FOURTH OF JULY

Slow work week? Blame the Fourth of July

 

The midweek holiday is expected to crash productivity at many companies, but it could boost sales for some retailers and hoteliers.

hsampson@MiamiHerald.com

Jim Angleton plans to work all of this holiday-split week.

But he’ll be lonely at the office.

The owner and president of AEGIS FinServ Corp., a Miami Lakes-based company that issues travel expense debit and credit cards for government and corporate clients, Angleton has given the bulk of his workers the week off with pay. Most of the employees are veterans.

“Me, myself and I — the three of me are working,” he said. “The lights will be off except for one.”

Offices throughout the nation are similarly dark this week as a Wednesday Fourth of July (the last was in 2007) has prompted workers to take five-day weekends or an entire week of vacation.

While the extra time off for vacationers could lead to increased business for grocery stores, fireworks stands and hotels, other companies are seeing the gears of industry grind to a temporary halt.

“In my office, it’ll be hard to find a lot of my staff,” said Nicki Grossman, head of Broward’s tourism office.

There will be enough people on hand to help the visitors expected for the holiday week. “But many of my staff are taking the opportunity to do what most of America is doing, and that is travel a little bit,” she said.

According to a travel forecast from AAA, an estimated 42.3 million people nationwide are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday, a nearly 5 percent increase from last year. While the association counts the official holiday stretch as July 3-8, 54 percent of people with travel plans said they intended to start the trip before the work week even began.

The National Retail Federation says grocery stores could see a boost as more than 160 million people plan to spend the holiday at a cookout or picnic.

AutoNation, a Fort Lauderdale-based chain of auto dealers, hopes consumers have an appetite for more than barbecue. Spokesman Marc Cannon said the company anticipates a busy week, as long as the weather cooperates; staffing could increase as much as 10 percent at some locations to handle the traffic.

With temperatures in the low 90s and high 80s forecast in South Florida throughout the week, The Frieze Ice Cream Factory just off Lincoln Road in Miami Beach is expecting to do brisk business Wednesday. The shop is adding an extra person during the day and at night, said general manager David Warren, whose parents first opened the business on July 4, 1987.

“With the hot weather, July is always a busy month for us,” Warren said.

But what’s good for the ice cream parlor is not so great for the engineering firm.

“I guess if you measured it in lost time, it would exceed the Final Four or the Super Bowl and World Series combined,” said Jim Fell, founder of Destin-based Building Engineering Consultants.

He said the lost time isn’t just this week; he figures employees spent plenty of work minutes planning their holiday trips.

But, Fell said, because the holiday doesn’t usually fall on a Wednesday, the company didn’t get too worked up. “We certainly found the best way to do it is to sit back and enjoy it and participate in it,” said Fell, who is semi-retired and spending much of the month visiting his wife’s family in Mississippi.

The timing isn’t great for companies in Miami, where fans lost sleep and focus during the Miami Heat’s NBA playoffs and finals run. Then came the team’s victory parade on June 25, when many thousands found a way to get out of work to hail their champions.

While tourism boosters loved the attention, they admit the games probably didn’t do much for employee output. “I think if there was a way to measure the productivity level, it probably wasn’t at its peak,” said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The key this week for employers and employees is to be clear on what the company’s needs are and how to meet them, said Marilyn Jenkins, Interim Associate Dean of Business Process at Barry University’s School of Adult and Continuing Education.

“Have a little patience, go slowly with everybody and acknowledge that it is a holiday week and not everybody is here,” she said. “Share what are the challenges; make sure everything gets covered that needs to be covered.”

At various Barry locations, summer classes are still in session every day but Wednesday, she said. Extra coordination was needed to make sure positions were covered every day.

 . . and the whole family can take a holiday together,” she said.

For Luis Salazar, who opened a new law firm in Miami with a partner in mid-June, extended vacation is not an option — for him or for his employees.

“We’re really right now overwhelmed and working around the clock,” he said. “We could easily work through July Fourth. We’d have no one to talk to aside from ourselves.

This article includes comments from members of HeraldSource, part of the Public Insight Network. To learn more about the network or to join, visitMiami

Herald.com/insight.

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