Since the start of the pandemic, political divisions have expanded beyond elections and legislation to signify retail buyers’ approach to health and safety amid continued peaks of Covid-19.
Wearing or not wearing a mask has come to be seen as a statement of ideology rather than a safety measure. This is a condition on which even the vaccine itself is not immune.
Spend some time on social media platforms such as Facebook, and skepticism about the vaccine’s effectiveness and potential side effects abounds. Pleads for inoculation are also increasingly vocal. The divergent public response poses challenges for retailers, who must navigate ensuring a safe store environment without alienating their customers or employees.
Carrots, no sticks
General dollar and consumer-facing businesses like this, including the Instacart delivery platform, the Trader Joe’s grocery chain and Aldi USA, believe they have found an answer: to encourage, rather than demand, vaccination. employees.
Dollar General was the first to make such an announcement, saying in a statement, “Understand that immunization of healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities is ongoing and the CDC is currently recommending that the next phase of immunization is offered to essential frontline workers, we want to be at the forefront of facilitating our employees’ ability to receive the Covid-19 vaccine if they choose – and we encourage our entire team to receive the vaccine when it will be available.
Although Instacart, Aldi USA and Trader Joe’s also compensate employees, they did not explicitly state whether or not they require workers to be vaccinated. Dollar General, Instacart, and Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment upon publication of this article.
It remains to be seen whether lobbying workers will be an effective tactic, not only to convince employees to get vaccinated, but also to persuade people to shop in their stores.
“Dollar General’s most aggressive commitment would be to force all employees to get vaccinated,” said Hayes Roth, founder of brand consulting firm HA Roth Consulting. “This can be difficult for them, however, given who their predominant employee base (and target audience) is probably, so it certainly seems like a reasonable alternative.”
For national retailers with a strong presence in the Red and Blue states, rural areas and urban centers, this is a complicated subject. But these complications should not confuse management, says David Lemley, president and chief strategy officer at Retail Voodoo.
“I think the right thing to do is not play politics and demand that everyone get vaccinated,” he explained. “The incentive gives a better perspective to employees who might be less inclined to complain if the company pays for it.”
But not requiring employees to get vaccinated to allay buyers’ concerns also leaves the door open for competitors.
“In addition to risking employee health, if given the choice to shop in a store with a sign saying ‘All of our employees are vaccinated and we continue to practice COVID-free protocols’ compared to a store that does can’t claim it, it seems obvious, ”Roth said.
The caveat, he said, is if a business is so deeply politically empowered that health and safety versus sacrificing personal “rights” requires a different choice.
The owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, for example, cited their firmly held religious beliefs when they refused to give employees access to drugs and devices that could induce an abortion.
“Major US retailers would be wise to make employee vaccination a mandate, barring extreme religious or health restrictions, as they will benefit the most from a return to near-normalcy in retail shopping,” Roth said. “I would say the same is especially true for US national and regional QSRs – having and advertising fully vaccinated staff, from the kitchen to the ward to on-call – at all locations would logically be a major selling point in the beginning. of the “return to normal” period. . “