Let’s Look at What They’re Buying in Chicago

Now with so much shopping done online, following consumer’s shopping patterns is just a click away. Combine that with this year’s holiday shopping season upon us, and we have a great combination to further understand the mind of the quintessential Chicago shopper.

Between November 1st and 30th Slice Intelligence focused their cyber-microscopes on the online shopping public. This is what they found:

•    It’s all about the clothing. About 22% of total spending, on average, was spent on apparel and accessories. In second place was electronics, coming out to around $23.98 and $22.96, respectively.
•    This year’s shopping advanced by about 18% over last year. Don’t be fooled by the big-sounding number. In other towns, like Miami and St. Louis, those folks really shopped till they dropped, posting an increase of 27% over last year.
•    The only category of goods Chicagoans did not spend more online this year over last year was on automotive products. In that category, online spending went down by about 15%.
•    Yea, we all like to buy our clothing online, but what about watches, jewelry and sports/outdoor products? Those items seem to be catching on fire for online sales. Watches and jewelry purchases were up online by 86%, sports and outdoor items, up by 70%, appliances saw a 58% rise, and pet supplies grew by 53%.

High-End Real Estate Doing Well in Wisconsin

A new record was set in the top-priced, second-home market in November in Wisconsin. Lake Geneva saw three homes sell for at least $5 million. Lake Geneva is 80 miles north of Chicago. Here in Chicago, during the same month only one home sold in that price range, a Glencoe estate bringing in a cool $8.5 million.

If you add in the sale in September of the Lake Geneva estate which went for $9.55 million, it would not be an exaggeration to say “we’ve had a good season of top-of-the-market activity here,” as David Curry, a Geneva Lakefront Realty broker said.

Those four sales alone have already surpassed 2015. Last year Walworth County had just three homes that sold in this super-price range.

In the 15 years prior to that there had never been more than one sale per year in that price range.

Curry added that “If we had five more $5 million listings, I could sell them this year. People are knocking on doors.”

O’Hare Airport Workers Threatening Thanksgiving Strike

Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Photo Courtesy of Nicola at Flickr.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Photo Courtesy of Nicola at Flickr.

In order to maximize attention to their working conditions and wages, employees at O’Hare International Airport are threatening to strike during the busier than usual Thanksgiving weekend.

The workers are not in a union, but are being organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 1. Airplane cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and janitors voted on whether to strike over a two-day period. In an all-but unanimous decision of 499-1, the workers voted to strike, according to union spokesperson Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich. There are an additional 1500 workers at the airport who did not participate in the vote.

The workers are not threatening to close the airport. They intend to picket outside O’Hare and walk through the airport terminals with placards voicing their complaints. President of SEIU Local 1, Tom Balanoff, said that the strike, “will cause some disruption, no doubt.”

“Workers are really frustrated because they’ve been fighting and they’ve been trying to get the powers to be to hear their voice,” Balanoff said. “So they’re hoping that with this strike, the powers that be — the city, the Department of Aviation, American, United and other airlines — that they’ll listen and come to a rational way so that these workers have the right to be recognized, and they have a right to bargain over their working conditions.”

SF Fashion Designer Cuyana Pops Up in Chicago

Just in time for the frenzied holiday shopping season, followers of exclusive fashion designer Cuyana can now head over to 840 West Armitage and browse in their well-heeled pop-up shop there.

The store, which will offer “fewer, better” women’s clothes and accessories, will remain open until Christmas Eve. The brand is known for its special feminine look which is classic and exclusive.

“We want to bring our retail experience to as many of our customers as possible and continue growing our presence in cities around the country, and eventually the world,” said Karla Gallardo, CEO and co-founder of Cuyana.

Gallardo grew up in Ecuador where the native language is Quechua and cuyana translates to mean “to love.”

“Our Chicago pop-up is designed to reflect the same level of detail that makes up our product designs,” Karla added. “The space embodies our fewer, better philosophy with a clean aesthetic filled with curated corners and beautiful product moments.”

The brand sells their product directly to the consumer rather than through traditional retailers. The pop-up will be furnished tastefully, with custom-designed furniture with classy brass and marble trimmings. The shop will also have on display “fresh finds” from all over the globe. A special treat will be live monogramming every day at the West Armitage store.

Earlier this year Cuyana hosted a three-day pop-up at Interior Define in Chicago, a customer furniture designer. This November-December pop-up will be Cuyana’s first freestanding in Chicago.

Mall of America Will be Closed for Thanksgiving

mall_of_america_logo13America’s largest mall, known as the Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, announced that it will be closed this coming Thanksgiving. Mall representatives “tweeted” last week that

“We’re pleased to give this day back to our 15,000 employees and their families.”

They will re-open for “Black Friday,” a day traditionally set aside for large discounts and slashed prices on many consumer goods.

The Mall America, by deciding to remain closed during the holiday, is taking a stand against a trend for large retailers to remain open during this universally celebrated day. Last year several chains like Wal-Mart and Target stayed open, while others remained closed, like the more upscale department store Nordstrom.

“We’ve been talking about this for months, looking at the numbers, looking at the pros and the cons,” Jill Renslow, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We’re excited to give this day back to our employees so they can celebrate with their families.”

New Mariano’s Location Sold for $34 Million

In one more of what has been a long run of high-profile sales, a New York investor purchased the Bronzeville building where Mariano’s grocery store recently opened.

Mariano’s opened the new store at Martin Luther King Drive and Pershing Road on October 11 this year. Just about two weeks later the building was sold for $34 million. The sale should not affect the grocery, which has a twenty-year lease with four five-year options to extend the lease. Rent goes up every five years.

Not too long ago another Mariano’s location in north suburban Vernon Hills sold for $36 million.

Chicago Neighborhood Initiative was part of the venture that developed Mariano’s. The Initiative is a non-profit that helps areas around Chicago where development is sorely needed. Other interests behind the development were Chicago firms WBS Equities, Safeway Construction, and Bartlett-based Abbott Land & Investment.

The total cost of the original development is not completely clear, but in 2014, when the CNI announced plans for the project they said it would cost as much as $24 million.

Phil Chess, Co-Founder of Chess Records, Dies at Age 95

2120 S Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60616. Photo courtesy of Zol87 from Chicago, Illinois, USA
2120 S Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60616. Photo courtesy of Zol87 from Chicago, Illinois, USA

The founder of one of the most important music labels when it comes to blues died yesterday at the age of 95. Phil Chess founded Chess Records in 1950 with his brother Leonard. The label helped form the strong association of Chicago with the blues of artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and many, many others. The label also recorded the music of early rock ‘n’ roll stars such as Chuck Berry and the rich voice and style of Etta James.

Buddy Guy explained how Chess Records created Chicago as the place in the US where the blues found its home.

“Phil and Leonard Chess were cuttin’ the type of music nobody else was paying attention to — Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Jimmy Rogers, I could go on and on — and now you can take a walk down (Chicago’s) State Street today and see a portrait of Muddy that’s 10 stories tall,” Guy, who recorded at Chess, said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “The Chess brothers had a lot to do with that. … I’ll always be grateful for that.”
The first release that came from Chess Records was a Gene Ammons’ cover of “My Foolish Heart.” Their next offering was a song called “Rollin’ Stone” by Muddy Waters. This song became so influential that a rock band from England took the song’s name as its own, and a music journal also borrowed the name for its own use.

Phil Chess was born in Motol, Poland in 1921 as Fiszel Czyz. He changed his name after he moved with his family to the US.

From 1950 until 1969 Phil and his brother Leonard recorded a huge list of America’s best blues, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll musicians from a two-story building on Michigan Avenue. Keith Richards referred to the location of Chess Records as “hallowed ground.” That is where the Rolling Stones recorded their first Number 1 hit, “It’s All Over Now,” back in 1964.

“Neither played an instrument. Neither had even a bent for music,” author Nadine Cohodas wrote of the Chess brothers in her 2000 book “Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records.” ”But they were entrepreneurs, and through the indigenous sounds of America — blues and its progeny, Jazz, rock and roll, and soul — they found their fortune.”

In 1969 Leonard had a heart attack and died. Phil sold the business and moved to Arizona, where he worked in radio. Leonard was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Both brothers are in the Blues Hall of Fame.

Camping World IPO Raises $250 Million

Ford E-Series RV photographed in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Photo courtesy of Bull-Doser
Ford E-Series RV photographed in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Photo courtesy of Bull-Doser

Benefiting from the aging baby boomers and now-retiring generation Xers, Camping World, the biggest recreational vehicle retailer in the US, has been growing, and is a profitable venture.

Based in Lincolnshire in the Chicago area, Camping World Holdings is run by Marcus Lemonis, a CNBC reality TV show entrepreneur. The company just went public, raising about $250 million in an initial public offering of its stock, mostly to pay off debt.

Now that the baby boomers and generation Xers are either downsizing or wondering what to do with their considerable disposable income, Camping World is an answer for many. Since 2011 the firm opened 13 new locations as well as taking possession of over 30 other locations and integrating them into their company universe.

Just last year the company had revenue amounting to $3.3 billion, over double what they brought in in 2011. Sales at locations that have been open for a year or longer showed an increase of about 13 percent.

Camping World’s corporate and dealership headquarters is in Lincolnshire, in 26,000 square feet of space, with a lease expiring in 2024.

New American Airlines Uniforms Causing Headaches, Literally

An American Airlines Boeing 777-223/ER. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kustov.
An American Airlines Boeing 777-223/ER. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kustov.

Less than two weeks ago American Airlines rolled out, with great amounts of publicity, new uniforms for its employees. But the excitement is fading fast, as the world’s largest air-carrier fields complaints from over 400 flight attendants complaining that the new wardrobe is causing hives, itching, and headaches.

The new design is the first for the many in the company in decades, and the problems are not being taken lightly. The first explanation has been that some of the complaints stem from wool allergies, and the company is giving those sensitive to wool the option to choose polyester fabric. However, there seems to be problems even aside from the issue of wool. Employees wearing purely cotton pieces of the uniform are also complaining of distressing symptoms.

American Airlines had the uniforms tested by Intertek, a London-based product testing firm. In addition, the union that represents AA flight attendants, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, have also taken the step of sending the uniforms for additional testing.

Some other flight attendants complained that the cotton blouses were made of a cotton fabric too sheer to be considered professional, and the company made adjustments.
The new uniforms have been in the development and production stage for three years. The updated uniforms were meant to show the company newly energized in the wake of the merger of US Airways and American.

A spokeswoman for American said the fabrics were tested extensively before they were incorporated into the new product. She said the materials “all ended up testing far better than other fabrics in the industry.”

The uniforms were manufactured in a number of different countries such as Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia. They are made of wool blends, polyester for men’s shirts, and 100 percent cotton for women’s blouses.

Until the health problems associated with the uniforms is straightened out, AA management has requested that flight attendants with health issues caused by the uniforms fill out injury on duty paperwork. No time off has been given in response to the issue.

Cars Losing Luster in Chicago

Photo courtesy of Minesweeper.

All the data points to the end of the love affair Chicagoans used to have with the automobile. Total number of miles driven-down; number of newly issued driver’s licenses for young people-down; alternative methods of transportation around town-up.

A new report issued by the federally mandated Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning explored the issue of driving and cars in Chicago in order to prepare the city for the future and plan its budgets through the year 2050.

Head author of the report, Elizabeth Irvin, explained that, “After decades of persistent growth in commuting patterns, we seem to be at an inflection point.” She added that although we cant be certain that the trends we are seeing will be permanent, at least knowing those trends can enable us to discuss the issues and set priorities for spending.

The most interesting news in the report is that over the last ten or more years the total number of vehicle miles driven is in decline. The other notable trend is the decline in the acquisition of driver’s licenses, especially among teens. In 1990 55 percent of teens had licenses. In 2014 that number dropped to 48 percent.

Based on the data collected CMAP will develop a spending plan over the next two years. A first discussion is scheduled to take place at Northwestern University’s McCormick Foundation Center in Evanston. The question that will be discussed? “Have we truly passed peak driving or did recent economic conditions merely hit the pause button?”