The Desk

July 23, 2015

About Anna’s Linens

A few days ago I passed by an Anna’s Linens store. To my surprise, the window walls were covered with “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” signs. Goods and store fixtures were still behind the signs, which indicated the move was recent. I wondered whether it was merely the one store or the entire chain and made a mental note to check news about the business before I spoke of the siting.

Planning for success

Planning for success

Yesterday I found the answer to my question. There are quite a number of news stories about Anna’s attempts to be bought out by a stronger entity rather than file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The talks fell through; bankruptcy papers were filed; the entire chain is closing.

Before reading the news accounts of the business’s status, I speculated about what may have led to the closing. Their target market seemed to be a particular demographic by virtue of the location of their stores. It was typical to find them near or renting space from a discount grocery store in a heavily Hispanic and/or Black community.

Perhaps economic pressures contributed to the downfall. Although in the early days, goods were at bargain or reasonable prices, that practice did not hold true as time passed. The new order showed that the prices of goods were very much comparable to other similar vendors. In fact, it was entirely possible to get the same goods at a Target or Walgreens for a better price.

In addition to pricing, there was the matter of misleading advertising. The print ads lured customers in for the (for example) standard-sized pillow at 30% off. But once the customer entered the store, either the pillows were all sold out or the actual goods on sale were the over-sized pillows that were not on sale and at a higher price point. (A little bait and switch brought back to life.)

With the typical bait and switch, it appeared that was the lead-in training for questionable practices by the staff. They were helpful but it seemed they were too willing to look for that item the shopper really wanted while they no longer had it but something similar for a little higher price. After working in that type of environment, how much of the sales and business ethics practices became a part of the workforce psyche and how far was that cast? Second-hand learning could be passed on to children, friends, and siblings of the workers. Associates of the workers may have fallen victims of the practices used outside of the store, things such as trade items, collaborate on activities, or build terms of relationships. It became an environment much akin to “Big Brother” or “Survivor” and I finally had enough. I stopped shopping there and sought better bargains at places I felt were much more ethical.

News accounts say the company over expanded too rapidly. The act of gaining more funds and committing oneself to to many financial obligations stretched resources too thin. Most likely economic factors such as people no longer in possession of discretionary spendable dollars also contributed to the downfall. The fact that many of those in the business’s target demographic are existing on slightly more than minimum wage incomes probably didn’t help the circumstances for anyone. And now, as a nation, we’re talking about incrementally raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next five years.

The shelves and racks, the counters of every store, no matter the size, were always filled to overflowing. There was even more in the back in the unlikely happenstance that a particular style, size, or color was not on the sales floor. Perhaps that was yet another factor that played into Anna’s demise – too much held in inventory. It costs money in terms of plant space in order to store quantities of things that aren’t being sold. After a time, items become shelf worn and need to be cleared, even at a slight discount, in order to make more space. But when your inventory isn’t moving, that should be a major indicator that you need to re-order in smaller quantities and at less frequent intervals. It seems someone at Corporate wasn’t using that philosophy.

It’s good that they have been responsible and made arrangements for paying last wages to all of their 2,500 employees.

The question in the back of my mind is how to interview those people to legally screen them for the types of ethical practices one should use in your own business. It would need to be the type of screening administered to every person who applies for and is interviewed for a job with the business and at any rung of the hierarchy of the enterprise. That will take some consideration and conclusions based on decisions from HR, management, and legal departments.

So Anna’s Linens is joining the ranks of many other businesses across the nation and adding to the number of empty building walls abutting one another. Anna’s Linens is closing.

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