UK retailers must have robust battle plans for more sales peaks than ever these days. However, there is also evidence to suggest they need even greater sensitivity to the residual workforce problems.
This doesn’t simply just involve having enough warehouse and shop floor personnel to cope with sales pushes. They also need a strategic retail executive search, to ensure they have enough leaders to manage associated staffing problems. This includes managers and supervisors who are able to motivate hard-pushed staff to reach temporary targets.
That’s because evidence suggests that “Prime Day” in July, added to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and traditional festive sales, could be putting huge pressure on both bricks and mortar and online retail workforces.
Prime Day brings staff “crisis”
Amazon’s Prime Day in 2018 was a record breaker in several ways, including notching up an incredible record of selling 100 million products.
However, according to campaigner group Organise, there was also a 209% increase in health and safety complaints from Amazon staff in the UK.
This organisation gathered the views of people reportedly employed by Amazon, who were unhappy with the pace and pressure placed on them during the massive sales period. This included multiple reports of staff unable to take adequate breaks even to visit the toilet or re-hydrate properly.
Also, the suggestion is that running around – creating potential health and safety risks – was the only way to meet the onerous targets set.
The company has denied the problems and cites the recruitment of 5,000 seasonal staff as evidence that it managed the increased customer demand effectively. It questions some of the evidence gathered against them by Organise, as employment validity was not checked.
However, there was a threat of strike action among Amazon workforces in Germany, Poland and Spain, timed to coincide with the cross-website discounts and limited time deals. The action was designed to draw attention to grievances about work conditions and pay in fulfilment centres.
Retailers rising to the peaks
Added to other shopping hot spots – including back to school surges and other seasonal opportunities – it creates a highly uneven pattern of trading throughout the year.
Having sufficient inventory and staff available plays a big part in easing the strain on retail management. However, human resources departments may also need to be more aware of the health and wellbeing impact that such sales drives bring.