‘Every Day Is Frightening’: Working For Walmart Amid Covid-19 Pandemic
Enlarge this image toggle caption Courtesy of the National Retail Federation Courtesy of the National Retail Federation
It was one of the worst winters on record, and life for many Americans didn’t change much.
But what’s happening today could radically alter the way we live and how we work.
“We may have to adapt,” says Greg Toppo, the longtime senior retail analyst at the National Retail Federation.
Toppo’s observations echo those of Walmart’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, and those of other retail experts and economists, who say the retail industry must adapt to a new normal.
As we learned in the coronavirus pandemic, the world does and will change.
That’s certainly true for the retail industry.
Enlarge this image toggle caption Scott Olson/Getty Images Scott Olson/Getty Images
First, the pandemic may have changed behavior in the workforce.
“At the end of January a lot of people were thinking, ‘This is not a normal business cycle at all.’ And we saw retail sales and employment go down,” Toppo says. “As we all know, this will change.”
That behavior change is already occurring. We’re seeing more people taking a second job at a grocery store, where many have become accustomed to working through the weekend.
“We’re seeing a lot of people working through the weekends,” Toppo says. “We’re seeing more people working at home. We’re seeing more people working remotely, and more people are getting their work done online.”
Second, the pandemic has altered the landscape of how the retail industry operates.
“You could look at the retail landscape and say we went from a very strong to an even stronger retail industry,” says Toppo. “It’s going to be even stronger.”
In recent weeks, he says, some people “have tried to do a lot in terms of being reactive” on the part of retailers. “We’ve been hit with a lot of the effects of trying to do very much on a more aggressive basis,” he says.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, he says. But “we’re really going to need to do a lot of work to protect what we have going forward.”
As Toppo sees it, we’re seeing three broad changes in the retail industry: