Corporate dress codes relax in an age of tattoos, piercings

Corporate dress codes relax in an age of tattoos, piercings

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Corporate dress codes relax in an age of tattoos, piercings

Starbucks, Wal-Mart and PetSmart ask themselves whether letting workers dress more casual will help with retention – or scare off customers.

If your Starbucks barista had an arm tattoo, would it stop you from ordering your daily espresso?

Probably not, but Starbucks, at least for now, won’t allow baristas to have tattoos that are visible to customers. But the coffee giant is considering relaxing its dress code in the coming weeks in recognition that fashion tastes have changed.

Starbucks SBUX 0.33% is part of a growing list companies that are grappling with reality that their workforces and customers are increasingly tattooed, pierced and at home in casual clothes. For example, PetSmart PETM 0.16% recently started letting employees show off their tattoos at work while retailing giant Wal-Mart WMT -0.10% will soon let its workers wear black pants instead of just khakis.

Dress codes are a delicate balancing act for retail and food-service companies, which try to project an image to customers but not be so strict as to make employees quit. For instance, shoppers in Home Depot’s massive stores can easily spot employees wearing orange aprons, which also help to reinforce the corporate color scheme.

But err into too-strict territory and it could mean an employee exodus. Turnover is already high at retail stores and restaurants, which raises recruiting costs. Research suggests that the cost of replacing workers can reach as high as 50% to 60% of their annual salary because of the extra training required and time human resources spends setting them up to get paid and start their benefits, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Starbucks says it is considering changes to several employee-related policies, including the dress code, pay, and vacation scheduling. The policy review could result in changes in the next few weeks, a spokesman said.

“We are always actively engaged in discussions with our partners to determine how to make their experience better and more valuable,” said Zack Hutson, […]