Alison Schoch, owner of Fells Point Surf.
Courtesy: Alison Schoch
As summer approaches, Allison Schutch, owner of Fells Point Surf, has laid off about 10 workers at two beachfront retail locations as a firestorm leads to a post-pandemic staffing crisis.
A lack of affordable summer residences, less availability of childcare, inflation and work-life rebalancing in recent years have combined to make the pool of applicants different from what it once was.
“It’s been kind of difficult balancing the expectations of the team with the needs of the business and the needs on both sides, and then also the expectations of the customers — because, you know, you have to close early because we don’t have enough people,” said Schuch.
“Customers want what they want. Convenience has become a very important factor, because you can go online and get anything you want,” said Schoch, who owns Fell’s Point Surf Co. stores. in the Fells Point area of Baltimore, Maryland, and Dewey Beach, Delaware, as well as sister store Tangerine Goods in Bethany Beach, Delaware.
With the summer hiring season in full swing, small business owners like Shosh have lingering concerns about filling roles to meet consumer demand. Worker quality was the most important issue for nearly a quarter of the members of the National Federation of Independent Business, or NFIB, surveyed in May, according to the small business advocacy organization.
Workforce quality has fluctuated between being the No. 1 and No. 2 most important issue for NFIB members in recent months. Sectors in which companies suffer from a shortage of workers It most acutely involves construction, transportation and manufacturing, but retail and restaurant owners are also reporting challenges.
In May, 44% of owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill, while 38% said they were looking for skilled workers, the NFIB said. While the owners have concerns about future working conditions and a possible recession, they are still trying to hire and raise wages to entice workers.
Brendan McCloskey said he feels a lack of talent available for hire at his Baltimore-based construction business, Trident Builders. Finding skilled workers is among the biggest issues he said he currently faces in a competitive landscape, and the shortage is driving up wages.
“We’re about to have some real opportunities for growth, and [the concern is] Will I be able to hire her? McCluskey said. “I’m trying to get to the next level and almost like the next weight class, which would allow us to stabilize our revenue, grow, invest in people, invest in systems and, frankly, just make more money.”
Comprehensive immigration reform would also help close the gap, according to some industry advocates, such as the National Restaurant Association. The group urged Congress to take action to strengthen visa policies and the Deferred Action Program for child arrivals, shorten waiting times for asylum seekers and create the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Program. The EWEA program, introduced in a House bill last month, would allow workers to come to the United States to fill “market-driven” roles on nonimmigrant visas for three years.
“There is no silver bullet to solve the industry’s employment problem, but even incremental changes in immigration policy would be an important step forward,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, in a statement.
“The restaurant industry is growing its workforce faster than the rest of the economy,” he added. “We expect to add another 500,000 jobs by the end of the year, but with about one job seeker for every two open positions, operators are struggling to fill. Growing the workforce with legal foreign workers will be a win-win for employers desperate for staff and people looking for training and opportunities. “.
Going back to the beach shops, Schoch said she’s noticed a slight dip in consumer spending as shoppers seem to be watching spending more closely. But she hopes to continue operating with a long-term mindset, even in the face of staffing challenges.
Keeping workers happy is our top priority.
“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” she said, “and I want us all to be strong and I want people to enjoy coming to work.” “I think people are probably the number one thing that keeps me up at night right now.”