Cosmetics Retailer Lush Moving to Mag Mile

Photo of Lush display by Olivier Bruchez

Although the move for Lush is only two blocks south to North Michigan Avenue, the new venue will be worlds away. The move is part of an overall facelift for all their branches to bigger, better, and more user-friendly spaces.

The new store just opened last week, and offers 2,200 square-feet of floor space where customers will be encouraged to touch and feel the merchandise. The experiential sales floor model will be coming to all Lush’s 250 North American stores over the next 3 years.
Brandi Halls, director of brand communications at Lush, explained that the past ten years saw a quick expansion of the number of Lush shops, leaving many too small for the company to give its customers the kind of experience they would like.

The new shops are more than doubling in floor space from the previous design, with plenty of room for rainbow colored bath bombs piled in displays, grocery store style; areas for cosmetic consultations; and even sinks for demonstrations of products.

“With a lot of our more innovative products, people aren’t always sure how to use them, so demos let customers get their hands in the water and feel it on their skin,” Halls said.

Not all the current locations will be abandoned. Any store already reaching 1,500 square feet will remain, but the interior design will be re-done so that it matches the ideal interior. The template for the new look is the company’s London flagship store, which has 10,000 square-feet of space. So far, the company has relocated or redesigned about 30 stores, including the one on Michigan Avenue.

Hooters Experimenting with Less Tight Tops for Waitresses

Hooters restaurant at 1001 Claren Circle in Morrisville, North Carolina. Photo by Ildar Sagdejev

Despite being known for its tightly topped waitresses, one member of the chain of Hooters Management Corp., a licensee of Hooters of America, has decided to loosen up its style. Hooters Management announced the opening of “Hoots” in Cicero, Illinois, right outside Chicago, where the waitresses will be dressed in less conspicuous uniforms.

Customers will order their meals at the counter, and not at tables. Both waiters and waitresses will be on staff to take orders. Since this is still in testing mode, only about a dozen or so items will be available on the menu. Of course one of those will still be chicken wings.

This experiment with less provocative dress for their waitresses comes at a moment when the restaurant industry has shown flat customer traffic. The NPD Group does predict, however, that fast-food restaurants will be growing in the coming months, while sit-down chains will suffer.

There were 337 Hooters branches in the United States in 2015, a loss of three restaurants from the previous year.

Disney Teams with Luxe Bloom to Promote ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with Long-Lasting Roses


Luxe Bloom Roses: Photo courtesy of
Kurman Communications, Inc.

Chicago’s Luxe Bloom, seller of unique preserved roses, is joining Disney as a marketing partner for their upcoming live-action re-make of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Disney reached out to Luxe Bloom through their global marketing department. Jan Coleman noted that:

“The roses will be adored by fans young and old and be a very stunning enhancement to the film’s marketing campaign.”

The film will star Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast, and is scheduled to premiere on March 17. In the iconic Disney cartoon a rose is the symbol of the Beast’s chances of finding his previous human form again through the power of love.

The partnership will make Luxe Bloom part of Disney’s social media-focused promotion of the film. They will also participate in the staging of the Hollywood premier, helping to create a magical atmosphere so vital to a Disney movie launch. The premier will feature a Rose Wall created by Luxe Bloom, which will act as the backdrop where prominent celebrities will be photographed.

The deal with Disney will also allow Luxe Bloom to sell “Beauty and the Beast” rose arrangements on their website and on Amazon. They will offer a $55 single red rose in a glass cloche all the was up to a crimson rose box of 16 roses for $399.

Luxe Bloom roses are unique in their lasting power. They are specially treated to maintain their beauty for at least two months without water or refrigeration. The roses come from Ecuador, and the company uses an “ancient all-natural method” to keep the roses looking fresh for many weeks.

Other companies have become believers in the magic of Luxe Bloom roses: Langham Hotels in Chicago and New York buy their wares; and Saks Fifth Avenue and the Red Door salons are also clients. Former Fortune 500 executive Shelley Rosen founded Luxe Bloom in 2013.

Non-Browning GMO Apples to Hit the Stores in the Midwest

In what the food industry is hoping will be the breakthrough product for genetically modified organisms, (GMOs), a non-browning apple is about to be introduced in Midwestern grocery stores, perhaps as early as February 1st.

This high-tech apple will be sold under the brand Arctic Apple. The first introduction will be a test run to see how well the public accepts the controversial apple, which will be sold pre-sliced. The industry is hoping that the convenience of pre-sliced apples that do not turn brown will overwhelm the suspicion consumers have of GMOs.

Both critics and supporters of GMOs say that this product could be a “tipping point” in the country’s hot debate over the merits and dangers of genetic engineering, especially as it relates to food. Until now supporters of genetically engineered food have argued that the technology protects crops, bringing down prices, reducing the use of pesticides, and bestowing other benefits. The Arctic Apple is one of the first GMOs marketed directly to consumers strictly for its convenience factor.

“What companies are desperate for is some really popular GMO product to hit the market,” said McKay Jenkins, the author of a forthcoming history of the debate. “Any successful product could lift the cloud over GMOs.”

Despite the fact that there is a consensus among scientists that GMOs are basically safe, over the course of about 30 years environmental and consumer groups have been able to limit the use of GMOs to commodity crops like soybeans and corn.

The question the Arctic Apple will put to the public is whether the convenience of having pre-sliced apples that do not turn brown outweighs the bad rap GMOs have in the eyes of consumers.

“I don’t know what their chances are – it’s a very polarized debate,” said Michael White, an assistant professor of genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “But I think this is huge. What the Arctic Apple is doing, trying to push GMOs on their own merits, could lead to a more positive discussion.”


More Jobs at End of 2016 Than at Beginning of the Year

Illinois Unemployment rate by county.

Although the last month of 2016 was disappointing for Illinois job-wise, the year as a whole finished in the black.

At the end of 2015 the unemployment rate in Illinois was 6.1 percent, higher than the 5.7 percent the rate reached at the end of 2016. But the month of December, 2016 was not a good one for employment. The state lost about 16,700 jobs that month alone, bringing the unemployment figure up to its final rate for the year, from 5.6 percent at the end of November, 2016.

November also had a net loss of jobs instead of the predicted gain. Illinois ended up losing 4,500 jobs in November rather than gaining 1,700, which had been forecast.

Jeff Mays, the director of the Department of Employment Security, said December’s job drop was “troubling, to say the least.”

Illinois is experiencing the same job loss trend as the rest of the country, but slightly more pronounced.  The rate of job growth in Illinois was 0.5 percent, a bit slower than the nation’s figure of 1.5 percent. The country also saw a slight rise in unemployment for December, to 4.7 percent, significantly lower than for Illinois.

“Illinois needs structural reforms and a balanced budget to attract new jobs and investment in our state,” said Sean McCarthy, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

One Company’s Layoffs Is Another Company’s Hires

Chicago skyline seen from Cortland Street Drawbridge. Photo courtesy of John G. Suhayda.

Computer hardware engineers who got the axe last September during a massive downsizing at Motorola’s Chicago headquarters soon found that they were in demand by some of the country’s most successful high tech companies.

It was only a matter of weeks before these newly unemployed engineers were fielding job offers from company’s like Google, Facebook and Apple, who held recruiting events. Amazon also made offers to several of the engineers.

What were these computer-high tech giants hoping for? Mostly to bring these highly skilled workers back home to Silicon Valley. In the case of Google, however, their goal was a bit different, and unique. The search engine giant used the Motorola layoffs to recruit hardware engineers, for the first time, to work in their Chicago office. Until this time Google’s only Chicago hires had been for jobs in software development.

Some of the former Motorola engineers who were at the meeting said that Google had organized a gathering within two weeks of being fired. There were at least 200 hardware engineers in attendance, all of which had been fired by Motorola. During an information session the Google reps demonstrated some of its new hardware products and then discussed bringing jobs in computer hardware development to their Chicago office for the first time.

Craftsman Sold to Black & Decker for Almost $1 Billion

A screwdriver-handled bottle opener, made by Western Forge for the Craftsman brand. Photo credit to J.C. Fields.

A complex deal has been struck between Sears and Stanley Black & Decker, for the purchase of Sears’ iconic Craftsman brand of tools.

Illinois-based Sears has agree to see the 89-year-old brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $525 million in cash and an additional $250 million by the end of the third year after the sale. In addition, there will be payments for up to 15 years as a variable percentage of sales. The approximate total value of the deal is $900 million, according to Sears.

The deal will allow the Connecticut-based Stanley Black & Decker the right to produce and sell Craftsman-branded tools in non-Sears stores in the US and internationally. Sears will also be able to sell Craftsman in its own stores through a perpetual license issued by Stanley Black & Decker. Stanley Black & Decker will receive royalties from Sears after a 15-year grace period.

“We intend to invest in the brand and rapidly increase sales through these new channels, including retail, industrial, mobile and online,” said Stanley Black & Decker CEO James Loree. “To accommodate the future growth of Craftsman, we intend to expand our manufacturing footprint in the U.S. This will add jobs in the U.S., where we have increased our manufacturing headcount by 40 percent in the past three years.”

The deal stipulates that Sears will receive annual payments from new sales from Stanley Black & Decker Craftsman during a 15-year period. Between now and 2020 Sears will get 2.5 percent of sales; from 2020 until 2023 3.0 percent; and for the remaining time, 3.5 percent.

Lurie Children’s Planning Expansion

An exterior image of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Photo courtesy of Ala1188.

The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has plans to expand the highly in-demand hospital’s capacity with a $51 million infusion of funding. The Streeterville building, in the midst of the Mag Mile, is seriously overcrowded, and can use the extra beds under consideration.

The plan proposes to add 44 beds to the already 92 that serve the intensive-care unit. The hospital would also like to add four more beds to the neonatal intensive-care division to 60 NICU beds that are there now. The total number of beds in this specialty hospital, which treats the area’s most ill children, would rise to 336.

The application Lurie filed last month with state regulators said that the hospital, which partners with many community hospitals, has been fielding an increase in children referred by health care providers is northeast Illinois to the point where they have been forced to refuse transfers.

The hospital wants to add beds at a moment in history when other hospitals are downsizing their pediatric departments, if not eliminating them altogether. Because the Affordable Care Act puts more of an emphasis on prevention, many hospital beds are empty, while there has been a growth in the number of outpatient clinics and same-day surgery facilities.

Lurie hospital says that demand for its services has climbed because of its partnerships with over a dozen community hospitals. If the patients can be kept in those local community hospitals, they are. But if they need more sophisticated or intense care, they are then sent to the downtown hospital.

In 2014 Lurie switched 20 medical-surgical beds, the most common type of hospital bed, to ICU beds. In 2016 Lurie had to turn away 112 requests for patient transports because of lack of beds.

The additional beds will be added by renovating existing hospital space, with completion of the projected expected to be by January 31, 2019.

Aldi Grocery Closing: Activists Protest

Official portrait of Danny K. Davis, for the 113th Congress.

Asserting that Maywood branch of Aldi’s grocery store is the only grocery in the community, a group of politicians and community activists gathered to try and prevent the closing of the store, scheduled for Christmas Day.

Democratic Representative of the 7th District, Danny K. Davis was still hopeful two days before the scheduled closure that something could be done to prevent the loss of the business to the community. The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., was also there, explaining that the closure will just make the present “food desert” even drier, mentioning that this is an especially vital issue for the black community.

The gathering was organized by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who called for a press conference outside the store. In addition to Davis, the mayor of Maywood Edweena Perkins, Reverend Marvin Wiley, Bill Hampton, brother of dead Black Panther leader Fred Hampton), and community residents were also on hand.

“I understand based on the meetings we had with Aldi, why they are closing,” said Boykin.
Jackson said, “It appears that Aldi’s is expanding stores, but stores in Maywood, on 87th Street in Chicago, and one in Peoria, IL are closing. These stores are in the neediest communities, in Black communities. It’s adding to the food desert.”

“We’re trying to keep money flowing into communities that are hard-pressed and in great need of economic development. Any time something leaves is a difference than something coming. We know that there are individuals who are hard pressed in communities all over the country, and we have to use every bit of creativity and ingenuity we can come up with to try and keep hope alive and keep the money circulating so that money becomes a part of the economy and tax base,” Davis said

Boykin explained that Aldi’s decided to close because shoppers were hardly coming to the store. For the last ten years, this store had the lowest shopper rate per day than any of its other stores in Cook County. Add the 80 percent rise in property taxes over the past six years, and its easy to understand the company’s decision.

“I did get a commitment from them to provide a transportation shuttle from the Village of Maywood to Aldi’s other three stores located in Broadview, Melrose Park, and Bellwood beginning on December 26th,” said Boykin.

The shuttle will be available to take shoppers to one of the other three stores in the area on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

Tiger Woods to Help Design PGA-Level Links in Chicago

AT&T National tournament host Tiger Woods, the top-ranked golfer in the world with 14 major victories on his resume, competes in the third annual Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am on July 1 at Congressional Country Club. He dedicates the tournament to the men and women of the U.S. military. (Photo by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs)

Two less-then-stellar golf courses on the South Side of Chicago are queued for a serious face-lift, and one of golf’s most shining stars is pitching in.

Tiger Woods has promised to bring his unique expertise to bare on the planned renovation of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses; an overhaul with a projected $30 million price tag.

The project is being sponsored by the Western Golf Association in partnership with a non-profit group, the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance (CPGA). The goal is to transform the two courses into one championship-level beauty nestled along the lakeshore with aspirations to one day host a PGA tour event, perhaps the BMW Championship.

“This project can create incredible possibilities for the community on the South Side,” Woods said. “We want to design a course that everyone will enjoy.”

Woods heads a design firm, TGR Design.

The changes to the courses are expected to be initiated this coming spring, with hopes that the championship course can open by 2020. There are also hopes to open a short course or a par-3 course, also to open in 2020.