FMI’s Speaks 2020

The Lempert Report
October 21, 2020

This year is as always illuminating and an indispensable tool for both retailers and brands.

This year, in the midst of the pandemic it is an even more important read and path to the future.

You’ve heard enough from me and our Winsight editors on the effects of the pandemic – so for those insights you’ll have to read Speaks directly.

The part of Speaks that I want to focus on today is the section on Workforce: New Challenges & Opportunitites.

Quoting from Speaks: The food retail workforce story has often focused on concerns about recruitment, retention and the cost of benefits. In the pandemic environment, when food retail front-line workers have become national heroes, emerging challenges included keeping associates safe and maintaining large enough staffs to meet surging customer demand.

The robust economy of 2019, with its low levels of unemployment (3.5%), made the ability to recruit and retain employees a challenge for most food retailers, with turnover at 40%. Meanwhile, payroll expenses reached an average of almost 15% of sales Employee benefits costs — including health benefits — increased to 4.3% of sales. Workforce development was eyed as an opportunity but also a challenge.

Even with the 2019 unemployment rate at the lowest level in decades,, food retailers saw some positive movement — albeit small — in their turnover rates. The average turnover for all employees was at 40%, down from 45% in 2018. Part-time employee turnover was at 52%, down from 58% in 2018. Turnover was not as high for full-timers and corporate employees. Keep in mind that these numbers are Pre-Covid and in the short term we have seen supermarket employees under undo pressure with longer hour, confrontations with shoppers over masks, and quitting during mid shift. That will change. And with the adulation of creating these workers as essential workers we may have turned the corner, finally, on making working in a supermarket cool.

Again pre Covid retailers focused and spent money.  They have utilized a wide array of methods to improve their results on the labor front. The most common approach is to offer higher compensation either through higher wages (85%) or bonuses (58%). In fact, virtually every retailer offered higher compensation in one of these ways (93%). However, food retailers were also turning to other enticements.

` 65% were offering training and skills development, a number that has never been higher and as retailers like Wegmans has shown, has a huge ROI.

` 58% provided improved benefits

` 51% offered education programs or education benefits

` 48% made available flex time or flexible scheduling

` 44% operated an employee wellness program

` 34% focused on hiring and retention bonuses

In addition, three in ten (29%) started partnering with colleges and universities to help with their efforts to hire and retain employees.

This is just one small area of Speaks that is a must read. Read the rest.