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Same store sales back on the rise at Kohl’s

BY CSA STAFF

Stronger demand for clothing and accessories during the holiday season helped Kohl's Corp. post an increase in same store sales for the fourth quarter after five straight quarters of decline.

The retailer reported that same store sales rose 3.7% for the fourth quarter. Net income rose 10.5% to $369 million, or $1.83 per share, while net sales increased 4% to $6.34 billion. Analysts on an average had expected earnings of $1.80 per share and revenue of $6.33 billion.

"Our fourth quarter results showed significant improvement as many of our Greatness Agenda initiatives took hold,” said Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and CEO. “Our 3.7% increase in comparable sales was driven by both transactions per store – a key area of focus – and average transaction value. The sales strength was broad as all lines of business and all geographic regions reported higher sales. Our teams managed both expenses and inventories well, allowing us to exceed our previous earnings guidance."

The company said it expected same store sales to rise by 1.5%-2.5% for the year 2015.

Kohl’s operates 1,162 stores in 49 states.

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Walmart pledges $100 million to boost job skills

BY CSA STAFF

A week after announcing that it would boost wages for its employees, Walmart is stepping up again in a big way with a commitment to close the skills gap of entry level workers.

The Walmart Foundation is making an initial investment of $16 million to seven national nonprofits as part of the Opportunity initiative, a $100 million commitment to help increase the economic mobility of entry level workers in retail and adjacent sectors.

“We are excited to partner with other foundations, employers, training providers, government bodies and nonprofit organizations to improve career pathways for people in retail and adjacent sectors,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation, senior vice president of corporate affairs. “We believe progress requires collective action in the industry to align on the skills required for advancement and to develop more innovative, effective, and universally-used training and assessments that recognize on-the-job learning. Ultimately, we aim to increase economic mobility of the U.S. retail workforce as a whole.”

The $100 million commitment was first announced last week by Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon, in conjunction with the roll out of new opportunities and enhanced benefits for Walmart associates.

“We are delighted that Walmart is among the growing group of employers investing in education and employment opportunities for workers across the country," said Russell Krumnow, managing director of Opportunity Nation. “The National Opportunity Summit is an event where leaders from all sectors can come together around shared ideas to restore opportunity in America, and commit to action that will transform our businesses, communities and our country."

The skills gap among workers is a pressing issue facing the United States today. According to the Bridge the Gap report published by Harvard Business School, 51% of retailers find it difficult to fill middle-skills roles.

“We have been working in the dark for too long as we try to address the skills gap among U.S. workers. Now is the time for corporations, educators, and policymakers to come together to identify critical middle-skills jobs, and pinpoint the specific qualifications needed to keep America competitive,” said Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies. “Through its commitment, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are already leading the way and working with strategic partners to further develop skills training and job placement programs, and create clear career pathways to help workers find a lifetime of success.”

With an initial investment of $16 million in grants, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will help more than 12,000 retail and related sector workers gain the knowledge and training they need to advance in their careers through programs offered by the following nonprofit organizations: Achieving the Dream, The ACT Foundation, Dress for Success, Goodwill Industries, Jobs for the Future, McKinsey Social Initiative and the National Able Network. The programs will provide skills training, job placement support and develop interactive maps to showcase career paths within retail and adjacent sectors.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s $100 million commitment is part of the Walmart Foundation’s focus on creating economic opportunities for individuals globally. The foundation is also committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts in the areas of sustainability and community.

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Affordable Health Care Act Requires One Solution for Human Capital

BY CSA STAFF

By John Orr, Ceridian

With the Affordable Care Act, employers’ new reality is here, right now — and contrasts starkly with the past: Retailers that run payroll, time and attendance, scheduling, and benefits administration the way they used to will probably run afoul of the Employer Mandate, also known as “Play or Pay.”

If the aforementioned applications run separately, they’re not real-time aware of each other. This means noncompliance with the ACA will only surface after the fact, when it is too late. And the cost of noncompliance is steep, going beyond stiff penalties. Failure to offer health coverage to employees who qualify for it will only erode hard-won goodwill with floor associates. When employee morale plummets, the effects on employee and customer experience alike can be catastrophic.

Complying with Play or Pay: A Crash Course
The steps to comply with the employer mandate are complex and would require their own article. For one thing, Play or Pay has an imposing glossary of terms — Applicable Large Employers (ALEs), Affordable, Hours of Service, Variable Hour Employee, Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC), and Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) are just a few. Their definitions are available elsewhere. The terms and their meanings help to provide a comprehensive understanding of the law.

In short, ALEs need to make immediate arrangements to comply. Organizations employing 100 or more full-time employees and FTEs in 2014 will be subject to comply for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2015. In 2016, that number decreases to 50. Any employee that averages 30 or more service hours per week or 130 service hours per month qualifies for MEC that ACA rules deem affordable.

The ACA prescribes specific methodologies to measure these hours. Finally, Sections 6055 and 6056 reporting, akin to W-2 reporting in the burden it places on business, gives the Internal Revenue Service the ability to determine whether businesses are complying. Most ALEs with status quo technology for human capital management will not be able to comply.

In complying with Play or Pay, a tapestry of variables makes the margin for error thin to nonexistent. Especially in retail, where floor associates’ schedules have a tendency to vary greatly from week to week, precision in tracking employees’ hours is necessary.

Compliance with the Employer Mandate means you must determine which employees qualify for MEC, and when — without fail. ALEs must continually categorize employees under different timelines or dating milestones. Furthermore, to complete forms necessary for reporting, employers need a verifiable eligibility trail and clear documentation reflecting all employment and benefits decisions, including when they were made.

Legacy systems for HCM just can’t do this. They run different platforms for the elements of HCM affecting ACA compliance. Even if a solution resides in the cloud, it may still run payroll, time and attendance, and benefits administration on more than one platform or across many disparate applications that are not real-time aware of each other.

Interfaces between these platforms slow or skew the movement of data between the elements of HCM affecting ACA compliance. Furthermore, these solutions may not be delivered via software-as-a-service (SaaS), either, and if not, this scenario combines with the lack of a single application to make changes and upgrades painful, cumbersome, and time consuming — and the results fragile in nature.

Retailers that hope to comply with the Employer Mandate must migrate to a single, SaaS-delivered application for these elements of HCM. Having just one data set means information moves freely between payroll, time and attendance, and benefits administration with guaranteed accuracy. Only a single application can deliver a single point of access to one source of the truth on data. Only a single application can make calculations of all these functions’ data in a single instance to produce the real-time view necessary for Play or Pay compliance.

Take the tracking of work hours, for instance. A single application seamlessly and immediately reflects changes in working hours everywhere their impact affects ACA compliance in payroll, time and attendance, planning, scheduling, and benefits administration. Turning to this information, managers can adjust employees’ schedules quickly to configure, plan and track, and comply properly.

Real-time ACA Compliance
The cost of noncompliance with Play or Pay can be debilitating. Fines reach into the thousands per employee affected. For large retailers, this can potentially total millions of dollars. And then there is the additionally potential blow to relationships with employees, which negatively impacts productivity and the overall customer experience. Retailers that obtain HCM solutions up for the task of ACA compliance will have made a wise decision.

John Orr is senior VP, retail strategy & execution at Ceridian.

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