Beauty Store Business magazine - September, 2019

The Retail Clinic: How to Handle Dead Zones, Employee Disability and PTO

Hiring employees with disabilities, reviving dead zones and paid sick time benefits.

Employees With Disabilities
People with disabilities add diversity and unique strengths to work environments. They also expand business potential by widening markets and stimulating untapped purchasing power, according to the 2018 report, “A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities” by American Institutes for Research.

The report states that one in five people in the United States have a disability, and more than 20 million are working-age adults. The U.S. population of American adults with disabilities is expected to rise considerably as 71.5 million baby boomers reach the age of 65 by 2030, according to (United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division).

In addition to being inclusive, studies show that businesses that hire people with disabilities increase both their pool of applicants and their employee retention rates. They also diversify and expand their customer base. One study noted in the report found that the vast majority of consumers– 92 percent–look highly upon companies that hire people with disabilities; and more than one-third prefer to give their business to such companies. Ultimately, businesses that hire people with disabilities give customers insight into their values–a matter of importance to today’s consumers.

Businesses are smart to accommodate and provide for people with disabilities as not to miss out on the $21 billion in discretionary income attributed to the group. According to the authors of the report: “Most businesses are not taking advantage of the nearly half a trillion dollars in market value of this population. Given that people with disabilities are part of families and communities, the number of people who could purchase goods and services for this population more than doubles.”

Interestingly, the report also notes that the total discretionary income of people with disabilities surpasses that of the African-American and Hispanic markets combined–an insight worth considering as inclusivity in the market makes continual gains. It pays to both hire and accommodate those with disabilities.

Reviving Dead Zones
The phrase “dead zone” immediately conjures up images of shopping centers with blatantly unoccupied retail spaces and glaring “available for lease” signs. Yet, many retailers have dead zones within their own shopping spaces. Dead zones are areas of a store that are either going completely unused or aren’t fully maximized for their shopping potential.

The foremost reasons for dead zones are poor space planning, substandard lighting and cluttered merchandising, says Jalpa Patel, interior architect and senior visual merchandiser for ZenGenius, a merchandising design firm. “Many retailers believe that showing more merchandise is the best practice to increase sales. However, over time, this often leads to an extremely chaotic and untidy situation where the customers quickly turn away from the products,” she explains. She adds that poor lighting stirs up a sense of uncertainty within customers due to the neglect such areas exhibit; but overall store layout is generally the culprit of dead zones.

Patel explains that these issues can be rectified by creating a flow and navigation for customers to follow. Doing so requires retailers to approach their spaces mindfully; after all, what they ignore, their customers will also ignore, which means well-thought-out signage and product-category placement are essential. She suggests using wayfinding signage as well as signage that conveys excitement to lure customers to less pronounced and less attractive areas of the store.

In keeping with modern retail strategies, “convert dead zones into experience zones,” says Patel. “Attempts should be made to include multi-sensory experiences in product merchandise display and communication. Increasing human interaction, encouraging them to try, touch, smell, hear and taste the product would bring the dead zones alive,” she explains.

The more customers feel invited to experientially delve into the store’s offerings, the more comfortable they’ll feel in any space, whether at the back of the store or in a corner. Experiential elements convey a retailer’s intentionality toward both the products and the customer experience– and the effort won’t go unnoticed.

Paid Sick Time Pays
Employees who work while sick cost businesses 10 times as much as they do when they take a sick day, according to a report from Virgin Pulse, an organization that facilitates more productive workforces among businesses. One of the major causes of employees working while sick is a lack of paid sick days.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that absenteeism costs employers more than $225 billion per year. But Virgin Pulse’s research found that presenteeism costs significantly more. Presenteeism is when employees work non productively, such as when they’re sick. When Virgin Pulse surveyed nearly 2,000 working people from 17 countries, it found that employees on average used about four sick days per year, but their nonproductive work days totaled about 57.7 days per year.

Those numbers are all the more staggering when employees show up to work with contagious illnesses, such as the flu, and multiply the number of employees working sick. It should be noted that employees who don’t have paid sick days are “1.5 times more likely than those with paid sick days to report going to work with a contagious illness like the flu or a viral infection,” as reported by the National Partnership for Women & Families in the fact sheet, “Paid Sick Days Improve Public Health.”

In reality, sick days are employed for more than physical manifestations of illness. Sometimes employees legitimately need a break or find themselves dealing with mental health challenges. These types of conditions are also bundled into the costs incurred by presenteeism. Studies show, however, that breaks from work benefit employee productivity, and therefore, businesses. As such, there’s been a rise in employers that offer extended vacations and other types of time away from work.

Not only does it benefit businesses financially to encourage employees to stay home while sick, it improves their overall operations to support, promote and even incentivize efforts that boost their employees’ general health and wellness. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, advises employers that employee wellness programs aid in lower health costs, greater productivity, improved overall health, better habits and even, for some businesses, tax incentives.