Retail (comic strip)
|Website||Cooper's Retail Blog|
|Current status / schedule||Running|
|Launch date||January 1, 2006|
|Syndicate(s)||King Features Syndicate|
Retail is a syndicated comic strip distributed by King Features Syndicate. It is authored and illustrated by Norm Feuti. It made its newspaper debut on January 1, 2006, and then gained quickly in popularity following articles in The New York Times  and TIME Magazine. 
The strip is set in a fictional department store called "Grumbel's." Grumbel's provides a wide array of goods; customers have been shown shopping for anything from garden equipment and electronics to clothing and housewares. Given the wide variety of products available through Grumbel's it more closely resembles a Sears than other types of retail stores. However, the name Grumbel's is a parody of real life department store Gimbels, which closed in 1987. It also suggests the word "grumble."
Besides being in a generic, suburban mall the location of Grumbel's is kept ambiguous. Grumbel's has been operating at least since the mid-1900s and was founded by the fictional J.P. Grumbel, as seen in one of the comic strips. In January 2010, it was revealed that this Grumbel's store is located in New England.
Marla Garrison (nee Masters)
Marla, a brunette woman in her late 30's, is originally Grumbel's assistant manager, now store manager, and the main character of the strip. She is good at her job and cited as a reasonable manager, but is often discouraged when the bureaucratic rules set by the corporate office work against the store's stated goal of customer service. While the daily strips' plots often deal with her discouragement, Marla maintains an optimistic attitude and often mentions a dream of opening her own small store or boutique. She vents her frustration by writing a retail manifesto railing against the idiocies of customers and management, which at last mention had grown to 200 pages. She is currently making plans to start her own retail business, but is determined to keep this secret at work for fear of being fired by the management.
Marla and her fiance Scott were married in June 2011. Their first child, a daughter named Fionna Jane Garrison was born on April 9, 2012. Marla was promoted to store manager after Stuart accepted a promotion to district manager in 2012.
Cooper works in Grumbel's stockroom and is the store's clown. His attitude made him a regular antagonist to Stuart while Stuart was store manager, and later to Josh when Josh was promoted to assistant manager. He is constantly frustrated by bad policies and customers, and regularly lashes out at the store by goofing off during his work hours and playing practical jokes. He is often the one most directly affected by retail management policies such as the lack of employer health-care programs and the erratic amount of part-time hours. In recent strips, he was nearly fired as a cost-cutting measure but was able to stay on when Lunker offered to cut his hours in half. To make ends meet, he worked part-time (in addition to Grumbel's) as an attendant at a gas station mini-mart, although he later left this second position. In July 2013, Cooper is promoted to stockroom supervisor, a position that comes with full-time hours, a raised salary, and benefits. As part of his new duties, Cooper does initial interviews for a new stockroom employee.
He has built a small lounge on the roof of the Grumbel's out of old patio furniture dubbed "Cooper's Lounge" and also spends time constructing "Box Art" out of empty cardboard boxes. Some examples of his art include robots, castles, mazes and even a "Great Wall of Boxes." He's a fan of science fiction and geek culture, and often wears Halloween costumes based on obscure movie, TV or comic book characters that other staff members don't recognize, much to Cooper's frustration. Cooper harbored a crush on Val for years before finally asking her on a date in February 2011. They got along far better than either of them expected, and they remain in a romantic relationship.
Val Williams is a department supervisor in her mid-30's and good friend of Marla. She is also a published creative writer and would eventually like to quit working at Grumbel's and write full-time. In Halloween 2008, a week of strips focused on a short story she had written. In October 2011, it is revealed that she has had limited success with her writing. She keeps her job a secret to her family, who pay for her living expenses so long as they believe she is an accomplished writer. In 2012, Val finally admitted to her father that her writing career was not as successful as she was letting on, and that she had only recently accepted a blogging position for a gardening magazine. In response, her father stopped paying her way, and Val currently resides in a small but well-maintained studio apartment.
Stuart Suchet (his last name is pronounced "soo-shay") is originally the store manager, and is now district manager. Often viewed by his employees as an incompetent tyrant, he is a "corporate yes man" who implements any instructions sent from the corporate office without question. He has a working relationship with Marla (which has become more strained as the strip has progressed), and relied heavily on her to complete his managerial work and keep the employees' morale up while he was store manager. He also has a strained relationship with Cooper, who often calls him "Zucchini Head", and can't understand why Cooper won't follow corporate policy without question.
Stuart further demonstrated his incompetence and arrogance in July 2009 when, following her vacation, he threatened to replace Marla with Josh as assistant manager. He even went so far as to have both Josh and Marla interview for the position, although Josh declined and left him in a tough spot. Stuart accepted a promotion to district manager in 2012, and began the position after Marla returned from her maternity leave. Although he initially wished to give his store manager position to Josh, the regional manager persuaded him to give it to Marla. Much to Marla's chagrin, his office is located in his old store.
Alan Zimmerman Alan manages the shoe department and is good friends with Cooper, although, as confirmed in October 2009, they did not know each other's last names until Cooper's girlfriend Zoe pointed it out to him.
Craig Craig is the head of the electronics department at Grumbel's, and a friend to Cooper. He was briefly let go when store cut back on payroll but has since been rehired.
Courtney Courtney works as a cashier. She is lazy, ditzy, incompetent, and constantly rude to customers. It has been hinted that she was hired largely because of her looks, and she avoided being fired on one occasion chiefly because she isn't paid as well as other store workers. She is one of Marla's sources of frustration (besides Stuart), and has even gone as far to blackmail her for Friday nights and Saturday mornings off. When Marla took over as store manager, she campaigned to make Courtney's employment as miserable as possible, a revenge Courtney did not take kindly to. In the June 2, 2013 strip, she was fired from Grumbel's. On the June 19, 2013 strip, it was revealed that she had found a new job at the mall coffee shop.
Keith Sanzen Keith was added to the line up in October 2007. He got his job in the shoe department by contacting Cooper through Cooper's Blog. After starting work at Grumbel's, Cooper discovered that Keith had made a blog that copies his format exactly, hence driving a wedge between these two former friends. Eventually, Cooper hacked into Keith's computer and infected it with a virus. Keith held a grudge, and in April 2008, was able to get his revenge when he discovered Cooper's secret lounge on the roof of the mall, and started blackmailing him by making him give total access to the lounge. Within few days, Keith has converted the lounge into "Keith's Poetry Perch." Realizing that he has no other way of beating him, Cooper reluctantly called the police and Keith was arrested for holding a poetry slam on the roof. As a result, Keith is now banned from the mall. Despite this, Keith vows vengeance on Cooper when he "least expects it." However, Keith has not been seen nor mentioned since.
Keith is the only character known to be based solely on a real person. The real Keith Sanzen is a fan of the strip who won a contest on Cooper's Retail Blog.
Josh Tobin Josh was hired as temporary Christmas help in October 2007. Marla hired him from a pool of otherwise incompetent applicants for Christmas positions, since he appeared to be the perfect employee: his application was correctly filled out, he showed up for his interview and performed well, and his references were good (if a little foreboding). However, Marla and the rest of the employees quickly discovered that Josh is determined to be the perfect retail worker and that he is fond of pointing out the policy violations (and other flaws) of his fellow employees. Stuart, of course, bonded quickly with Josh and considered him potential management material.
In spite of the other staff members' blatant dislike of Josh and their best efforts to have him fired, Josh cheerfully accepted an offer from Stuart for a permanent position at Grumbel's in January 2008. After being promoted to shift supervisor in January 2012, Josh replaced Marla as assistant store manager in 2012 when Stuart became district manager and Marla was promoted to store manager.
Lunker Lunker is Cooper's co-worker in the Grumbel's stockroom. His real name is Mel and, according to Cooper, he is "bald, about 7 feet tall, all around huge and only slightly more articulate than the Hulk." Cooper took immediate liking to Lunker, as he has "chaos potential." Lunker has shown brief moments of unexpected intelligence or insight, often during downtime when Cooper is in one of his melodramatic moods. He very loyal towards Cooper going so far as to stand up for him when Cooper was going to be fired as a cost-saving measure, offering to personally cut his hours so Cooper could stay on. A recurring gag in the strip is to show Lunker singing and dancing when nobody is watching, only to be interrupted by a surprised coworker who is intimidated into silence by a threat by Lunker.
Mrs. Masters Mrs. Masters' is Marla's mother. She is an understanding mother to her daughter, but frequently frustrates her with her inability to understand many of the inconveniences Marla experiences. A running joke in the strip is Marla's mother asking her to run out and buy something during holidays, which annoys Marla due to her belief that business shouldn't make their employees work then.
Jerry Deco Jerry was initially the district manager in the strip, who was even more obsessed with rules and a source of great frustration for Marla, who he constantly calls "Darla", since he pretends he can't remember her name. While his demeanor may reflect problems in his personal life (as revealed in a November 2007 story arc where he was in a middle of a divorce), the way he took it out on the employees of the stores in his district earned him little (if any) sympathy. Jerry was written out in May 2008 when he was promoted to a regional position. Much to Marla's horror, he was brought back in May 2009 when Gary, the current district manager, was fired. Jerry left Grumbel's in May 2012, naming Stuart as his successor.
Connie Connie replaced Jerry as the district manager. She is portrayed as much more reasonable and understanding than Jerry, leading to surprise from Marla and Val that someone "human" could be in upper management. Connie left her position a year later when she accepted a job in another company.
Gary Gary replaced Connie as the new district manager. In his few appearances he is shown as more focused on the rules than Connie, though less so than Jerry. After watching Marla and Stuart bicker and attempt to undermine the other, he assigned them to a weekly management communication seminar. Gary was abruptly fired and replaced in May 2009 upon Jerry's return, and his seminars were discontinued.
Scott Garrison Scott is Marla's husband. He is a bartender at Dave's Carousing Cantina in the same mall as Grumbel's. They met after Val insisted Marla spend an evening out with her in February 2007. Marla feared that Cooper ruined her chances with Scott when he spilled the news that she liked him during a visit to Dave's. Fortunately, Scott liked Marla too, and the two were shown as a dating couple in occasional strips since that time. After pressure from Marla to make a commitment to their future together, Scott proposed in May 2010. They were married in June 2011, and had their first daughter in April 2012.
Warren Warren is the buck-toothed mall security guard. His job is to make sure that the stores and the employees in the mall follow all mall regulations to the letter, although he would often prefer to hang out with Cooper than do his job. He regularly rides on a Segway scooter, that has been stolen and vandalized on multiple occasions.
Jasper Morley (deceased) Stuart's former manager, who died seven years earlier when he choked on a Clucky Chicken sandwich. He reappeared as a ghost in front of Stuart, revealing that he is forced to walk on Earth for all eternity wearing a chain of Grumbel's Policy and Procedure Manuals.
Zoe A barista at the mall cafe who has an uncanny resemblance to Marla (with blonde hair). Marla denies seeing any resemblance, although she was creeped out when Cooper asked Zoe out for a date. The date, however, went downhill when Cooper discovered that Zoe's dad resembles (and acts like) Stuart. In August 2009, the two started dating again, but Zoe eventually broke up when Cooper stopped paying attention to her.
Spike Was hired after Marla discovered Stuart was keeping a secret "Do Not Hire" file based on visible tattoos and unnatural hair colors or styles. Marla informed Connie, the DM, and Stuart was forced to hire employees he felt were not employable. Spike, a man sporting a mohawk and sleeve tattoos, was Marla's first hire. Much to Stuart's chagrin, Spike turned out to be a model employee: polite, courteous and knowledgeable (especially in terms of video games, he has several YouTube videos reviewing different systems and games). Despite all of these favorable aspects, Stuart transferred Spike from the floor to the stockroom where he worked with Cooper and Lunker. Spike was written out in January 2009 when Stuart was forced to lay off all seasonal help.
Gus Cooper and (formerly) Lunker's manager at the Gas We Got convenience store.
Amber Amber was hired in June 2011 before Marla went off on her honeymoon. She was previously employed by Abersnobby and Finch (an obvious parody of Abercrombie and Fitch) and is considered nice, smart and attractive. She is an all-round mindful, polite and model employee.
The strip is drawn in great detail and appears in color. The characters lives revolves in and outside the mall, with items like computers, sales registers, vehicles and other items drawn and presented as close to reality as possible. The strips generally are daily and alternate between stand alone, and serialized or sometimes themed with the story running for a week. The daily strip usually runs to four panels but on occasions there are three panels. The Sunday strip is in a two tiered format with a large logo panel appearing on the left of the strip.
The strip primarily focuses on the interpersonal relations between the characters and the additional people they are forced to interact with as a result of their profession. These types of relationships are based very much on the real life interactions of retail employees, and are then presented in a humorous light. There are several types of relationships that are explored repeatedly.
Employee-Management Relationship This type of relationship occurs in nearly all types of employment, but there are facets of this relationship that are unique to retail situations. Some of the struggles that take place in retail employment is the issue of scheduling, managing difficult customers, enforcement of store policies, the perception of management incompetence, and so on. Feuti has used the dynamics of the relationship between Stuart and the rest of the staff to illustrate this relationship.
Employee-Customer Relationship While the customer dynamic exists in all types of businesses, in retail stores this dynamic can take on a unique flair. Since retail stores cannot choose who their customers are, retail clerks are forced to wait on anyone who walks through the door. While most customers are polite and understanding, a small percentage can be rude, egocentric, demanding, mentally unstable, emotional, or suffer from any number of other types of undesirable traits. Since all retail stores have a goal of earning repeated business, employees will often sacrifice their better judgement or dignity to meet the demands of such customers. On the other side of the relationship, stores often hire individuals who are not up to the demands of the work placed on them. When customers find themselves dealing with an employee who is incompetent, it can often be a very frustrating experience. Dealing with annoying customers is probably the most frequently recurring theme in the strip. For the flip side of the relationship, the character Courtney is typically used to highlight incompetent retail employees.
Employee-Employee Relationship As with most emplacement situations, retail employees find themselves working with their coworkers for dozens of hours each week. This proximity forces relationships, some of which work well, other don't for a variety of reasons. While for the most part the employees of Grumbel's are shown as a group of friends, there have been exceptions throughout the strip's run.
Individual Store-Corporate Headquarters Relationship Retail stores policies are often set by a corporate headquarters, by people who do not interact with customers on a daily basis. This can create tension between what the employees see as practical and what corporate headquarters views as financially lucrative. This dynamic is most often illustrated in the strip through the relationship between Marla and Jerry.