What’s past is prologue, but only if there is a pause between it and the present. This is something different: It feels like a continuation of something that we thought would end. When businesses don’t know when things will change, it is difficult to prepare. Stores are emptying of available inventory, and not just because of high demand. We simply cannot make things like we used to.
In 2020, retailers coped with the disruption of social distancing initiatives and closures enacted by state and county governments. The pandemic caused reactions that were entirely predictable. It’s the lengths of its first- and second-order effects that we are tasked with managing today. Companies are once again delaying their returns to the office. The “great resignation” has persisted as one of the most damaging responses to the retail economy. Shipping ports are clogged, factories are no longer at capacity, containers are more costly than ever, and each store has differing ways of managing the spread of the pandemic. As a result, inflation has unsettled a republic, and the cost of goods is outpacing the buying power of the typical American.
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