retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New Yorker has a long piece that indicts the dollar store retail segment for, in essence, being more concerned about the prices of the products it sells than the cost of the lives that have been lost because of a lackadaisical approach to safety.

An excerpt:

"The Gun Violence Archive, a Web site that uses local news reports and law-enforcement sources to tally crimes involving firearms, lists more than two hundred violent incidents involving guns at Family Dollar or Dollar General stores since the start of 2017, nearly fifty of which resulted in deaths. The incidents include carjackings in the parking lot, drug deals gone bad, and altercations inside stores. But a large number involve armed robberies in which workers or customers have been shot. Since the beginning of 2017, employees have been wounded in shootings or pistol-whippings in at least thirty-one robberies; in at least seven other incidents, employees have been killed. The violence has not let up in recent months, when requirements for customers to wear masks have made it harder for clerks to detect shoppers who are bent on robbery. In early May, a worker at a Family Dollar in Flint, Michigan, was fatally shot after refusing entry to a customer without a mask.

"The number of incidents can be explained in part by the stores’ ubiquity: there are now more than sixteen thousand Dollar Generals and nearly eight thousand Family Dollars in the United States, a fifty-per-cent increase in the past decade. (By comparison, Walmart has about forty-seven hundred stores in the U.S.) The stores are often in high-crime neighborhoods, where there simply aren’t many other businesses for criminals to target. Routine gun violence has fallen sharply in prosperous cities around the country, but it has remained stubbornly high in many of the cities and towns where these stores predominate. The glowing signs of the discount chains have become indicators of neglect, markers of a geography of the places that the country has written off.

"But these factors are not sufficient to explain the trend. The chains’ owners have done little to maintain order in the stores, which tend to be thinly staffed and exist in a state of physical disarray. In the nineteen-seventies, criminologists such as Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson argued that rising crime could be partly explained by changes in the social environment which lowered the risk of getting caught. That theory gained increasing acceptance in the decades that followed. 'The likelihood of a crime occurring depends on three elements: a motivated offender, a vulnerable victim, and the absence of a capable guardian,' the sociologist Patrick Sharkey wrote, in 'Uneasy Peace,' from 2018."

You read the entire piece here.

KC's View:

The sentence that haunts me from the story is this one:

The chains’ executives are candid about what is driving their growth: widening income inequality and the decline of many city neighborhoods and entire swaths of the country.

It seems likely, as recession happens, caused by and then exacerbated by the pandemic, that inequality and decline will grow, and the situation only will get worse.  Attention must be paid.