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Target's Modernization Drive Is Wreaking Havoc On Its Stores

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Target's store modernization drive has helped contribute to a banner economic year, but it has reportedly come at a cost to its employees.

The $7B plan launched in late 2017 includes renovations to its 1,800 locations and the development of hundreds of new small-format stores. Around the same time Target started remodeling stores, it also began rolling out a change in staffing that included cuts of overnight and backroom shifts, Business Insider reports.

As part of that reorganization, employees have been expected to juggle backroom stocking duties with time spent on the floor interacting with consumers, according to BI. The result has been an epidemic of backrooms disorganized to the point of being unsafe.

Dozens of anonymous employees complained to BI that without adequate time to organize the areas meant to house merchandise, they have been forced to leave those backrooms overflowing with items, sometimes placed precariously enough to present risk of injury. In some cases, employees left wooden pallets meant to carry merchandise from the truck to the backroom on the retail floor or on shelves hanging over where customers shopped.

Target told BI it has begun conducting surprise site visits to assess and improve the state of the backrooms, and some employees confirmed that safety measures have been taken to improve the stock areas. But the overnight and backroom shifts have not been reinstated, and employees are still left splitting time between manual labor and sales.

One former executive claimed that staffers were essentially being asked to double their output without a commensurate increase in compensation, though Target claims to have given its workers added payroll hours to help implement the sweeping changes. But even leaving aside workplace safety issues, at least one anonymous worker feels "expected to work at a pace that is completely unreasonable," she told BI.

The fastest-growing element of full-sized Target locations has been in-store pickup of online orders, which adds to the incoming merchandise load. Target's margins were thinned in the past couple of years by the modernization drive, but as they have recovered (and then some) this year, its employees are hoping some gets reinvested into easing their workload.