The New Normal: Piecing Together a Living - Retail Advisors Network

The New Normal: Piecing Together a Living

Puzzle_10.jpgOne of the key trends since 2008 has been the reality of people doing a few different things to make ends meet.  Sure, a lot of folks still work 9-5(ish) at one job in a more traditional method of gainful employment and it works very well for them and for their employer. Why wouldn’t it? 

Nothing like a steady paycheque and some structure to one’s life right? But we argue that the proportion of the population that have been forced to deviate from this lifestyle has grown of late.

Puzzle_12.jpgLike a juggler, these new workers often balance one or   two part-time jobs with freelance or contract gigs here and there to generate enough cash to keep their respective ships afloat and make life interesting.  They may work at the local big box retailer or local coffee shop a few days per week or drive Uber on the weekends.  They may teach a course at a local college or write an article for a paper or online journal. They may make crafts and sell them online or cut grass, shovel snow or offer renovations if they are handy.  They may even launch a new business that takes time to flourish.  We would further argue that it’s not just the extreme ends of the workforce that this is affecting (not just Gen Z, younger millennials, seniors and boomers).  Even workers in their prime work years of 30’s and 40’s are finding themselves in this situation.  Just look to the growth of Uber, Airbnb, Etsy and the numerous other sharing economy sites that enable these folks in their pursuit of job and thus income diversification. 

Puzzle_16.jpgRoot causes for this trend could include everything from downsizing of workforces and layoffs to actual consumer "street inflation" (we argue that reported inflation is understated in some cases and that street inflation is actually higher) to higher student debt to people living longer to stock market losses with the Great Recession.   The list goes on. Each person may have his or her own reason for managing this way.

We argue that companies, generally speaking, will accelerate their part in this transformation by looking to make their workforce as flexible and fluid as possible to match payroll cost with revenue fluctuations in almost real-time. We have already seen this in retail with such drastic behavior in retail store level scheduling. Workers often need to check in the day of their shift to determine whether they are still needed or may be called in with no notice when things pick up unexpectedly with customers.  We see a day, not so far from now, where many non-core positions (not just at the retail store level) will be filled just-in-time and be similar to “spot price” buying where labour is purchased like traditional commodities such as resin, steel and other metals. Take out the employment slack and save cost.

Puzzle_13.jpgOk, we may be getting ahead of ourselves here but think of the drivers and employment fundamentals that are already in play.  Flat top-lines, profit driven stock markets, cost-cutting as a way to meet earnings-per-share. Not so hard to see these patterns changing the employment market significantly.

Are you part of the new normal?








Tony Whitehouse & Bruce Winder are co-founders and partners at Retail Advisors Network™ Marketplace , a retail freelance and contractor marketplace dedicated to the retail and merchandise supplier industry. They have a combined 60 years experience at big retail as well as consulting and freelancing. Visit them at  They also offer “hands-on” retail consulting at