September 2016

30- Sep2016
Posted By: Terrance
598 Views

Six Illinois Kmart Stores Closing — What Can Retailers Learn From This?

The announcement that six Kmart stores in Illinois are shutting their doors is just more bad news for a struggling company and the hundreds of employees that will feel the effects of this. For other business retailers out there, Kmart’s troubles can be a very important lesson going forward in a time when the way shoppers make decisions is changing rapidly.

Customer Service and Product Availability

Even after joining forces with Sears, Kmart continued to have a bad reputation for not having products that its consumers want readily available. A lot of people also considered many Kmart stores to not provide premier customer service. In a time when there are so many options for consumers, these are two very important things that simply cannot be neglected. For example, Walmart, Kmart’s biggest rival, has been working hard to repair its image for bad customer service. Responding to change in the industry and what your customers are after is essential to staying on top, and Kmart obviously had trouble doing that in its later stages.

Online Shopping On the Rise

The E-commerce era has changed things. It wasn’t but just fifteen or twenty years ago that going to a department store was the only way for people to get the things they needed. Whether it was clothing, electronics, or just day-to-day grocery items, stores only had to compete with other stores. Location was as important as anything. Even in the early days of online shopping, local stores were okay because of long shipping times that made a lot of people still prefer to just run to the store versus using the Internet. That all changed as services like Amazon came on the scene and revolutionized the online shopping scene. Now, two-day shipping is becoming the norm, and every business retailer out there is feeling the strain as they not only have to compete with the store down the road, but online stores across the globe.

Window Shopping

Before the rise of Internet commerce, consumers visited multiple stores to view the selection of products and compare prices. Online shopping hasn’t changed that mentality. Everyone wants to get the best deal they can get, but the one major flaw of online shopping is that you don’t have the opportunity to physically examine the product and hold it in your hand. Unfortunately for brick and mortar businesses, this leads to a new kind of window shopping where consumers use the retail store just to check the product out when they really plan to make the purchase online. Of course, this offers nothing for the retailer. They have customers in the store, but they aren’t purchasing anything. Meanwhile, the retailer still has to pay the bills to keep the store operational. This is a major problem for retailers, and there’s no real good way to stop it. After all, you can’t easily differentiate between the customers that are considering buying the product from your store and the ones that are just using your facility to help them make a better decision.

The bottom line on the Kmart closings is that business retailers have to understand the problems they are facing and change with the times. Many retailers are working heavily on the online front to give their businesses a piece of that pie as well. The solution moving forward has to be understanding the threat from online retailers and finding ways to compete not just with the local competitors, but the global ones as well.

Categories:
29- Sep2016
Posted By: Terrance
543 Views

Valuable Small Business Development Centers Are Closing

 

The economy on Illinois, like that of every other state, depends on entrepreneurs deciding to start a business. That’s a difficult process, so the state has helped those new business owners learn about marketing, finance, and other important topics with their Small Business Development Centers. The centers have been highly successful for several decades, but many of them have been forced to closed down in the past few years.

What Do The Centers Do?

The centers provide training affordable training to new entrepreneurs. The training can cover essentially every aspect of running a small business, from management skills to the different ways of financing expansion. The low cost makes it especially valuable for people who never had the opportunity to attend business school, and their local focus means the lessons can be adjusted to deal with local market conditions.

Where Are They Closing?

Small Business Development Centers are closing all over the state. Approximately one fifth of the centers have either closed already or are scheduled to close in the near future. That’s a large number, but the fact that the closures are scattered all over the state means that many people will still have access to a center if they need it. They will need to travel a little further than they used to, and the centers will be more crowded, but relatively few people will suffer from a complete loss of support for their small business.

Why Are They Closing?

The centers are closing down due to a lack of funding. The program depends on government grants to survive, and those grants have suffered significant cuts in recent years. The majority of the centers are associated with universities. Those universities contributed to funding the centers, but few of them can afford to support the centers without help from the state, especially when their own funding has also suffered recent decreases. The Business Development Centers that are not associated with universities tend to be significantly less reliant on funding from the state, so many of them are still operating and have no plans to close.

Categories:
28- Sep2016
Posted By: Terrance
535 Views

Chicago Will Continue to Benefit from Low Interest Rates

In late August 2016, the President of the Chicago Federal Reserve was invited to speak in Beijing at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance. Among the topics in his lecture to finance ministers and policymakers from around the world, the Chicago Fed President Charles Evans addressed the current economic climate of short interest rates.

The U.S. economy has been enjoying historically low interest rates since the height of the Great Recession in 2008. In the beginning, the low rates helped banks access cash that was desperately needed after many financial institutions failed and were forced to stop operating. By 2010, the expectations from Wall Street for the three-month Treasury bill were around 4.25 percent, but they have since fallen to just under three percent.

Why Low Interest Rates Are Good for Chicago

According to Chicago Fed President Evans, a move to raise short-term rates will not benefit the U.S. economy at this time. This happens to be a sentiment shared by Stephen S. Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada. It so happens that Chicago and Canada have been enjoying good trade relations during the historical period of low rates as nearly 200 Canadian companies have set up shop in the Windy City in the last decade.

Around the same time the Federal Reserve agreed to leave interest rates low, the S&P CoreLogic Case/Shiller Home Price Index was released. This benchmark report, which covers the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., had some good news for Chicago: local home values have increased by 3.7 percent since July 2015, and this appreciation is the highest experienced in the last two years. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of room for improvement as home price are still 18 percent below their peak levels from a decade ago.

The gains observed in the Case/Shiller Home Price Index are impressive from a historical point of view. Since the collapse of the American housing market, single-family residences in Chicago have recovered by 34 percent while condo units have recovered by 45 percent; this recovery has been boosted by the low interest rates of the last few years, and it needs to continue until the end of this decade.

Unlike other metropolitan areas such as Dallas,the economic recovery of Chicago has not yet come to fruition. Low interest rates will continue to benefit the Windy City until real economic progress can be felt.

Categories:

Without Tax Reforms, Illinois May Not Achieve Economic Growth

The first debate between United States presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton left voters in Illinois wishing for clues with regard to job growth and private business incentives.

Trump mentioned tax breaks while Clinton mentioned tax adjustments, but neither candidate mentioned the possibility of tax reform, which is something that the Prairie State desperately needs. Tax breaks and adjustments

After a lukewarm year for the American economy, greater economic activity in Illinois seems like a dream that may never be achieved. In terms of job growth and economic expansion, Illinois is behind the national indicators for these two important macroeconomic factors.

For most of the 21st century, U.S. presidential candidates have shied away from including tax reform in their political agendas. Just like Trump and Clinton, they have talked about tax breaks, adjustments and enforcement, but they seem to draw the line at sweeping tax reform.

Why U.S. Tax Reform is Overdue

One of the problems with a stagnant tax code is that business innovation ends up getting stifled while local governments seek dubious means of revenue. In Cook County, for example, a tax on sugary drinks has been proposed while property taxes soar. Research and development operations do not receive the tax credits they deserve, which means that innovative projects are never completed.

With a tax rate as high as 39 percent for many private business enterprises, companies cannot be entirely blamed for taking advantage of tax loopholes that allow them to direct their profits outside of the U.S. The tax code has become so complicated that the adjustments and breaks proposed by Clinton and Trump will probably have little to no effect on the economy.

How to Pass Tax Reform

Some political analysts believe that Trump and Clinton have not proposed tax reform because it would be an impossible task. While it is true that such reform will not be easy, calling it impossible is a stretch.

During his two terms, President Barack Obama presented two reform projects far more complicated than taxation. One was Obamacare, which was a massive insurance reform program; the other was immigration, which he was able to advance to a certain extent. There is no question that the next administration would be able to handle tax reform.

Comprehensive tax reform could benefit not just Illinois but also North America as a whole. With nearly 200 Canadian companies operating in the Chicago area alone, the prospect of corporate-friendly tax reform is too valuable to ignore for another four years.

Categories: