As summer arrives, Alison Schuch, owner of Fells Point Surf Co., is down about 10 workers at her two beach retail locations as a perfect storm of reasons drives a post-pandemic hiring crunch.
A lack of affordable summer housing, scant child-care availability, inflation and the rebalancing of work and life in recent years have combined to make the applicant pool different from what it once was.
“It’s just been hard to kind of balance the expectations of the team and the needs of the business and the needs on both sides,” Schuch said, “and then also the expectations of the customers — because, you know, having to close early because we don’t have enough people.”
“Customers want what they want. Convenience has become a huge important factor, because you can go online and get anything you want,” said Schuch, who has 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 summer hiring season in full swing, small business owners such as Schuch have lingering concerns about filling roles to meet consumer demand. Labor quality was the most important problem for nearly a quarter of National Federation of Independent Business, or NFIB, members surveyed in May, according to the small business advocacy organization.
Labor quality has fluctuated between being the No. 1 and the No. 2 most important issue for NFIB members in recent months. The sectors where businesses are feeling the labor shortage most acutely include construction, transportation and manufacturing, but retail and restaurant owners are also reporting challenges.