“With omicron landing in the US, do retailers actually need the vaccine mandate?” by Daphne Howland via Retail Dive

“With omicron landing in the US, do retailers actually need the vaccine mandate?” by Daphne Howland via Retail Dive

andreswd via Getty Images The National Retail Federation won a stay against the government’s plan to have big companies immunize or test their employees. That squanders a chance to thwart the pandemic, experts say. As the omicron variant of COVID-19 made headlines over the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend, President Joe Biden instituted new travel restrictions from eight countries and urged people to get immunized. A week later, as the new strain was discovered in the U.S., he announced a multi-faceted plan to get a better grip on the pandemic. The initiatives include, among other steps, encouraging immunization boosters for adults and vaccinations for children; developing vaccines for kids under five; expanding testing; strategizing best practices to keep schools and businesses open; developing new vaccines if omicron proves resistant; and calling on companies to ensure their workforces are vaccinated. The last reflects the recognition of the workplace as a vector for the disease. Notably absent, however, was Biden’s attempted mandate for companies of 100 or more to either check their employees’ vaccination status or test them weekly if they’re unvaccinated — a requirement blocked in recent weeks after the National Retail Federation and other groups challenged it in court. According to the CDC, nearly 60% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, though community transmission remains high. Reported cases were already resurging before the news of another mutation. Omicron, which by Sunday had been reported in a third of the states in the U.S., is a variant that appears to carry “an increased risk of reinfection” and “may have a growth advantage,” according to the World Health Organization. On Friday, as first reported by the New York Times, a group of scientists, noting that their data is very early, said that omicron in South Africa...
“Concerns over omicron could shift spending away from experiences, retail trade group says” by Melissa Repko via CNBC

“Concerns over omicron could shift spending away from experiences, retail trade group says” by Melissa Repko via CNBC

A person with a hand full of shopping bags walks by as Black Friday sales begin at The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass in Simpsonville, Kentucky, November 26, 2021.Jon Cherry | Reuters KEY POINTS National Retail Federation CEO Matt Shay said Tuesday that the new coronavirus variant could direct more dollars toward electronics, toys, apparel and other items instead of vacations and movie tickets.News of the omicron strain came during a key time for holiday shopping.The trade group reiterated its forecast of between $843.4 billion and $859 billion of sales in November and December, which would represent an all-time high in holiday spending. As Americans bought gifts during the peak Thanksgiving shopping weekend, the discovery of the omicron variant made headlines and prompted action by public health officials. National Retail Federation CEO Matt Shay said Tuesday that the coronavirus strain could shake up spending patterns this holiday season and direct more dollars toward electronics, toys, apparel and other items instead of vacations and movie tickets. “We know, unfortunately, that when the variants have had a real impact on the economy, the goods side of the economy has actually benefited from that because people change behavior away from the experience side of the economy and spend more time and more dollars engaged in the goods side of the economy,” he said on a call with reporters. Holiday sales are expected to grow to an all-time high of between $843.4 billion and $859 billion of sales in November and December, which represents growth of 8.5% to 10.5% this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The trade group reiterated its rosy forecast for the holiday season on...
“How Retailers Can Teach Empathy for De-Escalation” by Derek Belch via Total Retail

“How Retailers Can Teach Empathy for De-Escalation” by Derek Belch via Total Retail

Retailers and consumers alike had just started to feel hopeful about a post-pandemic future a mere few weeks ago. However, with the COVID-19 Delta variant quickly becoming a concern, retailers across the country have made the move to reinstate mask mandates indoors. Unsurprisingly, this latest round of mask mandates has come with mounting tensions. Many store associates have found themselves in very uncomfortable, and sometimes violent encounters with disgruntled customers, with facemasks continuing to pose a controversial debate. As such, with the onus sitting squarely on the shoulders of front-line employees to outline and enforce these mask mandates, many businesses are looking at proactive measures to help train and prepare workers for potentially highly charged customer encounters. Preparing Our People With Empathy Training During these challenging times, customer-facing employees will be looking for guidance on best practices and reassurance on how to handle potentially tense situations with customers. Signals must come from the top, emphasizing the importance of being confident and prepared with the skills needed to de-escalate stressful interactions. It often comes down to the ability to show empathy to those experiencing stress or anxiety. However, this typically doesn’t come naturally and requires proper training. This is why empathy training is key for giving front-line associates the tools to prepare for what they’re likely to face, such as what Walmart is doing with its beKIND program meant for teaching and measuring empathy in customer service. Customer-facing employees can benefit immensely by being able to embody the feelings of an anxious guest or customer. Through realistic, immersive training modalities, learners can better understand a customer’s point of view, whether or not they agree, in order...
“Shoppers returning to their earlier pandemic behaviors, research finds” by Daphne Howland via Retail Dive

“Shoppers returning to their earlier pandemic behaviors, research finds” by Daphne Howland via Retail Dive

kajakiki via Getty Images Dive Brief: Consumers are retrenching in the face of the delta variant of the coronavirus, with 20% “highly optimistic” about a return to normal, down from a third at the beginning of the summer, according to Numerator research. Nearly 60% are “very or somewhat concerned” about holiday plans being disrupted by the pandemic, Berkeley Research Group found.The number of people who said they had resumed pre-COVID behaviors fell for the first time, from 39% in July to 27% in August, Numerator said. Nearly half say they expect a full reopening to be delayed until 2022 or later, up from 23% who said so in July and 18% in June, the firm found. The comfort level of shopping without a mask dropped 15 percentage points from July to August, with 34% preferring to go in stores with mask requirements and 36% having a higher level of respect for businesses that enforce mask wearing, per Numerator research.  Dive Insight: After waning this year, troublesome uncertainty is gaining strength, as the delta variant of the virus spreads and immunization rates in many areas falter. Wells Fargo economists noted that new COVID-19 cases were averaging about 100,000 daily at the time of their August economic outlook report, but had risen to more than 150,000 per day at the time of their September report last week.  “As a result, Americans have generally become more cautious,” they noted. To address the renewed strength of the disease and its risks to health, life and the economy, President Joe Biden last week announced an unprecedented move to require large businesses to vaccinate their employees or have any unvaccinated employees produce a...
“Retailers are rethinking mask policies in the wake of new CDC guidance—and it could get complicated”

“Retailers are rethinking mask policies in the wake of new CDC guidance—and it could get complicated”

A “Mask Required” sign at the entrance to a Kroger Co. grocery store in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.Scott Dalton | Bloomberg | Getty Images KEY POINTS Retailers are again contemplating whether or not to reinstate mask mandates in stores for shoppers and employees, following updated CDC guidelines.The National Retail Federation said it is “truly unfortunate” that these mask recommendations have returned for much of the country.Apple is asking both vaccinated and unvaccinated customers to wear masks in many of its U.S. stores.Other businesses are expected to follow suit with revised masking policies in the coming days. Retailers have waded back into all-too-familiar territory that they didn’t think they’d be faced with again, as many are contemplating whether or not to reinstate mask mandates in stores for shoppers and employees. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a fresh recommendation that calls for wearing face masks again in areas of the country where the Covid-19 virus is spreading the most rapidly. That covers about two-thirds of all counties in the United States. The decision came roughly two months after the CDC in May said vaccinated individuals could go without masks. The delta variant, however, has driven cases back up and led the agency to reevaluate. The National Retail Federation, a leading trade group for the industry, said in a statement that retailers large and small “will continue to follow the guidance of the CDC.” It added, however, “It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination.” Some businesses have been quick to react....
“What the delta variant already means for retail” by Daphne Howland via Retail Dive

“What the delta variant already means for retail” by Daphne Howland via Retail Dive

Rapid development and distribution of vaccines promised to halt the pandemic, but new surges brought on by viral mutations threaten progress. A change in mask-wearing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday — urging even vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas with “substantial or high transmission” — signaled fresh worry about a pandemic that earlier this year seemed to be on the wane in the U.S., thanks to the rapid development and distribution of vaccines. A stock market dip the week before was also attributed to rising concerns about a mutation of the COVID-19 coronavirus known as the delta variant, which is proving to be even more contagious than the strains that took such a toll last year. Hospitals in some areas are once again under pressure. For developing and poor countries, which have the lowest vaccination rate, the problem is access to vaccines, according to the International Monetary Fund, which on Tuesday warned the delta variant threatens the global economy. In the U.S., nearly all patients with serious illness have been unvaccinated, in part due to vaccine hesitancy. The National Retail Federation took on that issue in its response to the new guidance. “It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination,” the group said in a statement Tuesday. “The CDC’s latest guidance underscores the urgency for more Americans to become fully vaccinated so we can all emerge from this pandemic.” While the news is alarming, a repeat of the lockdowns of last year that hit the retail industry so hard seems unlikely. Still, the delta variant is already affecting retailers in three...