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Sunday Poll: Are We Lucky Dollar Stores Are Willing To Locate In Low-Income Areas?

February 17, 2019 Featured, Retail, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Are We Lucky Dollar Stores Are Willing To Locate In Low-Income Areas?
Please vote below

Today’s non-scientific poll is about dollar stores:

These stores have gained attention as success stories in the country’s most economically distressed places — largely rural counties with few retail options. Two main chains, Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which owns Family Dollar), operate more than 30,000 stores nationally and plan to open thousands more, vastly outnumbering Walmarts and other retailers.
 
In cities, dollar stores trade in economic despair, with many residents saying they are a vital source of cheap staples. But as the stores cluster in low-income neighborhoods, their critics worry they are not just a response to poverty — but a cause. Residents fear the stores deter other business, especially in neighborhoods without grocers or options for healthy food. Dollar stores rarely sell fresh produce or meats, but they undercut grocery stores on prices of everyday items, often pushing them out of business. (Post-Dispatch)

In many neighborhoods dollar stores are the only stores.

So here’s today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

On This Day: Fields Foods Opens (2014), Rams Ask To Leave (2016)

January 4, 2019 Featured, Popular Culture, Retail Comments Off on On This Day: Fields Foods Opens (2014), Rams Ask To Leave (2016)
Produce at the opening of Fields Foods

A couple of interesting events took place on January 4th in recent years.

Five years ago, in 2014, Fields Foods opened for its first day of business. A red ribbon was cut at an event the night before.  Since then a Tim Hortons opened & closed out front.

Field Foods is set to expand from their original location by adding locations in Dogtown & Downtown West this year.

Three years ago the Rams formerly asked the NFL to relocate to Los Angeles.

The St. Louis Rams, along with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, have filed relocation requests with the National Football League, league officials said Monday.

The requests come less than 24 hours after the application period began and sets the stage for a key owners vote on relocation expected to happen next week in Houston. There, owners will vote on which team or teams will be allowed to move to the Los Angeles market in the 2016 season.

The applications will be reviewed this week by league staff and three league committees, which will make a recommendation to owners on the issue.

In a statement on the team’s website, the Rams said, “The St. Louis Rams informed the National Football League today that the Rams propose to relocate to the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The relocation would be effective for the 2016 NFL League Year.”

The St. Louis stadium task force, which has proposed a $1.1 billion stadium in an effort to keep the Rams in St. Louis, said the Rams’ relocation request was expected. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Eight days later the NFL owners approved the Rams request 30-2.

As recently announced, St. Louis will be getting an XFL football team. Games begin in just 13 months! It’s hard to predict how well the XFL will do financially, if it’ll survive the initial 3 years of funding set aside.

Even though we knew it was coming, it was still a blow when the Rams asked the NFL to leave. As we welcome the XFL next year, and collecting more rent per game, we might look back on January 4, 2016 as a blessing.

— Steve Patterson

 

Not Every IKEA Purchase Requires a Car; New ‘Planning Studios’ Will Serve Dense Urban Cities

December 10, 2018 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Not Every IKEA Purchase Requires a Car; New ‘Planning Studios’ Will Serve Dense Urban Cities

This post is about our personal IKEA shopping habits and about how IKEA is changing course to respond to a new retail landscape.

IKEA St. Louis opened on October 1, 2015, since then I’ve been many times — Mostly in my wheelchair via public transit. A few visits were just browsing, most were small purchases that would fit in the canvas bag I keep on the back of my wheelchair.

My most common IKEA St. Louis purchase has been food: This is veggie balls with vegetarian black bean sauce, steamed veggies, Swedish apple cake, and tap water. This is from 2016

Very different from the many trips I’d previously taken to the two IKEA locations in the Chicago area — my car would be stuffed to the ceiling, the receipt long, and the total in the 3-4 digits. At least twice I ordered from a 3rd party company to have a large order picked up from Chicago and delivered.

It wasn’t until September that we made a local IKEA purchase that required our car, a new bed frame.

Our biggest IKEA St. Louis purchase after checkout
We couldn’t close the trunk, we had to use twine to keep the trunk lid from staying open

This was nothing compared to earlier purchases, but with IKEA store so close there’s no reason to wait and make a big purchase. Last month I got an email from IKEA about comforters on special pricing for IKEA Family members for 3 days only. Since we needed a new comforter to go with our larger bed, I returned in my wheelchair.

My most recent visit was in the wheelchair. I plugged the chair in to recharge while I used a shopping cart to go to bedding and get a new comforter.

While IKEA St. Louis is close to downtown, that’s not true for locations in other regions. In places like NYC not everyone is willing to travel out to the edge to shop. So IKEA is forced to respond:

IKEA U.S. announced today that it is opening its first city center store in the U.S., marking the company’s ongoing transformation and commitment to bringing IKEA into the heart of urban areas. The ‘IKEA Planning Studio’ is slated to open in Manhattan in spring 2019.

Globally, IKEA is adapting and evolving to be more accessible and convenient for customers wherever they are and they recently announced the development of 30 new touchpoints in city centers over the next three years. The New York City location is the first market in the U.S. for the Planning Studio concept.

“We recognize that we are in a rapidly changing retail environment, and to be fit for long-term growth, IKEA is transforming in a way that lets us meet our customers where they are,” said Lars Petersson, Country Manager, IKEA Retail U.S. “New York City is the natural choice to open the first city center store – the most vibrant, dynamic city in the US, and the epicenter of retail, business, and culture.” (IKEA)

Manhattan is just the first in the US to get this new concept, but other cities will follow:

Ikea’s move into Manhattan comes as many retailers — including Target, Kohl’s and Macy’s — are shrinking their existing full-size stores or experimenting with opening up smaller-format locations in densely populated markets such as Manhattan, Los Angeles and Chicago. As more and more shoppers are turning to the internet to ring up purchases, companies are finding they don’t need as much real estate. (CNBC)

Don’t expect to see an IKEA Planning Studio in St. Louis. Again, our full-size IKEA is just a few miles from downtown. With the recently-opened CORTEX MetroLink light rail station the store is easy to reach via transit. A bus line stops right out front.

The idea that every purchase requires a car is false. No doubt many drive to IKEA St Louis and fill their car before returning home, but when you’re just a short transit trip away grabbing a bite to eat making a small purchase (or not) is very easy. I’m glad to see more retailers realizing they need to change to attract customers who live in dense urban centers.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split on Loop Trolley

November 28, 2018 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers Split on Loop Trolley
Loop Trolley 001

Regular readers over the last 14+ years know I’m a huge proponent of rail projects — largely as development tools. To catch you up, I’ve ridden rail lines in the following cities:

  1. Chicago (commuter rail)
  2. Cleveland (commuter rail)
  3. Dallas (light rail & modern streetcar)
  4. Kansas City (modern streetcar)
  5. Little Rock (heritage trolley)
  6. Memphis (heritage trolley)
  7. New Orleans (heritage trolley)
  8. New York (commuter rail)
  9. Portland (modern streetcar)
  10. San Francisco (heritage trolley, cable car, commuter rail)
  11. Seattle (modern streetcar)
  12. Toronto (heritage trolley)
  13. Washington D.C. (commuter rail)

Note:  For my purposes here heritage trolley includes existing vintage lines/vehicles, new lines using old vehicles, and new lines using reproduction vehicles. I was unable to ride Dallas’ heritage trolley because their vehicles don’t have wheelchair lifts. Some on the list above were ridden prior to my February 2008 stroke.

I want to return to Cincinnati to ride their modern streetcar that was nearly complete when I visited in 2015. see Cincinnati’s Modern Streetcar. The Oklahoma City Streetcar, a modern 4.6 mile line, is scheduled to begin service next month — a good excuse to visit to the city where I spent my first 23 years.

OK, I like rail projects. That said, I’m fully aware of differences among the types and how well they’re implemented, or not. When I was visiting Cincinnati the track was complete and testing was just started. They had a big PR campaign about how to park cars so the streetcar could pass. Restaurants/bars along the route had drink coasters with streetcar info. Kansas City also did a great job with communications before, during, and after testing. Communications from the Loop Trolley has been…lacking, by comparison.

The OKC Streetcar is another to compare to the Loop Trolley. It’s more than twice as long with ground-breaking in February 2017 — and it’s beginning service next month! Construction on the Loop Trolley began in March 2015 and just recently opened. Half the distance of OKC and twice as long from start to open….embarrassing!

Early on I was excited by the Loop Trolley because a consultant was working to make the line adaptable to modern streetcar vehicles for the future — this would’ve allowed expansion Eastbound on Delmar toward CWE/Midtown/Downtown. But that future-proofing got scrapped.

Looking out the front/read of 001

There’s been no shortage of criticism of the Loop Trolley: buses are cheaper, too expensive to build & maintain, Loop already served by light rail, limited service hours, too slow, etc. While all are valid, they miss the point: development. The Loop Trolley distinguishes The Loop from other shopping/restaurant/entertainment destinations in our region. In the next decade we’ll see gaps filled in with new high-density development. Some existing low-rise buildings will be razed for new development.

Two of the four corners at Delmar & Skinker are now vacant. These will get developed regardless.
Head East of the Delmar MetroLink station and urban development isn’t s given
Numerous low-density buildings are vacant
Without the Trolley the prospect of this former car wash at Delmar & Goodfellow getting developed was slim.

Along the route we’ll see an increasing presence of bigger retailers. With the bulk of the route located in the City of St. Louis it’ll help generate new sales/property taxes, the new businesses will provide needed employment. Hopefully some young residents will be able to start their own businesses along the route. Ideally, some affordable housing will get built in addition to apartments geared toward wealthy Washington University students.

A visitor staying downtown who wants to eat fondue isn’t going to take MetroLink to Delmar and then walk nearly a mile to the West end of the Loop, but they might include a Trolley ride there.  After dinner they might decide to walk at least part of the way back to the Delmar MetroLink station. The Trolley helps with the last mile problem.

Because I rode on a free special event day (Small Business Saturday) I didn’t experience buying a ticket and validating it inside the trolley car. I tried to find & download the app to buy a ticket that way. After searching, then asking, I learned the apps have been submitted to Google & Apple, but they’re not yet approved. I plan to ride again on a normal day so I’ll be able to test ticket sales/validation. I’ll also be able to see how it goes with the wheelchair lift on a day when it isn’t standing room only.

A ticket machine is at each station.
Ticket validator on the Trolley

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll the respondents were mixed:

Q: Agree or disagree: Now that the Loop Trolley is operating on the full 2.2 mile route I feel more positive about it.

  • Strongly agree: 8 [19.51%]
  • Agree: 4 [9.76%]
  • Somewhat agree: 7 [17.07%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Disagree: 7 [17.07%]
  • Strongly disagree: 6 [14.63%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [2.44%]

Despite the endless number of hiccups I still believe, as I did in March 2017, the Loop Trolley Will Surprise Naysayers.  Of course, many will cling to their first impressions and talk bad about the Trolley even if it succeeds in filling in vacant lots along the route. I may have to eat my words…but it will be many years before we’ll know.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless

November 7, 2018 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy, Retail Comments Off on Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless
Shake Shack is one of the places mentioned as going/being cashless. Since we use plastic I have no clue if they accept cash or not.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about cashless businesses — establishments where you need plastic (debit/credit) to purchase goods/services. I current live essentially a cashless life — save for one $2 PowerBall ticket per month. After having paid off mountains of credit card debt the 2nd time I vowed to never have credit cards again. Then, in 2012, I sold my car. For a few years prior I didn’t use bills & coins, just my debit card. Once I sold my car I knew I needed a dreaded credit card again to be able to rent a card at times.

My parents, both now deceased, were raised in Oklahoma during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. They tried very hard to instill good money management habits in me. I listed…then did all the wrong things over and over. I was never a fan of cash, though I still remember going with my dad as a kid when he bought a used van from an individual. They haggled on the price and when they agreed on a number my dad pulls out his wallet from the bib in his work overalls. He then proceeded to count out the $5,o00-$6,000 amount in $100 bills. Today people would think they were counterfeit, but it was like 1981 and people were more trusting. The seller had a shocked look on his face because my dad never looked like he had much to his name — but he usually had a few thousand in cash on him. I rarely have more than $5 on me.

Since my stroke and father’s passing in 2008, and selling my car & meeting my husband in 2012, I’ve applied all the financial advice my parents gave me. I do things differently than they did, however. We pay for everything we can on credit cards. This allows me to do a monthly cash flow spreadsheet for the next month. I know when each payment is due and when we each get paid. By paying off all cards on the due date we don’t pay any interest. In fact, we basically borrow a couple of thousand dollars each month interest free.

I know a person who received a small amount from social security every month. The government stopped mailing checks long ago, and she can’t manage a checking account with or without a debit card. She got her benefits through a checking cashing place that charged high fees to receive her money electronically and convert it into cash for her. For those like her  they can receive benefits on a government debit card — no checking account required.  Still, it’s hard for people who’re used to carrying cash to adjust to non-cash on a debit-only or checking account. I’ve been trying to educate my brother-in-law for a few years now.

Which brings me to cashless businesses. I got on this topic because of the homeless asking me for change. I barely have a $5, and certainly don’t have any coins. I recognize it’s unlikely they realize the world is going cashless. Think of all the things that require plastic: renting scooters/bikes, parking apps, transit fare machines?, Redbox/Netflix.  There are non-attended gas stations, like the one at Broadway & Chouteau, that only accepts credit cards.

b

I worked retail for about 6 years when I was in high school & college, thankfully never encountered a robbery. For a few years I was one of the people that went to the registers at Toys “R” Us to remove excess cash during the holidays.

Last week one local retail clerk wasn’t so lucky.

An armed robber opened fire inside a Dollar General store in St. Louis Thursday afternoon, hitting and killing a store clerk, police said. (Post-Dispatch)

Going cashless can reduce crime.

In Sweden, which is leading the race toward a cashless society, negative attitudes toward the decline in cash usage has increased as the country progresses toward a cashless society. Although cash is still used extensively in several countries, such as Austria and Germany, the use of physical cash is diminishing across the board.

Even the U.S., where cash accounts for one-third of all purchases, the use of cash is declining. But at the same time, the amount of cash being issued is growing. Forty years ago there was approximately $80 billion of cash in circulation. Today, this number has increased nearly 20 times, to roughly $1.5 trillion in circulation. In the same period, the amount of $100 bills has increased from 25 percent in the mid-1970s to around 80 percent today.

The obvious explanation is inflation. However, the increase has exceeded inflation — with a good margin. According to economist and author Kenneth Rogoff, the world is drowning in cash, and it is making us poorer and less safe. He argues in his book The Curse of Cash that this phenomenon is not an American phenomenon, but also the case for every other widely used currency — and the primary explanation is that cash is the preferred means of value exchange in the black-market economy. His solution? Phase out the larger bills. (Techcrunch)

Of course cash is also the currency for legal medical & recreational marijuana — because retailers can’t get back accounts because of outdated federal drug laws.

I don’t want cash-only people to be excluded from society, but increasingly being cash-only means they’re not part of the mainstream. I want to help find ways to ease them into new habits. So do the credit card companies. They make their money from fees charged on every transaction. Those of us with excellent credit scores can get rewards cards to offset fees but most don’t qualify for these cards.

This is a long way of saying I have no clue about banning cashless businesses. Would have zero impact on my life either way, but would keep many from being excluded. In the non-scientific poll most didn’t think we should ban cashless businesses:

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis should ban cashless businesses & discounts for paying with cash

  • Strongly agree: 2 [8%]
  • Agree: 2 [8%]
  • Somewhat agree: 3 [12%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [12%]
  • Disagree: 6 [24%]
  • Strongly disagree: 7 [28%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [4%]

As more commerce moves online/apps the number of legal cash transactions will decline. As cash transactions decline and store robberies increase, we’ll see more businesses make the decision to go cashless.  Now is the time to increase financial literacy to help others adjust.

— Steve Patterson

 

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