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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


Third Lucky’s Market In Region May Open In Downtown West In 2017

The grocery market in St. Louis is constantly changing —  yesterday the long-awaited Whole Foods at Euclid & Pine opened in a new mixed-use building, the Orion apartments are upstairs.

The grocery market in the St. Louis region is one of my areas of interest — the combination of retailing & food is irresistible to me. Here are some of my past posts on the subject:

Now it looks like a new grocery store might open in the building behind mine.

Lucky’s Market, a specialty grocer based in Boulder, Colo., is considering a store on the first floor of the Ely Walker building in downtown St. Louis, sources say.

Saggar Holdings LLC recently acquired the space at 1520 Washington Avenue from SA Group Properties Inc.

Sources say Lucky’s would occupy about 20,000 square feet of space formerly occupied by the London Tea Room and the English Living furniture store. (Post-Dispatch)

I say might because a lease hasn’t yet been signed. As soon as I saw this article last week I looked up Saggar Holdings LLC and my instinct was correct — Downtown Urgent Care’s Dr. Sonny Saggar puts his money where his mouth is — buying space and helping bring a new retailer to the city.

That day I began chatting with Dr. Saggar via Facebook — we’d been online friends for some time — before my 2015 fall resulting in a broken finger & visit to his urgent care facility on Olive. We chatted online but earlier this week it was his business manager Laura Malley that let me in so I could photograph the space in the  Ely Walker Lofts building.

You might not be familiar with the Ely Walker building:

Built in 1907 by Eames & Young as a dry-goods warehouse, the building once housed manufacturers of shoes, Catholic school uniforms, gun holsters and party supplies. The Ely Walker Lofts retain the building’s original name, commemorating David Walker, President George W. Bush’s great-grandfather. Renovations began in January 2006 and were completed in May 2007—just in time for the building’s centennial. (St. Louis Magazine)

Here’s background on David Davis Walker:

In 1857, Walker went to St. Louis for business training with the merchandiser Crow, McCreery & Co., then the largest wholesale dry goods house in the city. He worked his way up from office boy, and became a partner after just eight years with the firm. He became ill as a result of his workaholic habits, quitting in 1878, and spent the next two years recovering.

In 1880, he went back to work, forming Ely, Walker & Co. with Frank Ely and others. The business was a huge success, and in 1883 it was incorporated as the Ely & Walker Dry Goods Company. He remained President of the company until 1892, and thereafter retained the largest interest in the firm. His sons David Davis, Jr., Joseph Sidney and George Herbert all had involvement with the Ely & Walker firm, which continued as a major clothing manufacturer until it was acquired by Burlington Industries after World War II, but George went into banking. (Wikipedia)

You might not have shopped at a Lucky’s, it’s still a small chain. But that’s going to change quickly:

The Kroger Co. has forged a “strategic partnership” with Boulder, Colo.-based specialty grocer Lucky’s Market. The hybrid deal, terms of which were not disclosed, is expected to significantly accelerate the growth of the 17-store Lucky’s banner in new and existing markets.

Kroger officials said the partnership, which closed on April 1, is designed to further enhance the best products, practices and techniques of Lucky’s Market, combining them with the Cincinnati-based retailer’s scale and experience to generate more benefits for customers. The alliance further demonstrates the Cincinnati-based grocery giant’s “deep ongoing commitment to providing customers with affordable fresh organic and natural foods as a part of its Customer 1st strategy,” according to Kroger, which indicated that the deal will gel well with its first-ever small format Main & Vine concept store in Gig Harbor, Wash., which mixes local, specialty and everyday products. (Progressive Grocer) 

The two existing Lucky’s aren’t the only presence Kroger has in the St. Louis region, from April 2015:

After a years-long hiatus, Kroger Co. has returned to the St. Louis market with its Ruler Foods store brand, Cincinnati-based Kroger’s small-footprint, low-price format.

The company plans to open about 10 stores in the area over the next year or two. (Business Journal)

Kroger has an alternative to Aldi and now it has an alternative to Whole Foods. Let’s take a look at the building and the space:

Lucky's would occupy the Western half of the ground floor. the rest is occupied.
Lucky’s would occupy the Western half of the ground floor. the rest is occupied.
The space includes a loading dock at 16th & St. Charles St
The space includes a loading dock at 16th & St. Charles St
The London Tea Room used to occupy a tiny amount of the space
The London Tea Room used to occupy a tiny amount of the space
Most was English Living Furniture, the space has been vacant since the owners retired a few years ago
Most was English Living Furniture, the space has been vacant since the owners retired a few years ago
The main entrance would be onto Washington Ave, not the resident lobby. Lucky's will reconfigure the interior to include ramps for carts and wheelchairs.
The main entrance would be onto Washington Ave, not the resident lobby. Lucky’s will reconfigure the interior to include ramps for carts and wheelchairs.

This Lucky’s would be smaller than their Ellisville & Rock Hill locations, but about the same as Schnucks’ Culinaria. The parties are woking toward signing a lease in July with the store opening in Spring or Summer 2017. I’m grateful Dr, Saggar chooses to invest in downtown.

— Steve Patterson




Big Box Blues: Sears, Kmart, & Sports Authority

I remember trips to Sears with my mom in the early/mid 1970s, plus I’d look through the Sears catalog at home. Much of my early wardrobe was from Sears. I also remember trips to the same Sears with my dad to buy/replace Craftsman tools.  My parents had our new house built in 1965  — the same year the 160,000+ sq ft Sears store was built 2.2 miles away (map).  That Sears store is still open, and isn’t on the recent list of Sears/Kmart closures.

One Kmart in the St. Louis region was on the list last month, the Bridgeton location at 11978 St Charles Rock Rd.

The Bridgeton Kmart was built in 1991, per St. Louis County tax records
The Bridgeton Kmart was built in 1991, per St. Louis County tax records

A few years ago the Bridgeton Walmart moved to just East of this Kmart. But the Sears/Kmart closures are part of a bigger trend for these retailers:

Trying to cut its way to profitability, troubled Sears Holdings announced Thursday that it will close 68 Kmart and 10 Sears stores this summer in its latest move to cut losses.

Sears’ (SHLD) move (see the list of the stores) comes atop a previous announcement that it will close 50 other stores. Sales have been falling and Sears had a disappointing holiday sales season.

“The decision to close stores is a difficult but necessary step as we take aggressive actions to strengthen our company, fund our transformation and restore Sears Holdings to profitability,” said Sears Holdings CEO Edward Lampert in a statement. (USA Today)

From February:

Sears said Thursday that its same-store sales fell 7.1% in the fourth quarter and revenue dropped 9.8% to $7.3 billion. 

The company reported a quarterly loss of $580 million, or $5.44 per share, compared with a loss of $159 million, or $1.50 a share, the previous year. (Business Insider)

Retailing is competitive. but many put part of the blame on the libertarian leader: Eddie Lampert. From July 2013:

Every year the presidents of Sears Holdings’ many business units trudge across the company’s sprawling headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill., to a conference room in Building B, where they ask Eddie Lampert for money. The leaders have made these solitary treks since 2008, when Lampert, a reclusive hedge fund billionaire, splintered the company into more than 30 units. Each meeting starts quietly: When the executive arrives, Lampert’s top consiglieri are there, waiting around a U-shaped table, according to interviews with a half-dozen former employees who attended these sessions. An assistant walks in, turns on a screen on the opposite wall, and an image of Lampert flickers to life.

The Sears chairman, who lives in a $38 million mansion in South Florida and visits the campus no more than twice a year (he hates flying), is usually staring at his computer when the camera goes live, according to attendees.

The executive in the hot seat will begin clicking through a PowerPoint presentation meant to impress. Often he’ll boast an overly ambitious target—“We can definitely grow 20 percent this year!”—without so much as a glance from Lampert, 50, whose preference is to peck out e-mails or scroll through a spreadsheet during the talks. Not until the executive makes a mistake does the Sears chief look up, unleashing a torrent of questions that can go on for hours. (Bloomberg)

Why does he manage this way? From December 2013:

Once upon a time, hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert was living a Wall Street fairy tale. His fairy godmother was Ayn Rand, the dashing diva of free-market ideology whose quirky economic notions would transform him into a glamorous business hero.

For a while, it seemed to work like a charm. Pundits called him the “Steve Jobs of the investment world.” The new Warren Buffett. By 2006 he was flying high, the richest man in Connecticut, managing over $15 billion thorough his hedge fund, ESL Investments.

Stoked by his Wall Street success, Lampert plunged headlong into the retail world. Undaunted by his lack of industry experience and hailed a genius, Lampert boldly pushed to merge Kmart and Sears with a layoff and cost-cutting strategy that would, he promised, send profits into the stratosphere. Meanwhile the hotshot threw cash around like an oil sheikh, buying a $40 million pad in Florida’s Biscayne Bay, a record even for that star-studded county.

Fast-forward to 2013: The fairy tale has become a nightmare.

Lampert is now known as one of the worst CEOs in America — the man who flushed Sears down the toilet with his demented management style and harebrained approach to retail. Sears stock is tanking. His hedge fun is down 40 percent, and the business press has turned from praising Lampert’s genius towatching gleefully as his ship sinks. Investors are running from “Crazy Eddie” like the plague.

That’s what happens when Ayn Rand is the basis for your business plan. (Salon)

For now the Big K store on Manchester in St, Louis remains open. But for how long?
For now the Big K store on Manchester in St, Louis remains open. But for how long?

Next to the Bridgeton Kmart is another retailer that’s closing: Sports Authority. Two more St. Louis area locations were to close: St. Peters & Fenton.

From March:

The retailer filed for Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware in a move aimed at helping it shed much of its debt and clean up its balance sheet. A successful revamp would let Sports Authority improve its brick-and-mortar, perhaps with in-store boutiques similar to the Under Armour and Nike shops that have been so fruitful for rival Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Sports Authority, whose name adorns the stadium of the Denver Broncos, has been saddled with boatloads of debt ever since a $1.3 billion leveraged buyout a decade ago. At the time, the Colorado-based retailer and Dick’s  DKS -1.79%  were similar in size with annual sales of $3 billion. But since then, Dick’s has invested in its in-store experience and in-store tech, which have helped propel the retailer’s sales past Sports Authority’s. Analysts are forecasting total 2015 sales of $7.3 billion for the Pennsylvania-based company, compared to almost $3 billion at Sports Authority. (Fortune)

In early April it looked like the bankruptcy might work:

Embattled retailer Sports Authority has finally received a bit of good news: it looks to have settled a dispute with consignment suppliers that could resolve around 160 lawsuits.

The suits centered around $85 million-worth of winter gear currently being sold at the sporting goods retailer’s stores, and suppliers who had sold these products on consignment wanted them back in the wake of Sport Authority’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in March.

Now, if the settlement is approved by Judge Mary Walrath of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, Sports Authority will be able to sell this gear throughout the bankruptcy proceedings, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Fortune)

The Bridgeton Sports Authority on April 24th had a sign indicating only this location was closing, the others in the region were staying open
The Bridgeton Sports Authority on April 24th had a sign indicating only this location was closing, the others in the region were staying open

End of April:

Vendors, however, didn’t like seeing the merchandise they had consigned sold off in liquidation sales without reimbursement, and they sued. Sports Authority countersued.

Landlords also were upset that the company filed for bankruptcy protection one day after March rents were due, stiffing them out of $27 million.

“They didn’t get very far into this before they hit snags with their suppliers. That tells me they weren’t that close to getting the reorganization done,” said Dan Schniedwind, a credit analyst and retail specialist with Denver Investments.

In the end, creditors weren’t willing to allow the company to continue making large purchases, something required to keep stocking the shelves in even a reduced number of stores. (Denver Post)

By mid-May:

Sports Authority Holdings Inc. will head to auction next week with bids in place from two groups of liquidators plus smaller offers from rivals Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. and Modell’s Inc., according to people familiar with the situation.

However, the bids from Dick’s and Modell’s were considered “disappointing” and for fewer stores than initially expected, one of the people said. Dick’s, which one equity analyst said could make an offer for 180 stores, instead placed a bid for less than 20 stores; Modell’s made an offer for a small handful of stores, the person added. (Wall Street Journal)

Heres’s a list of the St. Louis area locations, the first three were announced in March:

  1. 11982 Saint Charles Rock Rd Bridgeton , MO 63044
  2. 4025 Veterans Memorial Pkwy, Saint Peters , MO 63376
  3. 788 Gravois Bluffs Blvd, Fenton , MO 63026
  4. 8340 Eager Rd, Brentwood, MO 63144
  5. 4445 Lemay Ferry Rd, Saint Louis , MO 63129
  6. 1205 S Kirkwood Rd, Kirkwood , MO 63122
  7. 15907 Manchester Road, Ellisville , MO 63011
  8. 6298 Ronald Reagan Dr, Lake Saint Louis , MO 63367
  9. 6575 N Illinois St, Fairview Heights , IL 62208

From November 2014:

New retail tenants are moving into the space in Ellisville Square in Ellisville that Kmart vacated earlier this year.

Brixmor Property Group, the New York-based commercial real estate company that owns Ellisville Square, said the space will be filled by three new tenants: a 40,000-square-foot Sports Authority, a 19,000-square-foot Michaels and a 16,000-square-foot Party City. The stores are slated to open in the third quarter of 2015, Brixmor officials said in a statement. (St. Louis Business Journal)

The Ellisville location was announced in January 2015:

Three new stores — Michaels, Sports Authority and Party City — will be opening soon at the site of what was a K-mart store at Clarkson and Manchester roads in Ellisville (Post-Dispatch)

The Sports Authority in Ellisville opened on Saturday August 8th, 2015.

Earlier we discussed the Sears/Kmart CEO, but why did Sports Authority fail?

Once one of the largest sports retail chains in the country, Sports Authority has now slipped behind outlets like Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI. These chains have positioned themselves more successfully in the market through establishing strong relationships with their suppliers, developing the leverage to keep prices low that their competitors have had difficulty matching, Rory Masterson, an industry analyst at IBISWorld, told the Los Angeles Times in April. They’ve also adapted more sucessfully to the online marketplace. Online sales at Dick’s climbed at a compounded annual rate of 39 percent from 2010 to 2015.

While Sports Authority may be faltering, the sporting goods industry as a whole is growing. It accounts for an estimated $150 billion per year globally. In 2014, the most recent year available for figures, the industry was worth $63.7 billion in the United States, an increase of 24 percent since 2009 and a jump of 2 percent from the year before.  

Sports Authority faces tough competition from traditional sports retail outlets, yet its financial struggles point to the increased diversification of the sports retail market.  A wide array of more specialized competitors have entered the field, providing both traditional sports garments and “athleisure”, or casual wear inspired by workout clothing that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. (CSM)

The Bridgeton Kmart & Sports Authority are both part of Hill Top Plaza.

Hilltop Plaza Redevelopment Area Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Plan – Hilltop Plaza Community Improvement District; analysis of the eligibility for TIF and CID, and the planning and financial projections for the redevelopment of the 70% vacant portion of Hilltop Plaza, formerly a destination shopping area on St. Charles Rock Road. (EDR)

I was at the MetroBus stop on St. Charles Rock Rd in 2013 — had no idea at Kmart & Sports Authority were close. Was wasn’t/isn’t any pedestrian access. Even between Kmart & Sports Authority there’s no pedestrian route! I know the lack of pedestrian access didn’t cause these stores to close, but it didn’t help them either. Pedestrians do exist in the area — there are sidewalks along St. Charles Rock Rd and the parallel internal road — they just don’t connect the businesses to transit or each other.

As Gen Y moves to the suburbs they may expect a Walkscore higher than 56.

— Steve Patterson