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Retail And Reflections On The Politicization Of Everything

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This past Sunday was the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. That day was life-changing for all Americans, and likely reverberated around the world, as Fortress America was attacked on her own soil. Yet we rallied round as a country, determined to do whatever we could to help those who survived, mourn those who died, and exact revenge against those who did the deed.

In fact, I listened to former President George W. Bush on Sunday, as he spoke in “that field” in Pennsylvania. Whether or not I’m a fan of his is irrelevant. He said something that really struck me. He pointed out just how unified Americans were in supporting each other after that horrible day twenty years ago and wondered if we would be able to do that today, given the national climate of division and, yes, hate.

I’m not here to adjudicate the handling/mishandling of the US government’s actions after 9/11. Angrier people than me have done so ad nauseum. Nonetheless, what he said on Sunday had a point, and it’s one I wish we would all hear. Everything, I mean everything has become politicized. And we each seem to be required to pick a side.

So, what does this have to do with retail? Well, this morning, RetailWire posited the question: “Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?” While 80% voted it would make consumers at least somewhat more comfortable knowing all store associates where they shop are vaccinated (67% said ‘very comfortable’), the minority was “vocal” in its thumbs down for anyone who said “Of course.” For example, my friend Cathy Hotka expressed the opinion that our country can never get back to normal until vaccinations are the norm. She received 6 thumbs up and 14 thumbs down for her trouble. My answer and results were quite similar.

I believe we would get similar results (and have in the past) over mask mandates in stores. Where I live – the anti-mandate mandate state of Florida, most people have just given up. Either people wear masks, or they wear “chin diapers.” Or nothing at all. Either they get vaccinated, or they don’t. The transportation system is county-run here in Miami, and the buses very clearly state “No mask, no ride.”

People like me have already had their boosters, because I passed the six-month mark since my second vaccine. I wear a mask because I’ve been told I can still spread a disease I likely won’t get symptoms for. It’s an act of kindness and an attempt to keep others safe.

And this brings me to the core question:

What’s good for retail? Is it good for retail that our supply chain is still a mess? That it’s almost impossible to buy a car for less than 20% above MSRP because the chip shortage has made them just too difficult to deliver? I’m not exaggerating. This is true. I just tried to buy a new car last week. Mine will just have to hold on for another year or two. I’m not paying a 20% premium because there is NO spirit to just get the job done and process the container ships waiting outside ports, or off ports onto railroads en route to distribution centers. Is it good for retail that I can’t find the right brand of food for my cats because somehow “Prime” deliveries of this particular product are a MONTH after being ordered? There seems to be no incentive to make extra effort along the supply chain.

None of this is good for retail. None of this is good for consumers. And I have to ask for the forty-third time…where are our trade associations? Why are there not summits between retailers, suppliers and carriers moderated by the trade associations to help sort through these complex issues? Are they just too focused on the next trade show or potential tax increases? Is THAT good for retail?

I know I haven’t made a lot of friends with my posts about these topics lately. Honestly, I’m okay with that. I don’t consider them to be political, I see them as practical. However, we are, indeed a divided nation. If someone thinks they’re political, more power to you. No one is going to change each other’s minds at this point, that’s for sure. By the way, in case you hadn’t figured it out, that’s not so good for retail either.

This is sad.

Newsletter Articles September 14, 2021
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