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Retail continues sharp decline, is this the beginning of the end?

If the recent financial reports of several major apparel retailers and department stores are any indication, retailers are having a hard time of it.

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Sales are dismal, foot traffic down

If the recent financial reports of several major apparel retailers and department stores are any indication, retailers are having a hard time of it. Recently, Gap, Macy’s, and Kohl’s all reported dismal sales for this quarter. Macy’s profits tanked by 40 percent this time around, and many other retailers aren’t doing much better. Foot traffic to retail stores nationwide dipped 6.5 percent in April.

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Employment is on the up, so why is shopping down?

Gas is cheap these days, and unemployment rates are declining. As such, retailers had anticipated that consumers would return to their old spending habits. But not so.

Instead, retailers are reporting low sales numbers and slow in-store traffic.

There may be many reasons for this inconsistency. For one thing, while the overall unemployment rate is down, this number represents people who are filing for unemployment, and doesn’t include people who are doing odd jobs and freelancing to get by, or people who have simply given up on finding employment. When you factor in these groups, workplace participation isn’t as high as it might seem.

What is to blame?

Other experts say that the new millennial generation is, in general, more thrifty than their baby boomer parents were. Others blame online commerce, which threatens to exceed brick-and-mortar sales.

Analysts predict that, by 2017, Amazon will surpass Macy’s as the nation’s largest clothing retailer.

Others say there are simply too many stores for too few customers. Sandeep Mathani of General Growth Properties, who has observed trends in commercial real estate, notes that America has become “over-retailed.”

Where is all the money going?

While consumers are slow to buy clothing and other goods, they are still spending heavily on restaurants, airline travel, and home improvements.

Many consumers still feel stung by the recession, and spend their money on investments, like improving their home, or experiences, like travel, rather than on goods they consider luxuries.

Layoffs and streamlining

Retailers are experimenting with some creative new ideas to try to get customers to come back – or to brace themselves if their stores become unprofitable. Urban Outfitters just bought a pizza chain. Gap will “streamline its operating model to be more efficient and flexible.” Macy’s plans to cut $400 million from its budget by eliminating 600 office jobs.

Other brands are starting to use their stores as fulfillment centers for processing and delivering online orders.

Whatever the strategy, it’s clear that retailers will have to get creative to compete with ecommerce giants like Amazon.

#StateOfRetail

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Business News

Court green lights demoting an employee for physical disabilities

(BUSINESS NEWS) Court rules the Americans with Disability Act doesn’t fully cover employees – but is the law actually open to some interpretation?

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Wrongful termination is a hot topic these days, especially in relation to employees with disabilities. It’s commonly thought that if you have a disability, you’re safe and that no one can fire you for simply being disabled. But did you know that’s actually a myth?

When ex-Sheriffs Deputy Brigid Ford injured herself on the job, she was faced with the hard truth about the law surrounding disabilities.

Ford, who worked 12 years as a Sheriff’s Deputy, was injured when a car ran a red light and ran into her patrol car, smashing her hand. This resulted in constant pain and an inability to use her right hand. She spent the next few months working in alternative, lighter-duty areas of the department. But even after a year, she was unable to return to her initial post.

Because of this, the Sheriff’s department offered her 3 options:

1. She could move to a civilian job, with a cut in pay. This would include any associated accommodations she may need.

2. She could resign.

3. If she didn’t choose either of the above, they claimed she could be terminated.

Ford ended up choosing a demotion, and then elected to sue the department for violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). At the end of these proceedings, the court found that the demotion was reasonable.

But is this really the standard application for the law?

Although there are many myths associated with the ADA, the law clearly states that in order to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee, you must go through an “interactive process”, which means there must be some back and forth to accommodate the employee.

In Ford’s case, she was unable to continue her initial job as she was not provided with all the accommodations she requested and therefore, only had enough accommodations to continue with a civilian job.

What’s strange about this situation is that she was provided with a few in-depth provisions that would meet her needs, such as training for her supervisors, extra breaks when needed, so she could deal with her pain, and a more ergonomic work station. However, when she requested a voice-activated software for her computer, which would limit her need to use her right hand, she was denied.

The court stated that if there had been a lateral position available, with no decrease in pay, and Ford was qualified for the job, the ADA would have protected Ford a bit better, favoring this option over demotion.

Nevertheless, with the rise of documented disabilities in America, the lines the ADA draws for employees and employers-alike continue to seem blurred. Just like many other laws, the act seems to be open to some interpretation, but at the end of the day, when something like this is brought to the court system, American citizens are truly at the mercy of our court’s Judges and how they translate the laws.

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Amazon creates new tool for doctors, but does it actually help patients?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon offers tool for doctors to add recorded conversations to your medical file, are they overstepping their bounds as an online seller?

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On December 2, 2019, Amazon announced the release of its new service for Amazon Transcribe, a medical speech support service. This machine learning service will be able to take out the “middleman” and transcribe medical jargon from physicians in real time to patient charts, claims Amazon.

The release of Amazon Transcribe Medical adds to the company’s muscle bulking stage with its other investments as it prepares to get further into the medical arena. Recently released services like Alexa’s medication management (which allows people to request prescription refills & medication reminders through Alexa) and Amazon Care (Amazon’s own healthcare service for employees) are a few points adding to Amazon’s overall medical category weight. And let’s not forget how Amazon is also testing out the use of Alexa within a hospital context too.

However with further developments with technology into the medical field, it also brings more questions about how harmful this type of technology can be or how helpful it is overall.

Privacy
All throughout the world there are more and more issues of security as newer and advanced technologies are peaking. It is almost as if people aren’t thinking enough of how information can be used negatively, did Amazon think about that? For example, say some extremists dislike a women getting an abortion through legal means and then leek her private information to the world or take their own actions to “solve” it.

What Happens Afterward
We all know that companies like Facebook or Google stores and records our information from every click and video watched, but what will happen once Amazon starts this with medical information? How will Amazon plan on acting with this stored information that physicians will be creating on our behalf? Amazon has yet to say how they plan on deleting this transcribed information afterwards or how they will use this information in the future.

More People Cared For
Who am I to say what will not be beneficial for any doctor that might spend hours trying to fill out all of their charts accurately after their excruciating shift? Maybe this is the type of change that is needed to turn the more time consuming tasks that require the most accuracy for consistent patient care. Thus, leading to doctors being able to manage more people coming through the door, and an overall healthier world.

Medical Breakthroughs
If given consent, maybe having this data transcribed within one place can create better medical breakthroughs for the future. It could allow for easier transfer of data and for easier mapping of different patterns of symptoms that would take long to diagnose. Maybe this could be the 1st step into revolutionizing the procedures of the healthcare industry with more advancements to come for the betterment of the world. Who knows?

It is not hard to see the good intentions that Amazon has and how they are trying to make the world easier to live in. It is honorable, and what this writer is asking more business do. But as the famous quote says “ the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

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TrueDialog left millions of your texts unsecured, when will they learn?

(BUSINESS NEWS) TrueDialog has left millions of text messages unsecured, these include university finance, job alerts, business marketing, and account data

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Another day, another data breach. Tens of millions of people were potentially exposed because messages and personal information stored in a database of Austin-based company, TrueDialog, were left unprotected. According to researchers the database was left on the internet without a password and none of the data was encrypted.

Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, a research team at vpnMentor, discovered the breach on Nov. 19, 2019.

“This was a huge discovery, with a massive amount of private data exposed, including tens of millions of SMS text messages,” the research team said on the vpnMentor website. “Aside from private text messages, our team discovered millions of account usernames and passwords, PII data of TrueDialog users and their customers, and much more.”

TrueDialog says it is the leading SMS provider for mass text messaging, SMS marketing and personalized two-way SMS texting, according to its website. The company has been in business 10 years and provides its clients, mostly businesses and higher education organizations, with the ability to send bulk emails to clients and students.

Among the information left unprotected were messages about university finance applications, job alerts, marketing messages from businesses with discount codes, usernames and passwords, TechCrunch reported after examining a portion of the data.

The database was taken offline after TrueDialog was contacted regarding the exposure. Chief Executive John Wright didn’t return TechCrunch’s requests for comment. He did not acknowledge the security lapse to TechCrunch. The researchers at vpnMentor offered assistance to help with the security breach, but TrueDialog officials did not respond.

TrueDialog works with over 990 cell phone operators and reaches more than 5 billion subscribers around the world.

Along with its clients and their customers being left exposed, TrueDialog was also left exposed. Rotem and Locar said the breach has potentially exposed tens of millions of people in multiple ways.

Among the information the pair found were phone numbers (recipients and users), email addresses, message content, full names, and TrueDialog account information.

“It’s rare for one database to contain such a huge volume of information that’s also incredibly varied,” they said.

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