Teach Business Today #4

Retail, work environments, and social media censorship


I hope everyone is settling into their summer routines. We are into the last 2 weeks here working with students, completing report cards, and doing some professional development for the next school year.

Before I get into the five takeaways from the past week, I want to share with you a couple of things I’ve done:

  1. I had the opportunity to speak with Tim Cavey of the Teachers on Fire podcast on his Instagram Live this week. Our 20-minute conversation covers a variety of education-related topics and a brief discussion on the recent BLM protests. You can check it out here.

  2. Last week, I shared a Youtube video of an interview I did with Mike Macfadden. Mike has also uploaded the interview on his podcast, 847 Creative. If you prefer consuming content through audio, you can download it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or elsewhere.

The Best Business Ed Takeaways This Week

Reddit Has The Chance to Chart a New Course

I love Reddit, but there are serious problems with the platform.

It often becomes difficult to find the information I want to read amongst hate speech and racism. The reporting features allow that to be dealt with, but it appears the issues are beyond the power of the hard-working subreddit moderators.

There are so many perspectives within this story that can be discussed with students. Many will have different opinions, but it could lead to a constructive discussion with the right group.

Some specific talking points include:

  • Where is the line drawn between free speech and moderation?

  • Do online forums have the authority to limit what is shared?

  • What are the business implications of a restrictive online community?

  • Is Alexis Ohanian’s desire to have his board position filled by a person of colour the right approach?

An assignment that can come out of it has to do with Reddit’s promise to rewrite its content policy. It would be interesting to see what students come up with after discussing the above points.

25,000 Stores Are Predicted to Close in 2020

The future is bleak for brick-and-mortar retail.

We live in a society that was already shifting to purchasing online. More retailers who were believed to be strict physical retailers, such as grocery stores, have adapted for customer convenience.

The COVID-19 pandemic could be the make-or-break for many retailers who didn’t plan for this shift prior.

Malls were already on the decline. It looks like that drop will be faster than anticipated.

An understanding of the retail industry is important for any student, whether they are a consumer or a future executive. As teachers, we can teach them about retail, but we can’t predict what it will look like in 5-10 years from now.

Students can use this information to develop an analysis of where they believe the retail industry will go in the future. Another option can be a case study of some of the mentioned failing retailers and what alternatives are available to them to avoid bankruptcy.

If you want to take it one step further, try partnering your class with local retailers who are struggling in your community for a real-life case study. Students can present their alternatives to the owners with a full implementation plan.

This is a time of adaptation, and students can possess creative ideas to help that happen.

Groceries Cut Pandemic Pay Bump

Pay increases for grocery workers was a great move. Employees felt cared about and customers showed their support with their wallets.

Not anymore.

Many of my students work in this industry. When classes were suspended, their hours increased which caused them to miss online lessons. We made adaptations because of the importance of their work.

I feel for them with this news. Although things are starting to reopen, the pandemic is far from over.

The conversations and analysis from this will hit home with some of your students. They may be the primary people affected or know someone who was.

It can also be a great learning tool for business expenses, public relations, and working through a worldwide pandemic.

Some points you could key in on include:

  • How much is the company actually saving by reducing the pandemic pay bump?

  • Is removing the pay bump worth the PR hit they could take?

  • What if a store publically announces they are keeping their employee’s hourly wage increase and customers shift to a new store. How can stores like Wal-Mart, Sobeys and Loblaw respond to keep their market share?

The New Normal of Office Space

The phrase “we are training our students for jobs that don’t exist yet” can now include “and don’t look the way they do now.”

And there’s no saying that what is being presented here will be final.

Different office environments, increased work from home measures, removal of board meetings, and daily commutes are expectations for many workers.

But will the office be removed completely?

After discussing this article, some of the assessments you could have students complete with this information include:

  • Redesigning a traditional office for increased productivity and employee happiness

  • An analysis of whether or not an office is necessary (you could go more in-depth by focusing on specific industries)

  • The positives and negatives of working in an office or working from home

  • Redesigning cubicles or spaces set aside for social distancing, ultimately killing the open office environment

  • Alternatives to board meetings

Mall Armageddon

The idea of malls becoming extinct is bittersweet for me. I spent a lot of time as a teenager at the mall with friends. A lot of my students do the same.

With the above-mentioned article regarding store closures, malls are probably not too far behind.

Government restrictions have caused malls to close completely. In Manitoba, we are now just seeing malls opening with less than 10 active cases.

The closing of malls can have even bigger retail implications. Many stores rely on that space to operate a successful storefront. If malls close their doors permanently, existing businesses will have difficulty finding new homes.

A cool idea I’ve presented to students in the past is to redesign suffering mall spaces to reinvigorate them. The one requirement is that it should continue to be a profit centre for the landlords.

Some of the ideas that have been developed in the past include:

  • An incubator mall for new businesses, where entrepreneurs can operate at a reduced rent for a short period of time

  • Multi-use office spaces

  • Apocalyptic paintball or airsoft arenas

  • Waterpark (a pipe dream in Manitoba as we do not have a major one)

Try this out with your students to see their creativity flow.

I know many of you are enjoying your summer break. However, I plan to continue putting work in over the summer to provide you with examples like the ones above.

My goal is to help make your teaching lives easier.

Please leave a comment or send me an email at sean@seanhopps.com with any feedback or ideas you have for me.

If you’re looking to connect further, feel free to give me a follow and send me a message on TwitterLinkedIn, or my website.

Take care! Until next week,