‘No Vaccine Required’

Companies are using a new tactic in their attempts to attract workers during the labor shortage.

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Here are today’s highlights:

  • Gene Marks suggests an alternative way to find job candidates. 

  • Outdoor dining helped restaurants survive, but should it continue beyond the pandemic?

  • Casper figured out everything about selling mattresses direct to consumer. Well, almost everything.

THE ECONOMY

Americans have concerns about inflation, but that’s not keeping them from spending: “Retail sales set a record in October, before adjusting for inflation, as shoppers splurged on electronics and home-improvement projects. Major retailers like Walmart are posting strong profits. And Wall Street forecasters are predicting a holiday season that looks less like pandemic-constrained 2020 than like 2019, when a strong labor market powered robust sales. The continued strength of consumer spending reflects the resilience of the U.S. economy after a year and a half of disruptions, and the success of the government’s economic response in insulating many families from the damage.”

  • “Households in the aggregate have trillions of dollars more in accumulated savings than before the crisis.”

  • “‘The thing that’s still missing is discretionary services,’ said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, a forecasting firm.” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

Companies are using a new tactic to attract workers: “In the search for workers in this tight labor market, companies have courted new hires with the promise of higher wages, sign-on bonuses, ample vacation time, and childcare. The latest: ‘No vaccine required.’ That three-word phrase is popping up across online job listings (sometimes emphatically in all caps and accompanied by exclamation marks) as businesses seek to turn the federal government's proposed vaccine decree on its head and attract employees -- notably those from a talent pool that's been turned off by or turned away from employers that require a Covid-19 vaccination.”

  • “And although the reasons behind the ‘no vaccine required’ job listings vary by business — for some owners, it's philosophical; for others, it's desperation amid an unbalanced labor market — several employers say it's working.”

  • “When Primal Life Organics amended its job postings to include the phrasing ‘NO VACCINE REQUIRED,’ the company saw an increase in applications from the single-digits to 30 or 40, said CEO Trina Felber ...”

  • “JP Valadez, of NextGen Code Company in Lubbock, Texas, launched the NoVaxMandate.org online job board in August. Since then, the site has had more than 2.25 million unique visitors and more than 20,000 resumes posted, Valadez said.”

  • “‘We are also seeing a massive migration from corporations to smaller businesses,’ he said in an email to CNN Business.” READ MORE

Gene Marks suggests another way to find employees: “I met Dan a few months ago at a conference for companies that sell and install windows in commercial and residential structures. It’s a big industry, and the companies in that business are facing the same labor disruption problems that just about every other company is dealing with right now. Dan, however, isn’t too concerned. ‘I’ve got plenty of people,’ he told me. ‘I’m always looking for great new talent, but I’ve never had a problem with that.’ Why? I asked him. ‘It’s because I know where to look,’ he said.”

  • “When Dan goes out with his family to eat dinner or shopping or to an event, he’s paying attention. He’s watching the employees at those places, particularly the ones serving him. He’s looking for someone with energy, attitude and intelligence.”

  • “He invites that person in for an interview. He offers them an opportunity to make way more money than they’re making now and have a career that may well exceed that person’s current prospects. ‘I talk to them,’ he says. ‘And I offer them opportunities.’”

  • “‘I can teach anyone how to sell windows,’ he says. ‘I can’t teach them how to be a good person … or a productive employee.’” READ MORE

CUSTOMER SERVICE

A study finds that raising the minimum wage for restaurant workers improves customer service: “The study’s authors analyzed thousands of restaurant reviews after San Jose, Calif., raised its minimum wage from $8 to $10 in 2013 but the surrounding cities in Santa Clara County didn’t. They found the wage increase seemed to improve customers’ perceptions of wait staffs’ friendliness and courteousness, as measured by online reviews. For example, the number of negative comments about the wait staff at non-chain restaurants decreased 2.1 percent in the 12 months after San Jose increased the minimum wage, compared with both the previous 12 months and with restaurants in the surrounding cities of Santa Clara County.”

  • “For chain restaurants in San Jose, the higher minimum wage didn’t have a statistically significant effect for staff friendliness, wait times, cleanliness or price.”

  • “A possible explanation, says Prof. Puranam, is that chain restaurants often have myriad protocols and procedures regulating how the eatery operates, so higher wages wouldn’t change those protocols.” READ MORE

BUSINESS MODELS

Casper figured out all kinds of things about selling mattresses direct to consumers—except for how to make a profit: “After starting out in 2014 as an online seller, Casper opened dozens of its own stores and started selling its products in traditional chains like Target, which had invested in the startup. The marketplace was flooded by dozens of internet mattress sellers, such as Purple Innovation and Nectar Sleep, driving up the competition for shoppers and the costs of online advertising to reach them.”

  • “Casper said co-founder Philip Krim was stepping aside as chief executive, a role he has held since the company’s earliest days. The entrepreneur and his colleagues started the online brand inspired by the success of Warby Parker.”

  • Casper helped prove that consumers would buy big-ticket items sight unseen. But it also ran into the limits of ecommerce. ‘There’s still a lot of the population that will never buy a mattress without laying on it first,’  Mr. Krim said in a 2018 interview.”

  • “Casper responded to increasing online advertising costs with plans to open its own stores. As competition grew stiff among mattress startups, Casper intended to move from a brand known for its mattresses-in-a-box to a place to buy all types of sleep products.” READ MORE

TAXES

There have been tax changes business owners should know about: “The Work Opportunity Tax Credit may be more important than ever for [businesses] who are recovering from a pandemic slow-down and starting to hire more employees. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a credit available for wages paid to certain individuals who begin work on or before December 31, 2025. Employers are eligible for the WOTC when they hire and pay wages to individuals ‘who are certified by a designated local agency (sometimes referred to as a state workforce agency) as being a member of one of 10 targeted groups.”

  • “The amount of the WOTC is generally 40 percent of up to $6,000 of wages for individuals in their first year of employment.”

  • “The WOTC is not available for employee re-hires. Up to $24,000 in wages may be taken into account in determining the WOTC for certain qualified veterans.”

  • “Under the CARES Act, employers and employees now both benefit by paying off student debt. For employers with a Section 127 plan for their employees until December 31, 2025, payments up to $5,250 per year for existing student loan debt can be made by the employer. And the payments are excluded from income for the employee and the employer also gets a payroll tax exclusion.” READ MORE

TECHNOLOGY

Amazon has reduced the cost of its cashier-less store technology: “Amazon estimates the operating cost for the technology behind a 1,000-square-foot Go cashier-less store has dropped to $159,000 a store this year, a 96 percent decline from $4 million in December 2017, a month before it opened the first location, according to an internal document from August that Insider obtained. Even more savings are forecast by the end of 2023. The costs include payments for using Amazon Web Services cloud technology and hiring remote employees who manually verify the accuracy of checkouts in the stores, among other tasks.”

  • “The original Go store cost more than $10 million to operate, according to Brad Stone's book Amazon Unbound."

  • “Key to the cost savings is a new camera system with an increased field of view, which lowers the number of cameras needed per store, according to the document.” READ MORE

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LOGISTICS

The people who sell Christmas trees say you better get your tree now: “Christmas tree vendors say they will have fewer trees available for sale this holiday season due to a double whammy of supply chain troubles and climate change. The shortfall in supply compared to expected demand will affect the markets for both natural and artificial trees, according to sellers. ‘The demand this year is going to be extremely strong and so I think from a consumer perspective people definitely shouldn’t wait,’ explained Chris Butler, CEO of National Tree Company, a top importer and wholesaler of artificial Christmas trees and holiday decorations.”

  • “​​What’s more, while Christmas trees are farmed across the nation, the majority of America’s trees are from Oregon and Washington and have taken the brunt of extreme weather events.” READ MORE

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Not everyone loves outdoor dining: “​​As city officials presented a plan to make it permanent, residents waved matching signs with slogans like ‘Outdoor Dining Is Home Invasion.’ They loudly booed an official who called outdoor dining a huge success. When another official said New York’s sidewalks have become some of the best dining options in the world, the audience screamed, ‘Rats!’”

  • “Starting later this month, officials will host citywide hearings for residents to say what they believe outdoor dining should look like in a post-pandemic world.”

  • “‘I don’t think people understand the margins in which we run on,’ [Megan Rickerson, owner of Someday Bar in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill] said. ‘I didn’t pay myself for a very long time to ensure the survival of my bar and my staff.’” 

  • “Opponents, however, say that living on a street with outdoor dining means suffering through noise late into the night, rodent infestations and mounting trash.”

  • “The structures block sidewalks, bike lanes, emergency vehicles and parking spots, which critics see as an unfair land grab that enriches the hospitality industry at the expense of other small businesses.” READ MORE

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

It’s Bonus Season. Are You Feeling Generous? This week, Paul Downs, Jay Goltz, and Laura Zander talk about the bonuses they expect to pay this year—and how their bonus plans and philosophies have evolved over time: Are the payments a reward for company performance? Are they a reward for personal performance? Are they supposed to motivate? Or are they just a thank you? Then the owners talk management, a discussion inspired by last week’s episode with Dana White about navigating the space between being a pushover and being a jerk. Plus: Are 360 reviews good management or are they kind of creepy?

  • You can subscribe to The 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.

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