News

Affordable Care Act: Labor Strategies

BY Liz Moughan

As an industry with one of the largest populations of part-time workers, retail stands to be hit the hardest by the changes required by the Affordable Care Act. Yet as retailers start planning, many of them simply don’t know how to comply, and what the long-term effects will be. Unfortunately, there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution, and employers will have to carefully select a strategy that is right for them.

At first glance, the new law seems to be a no-win situation: Many companies find themselves hard-pressed to offset the rising costs involved with the ACA without triggering such negative outcomes as employee turnover, poor customer service and, ultimately, a loss in revenues and profits.

But there is good news. By using workforce management technology, retailers can improve workforce efficiencies that can help with more effective execution of their ACA strategy. They can achieve compliance, minimize the costs associated with the act and even focus on initiatives that can improve their business.

Today, improving the customer experience is a significant opportunity for retailers. In the customer’s eyes, overall "value" now represents a combination of price and their personal experience while shopping.

Research shows that customers are now willing to pay 13% more for a good experience, which explains the recent trends of showrooms and other premium services. Remember that your workforce is largely responsible for delivering this experience, so retailers should make every effort to keep the employees who deliver it best.

No matter what strategy retailers select to meet the requirements of the ACA, they will face new costs and other potential business challenges. Yet by focusing on the workforce, and the frontline employees who can actually influence results, retailers can do more than just survive ACA — they can thrive.

While retailers have many choices when it comes to ACA compliance, most have indicated that they will pursue one of three options:

• Continue to provide healthcare coverage for all of their optin, full-time employees. But in doing so, they expect their costs to rise.

• Choose to not provide coverage and elect to pay the government’s penalties for non-compliance.

• Alter the mix of full-time and part-time employees. Many retailers will attempt to alter the mix of full-time to part-time employees in a manner that produces an acceptable cost profile. (The average retail employee works an average of 31.6 hours today, which could make changing this mix difficult without losing productivity or causing the entire organization to suffer.)

No matter which option retailers choose, workforce management technology can help them minimize the costs and deliver better business results. Specifically, it can help in the following areas:

Time and attendance: By automating time and attendance processes, retailers can reduce labor costs by enforcing pay rules — consistently and accurately — across the entire organization. Also, time and attendance solutions can help retailers examine past data to determine employees’ full-time or part-time status based on average hours worked per week.

Scheduling: Effective scheduling solutions enable managers to create the "best-fit" schedules that align labor with demand, while still complying to all applicable regulations. For compliance, scheduling solutions enable retailers to make intelligent scheduling assignments based on their ACA strategy.

For example, if the company is trying to maximize the use of part-time and full-time employees, they can use scheduling to optimize the workforce — both for their business needs as well as to strive to comply with the ACA’s 30-hour threshold.

HR and payroll: With HR and payroll solutions, retailers can automate benefits administration and gain real-time insight into employee benefit eligibility, improving compliance and reducing financial penalties. These solutions also apply rules, policies and regulations consistently across the board, simplifying complex processes and helping to ensure compliance with the ACA. They also can generate a complete audit trail to provide evidence of compliance efforts.

Workforce analytics: The right reporting and analytics tools can help retailers monitor the workforce by analyzing schedules, time records and benefits enrollments in real time.

Additionally, to help determine the right ACA strategy, users can perform "what-if" scenarios to select the right course of action — provide benefits, pay fines or examine employee hours — going forward.

Liz Moughan is director of the retail and hospitality practice group at Kronos Inc. (kronos.com).

By using workforce management technology, retailers can improve workforce efficiencies that can help with more effective execution of their ACA strategy.

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News

From the Editor’s Desk

BY Marianne Wilson

Welcome to the new and improved Chain Store Age! We’ve changed the size of our magazine (yes, the pages are bigger — it’s not your imagination), and updated the style and size of our type fonts with the goal of making CSA more reader-friendly and allowing us to incorporate more visuals going forward. We’ve also introduced a new logo, one that better reflects retailing’s omnichannel environment.

Our print redesign is part of a larger update of CSA’s brand identity that is reflected in our digital products as well. Our website is now incorporating more video — including, most recently, a terrific series of interviews with the nation’s leading real estate developers that were conducted at the annual RECon show in Las Vegas — along with such regular features as Store of the Week and Hot Concepts.

CSA’s e-newsletters have been revamped, with enhanced coverage and more photos. The daily has a new name, CSA DayBreaker, and the mix of news has been expanded to include technology coverage. Given the huge impact technology is having on every single aspect of the retail experience, we felt it crucial to incorporate technology into our daily news coverage. More than ever, DayBreaker is a must-read for busy retail executives who want to stay on top of the news and ahead of the competition. (And speaking of technology, veteran retail tech reporter Dan Berthiaume has joined our staff as a senior editor. Don’t miss his TechBytes column online and his expanded tech coverage in print.)

Our real estate newsletter, SiteTalk, has been renamed OnSite, and our store planning & design, construction and facilities newsletter, SpecsTalk, is now called StoreSpaces. New, exciting features have been added to both. We’ve also changed the name of the corresponding sections in the magazine to reflect their digital counterparts.

We hope you like the changes, both to the magazine and our online products. As always, your feedback is very welcome!

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve hit the mid-year point already! I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look back and see what articles initiated the most interest among our online readers. Here are chainstoreage.com’s 10 most viewed stories of the year to date:

①Johnson out as CEO of J.C. Penney; Ullman back

②Retail Store of the Year: And the winners are…

③Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Retail ④13 Hot Trends for 2013

⑤Macy’s to close six locations, open nine others

⑥Walmart in line to open 500 Neighborhood Market stores by fiscal 2016

⑦Reinventing Retail: Hointer, Seattle

⑧Dick’s to open 40 stores in 2013 and debut Field & Stream format

❾Five Below to open 60 stores in 2013 and expand into Texas

⑩The J.C. Penney Debacle: Five Lessons Learned

It’s not surprising that J.C. Penney bookends the list. From Ron Johnson’s exit to Mike Ullman’s swift return, the company remains the biggest and most fascinating story in retail. It will be interesting to see how the next six months play out. So here’s a request for more feedback: After all that’s happened so far, how do you think Penney fare going forward?

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OPERATIONS

Dunkin’ Donuts prepares gluten-free bakery items

BY Dan Berthiaume

Canton, Mass. – Dunkin’ Donuts plans to start offering gluten-free bakery items by the end of this year. Participating U.S. Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants will have the option to offer certified gluten-free bakery products, including a new gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut and a gluten-free blueberry muffin. Both items are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization, prepared in a dedicated facility and individually packaged. The suggested retail price for the gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut will be $1.89 and $2.39 for the gluten-free blueberry muffin.

“Our culinary and commercialization teams have worked very hard to create these new gluten-free menu items to be just as delicious as all of our product offerings,” said Stan Frankenthaler, executive chef and VP of product information for Dunkin’ Brands in a statement on the Dunkin’ Donuts website. “It took a great deal of experimentation to come up with the correct, unique blend of rice flours and certain starches such as potato and tapioca to replace traditional wheat flour.”

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