Posts Tagged ‘Chicago suburbs’

Wal-Mart Shakes Up Grocery Scene

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Wal-Mart’s growth strategy is poised to overtake Jewel and Dominick’s as the leader in Chicago’s $12 billion grocery market.  Though not viewed primarily as a place to buy food, Wal-Mart’s new super centers, offer savings in the 10 to 15 percent range over traditional grocery stores.  Wal-Mart currently has 16 grocery stores in Chicago’s suburbs, eight of which have opened in the last 15 months.

This move is part of a national trend favoring big-box retailers which buy in larger volume and have greater control over their supply chains to offset pricing.  It will be interesting to see if Wal-Mart’s move affects the top of the market, where boutique stores like Whole Foods and Wild Oats have captured the market for organic produce.

Wal-Mart is not shy about its expansion plans for the Chicago market.  Union and political resistance stalled plans to add to the single Wal-Mart store within city limits.  Suburban communities, on the other hand, welcome the tax dollars that Wal-Mart brings to them.  Current plans call for Wal-Mart to add seven new grocery stores in the Chicago area over the next year.

The Echo Boom Heard Loud and Clear

Friday, March 21st, 2008

A recent report by Crain’s Real Estate Report (2/28/08) features a story about Schneider Logistics, an Evanston, IL-based company moving to downtown Chicago for one reason — the need to recruit young college graduates. According to Vice-president and General Manager Charles Craigmile, “it’s much better from a recruiting standpoint. Evanston is beautiful, but it’s tough to recruit there when everybody lives in Lincoln Park and Lakeview.” For me this signals America’s most important demographic and perhaps real estate trend — the arrival of the Echo Boom generation in the workplace. Defined as people born between 1982 and 2000, they number 74 million people — almost as many as the 76 million Baby Boomers who were a watershed in our culture.

The oldest Echos are now finishing college and they clearly have different expectations. For one, they want to live and work downtown surrounded by entertainment and amenities and to be able to shuck the suburban commute. According to a March 2008 article in the Atlantic, “The Next Slum” by Christopher Leinberger, while only 5 to 10 percent of the housing stock in most MSAs is located in walkable urban places, more than 1/3 of people would prefer to live in mixed-use, walkable, urban area, according to research by Jonathan Levine of the University of Michigan and Lawrence Frank of the University of British Columbia.

Part of this is evolving tastes and part of this is the fact that households with children now only account for a third of American families, as compared to half during the years of the Baby Boom. By 2025, the U.S. will have an equal split between single-person households and families. Which means the migration to downtown areas is sure to continue — both for the Echo Boom and Corporate America hungry for knowledge workers.