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Pop-Ups, Markets Generate Big Bucks For Retailers

When shoppers at the Artists & Fleas market in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood try to haggle over prices with bag designer Pamela Barsky, she offers the following proposition: Guess the rent on her 10-by-10-foot booth, and she’ll grant a discount.

No one comes close to guessing to the astonishing figure: $7,300 a month.

On a square-foot basis, that’s more than the average rent for retail space in prime Manhattan shopping districts such as SoHo and Herald Square.

But it’s worth it, says Ms. Barsky. Her monthly sales range from $40,000 to $100,000, topping the revenue per square foot of many of the nation’s top retail chains.

The tiny stand, in fact, generates enough revenue to pay 15 full-and part-time employees, including the crew printing and sewing her canvas bags at her Chinatown production shop.

“It’s serious money,” she says.

These are tough times for brick-and-mortar retail. Stores are closing locations at a record pace, while chains including the Limited and American Apparel are going belly-up.

New York City’s flea markets, holiday markets, farmers markets, night bazaars and art fairs, however, continue to draw big crowds.

If it’s sold from a stall or a folding table, it seems, shoppers can’t get enough of it.

Eric Demby, co-founder of market empire Brooklyn Flea, says he’s seeing higher demand for vendor slots, and attendance at food-market spinoff Smorgasburg in Prospect Park doubled from last year, to 15,000 each Sunday.

Jen Bailey, director of FAD Market, a weekend showcase for independent artists and designers that pops up in locations around Brooklyn—including the Brooklyn Historical Society this Saturday and Sunday—says that since launching a year ago, vendor numbers doubled and attendance tripled, to 2,000 visitors a day.

The market’s appeal is so strong, she says people volunteer to set up tables, hand out fliers and greet shoppers.

“People want to be a part of it,” Ms. Bailey says.

Artists & Fleas, meanwhile, is opening a new, 5,000 square-foot market on Friday at the prime retail intersection of Prince Street and Broadway in SoHo, the former home of an Armani Exchange.

Co-founders Ronen Glimer and Amy Abrams say artisan markets are thriving because shoppers are hungry for unique goods, not to mention connection.

They choose their merchants based not just on their wares, but personality. A key question: “Is this a fun person?”

On peak days, their Chelsea location attracts up to 10,000 shoppers. That in turn draws merchants willing to pay $65,000 a year for a 50-square-foot booth.

“We might as well be baleen whales scooping up krill,” says jewelry maker Cynthia Rybakoff, who sells her sleek designs at the market. “We don’t have to work that hard to bring people in.”

On a good day, she says she sells up to 100 pieces, typically priced between $35 and $70.

“There is no advantage to having a storefront other than vanity,” Ms. Rybakoff says.

Artists & Fleas merchant Andrew Cheung, who says he averages $50,000 in sales a month on his line of whimsical men’s accessories including T-Rex socks and boxers shorts, adds that if an item isn’t selling well, it’s not for lack of traffic.

“It’s instant judgment day,” he says. “You get a lot of feedback just by the sheer number of people walking by.”

Of course, the market isn’t a good fit for everyone. Mr. Cheung says that while he has zero interest in opening a storefront, it would allow more freedom.

At Artists & Fleas, management reviews and vets every vendor’s merchandise mix and marketing efforts. There’s a one-time $500 “marketing and merchandising fee,” and a $25 fine if you don’t staff your booth during market hours.

Moreover, everyone has to live with the occasionally quirky choices of the in-house DJ.

“Like experimental German jazz,” Ms. Barsky says.

But she’s content to remain a humble market merchant.

“Everyone assumes we’re not a real business, which is kind of a lovely way to be,” Ms. Barsky says. “You don’t feel like the man. But you’re making money like the man.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Aldi is unleashing a billion-dollar price war — and it should terrify Walmart

The discount grocery chain Aldi is taking aim at Walmart with its billion-dollar plan to lower prices, redesign existing stores, and expand its footprint.

Reuters reported Thursday that Aldi plans to sell more items under its in-house brand, which keeps prices low for customers.

Aldi CEO Jason Hart told Reuters that Aldi’s prices are 21% cheaper than competitors like Walmart.

The chain is also planning to open 400 new stores by the end of next year, according to Reuters.

Aldi is spending $1.6 billion to implement a new store design in 1,300 of its 1,600 US stores, Bloomberg previously reported.

The German-owned grocery chain debuted the new design in October at a store in Richmond, Virginia. The Aldi store has softer lighting than its older stores, as well as a larger fresh produce section, wider aisles, and electronic displays on the walls.

Here’s what it looks like:

The new Aldi store looks similar to its older stores on the outside.

The new Aldi store looks similar to its older stores on the outside.

But stepping inside, it feels much different. The lighting is softer and more natural, and the aisles are wider.

But stepping inside, it feels much different. The lighting is softer and more natural, and the aisles are wider.

Permanent eye-level shelving fixtures are everywhere in the new store. In the older stores, shown below, many items are stacked on top of each other in cardboard boxes instead of placed on shelves.

Permanent eye-level shelving fixtures are everywhere in the new store. In the older stores, shown below, many items are stacked on top of each other in cardboard boxes instead of placed on shelves.

Spotlights in the new store help make the fresh produce section a central focus.

Spotlights in the new store help make the fresh produce section a central focus.

The produce area is much larger than in Aldi’s other stores.

The produce area is much larger than in Aldi's other stores.

Like in other stores, most of the produce is sold in bulk packaging.

Like in other stores, most of the produce is sold in bulk packaging.

It looks similar to this 365 by Whole Foods store in Los Angeles, which is about the same size as Aldi and also features metal, eye-level shelving fixtures and a centrally located produce section.

It looks similar to this 365 by Whole Foods store in Los Angeles, which is about the same size as Aldi and also features metal, eye-level shelving fixtures and a centrally located produce section.

At the new Aldi, there’s a large refrigerated section devoted to produce.

At the new Aldi, there's a large refrigerated section devoted to produce.

Fruit, salad greens, and vegetables are available, as well as premade dips and soups.

Fruit, salad greens, and vegetables are available, as well as premade dips and soups.

There’s no deli at the Aldi store, but there are tons of packaged cheeses and meats to choose from.

There's no deli at the Aldi store, but there are tons of packaged cheeses and meats to choose from.

Digital displays and lit signs everywhere promise quality and freshness.

Digital displays and lit signs everywhere promise quality and freshness.

Refrigerators line the store.

Refrigerators line the store.

Aldi also sells home goods like pillows and holiday decorations.

Aldi also sells home goods like pillows and holiday decorations.

Aldi currently represents only 1.5% of the U.S. grocery market versus Walmart’s 22%, according to Reuters, but its sales represent a growing threat. Reuters reports that sales at Aldi are growing at a rate of 15%, while sales at Walmart are only expected to grow 2% in 2017.

Union’s ‘Expose Walmart’ tour launches in Phoenix

A union that represents thousands of grocery and retail works launched a national tour Monday in Phoenix to draw attention to Walmart’s wages and the thousands of police calls to its mega stores that are costing local taxpayers each year.

The Expose Walmart tour is led by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.3 million professionals in the United States, according to its website.

The Phoenix kickoff began downtown at the Calvin C. Goode Municipal Building, and featured elected officials from the city, county and state.

Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale, was among those who addressed about 50 protesters, many of whom held blue picketing signs with Walmart’s signature smiley face distorted into a frown.

Andrade, speaking as what he described as a “union brother,” said he was concerned that Phoenix Walmart stores ranked as three of the top five addresses in the city to generate calls to police.

“We all know the city of Phoenix, as well as many Arizona cities, are experiencing a police shortage,” he said. “So (by) Walmart refusing to address these issues, that means these police officers — who should be in our community — are busy responding to incidents at Walmart …”

Andrade and other officials cited a December report in The Arizona Republic that showed how three Phoenix Walmart stores made up the No. 1, 3 and 4 locations with most calls to police between 2011 and mid-2016.

Critics say Walmart relies too heavily on taxpayer-funded police, while other big-box stores deploy more rigorous in-house security measures.

Walmart officials at the time of the report said new security policies are being enacted around the country, including more employees at the entrance and a new diversion program that would spare police calls for certain low-level offenders.

On Monday, Walmart Director of Corporate Communications Blake Jackson credited the diversion program, Restorative Justice, for a 35 percent drop in Walmart calls to police nationwide. Additionally, he said, the recidivism rate for those who complete the program hovers at about 2 to 3 percent.

“The upshot there is it’s working, it’s effective, and we’re getting good feedback from law enforcement across the country,” he said.

After a few speeches on Monday, the tour marched protesters three blocks away to the Phoenix Police Department. Parked near the entrance was a large sign that read, sarcastically, “Walmart Security Headquarters.”

“We want to thank the Phoenix Police Department for doing Walmart’s job,” Phoenix Councilwoman Kate Gallego said among cheering protesters. “Walmart is forcing city of Phoenix taxpayers to pay for security costs that Walmart should be paying itself.”

Organizers said the Expose Walmart tour will visit 30-plus cities in 22 states around the country, concluding at Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., on June 2.

Amy Ritter, director of communications for the UFCW’s campaign “Making Change at Walmart,” said the tour’s unifying theme is “corporate welfare,” and how taxpayers are forced to subsidize the megastore and its workers.

The tour cited a 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness that found the state paid $143 million in public assistance for Arizona Walmart employees.

Jackson, the Walmart spokesman, said the group’s claims don’t tell the whole story, and noted that the retailer is a significant taxpayer in the community itself. He said the Arizona stores collected $270.3 million in sales tax and paid $91.5 million in state taxes.

When asked about wages, Jackson said the company has made strides in the past few years in investing in their employees. He said hundreds of thousands of employees have taken advantage of the new training opportunities.

“We are staunch believers in that when our people succeed, our business succeeds,” he said. “And our customers are telling us that they’re liking what they’re seeing.”

Ritter said the tour would feature city-specific grievances on their stops as well. While Phoenix drains police resources, she said, events in other cities could feature low-paid employees and racially-based security practices like locking up hair-care products aimed at African-Americans.

“Walmart doesn’t pay its workers a living wage,” she said. “(Employees aren’t) being trained properly, and they don’t invest enough in the stores. If they did the right thing, Walmart would get off of corporate welfare.”

The UFCW has been a frequent critic of Walmart, particularly when it comes to the wages it pays it workers and practices it says the company takes to discourage unionizing among Walmart workers.

Walmart Workers in Pennsylvania celebrate class-action lawsuit victory

On Jan. 24, Making Change at Walmart held a press conference in Harrisburg, Pa., to draw attention to  more than 187,000 current and former Walmart workers throughout Pennsylvania who won a $241.1-million class-action lawsuit against the retail giant.

The case originated in 2002, when former Philadelphia Walmart worker Michelle Braun filed a lawsuit against all Pennsylvania Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, alleging that the company failed to compensate workers for off-the-clock work hours and prevented employees from taking or completing their rest or meal breaks.

In 2004, Dolores Hummel, who was employed as a cake decorator at Walmart in Reading, Pa., filed a class action lawsuit presenting allegations similar to Braun’s 2002 complaint.

In 2005, the two lawsuits were combined and certification as a class action was granted by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. The “class” consisted of all current and former employees of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2006, totaling approximately 187,000 people.

Although a jury returned a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in 2006, Walmart appealed the case for years.

The current and former Walmart workers began receiving payments last December, and the award includes $88 million in interest.

Union leaders agree that Walmart’s attempt to cheat, deny and delay millions of dollars of income earned by workers that were forced to work off the clock has finally been defeated. They said that this historic judgment provides hope and inspiration to thousands of workers who continue to be mistreated, unappreciated and undervalued at Walmarts all across America.  

German chains spark price war

Competition from no-frills grocery companies based in Germany — fast-growing Aldi and domestic newcomer Lidl — is encroaching on Walmart’s grocery business, which accounts for more than half of its revenues in the United States, analysts said.

All of these non-union companies are a direct threat to union stores.

Aldi has said it will expand its U.S. footprint to nearly 2,000 stores by the end of 2018, an increase of almost 50 percent in five years.

Both Lidl and Aldi run their stores with limited product variety and ultra-low prices. In addition to food items, Lidl also sells merchandise like apparel and home goods.

Olympic Medical Center Home Health workers ratify contract

Members of UFCW Local 21 who work at Olympic Medical Center Home Health in Port Angeles, Wash., ratified a new contract on Feb. 27. The agreement covers about 60 workers and includes wage increases, an extra floating holiday and additional education money. 

“This contract will help recruit and retain quality staff and allow members to better serve the needs of their patients,” a union official said.

Alleged discrimination at Walmart

Making Change at Walmart reported in December that Walmart stores in Virginia added an extra layer of security to hair products typically used by African Americans.

“Hair products used by non-African Americans were placed normally on shelves, while products typically used by African Americans were secured in plastic boxes that cashiers had to unseal,” a representative of the pro-union group said.

Making Change at Walmart aired a television commercial in areas near the affected stores showing packages of women’s hair dye featuring Caucasian models that were easily within reach and without plastic coverings.

UFCW celebrates 100 organizing wins in 100 days

On May 6, the UFCW announced its 100th organizing campaign win of 2016.

“UFCW’s 100 wins in 100 days reflect the frustration and economic pressure felt by hard-working people across the country as more of them look to unions for relief,” Local 99 President Jim McLaughlin observed.
Workers in 26 states have joined the UFCW this year and more than 50 percent of UFCW locals have had successful organizing drives, he said.

Fry’s project in downtown Phoenix may uncover ‘trove’ of artifacts

The long wait for a grocery store in downtown Phoenix is coming to an end, but before shoppers can begin filling their carts a potentially fascinating construction phase will take place.

The process of building a grocery store doesn’t usually generate much curiosity, but in the case of the upcoming Fry’s Food Store project, city officials are expecting a “trove of city history” to be unearthed at the development site, according to the Arizona Republic.

The land between First and Second Streets and Washington and Jefferson Streets may house an underground bomb shelter, jail cell remains and prehistoric artifacts, the newspaper reports.

The 55,000 square foot “glass cube” planned for the site would encompass the grocery store as well as parking, office and retail spaces, and high-rise apartments. It would also bring much needed fresh food options to the city center, which has been categorized as a “food desert” by public officials.

The land is scheduled to undergo an archeological investigation before building begins, and the project is expected to open in 2018

2,000 new jobs predicted in Fry’s expansion

Fry’s Food & Drug Stores, Inc., announced it plans to invest $260 million into opening seven new stores in Arizona this summer and fall.

An estimated 2,000 jobs will be created at the union-affiliated grocery chain.

Six of the larger-size Fry’s Marketplace stores are expected to open in Maricopa County. In addition, a standard-size Fry’s store is scheduled to open in Tucson.

Fry’s Marketplace stores include Starbucks coffee shops, Murray’s cheese stores, sushi bars, soup and salad bars, indoor/outdoor deli seating, gas stations and pharmacies with medical care offered in Little Clinics.