant Supermarkets here went through what is called SKU rationalization, where they dropped items that sold less, focusing their stock on items that sell more, and "forcing" people to buy what they have, in order to be able to buy more of particular items at lower prices, passing those savings to the consumer in terms of lower prices.

But as some companies found out (like Walmart), SKU rationalization cost them customers because people shopped at other stores to get the products they wanted.  

That happened with me at Giant, because instead of carrying the 5 flavors of Edy's Frozen Yogurt that I like, they started carrying only two, neither of which was my favorite.  This ended up costing them 6-8 of my annual shopping trips per year, because when I wanted the other flavors of frozen yogurt I know to go to Safeway.

BUT... Safeway didn't carry my favorite flavor, Cappuccino Chocolate Chip.  So I wrote to Edy's and Safeway suggesting that Safeway also carry this flavor.  I did that between 2 and 3 years ago too.  Just last week I saw that Safeway has started carrying it.  Change takes a long time...

b.  Speaking of Safeway, they do have variations between stores on stocking even their store brand items.  I thought they stopped selling Safeway Select Chipotle Salsa and Safeway Select Raspberry Jam (both particularly decent products for own brand).  Nope.  Just my store.  It sucks to have to shop multiple Safeways though to get the items you want.

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