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Readers Like Amazon Prime

December 14, 2016 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers Like Amazon Prime
Papa Fabarre's restaurant was in the downtown Famous-Barr for decades, it closed in 2011 when Macy's downsized in a failed effort to remain viable. Macy's closed in 2013
Papa Fabarre’s restaurant was in the downtown Famous-Barr for decades, it closed in 2011 when Macy’s downsized in a failed effort to remain viable. Macy’s closed in 2013

We can’t draw any definitive conclusions from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll, but it’s clear from other data that Amazon Prime is a hit. From July:

Amazon Prime members now make up more than half the online retailer’s customer base, according to a new study.

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that Amazon  counts 63 million Prime members among its shoppers—an increase of 19 million from last June. (Fortune)

As I posted Monday, retailing continues to change. A century ago the Sears catalog was a big deal, offering everything you could imagine — including house kits. The Sears mail order catalog began in 1888, Montgomery Ward was earlier: 1872. National & regional retail stores survived the mail order catalog revolution and all the many changes since.  Retailers that survive must adapt & change with the times. Can you imagine a retailer not accepting credit cards? Even ALDI had to change and accept more than just debit cards.

The recent poll results:

Q: Are you currently a paid member of any of the following (check all that apply):

  1. Amazon Prime 24 [36.92%]
  2. Sam’s Club 18 [27.69%]
  3. Costco 12 [18.46%]
  4. Not a member of any 11 [16.92%]
  5. Google Express 0 [0%]
  6. Walmart Shipping Pass 0 [0%]

I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for at least 5 years now. While it costs $99, it allows me to order things without concern for the shipping cost. We order often enough that it is a good value, we occasionally watch videos too. In July 2015 we joined Costco, shopping there once per month since. Last month we got a 16.6 cu ft upright freezer (yes, Energy Star rated) so we’ll be buying even more there.

While Costco is debating the best approach to e-commerce, its competitors are acting fast. Amazon continues to open dozens of warehouses a year to accelerate shipping times. Its Prime membership program may now be Costco’s closest competitor, as Prime offers a number of perks including free two-day shipping for a $99 annual fee. There is significant overlap between Prime and Costco members, but that could change if consumers find themselves shopping on Amazon more than Costco.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) has also been rapidly expanding its grocery pick-up program, with plans to have about 1,000 kiosks in store parking lots by the end of next year. Management has said the program has been very popular. The company also acquired Jet.com for $3.3 billion to advance its own e-commerce operations.

In addition, Kroger has implemented a similar click-and-collect grocery program that allows customers to order on their phones and pick up in groceries in a store parking lot. (USA Today)

Locally owned retailers will continue to need to stay relevant to survive & thrive.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday Poll: Are You Currently A Paid Member Of A Warehouse Club or Online Free Shipping Club?

December 11, 2016 Featured, Retail, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Are You Currently A Paid Member Of A Warehouse Club or Online Free Shipping Club?
Please vote below
Please vote below

This is the time of year that many associate with shopping, but we all buy things throughout the year. Warehouse clubs Costco & Sam’s, both started in 1983, have millions of paid members.  You must pay an annual fee to shop at either.

In 2005 Amazon started their paid Prime service, offering “free” 2-day shipping on many items regardless of how small the amount. Paying up front for free shipping throughout the coming year was a new idea in 2005.

Out of curiosity, I’d like to know how many of you are currently paid members — or not. You can also add one not listed.

The poll will close at 8pm. Tomorrow I’ll post more on modern retailing, Wednesday will be the results from this poll along with my thoughts.

— Steve Patterson



Opinion: Service Workers Rarely Get Holidays Off

November 23, 2016 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Opinion: Service Workers Rarely Get Holidays Off
South County Center is one of four area malls that will be closed Thanksgiving Day, August 2015 photo
South County Center is one of four area malls that will be closed Thanksgiving Day, August 2015 photo

This afternoon we’re driving up to Springfield IL for Thanksgiving with my husband’s family tonight, his uncle has to work tomorrow. Like many service workers, my husband is off this afternoon & tomorrow only because he requested unpaid time off.

Though only a 90-minute drive, we stay overnight in a hotel to avoid a late night drive back to St. Louis. Tomorrow we’ll drive home, grab a casserole dish from our fridge, and head to my 20+ year tradition of a vegetarian Thanksgiving with long-time friends. Though we won’t stop at any malls or traditional retail stores like Target, we will encounter people working on Thanksgiving Day. .

The first people we’ll encounter working on Thanksgiving will be hotel staff — preparing breakfast and working the front desk. We won’t see them, but after we check out, a cleaning crew will get our room ready for the next guests. We may get gas before we leave Springfield — even with pay-at-the-pump someone is working inside. I’ll set the cruise control at the speed limit because the highway patrol will be working. Hospital, fire & EMS crews will also be working, as always.

If we’ve forgotten anything we might stop at a convenience or drug store, where more people will be working. Many of them will reach their jobs via public transit — bus drivers & train operators don’t get holidays off. The airport isn’t closed either.

My point is many people have to work on holidays, cities just don’t shut down completely. This is related to one of the few areas where I strongly disagree with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ push for a federal election holiday.

Big businesses like banks and the white collar jobs at pharmaceutical companies shut down, and all the employees get a day off with pay. Schools and universities shut down, giving teachers and professors time to vote.

But you know what doesn’t shut down for federal holidays? Retail. Restaurants. Hospitals. Smaller businesses that can’t afford to lose a day of revenue, and if they do, they certainly can’t afford to pay people for the time off. (Inc)

Interestingly, in the Sunday Poll nobody voted that retail stores should be open.

Q: Agree or disagree: Brick & mortar retail stores, shopping centers, malls, etc. should be closed on Thanksgiving DayStrongly agree 25 65.79% 65.79%

  • Agree 4 [10.53%]
  • Somewhat agree 2 [5.26%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 5 [13.16%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 0 [0%]
  • Strongly disagree 0 [0%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [5.26%]

Hopefully everyone who encounters anyone working tomorrow will think about how their day would be impacted if they weren’t working. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying retail stores should be open on Thanksgiving.  I’m saying service workers are an under-appreciated part of society.

A friend who works retail will be off tomorrow, his employer will be closed. Unfortunately, he can’t go visit the person he’d like to because he only has the one day off.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday Poll: Should Malls & Retail Stores Be Open or Closed on Thanksgiving Day?

November 20, 2016 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Malls & Retail Stores Be Open or Closed on Thanksgiving Day?
Please vote below
Please vote below

Thanksgiving with my husband’s family in Springfield IL is held the Wednesday night before, largely because his uncle, the family patriarch, has to work Thanksgiving Day.

This year some stores will be closed this Thursday, from last month:

CBL & Associates Properties announced Wednesday that it would close 73 of its malls across the U.S. on Nov. 24, including its four St. Louis properties — West County Center, South County Center, St. Clair Square and Mid Rivers Mall. 

All four malls will close on Thanksgiving for the first time in several years and reopen at 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 25. CBL’s St. Louis malls first opened on Thanksgiving in 2013. (Post-Dispatch)

So here is today’s non-scientific poll:

As always, the poll is open for 12 hours — will close at 8pm. Wednesday I’ll discuss retail, workers, holidays, and the final results.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday Poll: Should Municipalities Make Sure Ordinances Keep Out Businesses With Female Servers In Body Paint?

Please vote below
Please vote below

In March an establishment featuring females with pasties on nipples & body paint on their upper bodies opened in the Delmar Loop, with the limits of University City.

When John Racanelli announced last winter that he was replacing his failed sports bar, the Market Pub House, with a spinoff of Soulard’s Social House, U. City officials argued that it was a dramatic change in use — and that Racanelli needed a new liquor license. They then began to hastily revise the city’s code to bar sexually suggestive businesses.

But Racanelli and his always-quotable attorney, Albert Watkins, knew a good First Amendment case when they saw one. They pointed out that other businesses in the Loop had hosted burlesque — how were their servers’ costumes any different? And at any rate, it was the same ownership, Watkins insisted, so no new liquor license was needed. Social House II could open whenever it wanted … and so, on March 4, it did.

In court, the city sought a restraining order in court to close the bar and, at City Council, stripped the bar of its liquor license. Ultimately both efforts were unsuccessful: Judges both denied the restraining order and forced the city to give back the liquor license, suggesting there was a likelihood Racanelli would ultimately prevail on the merits. (Riverfront Times)

The months-long drama had other municipalities scrambling to review their decency ordinances to prevent this from happening within their municipal borders. From last month:

St. Peters has joined the list of area municipalities tightening indecent exposure ordinances following a controversy in University City over a bar which featured female servers with body-painted torsos.

Aldermen on Thursday night passed an ordinance that includes under the definition of nudity the female breast with “less than a fully opaque covering.”

The measure goes on to say that “fully opaque” doesn’t include body paint, dyes, tattoos and liquid latex.

City officials say that’s aimed at keeping bars from employing body-painted servers similar to those used at the now-closed Social House II in University City. (Post-Dispatch)

The Social House II closed months ago, but the issue remains in the minds of many. Which brings us to today’s poll question:

The poll will be open until 8pm tonight, share your views in the comments below.

— Steve Patterson




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