Guitar Center and Dillard’s to argue that they needed to stay open — and keep their employees coming in — despite the worsening public health crisis. Workers have been at the forefront of disputes around mask mandates and then mask enforcement. Retail chains like REI have been criticized for failing to inform employees about Covid cases in stores. Grocery store workers were not given priority access to vaccines in many states.

Target and Walmart, throughout the pandemic. And while they are still facing rising prices and supply chain strain, executives have indicated recently that pressure on staffing has waned.

“We feel really good about our staffing going into the holiday season,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, told CNBC last week. He added that the company’s retention numbers were “some of the strongest in our history,” which he attributed to perks and safety measures.

Retailers are betting that consumers will be comfortable shopping in stores, where foot traffic is already higher than in 2020, regardless of the industry’s efforts to fight the new vaccination and testing requirements. And for those who are concerned about the lack of vaccinations, the companies have bolstered their e-commerce operations and curbside pickup offerings in the past year, though in-store shopping often leads to more purchases and fewer returns.

When asked what Macy’s would tell concerned customers about shopping in stores, Mr. Gennette said: “What I would say is we encourage every one of our colleagues to be vaccinated and every colleague wears a mask in our stores and warehouses to protect themselves and others.”

imploring companies to move forward with the Labor Department rules.

“The hope was to provide some perspective for business leaders to remind them this is not a political issue,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who was one of the signatories. Dr. Jha said it was important for companies in all industries to follow the rule, noting that retailers play a particular role, given the nature of their employee base. He said those measures should be put in place during the holiday season — not after — especially as that is when case numbers are expected to rise.

“Do they really want to be superspreader places during the holiday season and be responsible for their employees getting sick and for their employees spreading it to customers?” Dr. Jha said.

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What Are We Going to Wear?

A festive cape, draped from your shoulders, paired with a dress and glitzy heels while you sip on mulled wine. That’s the sort of scene Macy’s was envisioning for holiday parties in 2020, before the reality of Zoom nights in living rooms.

“We really felt good about this dress-up opportunity, people really feeling glam,” said Nata Dvir, Macy’s chief merchandising officer. “We were thinking about outerwear being as bold as capes.”

Bloomingdale’s, which is owned by Macy’s, had forecast “a mix of utility and romanticism,” which would have included puff sleeves, eyelets and maxi dresses, said Denise Magid, an executive vice president at Bloomingdale’s who oversees ready-to-wear apparel.

Major department stores have fashion offices filled with undisclosed numbers of employees who keeping track of new styles, surfing social media and liaising with designers. Big retailers also usually subscribe to online services that aggregate signals from Google Trends and social media. They work with agencies that specialize in fashion forecasting, like Stylus and WGSN, which project broader consumer habits along with more granular details like seasonal color palettes, textiles and silhouettes. They all also obsessively track their competition.

Much of that work used to take place in person. WGSN, for example, offered city guides to American retail buyers on trips abroad. “If a buyer from a department store wanted to go to Paris, we’d have a guide that would tell them where to go and eat and which stores they should see for different things,” said Francesca Muston, the vice president of fashion content at WGSN. Runway shows were also important. At Bloomingdale’s, before the pandemic, “runway was a huge component of what we were forecasting, because what you saw on runway would trickle down to other collections,” Ms. Magid said.

As everything went virtual last year, including runway shows, social media took on new importance, and retailers rushed into anything that smelled like a trend, sometimes tapping Los Angeles-based manufacturers to help them out on a faster timeline.

“Instagram and TikTok have filled that void, and it kind of changes the dynamics again about speed and being reactive because things have a shorter life span,” Ms. Magid said. She recalled an overnight surge in demand for denim joggers in the fourth quarter after a “famous influencer” (the retailer wouldn’t say who) wore a pair by Rag & Bone on an Instagram Story.

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Macy’s First-Quarter Sales Jump 56 Percent as Shoppers Return

Macy’s said on Tuesday that its first-quarter sales jumped more than 50 percent from last year, when the start of the pandemic pulverized the retailer’s revenue, and it raised its forecast for sales and profit this year.

The company, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, reported $4.7 billion in sales for the three months that ended May 1, and a profit of $103 million. That compares with about $3 billion in sales and a net loss of $3.6 billion in the same period last year. Macy’s said it anticipated sales in the range of $21.7 billion to $22.2 billion this year, up from a previous forecast of somewhere between $19.8 billion and $20.8 billion.

Macy’s executives said on an earnings call that customers, buoyed by government stimulus were shopping again as the weather warmed up and vaccines have become more readily available. They are beginning to attend events after a year of isolation, and snapping up dresses for proms, casual get-togethers and weddings. Men’s tailored clothing is also seeing increases. Traffic is improving at Macy’s flagship stores, which lost visitors in the past year, though the company said it did not expect international tourism to recover until next year.

Department stores, which have already been under pressure in recent years, were battered by the pandemic as consumers postponed gatherings and avoided enclosed spaces. The news out of Macy’s was a positive for the retail sector, but the company’s first-quarter sales were still down about 15 percent from $5.5 billion in the same period of 2019. Macy’s made headlines recently after proposing the construction of a commercial office tower on top of its flagship Herald Square store in New York. The company said on the call on Tuesday that it expected the project would produce a “significant” amount of cash to support future plans.

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