July 8, 2012

Seriously Fred Meyer?

Fred Meyer Sidewalk Sale
As some of you may know, I used to work at Fred Meyer.  I met my wife there on my first day in Management Training and she still works there.  Generally speaking it is a great store filled with wonderful people.....at the store level.

Like all too many companies these days, management is a bit on the incestuous side and the people at the top are so far removed from the majority of employees it is ridiculous.

Now when I say "incestuous" I mean that the people running the show either come from withing the ranks or are fresh off the street and have no clue what they are doing....as far as the company culture/history/people goes.  What ends up happening is that the company generally suffers some sort of mental incapacity which is not too dissimilar from mental retardation resulting from inbreeding.

When I was in store management I was usually the most highly educated  (I'm not saying smart, just book learning) person in management....because I had an Associates Degree at the time.  The published standard was that anyone coming into the Management Program was supposed to have a Bachelor's, but everybody that was considered were just promoted up from the sales floor instead.  I was part-time when I first got hired on and probably only got my job because I was the only one who bothered to show for the interview.

I can think of a whole slew of what I thought were poor business decisions because management simply didn't know any better because they didn't have any "outside education".  This is much more common than your would think in the business world and companies that are successful do so in spite of their issues.

One thing that has bothered the hell out of me for years now is Fred Meyer's annual sidewalk sale.  It rubs me the wrong way for so many reasons...reasons I'll easily go into here:

1) Fred Meyer has spent years building up a specific image, first as a one-stop-shop, and then as a destination store.  When Fred Meyers realized that simply trying to carry everything for everyone was a losing proposition because what they were offering to their customers was not what their customers wanted, they cut back, focused on service and their image as being more upscale than Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, etc.  Dragging your clearance outside to junk up your image undoes years of concentrated, and expensive, effort.

2) Fred Meyer management has always focused on a single number for success: raw sales.  If the sales numbers were up from last year, awesome.....if not, holy crap.  Every company does this...they tend to over-fixate on a single data point at the exclusion of all else.  For me I usually hone in on profit because it factors in revenue and expenses.  Fred Meyer only hones in on the sales, which is great if you are selling everything at a profit.  When I worked for Fred Meyer they had a specific plan....a good plan....for how to sell clearance.  The thing is nobody followed the plan.  Instead they'd box the clearance up and drag it out onto the floor periodically and try to sell it at various discounts.  The plan flowed with their attempts at an image, dragging out merchandise to sell outside does not.  Here is a business tip for Fred Meyer, no consulting fee necessary: every time you handle product you lose/pay money.  Handling clearance product you are already losing money on multiple times is not a good idea. A lot of the clothing has an insane markup to begin with, but with the hardlines the clearance price is often already at a loss, so if you get excited about $20,000 in extra sales you are probably getting excited about losing money.  The corporate office encourages this excitement in basing managerial bonuses not on profits, but raw sales figures.

3) Those racks that employees have to drag outside each day are expensive and not made to be carted around full of product.  It is obscene how much those clothing racks are and how fragile their basing is.  This issue is minor (except for cost), but bugs the hell out of me....or at least it did more when I owned company stock.

4) The majority of the clearance being taken outside for the sidewalk sale is clothing.  Clothing that is being made to sit in the same spot for hours in the sun.  Guess what happens to a lot of clothing that gets left out in the sun for too long....yep, it fades.  From what I've heard the simple answer from corporate is "don't let it fade".  How?

5) I saved the biggest for last.  The sidewalk sale, and pretty much anything having to do with the sidewalk sale is decided based on what is going on in Portland, OR...where the corporate office is. The long range forecast was for nice weather there, so everybody has to have a sidewalk sale.  Here are some comparative weather forecasts taken from Google close to noon:

Weather forcast for Boise and Portland

It is going to be hot as all hell here, but the employees are supposed to be standing outside with the product without the benefit of shade.....for hours at a stretch.  From what I hear this year they will be allowed to have water outside with them....this year.  It has been verboten in previous years.  Now this is not a normal working condition for these employees, but I highly doubt their job descriptions or rate of pay have been changed to accommodate these new working conditions.  Sunglasses, as far as I know, are also not allowed, but some employees wisely paid money to get doctor's notes stating they required sun glasses when outside for prolonged periods of time.  I'm just waiting for an employee to drop from heat exhaustion because they had to work 3 of their 8 hours in 104* temps when they are dressed for their normal shift inside a normally cold store.

I don't know how useful it is to complain to Fred Meyer (1-800-576-4377) since the people who get the complaints would probably be the same folks who think it is a good idea.

1 comment:

babwryter said...

It is stupid. I'm going to Tweet and complain with a hashtag. That usually works well for me.

Good blog, Chris.