Slim Profit Margins for Retailers Are Almost Hard for Me to Believe!

Picture it – a hot summer day walking through Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. All of a sudden, a frosty gust blows across your body, surprising you because of just how unexpected it is. You turn and look to see the double doors of a trendy clothing retailer wide open on a HOT summer day, the cool air of which is pouring forth from inside. You soon learn that this is the normal, everyday practice of this business. Simple math suggests the store (fairly large in square footage) was losing hundreds or dollars per week, if not per day. If you think this is an isolated incident, keep your eyes and ears open, and I promise you will eventually believe it is not isolated, and in fact, is common!

I often listen to stock market and business reports which describe how competitive the retail landscape truly is. This I do not doubt, but what I do find dubious is the sense of urgency to stay competitive. I have witnessed way too many instances of businesses bleeding cash by making irrational decisions. Here are a few examples. When I was a denizen of Ohio, I generally only needed to be within 10 feet of the never-shut entrances of multiple local Walmarts before I was defrosted by the heat blasting from the inside. More recently, my local supermarket had a RedBox kiosk near the exit that, in the winter, required my wife and I to rush because the exit door never closed. Multiple family members and friends who have worked for clothing retailers and electronics stores have informed me that the amount of theft perpetrated by other employees and management ranged from several thousand to over $100,000 per month!

Anyone who pays their own bills should be astonished that not only do these events commonly occur, but it appears as if employees and/or management do not seem all that concerned about these events. I often wondered why the doors to these stores were never shut nor were better security measures implemented to prevent thousands of dollars worth of theft. These solutions are not akin to those made during brain surgery, and as such, suggest to me that the employees or management simply do not care because it is not their money. So, every time I now hear that margins are razor thin, I laugh and ask myself “Air conditioning, heat, employee theft, or employee indifference?” Who knows? Perhaps my revolutionary, outside-the-box solutions, such as requiring doors to be shut in the summer or winter, will land me a VP position at some major retailer!

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