The Omicron Surge Compounds Retail Sector’s Worker Shortage

By Staff
Wednesday, January 19, 2022 4:02 PM Retailers across the U.S. are being forced to adjust their brick-and-mortar strategies as the spread of the omicron variant exacerbates the pressure on already stretched staff, according to a recent feature from eMarketer. Walmart, Starbucks, Macy’s, and Apple are just a few of the retailers that have either reduced store hours or temporarily closed locations in response to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. 

Pandemic-induced burnout has hit many industries hard, as the number of people quitting reaches record highs. This, coupled with omicron’s highly contagious nature, has wreaked havoc on retailers’ ability to maintain business as usual. A record 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of that number, 686,000 left retail jobs, leaving the industry with a 4.4 percent quit rate (the number of people quitting as a proportion of total employment). Meanwhile, the overall quit rate hit 3 percent matching the high previously seen in September 2021.

In addition to facing increased risk of COVID-19 exposure, retail workers are also reporting low morale due to severe staffing crunches, lack of hazard pay, and rising numbers of in-store shoppers. 

As a result, retailers are overhauling their in-store experience on the fly by adjusting hours and adding more self-service options. For example, ShopRite recently rolled out an automated pickup pod that provides consumers in New Rochelle, N.Y., with a contactless way to retrieve their online grocery orders. That type of technology can reduce the retailer’s reliance on store employees and may drive an increase in online shopping.

Subscription Economy Market Value to Reach $275 Billion Globally in 2022

By Staff
Friday, January 14, 2022 6:45 PM A new study from Juniper Research found that the global market value of the subscription economy will grow to $275 billion in 2022; rising from $224 billion in 2021. Increased user demand for reliable, recurring deliveries of key items, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the support of automation in subscription services, are key reasons for the uptake of subscription services across these three verticals, according to Juniper Research.

Retail Import Growth Levels Out But Volume Remains High, NRF Says

By Staff
Thursday, January 13, 2022 11:03 AM WASHINGTON—After a year of unprecedented increases, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to return to normal growth rates in 2022 but volumes will remain high, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released last week by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. “Even with the holiday season behind us, supply chain challenges continue,” NRF vice president for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. 

“The huge increases in imports we’ve seen have leveled out, but volume is still at high levels. We hope the system will find a way to catch up, but there is much that remains to be done to clear out port backlogs and increase capacity throughout the supply chain. Amid all of this, the omicron variant is a wild card that could not only impact the supply chain workforce but once again drive more imports if consumers stay home and spend their money on retail goods rather than going out,” Gold said.

Imports saw year-over-year growth as high as 65 percent in some months during 2021. That was the result of increased consumer demand, retailers’ efforts to stock up to mitigate supply chain challenges, and comparisons against periods early in 2020 when many stores were closed because of the pandemic. 

But increases returned to single digits by last fall and should remain there this year. Nonetheless, volumes of about 2.2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units or more expected during most months in the first half of 2022 will be near-records. A TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent. Those numbers would bring 2021 to a total of 25.9 million TEU, a 17.9 percent increase over 2020’s record high of 22 million TEU that was set despite the pandemic. Click here to read the full story from the National Retail Federation.

Another Victim of the Pandemic—U.S. Donor Blood Supply Is Running Low

By Staff
Wednesday, January 12, 2022 4:15 PM The Red Cross on Tuesday declared a national donor blood shortage in the U.S.—the first of its kind—saying that the lack of blood is the worst it has seen in more than a decade. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the decline in donations that goes along with the colder season, as blood drives continue to be canceled across the nation and staff shortages reached the organization.

The Red Cross said that a 10 percent decline in blood donors due to the pandemic has led to hospital demand not being met and its reserves of critical blood types, for example type O, having been diminished to a one-day supply. While the Red Cross is responsible for around 40 percent of U.S. donor blood, the situation looks similar at independent blood distribution centers, responsible for around 60 percent of donated blood. 

Click here to read the full story from Statista.com.

New Survey from B+L and Glaucoma Research Foundation Reveals Emotional and Social Impact of Hyperemia on Glaucoma Patients

By Staff
Tuesday, January 11, 2022 1:11 PM January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and Bausch + Lomb released new data from a survey of glaucoma patients to better understand the impact of hyperemia in their glaucoma treatment and lives. The survey, which was conducted in partnership with the Glaucoma Research Foundation, uncovered the emotional and social cost of hyperemia on glaucoma patients, the impact hyperemia has on treatment adherence and the need for conversations between patients and their eyecare professionals to find the right treatment option for them.

The Warmest December in 60+ Years Slowed U.S. Holiday Purchasing

By Staff
Monday, January 10, 2022 2:31 PM December 2021 in the U.S. was the warmest in the past 60+ years, according to Planalytics, a leading source of predictive demand analytics. The country was driest since 2017 with the least amount of snowfall since 2019.

December 2021 began significantly warmer than last year across most of the U.S., The East and the South remained warmer than last year as the month progressed, while the Northern Tier and much of the western U.S. experienced colder comparisons mid-to-late month.

Facebook, Now Meta, Among Big Tech Firms ‘Pouring Vast Resources’ into AR and VR Devices, Report Says

By Staff
Friday, January 7, 2022 4:12 PM NEW YORK—Several of the big names in technology—led by Facebook, now Meta—are stepping up their interest and investments in both augmented and virtual reality devices. Other big tech firms moving in this direction are Apple, Snapchat, Samsung and Microsoft. All of these companies have—or soon will have—AR or VR devices and developer tools in development, according to eMarketer.

“It’s too early to know whether the metaverse is more than hype, but it’s a potent idea that’s already driving investments,” eMarketer noted in a recent post. “Facebook, now Meta, has done the most to push the idea into the mainstream and is pouring vast resources into augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) devices and operating systems for both, but they’re not alone.”

In addition, many game and design platforms such as Roblox, Nvidia, Unity and Epic are investing in the metaverse, also.

“We’re at the beginning of a surge in AR and VR devices,” the eMarketer report stated. AR shipments will jump from 1 million in 2021 to 21 million in 2025, and VR shipments from 8 million to 29 million, according to the International Data Corp.

The first generation of these devices goes back years, but the influx of research dollars, better developer tools and sensors, and faster radio technologies, such as 5G networks, will propel the development of products that consumers will buy.

The Vision Council Q3 2021 Report Reflects Strong U.S. Market Sales, Significant Growth in Online Sales

By Staff
Friday, January 7, 2022 12:24 AM ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Vision Council has released its quarterly VisionWatch market research reports for Q3 2021 and the reports reflect a strong performance for overall U.S. optical market sales for the 12-month period ending September 2021.

The Great Reset: 2021 Growth Puts Practices on Par With 2019 Levels, Jobson Research Says

By Staff
Thursday, January 6, 2022 1:46 PM While the vast majority of respondents (98 percent) said that their practice locations are open, the coronavirus pandemic grind seems to be taking a toll. In the final Jobson Optical Research ECP coronavirus survey for 2021, taken from Dec. 8-31, 2021, most respondents say that while 2021 was a better year than 2020, it just barely came out even with 2019, according to a recent feature from Women In Optometry

In terms of numbers of patients per day and profitability per patient, on average, respondents said their 2021 year-end numbers were lower than their 2019 numbers. Across the board, however, the consensus was that 2021 was a significantly better year than 2020. 

Also in this final research wave, 64 percent of respondents said that someone in their work location has gotten coronavirus, the highest percentage yet. In addition, the percentage of those who responded that there’s been a breakthrough coronavirus infection (those who test positive even if they’ve been vaccinated) was up to 29 percent, an increase of 10 percentage points over the result in September. 

Indeed, the most enduring long-term change that has resulted after nearly two years of pandemic is that 31 percent of respondents said that they have reduced the number of patients scheduled per hour. Twenty-one percent of respondents noted that they have increased the number of staff in their practices as a long-term change.

Jobson’s Latest Coronavirus Survey Shows Uptick in Key Eyecare Practice Performance Indicators

By Staff
Thursday, January 6, 2022 12:27 AM NEW YORK—The financial outlook for U.S. eyecare practices remained positive as 2021 drew to a close, with the key indicators of eyecare practice performance showing across the board increases over 2020, according to the results of a newly released Jobson Research survey. The survey, Wave 28 of Jobson’s Coronavirus Survey, polled 564 U.S. eyecare practices between December 8-31, 2021. In addition to key performance indicators, respondents were asked about changes in staffing, practice hours, and patient scheduling, as well as their willingness to get vaccinated or attend industry events considering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For the first time, respondents were also asked to report on the impact of supply chain disruptions on their practice.

Fed Expects Rate Hikes for 2022 and Beyond

By Staff
Wednesday, January 5, 2022 6:00 PM Despite surging consumer prices, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) unanimously decided to keep interest rates near zero for the time being. As the U.S. economic recovery progresses and inflation is picking up, it did move up its timeline for possible rate hikes, however, with all 18 committee members now expecting a rate hike in 2022. 

With inflation having exceeded the FOMC’s long-term target of 2 percent for some time now, the Committee linked a possible rate hike to the achievement of its second policy goal, namely maximum employment, or to be more precise “labor market conditions consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment.”

Not only do the guardians of U.S. monetary policy expect to raise interest rates earlier than they did three months ago, but they also anticipate the rate hike to be more significant than previously expected. While the median projection for the “appropriate target range for the federal funds rate at the end of 2022” is now 0.75 to 1.00 percent, it was 0.25 to 0.50 percent in September and 0 to 0.25 percent in June. Read the full story in Statista.com.

Tracking the Rise of Industrial Robots

By Staff
Tuesday, January 4, 2022 3:12 PM As the accompanying chart, based on data from the International Robotics Federation shows, the operational stock of industrial robots has tripled over the past decade, with more than three million robots in use across various industries by the end of 2020. According to the IFR, Asia leads the way in the shift to automated processes, with China in particular installing industrial robots at breakneck speed.

Ninety Percent of Public Sustainable Packaging Commitments Won’t be Met by 2025, Gartner Predicts

By Staff
Monday, January 3, 2022 2:58 PM While enterprise commitments to sustainable packaging have centered on 100 percent of packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, Gartner, Inc. predicts that 90 percent of those public sustainable packaging commitments won’t be met by 2025 due to reliance on plastics and single use packaging.

“There are a number of reasons why well-intended corporate efforts to establish sustainable packaging are not progressing,” said John Blake, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice.

Good Riddance 2021, A Year Most Americans Will Not Recall With Warm Feelings

By Staff
Thursday, December 30, 2021 10:50 AM NEW YORK—YouGov recently asked Americans about what they thought of the year 2021 and how it will be remembered, along with questions about what they think of their personal situation. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe it was a bad (35 percent) or terrible (30 percent) year for the country. Republicans are especially likely to say this, with 35 percent saying 2021 was bad and nearly half (46 percent) saying it was a terrible year for America, according to a YouGov rundown of the survey’s findings.

Two-thirds of Independents also say it was a bad or terrible year for America, and 50 percent of Democrats agree.

But Americans’ personal lives are a different story. While 31 percent of adults say it was a bad or terrible year for them personally, 41 percent say the year was OK. Only one in five (19 percent) say it was a good year, and there were just 5 percent of people who said 2021 was great for them.

Many U.S. Workers Are Seeing Bigger Paychecks in Pandemic Era, But Gains Aren’t Spread Evenly

By Staff
Wednesday, December 29, 2021 1:27 PM The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the U.S. labor market more than any single event since at least the Great Recession of 2007-09 and the financial panic that accompanied it. Employers shed nearly 20 million jobs between March and April 2020, according to government data, and payroll employment has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Workers are quitting their jobs at a record pace, particularly in lower-paid sectors such as retail and food service, and many employers are scrambling to lure replacements with raises and bonuses.

But those wage gains have been distributed unevenly throughout the workforce, with workers in some sectors and industries seeing far smaller gains than those in others. And workers’ real purchasing power has been eroded by sharply higher inflation. 

According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of U.S. private sector payroll workers (63.6 percent) work in industries where the average weekly wage in the second quarter of 2021 was at least 5 percent higher than it was in the second quarter of 2020, according to the most recently available data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, a product of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The “accommodation and food services” sector—including restaurants, bars, hotels and the like—had the biggest increase in average weekly wages since the second quarter of 2020, when much of the sector was either shut down or sharply curtailed because of the pandemic. The average wage for workers in this sector rose 18.4 percent, to $482 a week.