As if the market news wasn’t bad enough for department stores, one of the originals is now facing a workers walkout, the first in four decades. A few days back the company announced a tentative deal with the potential strikers, averting – at least for now – any more talk of a strike.
Union is Satisfied with Tentative Deal
The union representing the workers announced it was pleased with the tentative deal, saying they were able to work out an agreement for higher wages and more affordable health care, something workers had been demanding for some time. Beyond that, union leaders were mum as to the contents and details of the deal.
Likewise, Macy’s ignored multiple media attempts to learn more about the deal. What we do know at this point is it appears to be a four-year deal. It’s disaster averted for Macy’s which did not want to suffer a strike at their flagship store, a stoppage that would have likely spread to multiple stores in and around New York City. Of the 5,000 workers in the area, 3,500 work for the flagship location.
Macy’s Surprising Concession
One of the most surprising concessions rumored to be a part of the deal was Macy’s bending on the mandatory Thanksgiving shifts workers are expected to fill. As host of the popular and near ubiquitous Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy’s is famous for having its workers pull full shifts on a day that most folks, even retail workers, are at home with family.
Throughout the negotiations, there were many times when it looked like no settlement would be forthcoming. Macy’s went so far as to advertise temp jobs, but the workers didn’t flinch. Now, it seems, business will get back to usual.
Macy’s Suffering Image
What’s not decided at this point is what, if anything, Macy’s will do to use this deal to prop up their suffering PR image. Department store sales, as a whole, are hurting as more and more consumers vote with their wallet, choosing to shop elsewhere. If the brand wants to reverse that trend, or at least slow or stop it, they must win fans, not just customers. They need to find people who are willing to skip the convenience of the Internet for whatever benefits they can be sold in the stores.
Macy’s must realize their workers are a big part of delivering the Macy’s experience. Thus, they are a huge factor in whether the company as a whole can win fans and influence buyers.
David Milberg is a New York financial analyst.