Follow by Email

Monday, February 25, 2013

Anchors aweigh!

The Odenton Shopping Center has been a firm fixture in western Anne Arundel County, MD for the last fifty years. Some have recently called the shopping center an eyesore. Those of us that have lived in the area for most, if not all, of our lives remember the Odenton Shopping Center as the town center; the center of commerce for the surrounding area. You could shop at WT Grants or have a casual lunch at the store’s diner. Kids could grab a soda from Beacon’s Pharmacy and then head over to Western Auto for bicycle tire patches. A man could pick up his tailored suit from Gordon’s while his wife shopped at the Princess Shop. Get your haircut at Odenton Barbershop; pick up dinner at the A&P, and a bottle of wine from Odenton Liquors.

Over the years, stores have come and gone. Odenton Barbershop has survived almost fifty years and Odenton Liquors almost forty. There always seemed to be a pharmacy, auto parts, and clothier. The other staple was a department store and/or grocery store.

What happens to a shopping center when the anchor stores leave?  When the larger national chain stores leave there is less traffic to the shopping area for the independent stores. Can the smaller independently owned businesses survive without the traffic driven by the anchors? Superfresh closed in 2011 and has yet to be filled. CVS has closed and moved across the street.

An anchor store is defined as a larger store, usually a department store of a national retail chain. But you could also argue that an anchor is a stable merchant that has been in the same location and supported the community for decades. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the presence of anchor stores defines the shopping center type, in this case a neighborhood center or community center.  A neighborhood center is designed to provide convenience shopping for day to day needs of consumers in the immediate neighborhood. A community center offers a wider variety of apparel and other goods, usually having a supermarket, super drugstore, or department store. Walkable, mixed-use areas are becoming the popular design. While the Odenton Shopping Center is on a major thoroughfare and is accessible to pedestrians from the hiker-biker trail and older communities behind it, it does not fit into the current design philosophy of developers.

I spoke to several of the existing business owners or managers. There were differing reactions to the amount of business that has been loss or gained. Depending on the type of business some have seen steady customers or a slight increase. Others have had to restructure their inventory to attract a different customer base. All agreed that the presence of grocery chain would increase their clientele and, of course, benefit the strength of the shopping center.

There are currently four vacant spaces. From what is publically known the departure of the Superfresh, CVS, and Fashion Bug stores were not due to the lack of the customer base or the shopping center, but rather corporate decisions that affected the chains nationwide.

We are watching the Odenton Shopping Center devolve from one defined type of shopping center to another. The question is which way is the shopping center heading? Will it continue to loose tenants and become a strip with empty space? Attract a national, large capacity retailer?  Or fill the space with more locally owned retailers to service the needs of the community. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Does having visible tattoos say anything about a person's ability to perform the job?

Throughout history, tattoos have had varied purposes as art, cosmetic, spiritual, and fraternal/military. Not only those of the counter culture tattoo their bodies. Life magazine estimated in 1936 that 6% of the American population had tattoos.  According to a 2006 Pew Research Center survey, 36% of those ages 18 to 25 had a least one tattoo. The US Department of Labor, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey 2010, lists 18 to 25 year olds as making up nearly 40% of the labor force. Employers are bound to encounter a job candidate who has a visible tattoo.

When making hiring decisions employers have to be careful not to exclude applicants because of the way they look or for religious reasons. Employers may have dress codes and policies against visible tattoos, but even established policies can be challenged if the applicant's appearance has no bearing on their qualifications. With regard to religious tattoos, the applicant/employee may have exposed tattoos to show the commitment to their faith or a rite of passage. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires “employers to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would cause undue hardship to the business”.

Generally, laws will support the employer who has policies that require that the employee represent the company image. What if there is a highly qualified applicant that has no interaction with the public? Employers have to consider the applicant’s qualifications, job description, location of the tattoo, and the company's policies when hiring. While facial tattoos may not be appropriate for front line employees, the employer may be more receptive for the behind the scenes employee.

When an employer has ambiguous policies towards tattoo location and attempts to define appropriateness they could open themselves to litigation. Company policies have to be clear. Permitting "non-offensive" or "discreet" tattoos crosses the line into interpretation. Everyone's definition of "offensive" is different. Is the tattoo design or location offensive? What's not offensive today may be offensive to an employee hired at a later time.

As with all company hiring policies, employers have to ensure they are not denying a specific group the opportunity for employment. Employers have to remove their personal biases to protect the company and hire the best possible candidate.

How do you feel? Does having visible tattoos say anything about a person's ability to perform the job?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Should the box be banned?

The city of Tampa passed legislation in January 2013 to remove the criminal history question on employment applications. Tampa became the latest in a growing list of cities that have passed such laws.  In February 2012 there were thirty-two cities. Tampa now makes forty-six. In our area, Baltimore, Wilmington, DE, and Washington, DC have laws preventing asking about criminal history. Currently, seven states have statewide “ban the box” laws. A bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2012, but subsequently died in committee.

Removing the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime” or any inquiry about criminal history from employment applications has become known as  “ban the box”. The movement of the campaign feels that one’s criminal history should not be a consideration of employment at the time an application is submitted, rather, at a later time during the interview process. It is felt that asking this question on the application reduces the chances of those with criminal records to be employed, thus, allowing the applicant to be evaluated on their qualifications.

As part of the screening process, most employers perform criminal history inquiries. In a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management, 92 percent of their members perform criminal background checks on some or all candidates. It is inevitable that employers are going to come across applicants that have criminal records. The National Employment Law Project estimates that over 65 million Americans have some sort of criminal record. The cost of making a poor hiring decision can cost a business $10,000-$50,000, depending on the level of employee hired.

Employers need to do their due diligence to avoid bad hires. At what point in the process the employer asks about criminal history and what value the employer puts on criminal records over qualifications, are two important points to be considered.