business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Starbucks’ new Reserve Roastery store in Chicago - a 43,000 square foot, four-story store, located in the old Crate & Barrel location on Michigan Avenue - will open on November 15 - just in time for the end-of-year holiday shopping season.

Interestingly, while the story notes that this will be the largest Roastery, its third in the Us and sixth overall, it also says that “the company has no plans for more locations.”

Let’s not forget that the Reserve Roastery initiative was a Howard Schultz baby … and we know that Schultz has left the building. This likely will not end up being a major growth area for Starbucks, especially in the short term, because it could find itself out of synch when the economy at some point goes into recession. These are great showplaces and even labs, but not formats, I’d guess, with a ton of upside.

Fox Business has an interview with Stew Leonard Jr., in which he says that the low unemployment rate is creating problems as his eponymous company hires for a new store scheduled to open in New Jersey.

We opened a store in Farmingdale, [NY,] back in 2016, [and] we hired 400 people,” Leonard said. “We had one job fair, filled it up … The new store we’re opening in Paramus, we’ve had to have three job fairs, and the average rate of everybody we’re hiring is $15.50 an hour" or more, Leonard said.

The story goes on to say that “the higher costs complicate a broader challenge, one facing bricks-and-mortar retailers nationwide: fending off fierce competition from online rivals, such as e-commerce giant Amazon, which now owns grocer Whole Foods.”

“You know it’s tough,” Leonard tells Fox Business. “We’re a family business here, and they’re really masters at, you know, data mining.”

With all due respect to my friend Stew, being a family business doesn’t mean you can’t data mine. You just have to make a commitment to doing so … and I think that data is the ultimate weapon without which any retailer is at a significant disadvantage. I know smaller retailers than Stew Leonard’s that do a wonderful job of accumulating and using consumer data.

As someone who has shopped at Stew Leonard’s for 35+ years - I once calculated that I’ve spent well over $200,000 there over the years - I can tell you that I don’t think I have ever received a targeted communication from the store that suggested any use of data or any understanding of my value as a customer.

Now, I think that’s a choice. I think Stew’s decided at some point that a loyalty marketing program - usually the best way to gather data - was the antithesis of how it wanted to go to market. Which is fine. Or at least was fine. But it may not be fine anymore, and it certainly isn’t just the province of online giants.

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