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Inflation, economic uncertainty, supply chain issues, and a dearth of frontline retail workers is shaping up to be a perfect storm for disappointment, temper tantrums and possibly violence at brick and mortar retailers this holiday season.

The stress that always comes with the holidays, especially, Christmas, is causing anxiety and worse for consumers who have to get along with extended family, find the perfect gifts for everyone at a time when tempers flare as shoppers vie for deals in product categories such as electronics, toys and apparel.

Some retailers are panicking and getting a jump on holiday sales by releasing Black Friday deals two or three weeks before the shopping event. And consumers are taking the bate and shopping earlier this season, as they have been wont to do in recent years. This year is particularly troublesome with the Fed raising interest rates and the specter of the “R” word on some experts’ lips.

These concerns, and more, prompted a statement from the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union asking shoppers to treat sales associates and seasonal help with courtesy and not blame them for out of stocks and top-selling products they may have coveted.

As the holiday shopping season gets underway and in-store shopping increases, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union issued the following statement urging holiday shoppers and employers to treat retail workers with dignity and respect amid continued supply-chain issues:

“As retailers start their holiday shopping sales earlier than ever this year, the stress and pressure for retail workers during the holiday season is being extended by additional weeks. At the same time, incidents of harassment, violence and hate are continuing to rise in stores – causing workers to worry about their physical safety and mental health.

“The supply chain is still precarious,” the statement went on to read. “Retail workers bear the brunt of shoppers’ frustration. Tempers quickly rise when customers hear that coveted holiday items are stuck in transit and have been backordered for months; and especially if they’ve gone to multiple stores only to go home empty handed.

“Workers are not to blame, and stores should provide security, safety protocols and training to handle irate shoppers this season as well as safe staffing levels to meet the longer demand period,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

“ Shoppers need to remember what this season is supposed to be all about – love, generosity and kindness. Shoppers need to treat workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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It’s quite a sad commentary on the state of consumerism and families, however there is a history of bad behavior and violence – sometimes deadly – at Black Friday sales events. Retailers seem to be stoking the fire and setting consumers up to disappointment with advertised deals that will not have enough physical products to go around and meet demand.

Walmart
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has announced that it will lower prices on ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner and beyond. The world’s largest retailer said the cost of preparing Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends will be no higher than it was last year. “Inflation, no thanks,” said the retailer’s e-commerce site. Walmart has said it’s made investments in price on Thanksgiving food staples and elsewhere in the store.

“Black Friday has historically been the start of the holiday shopping and markdown season,” said Tierney Wilson, SVP of strategy and consulting at January Digital. “Black Friday doesn’t have the same impact that it used to have. The promotions, historically reserved for Black Friday are now a season-long event, beginning in October. Given this, it wouldn’t be surprising if Black Friday doesn’t exist in 15 years and the smartest retailers will begin to develop alternate methods for generating sales without being reliant on Black Friday-type promotions.”

Retails that used to be less promotional – such as Nordstrom
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, which ran one major sale per year on fall merchandise, giving consumers early access to fashion before the fall, have gone gaga for markdowns and email advertisements shouting out savings of up to 60%.

“We are excited to share of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for both Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack,” said a spokeswoman in an email. “Nordstrom will have amazing deals on products up to 60% off on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shop from some of our favorite brands across all categories like Drybar, Free People, UGG, Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, Longchamp, Le Creuset, Coach, Topshop, Vince, New Balance and Zella, and so many more,” the email said.

The email added that Nordstrom Rack will be offering customers up to 70% off on-trend apparel, accessories and shoes for the whole family including brands like Nike, Kate Spade New York, Sam Edelman, Eileen Fisher, Steve Madden, Levi’s, Ted Baker London, Rebecca Minkoff and Bobbi Brown.”

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