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Study: Few sites for smaller big-box footprints in urban Chicago

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — A real estate report released Wednesday by Mid-America Real Estate’s Urban Team found that much of Chicago lacks the type of product that today’s downsized big-box retailers are looking for.

"Retailers’ footprints are shrinking," said Mid-America principal Dan Tausk, author of the report. "From Walmart to Best Buy to Office Depot, we continue to see a national trend toward shrinking square footage, which is expanding the vernacular from ‘super’ or ‘mega’ stores to include ‘market,’ ‘express’ and ‘neighborhood’ stores. If that trend continues — and I expect it to — then we’ve got a real lack of product to offer them in most of urban Chicago."

The "Urban Chicago Mid-Box Retail Study" examined existing and vacant space for stores between 15,000 sq. ft. and 50,000 sq. ft., excluding proposed new development that hadn’t been delivered. It uncovered nearly 11.2 million sq. ft. of existing supply in the mid-box category, or 389 total spaces. It also discovered a vacancy rate in this size category at 7%, with strong absorption of existing vacancy.

"There’s demand for mid-box growth in urban Chicago, despite a tough economy," Tausk said, adding that there are a few considerations retailers will be forced to evaluate in the process. They are:

  • Retailers with expansion/rollouts for Chicago will need to continue to think creatively, finding opportunities in multilevels, mezzanines or even smaller stores to meet future demand;

  • Retailers can expect rents to remain high in the mid-size sector due to obvious lack of supply and low vacancy;

  • Future opportunity in this mid-box size category may best come from downsizing/sublease space or the splitting of outdated larger footprints and future bankruptcies of other retailers; and

  • Absorption in this size range is strong and happens quickly with greater than a 500,000 sq. ft. of leasing currently proposed in existing space.

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Hiring survey indicates best holiday job market in five years

BY Katherine Field Boccaccio

RICHMOND, Va. — An annual seasonal hiring survey released Thursday by Snagajob indicated that more holiday jobs will be available this year than have been expected in any previous season in the study’s five-year history.

The survey of more than 1,000 hourly hiring managers with responsibility for seasonal hiring, conducted by IPSOS Public Affairs for Snagajob, included the following highlights:

  • Among hiring managers with responsibility to hire year-end, seasonal workers for the holiday period, 63% will make hires this year, the highest percentage in the Snagajob five-year survey and up 12 percentage points from last year (51%);

  • Significantly more workers will be hired, as hiring managers said they expect to hire 6.1 seasonal workers, on average — a nearly 50% increase over last year and almost 100% over the survey’s low point in 2009; and

  • When comparing the hiring managers who expect their fourth-quarter sales to be better than last year with those who expect sales to be worse, the survey showed a net score of +20, indicating an expected sales increase. Last year, positive sales were expected, but only by a +7 margin.

"For the past few seasons, we’ve had to talk about ‘incremental improvements’ being expected in holiday hiring," Snagajob VP marketing Jason Hamilton, said. "But this year, there are strong indications that there should be substantial movement in getting us back to the kinds of holiday hiring levels we were accustomed to prior to the recession."

According to Hamilton, the survey showed that 24% more hiring managers are hiring this season, and hiring managers, on average, are planning to hire about 50% more people.

"Those indicators taken together point to a vastly improved seasonal job market," Hamilton said.

Among those who will be hiring, 57% said they expect to complete their hiring by the end of October — if not sooner — compared with 46% last year. Nearly half (49%) of seasonal workers are expected to be full-time hires, the highest level recorded in the five-year survey. Added to that, hiring managers who will be making hires expect that 50% of their seasonal hires will be able to stay on after the holidays and take a permanent job.

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Got mobile? Shifting consumer behavior is ‘too large for retailers to ignore’

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Once again, mobile capabilities made headlines as a study by ComScore revealed that nearly 86 million Americans are now shopping on their smartphones. To put it another way: That’s 4-out-of-5 smartphone users.

(THE NEWS: Survey: 4-out-of-5 smartphone users access retail content. For the full story, click here.)

The traditional brick-and-mortar retailers with the largest reach were Walmart and Target. Speaking of Target, which had 10 million smartphone visitors, the big-box retailer has now announced that those Target shoppers who receive the retailer’s mobile coupons now can access them on their iPhone or iPod Touch via Passbook.

Meanwhile, a new study from Deloitte stated that using apps and mobile websites while shopping accounted for a 5% bump in retail sales in the United States this past year, equating to $159 billion in in-store sales. Fueled by the rise in apps and mobile websites catering to shoppers, as well as smartphone ubiquity, Deloitte forecasts that the impact of smartphones on retail in the United States will rise to 17% to 21% — working out to $628 million to $782 million in sales by 2016.

Clearly, those retailers that want to remain competitive need to become increasingly multichannel and implement mobile strategies to better reach today’s tech-savvy, connected consumer.

In fact, the National Retail Federation, in partnership with its member companies, has launched a new initiative to address the challenges and opportunities of mobile retailing as the NRF has recognized the importance of mobile technologies that offer seamless cross-platform shopping experiences.

As ComScore SVP mobile Mark Donovan stated, "This pronounced shift in consumer behavior is simply too large for retailers to ignore, with the future of their business depending on how well they adapt to the new environment.”

In what ways are you, as a consumer, leveraging mobile technologies when shopping?

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