RETAILERS: How to Save Money On Hiring Union Carpenters

I have been in the fixtureand installation business for over a decade and one thing I hear often from clients is that union carpentry crews are expensive. There are many cities who require workers on a job site to be union members and there are several reasons for that, some political, some safety-wise.

Unlike their non-union counterparts, Union carpenters must serve a rather long period of apprenticing in the field before they qualify as a full service journeyman. This thorough training ensures that all crew members have the highest level of quality and professionalism for every project. This training allows crews to work quickly, accurately and safely at all times. Many clients who have used union crews discover that while the rates are higher, the projects run more seamlessly and efficiently, often saving money in the long run.

For over 130 years the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, with over half a million members has been a leader in training, educating and representing the future generations of construction professionals. There is no group more committed to building relationships than a union carpenter.

With hourly costs easily ranging beyond one hundred dollars an hour in most major cities, it is important to know how you can minimize your costs when you are employing union carpenters. I tell my clients that their preparation before the project is very important. Making sure that the trucks are on time, the fixtures or millwork is properly made and pre-assembled in their shop before it gets to the job site are two important factors in budgeting for a crew.

One of the most unique programs in the industry is our company’s special SHIFT RATE pricing. We save our clients thousands of dollars by sending our union carpentry crew to their projects anywhere in the USA and billing a simple net hourly rate! Our crew then works under our clients own supervision effecting a productive and cost controlled project. Rather than “guess-timating” a fixed price, which is often incorrect and inflated, Store Force provides one net hourly rate with no “fat”and no contingencies.

My goal as national Union Sales Director for Store Force is to present the bestand most practical options for our clients needing union carpentry and union installations around the country. Many of our clients are open-shop companies who partner with us to accommodate their union projects.

Please call on me any time for more information, rates, or to learn more about our union shift rate pricing.

I can be reached at: 1-631-672-3150,,

What A Unique Idea: A Clothing Store With No Clothes

YES I know that traditional retail stores have been having a hard time over the last several years as shoppers buying patterns have been changing. While we have seen many consumers, especially the younger crowd increase their spending online, the fact is that traditional retailers still win when it comes to ringing up sales. However, the chipping away at the retailers does take a toll and many stores have been working around the clock for ways to combat the changes.

WELL, here is one of the craziest things and customers who stroll in will see tailors altering suits, stylists giving fashion tips and will be offered some wine or fresh squeezed juice while they wait for a manicure. All sounds like a wonderful spa-like experience, right? What the shoppers won’t be able to do is buy clothes that they can take home with them!

THIS is Nordstrom’s new tactic for a struggling business. They want to cut costs while keeping their shoppers interested so they are opening a store that will be like a page from an e-commerce website. The concept: Little or no merchandise will be stocked at the store! Come, pick out a lovely dress, place your order

MY goodness, don’t they realize that the problems online apparel sellers had,and still have, is that customers want to try on the clothes first. Having a retail store with no merchandise is like the Emperor wearing no clothes. They want you to come in, browse around some catalog pictures and mannequins, spend your money and wait for the mailman to bring your goods. Sounds an awful lot like online shopping but with more work as you have to drive to the store, park and complete the transaction in person. I am devoting a good portion of our news column to this today because apparently the big influential retailers think this is the way to go. Wal-Mart is eyeing the idea of stores with no inventory as well and may be considering this for their future expansion. While it certainly streamlines things at the stores and massively cuts overhead it create absolutely no shopping experience for consumers and I have to say it looks like it will be a disaster all around.

BUT what do we small retailers know? Wal-Mart spent $310 million this summer to buy Bonobos, a “guideshop” pioneer. Stores filled with showroom pieces and samples you can order. They’ll be delivered to you later. Thanks for coming in to shop! Many of these companies are publicly heldand Wall Street is not exactly embracing this type of unit. Perhaps that’s why Nordstrom was looking to take themselves private recently. Who knows, but what I do know is that this seems like a completely ridiculous idea. Maybe our small stores will do well by being so unique that someone can actually come in, buy something and take it home with them! Who’d have thought there’s hope after all.

Sorry, Your Small Business Can’t Compete With Amazon

The giants like Amazon, Target, Walmart and Costco have many competitive advantages over small click and mortarand e-commerce businesses that makes it very difficult to compete on identical products. Competing with these giants is addressed in many articles over the last years but as astute small business-people see with many big brandands jumping onto the Amazon bandwagon, the prospect of beating Amazon is just not realistic.

The fact is that these large retailers have a real competitive advantage over smaller ones. Amazon is both a retailer as well as a marketplace which allows someone to buy from a third-party retailer on their website. It turns out that many of these third-party vendors sell for pennies in profits. How could you compete with that, any WHY would you?

The only success that I can see in competing with Amazon is to try to sell something different than what they sell so you’re just not competing with them. That is a mantra that is pushed often by writers and at merchandise shows, but the reality is WHAT could you sell that is not available on Amazon?

Maybe a custom product or hand made product would work, but that is not practical for many of us mainstream retailers. Some retailers have taken to selling merchandise on a subscription box basis –and that works for some merchandise but really not the answer a retailer like myself wants to see.

The sad news is that all of the writers and speakers that I have readand listened to over the recent years stress finding unique merchandise (good luck with that!) And at the recent ASD Marketweek show there was a speaker who caught my attention when he said Amazon was killing our small retailers – but then went on to say that we can fight them by giving better customer service to our shoppers. Really?! This is the sort of dribble that permeates our industry that does no service to anyone who has been active for more than a month or two! You’re not going to combat Amazon with better in-store service, especially since you’re going to be on an uphill battle even getting the shopper into your store.

I hope that maybe our readers have some tips to share that have helped them combat the giantsand will share there here for our fellow retailers. There is no simple answer to our survival but I do know it’s not customer service or offering a latte to shoppers at our stores.

This article brought to you by Retailers Forum Magazine, a monthly wholesale merchandise magazine servicing the industry since 1981 with no-nonsense articles and information to this country’s retailers.

Post Holiday Store Closings

WHILE the 2016 holiday sales season was profitable for many independent retail stores, it was not as promising for some of the major chain stores who have announced below average earnings. The post holiday numbers are inand the retail industry as a whole had the largest increase in sales in the last five years. Consumers opened their walletsand made a record amount of purchases, but much of the retail money was spent online. The droves of shoppers did eventually turn up at the retail chains but they were driven by heavy discounts.

PROMOTIONS are great for shoppers but not so much for the store owners. While many small retailers held their own, the large chains felt the brunt of the challenges.

MACY’S has announced that it will be closing about 100 stores in 2017, which is roughly 15% of their locations. Along with those closings comes job losses which are expected to be as many as 10,000 workers nationwide. Sears has also announced the closure of many of their stores as well which will also result in many layoffs.

AMERICANS were in the mood to spend – just not at traditional stores. Independent retailers were quick to realize this and improving their online presence to make sure they prosper for the new year. The challenge that all retailers have in this changing environment is to better define their place in the market and create experiences both on and away from the shoppers computer keyboards. Stores will need to become more of a destination or entertain customers in order to prosper. The retail store is not dead, but the retail store of the past is. It’s a far cry from the days of unlocking the front door and letting the line of shoppers inside!

Shoplifting Becomes FREE For All

Retailers in California are feeling the sting of increased shoplifting throughout the state as the government powers that be changed the laws when it comes to penalties for the CRIME of shoplifting. Turns out that the new rules say that anything stolen that is less than $950 keeps the crime a misdemeanor.-and likely means that the thieves face no pursuit and no punishment.

It is already being reported by many larger retailers in the state that shoplifting is up around 15 percent already since voters in the state approved Proposition 47 and ended the possibility of charging shoplifters with a felony and potential prison sentence.

The recent ballot also lowered penalties for forgery, fraud, petty theftand drug possession. WHO was doing the voting? Criminals!! What civic minded person would agree to the ridiculous changes in the law?

Retailers are saying that while they are installing more security camerasand watching shoppers more carefully it’s just not worth pursuing the shoplifters since the laws no longer protect the store owners and are favoring the criminals.

Online Retailers Now Opening Stores

Has the retailing world gone insane? Over the last several years online sellers have made significant dents in brickand mortar stores in every market and in every city. Many retailers had to jump into online selling whether they wanted to or not to keep a presence to the consumers. This addition has been costlyand for many retailers has not been all that popular, as many online shoppers are scouring for the cheapest price.

Fast forward to today when new retailing reports are showing that many online stores that had been exclusively on line are venturing into brick and mortar situations. Has everyone lost their minds? Is this backwards day?

An article that was published in USA today talked about an online fashion retailer in San Francisco that has sold online only for a decade and then decided that it would be a great idea to open a physical store so he could interact with the customers. Lo and behold he discovered that he makes larger sales and were able to interact better with the customers. OMG – something us physical retailers have known about forever!

So now the hipster millennial trend is the NEW thing…opening physical locations! They even have a name for it – it is called omni-channel marketing. We used to just call it RETAILING!

The newfound genius’ have discovered that there are great benefits by having a physical location and those selling fashion feel they can no longer ignore the client who wants to touch merchandise. Wow. something we have all been doing for eons until many were put out of business because of these same genius’ saying the internet is the ONLY way to sell. So, they rise through the carnage THEY made of the brick and mortar stores only to bring it back again. But this time they think they have invented a NEW way to sell!

My favorite addition to this story is that after years of the decimation of book stores and the burying of Walden Books, Borders and the dwindling down of Barnesand Noble, an announcement was just made that Amazon will be opening physical book stores next year!  I give up!! Is it just me?  Share your thoughts…

Push For Taxing Internet Sales Continues

internet sales tax 1For the past several years Congress has been kicking the can down the road on what to do about taxing sales made on the internet. It was all the way back in 1992 that the Supreme Court issued a ruling that required online businesses to file sales taxes only if they had a physical presence in the state where the sale was made.

It has been quite a while since 1992and internet sales have pervaded the mainstream, making it difficult for brickand-mortar retailers to keep up with their online counterparts. Often it is just the sales tax that makes the difference between a store making a sale or losing it to some company online.

Those against the internet tax complain that it is just another tax to the public, but the National Retail Federation points out that the law is already on the books that people must report purchases on their tax returns as “use tax” – but less than 1% of anyone actually does.

Making online sellers collect sales tax would even out the playing field for regular line retailers. What do you think?

Employees Who Bad Mouth Your Business

Well, here is something I think will be of interest to many business owners. If you are a boss and your staffers vent on social media about their jobs – you have no recourse.

The law says that employees are allowed to vent and the government protects these workers’ rights to say almost anything they want about where they work even if it is mean-spirited or insulting. It is illegal for an employee to be fired for a post about working conditions, whether it is regarding to pay, hours, tasks, difficult supervisors or any other issue.

Social media proves that it can be a boom or bust to a business. Employers have very little rights under the law when it comes to protecting their businesses against the wrath of angry workers.

One of the few times an Employer is protected is if the poster is giving out trade secrets, financial information or posting about clients or customers. Employees can be fired for postings that are racist, homophobic, sexist or discriminatory. But, calling their supervisor out is not grounds for firing.

Has freedom of speech gone too far when the employee is protected as they bash you or your business? What do you think? Share with us.

Also, one thing I will remind business owners of: If your store is not unionized your workers are considered “at will” employees. They can be dismissed with no reason whatsoever in most cases. Hint, hint!

Robots Will Take Over Construction Industry

How many times have we heard politicians promising to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States? Maybe I am over thinking it, but unless you are manufacturing some very expensive items it will be a challenge to offer American workers minimum wage to stand on an assembly line and put together key-chains and such. Come to think of it, there are some very expensive items like all of Apple’s products that have low material cost and sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Those components would be great to manufacture in America and pay workers a decent wage. But, wait, why manufacture here when they can pay a couple of hundred dollars a month to do it overseas? And so the problem continues.

As sales director for Union store fixture and mill work installations I understand and now more than ever how important labor unions are to our work force. With many Americans working harder than ever we see many corporations cutting shifts to less than 30-hours so they are not eligible for health benefits. We are becoming a country of part time workers, which is not going to sustain us to raise families and live the American dream.

Thanks to Labor Unions like the International Brotherhood of Carpenters, which we are members of, there are some safeguards for us. An honest wage for a day’s work by skilled workers who are well- trained and focused on quality and safety.

We often sit around and discuss the future of our children and the new generation when it comes to what types of jobs will be available to them. Tech comes up a lot. It’s a growth industry, not only in the USA but overseas as well. With the world becoming smaller (thanks to the internet) it also becomes more competitive and price conscious.

Many manufacturing jobs have been replaced by computers and robots. A bottling plant for a beverage company can replace 100 human workers with a series of robotic stations and only 2 human workers to turn them on and off. More people unemployed by technology.  and It is real)… There are companies that are actually designing robots capable of building robots!

Now let’s get onto construction! We as union carpenters, while more states embrace “right to work” are still feeling secure that a man with tools will always have a job. Well, I felt the same way until I researched the robotics industry and found a startling new concept: Robotic construction workers!

Yes, it’s true, according to Science Journal, a prototype of a new robot referred to as “termes” has been developed that may one day revolutionize the construction industry. Engineers provided the robots with construction blueprints,and then left them alone. The TERMES built the structures by observing and reacting to the other robots around them—with no further instruction from humans.

Because they work independently, the same construction plan can be executed by a dozen TERMES or a hundred of them. Because their directives are so simple—put down a brick that fits in the building plan, where no one else has laid one down–they require little processing power. The prototype TERMES use specially built bricks to construct towers, castles, and pyramids. The researchers say they could also handle simple tasks like laying sandbags down before floods. While the prototype robots are about the size of a desk phone, researchers say they could eventually scale them up or down.

While this technology is still in prototype, the reality is that they have successfully created the beginning stages of its development. While those of us middle-aged carpenters may not have to contend with R2D2 taking over our jobs, future generations may very well have to deal with this new technology that will threaten their livelihood.

My advice to those up and-comers in the industry….become a shop steward so you can watch over the robot workers!

About the author:

Martin Chase is National Sales Director at Store Force, Inc., leading Union store fixture installers providing clients with fixture and mill work installations around the country. Martin can be reached at 631-672-3150 or by email at:

Manufacturing In America?

This month just some fodder to think about. Since the election of our president (twice!) there was a good deal of talk about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. The idea is great and it stirs up a lot of cheers from the crowd. But the reality of doing this really is quite different that the concept.

If you are talking about very high end goods like cars, then yes, manufacturing can be done in the USA. The product has enough margin to sustain localized manufacturing. How many people do you know who build cars? The talk was about all types of manufacturing to get our factories buzzing again. That is a much harder scenario.

When it comes to wholesale merchandise, do we really think that we will be able to manufacture here as opposed to overseas? The conundrum is that dollar store merchandise made here in the USA would be considered $5 store. Because citizens of the USA are trained on bargains and deals, it’s very unlikely that they will pay double or triple for a product because it is USA-made. The concept of USA-made gets a lot of cheers until consumers need to open their wallets to pay for it.

The other end of that is the manufacturing itself. How many people do you know will want to work on a factory assembly line making minimum wage to assemble widgets? Even if a factory could employ American workers for minimum wage, that is still double, triple or beyond what they pay their counterparts in other countries.

So, we have a double edge problem. We really should manufacture here but we really can’t afford to either make it, or buy it after it’s made. And unless the product is a high margin one, companies will not consider cutting into their own margins.

By the way, and I never understand why the millennials never take offense to Apple when they are “Occupying Wall Street.” Here is a company that employees poorly paid workers in China – exploits themand charges $600 for a cell phone here in the USA. This is a great example where we CAN manufacture here in the USAand maybe instead of costing $5 to make an iPhone it would take $10 – still leaving a big margin and allowing American workers the opportunity of employment.

I often think of the Apple scenario and wonder why our President hasn’t reached out to the mega tech gurus over there … then I realized that he’s a Blackberry guy! And we all know what’s happened to Blackberry!

Your thoughts?  Please share.