The suburban, car-loving, McMansion-owning parents of millennials represent Costco’s core customer base. But what about millennials themselves?…
But the fact that in early March Costco reported lower-than-expected earnings and its stock price has slumped now has some wondering if the company can stay on its hot growth streak going forward. In particular, concern is being raised that Costco’s membership model and its bulk-goods products don’t appeal to the nation’s young consumers—and that the Costco experience might not be a good match for the millennial generation even after they grow older and have families.
It’s understandable that Costco’s customer base skews older. A car is all but a necessity for the typical “stock up” visit to Costco, and compared to older generations, millennials tend to not own cars and don’t seem to want to own cars. Most Costco stores are in suburban locations, while millennials tend to prefer urban living, and even if they are among the relatively few of their peers who could afford to buy a home, home ownership is less important to them than it was to their parents and grandparents as young adults. So … if you don’t have a car, and you don’t have the money or interest to stock up on two years’ worth of paper towels or mustard, and you wouldn’t have the space in your apartment to store this kind of stuff even if you wanted to, then there’s not much sense in shopping at Costco…
In general, Costco’s plan to win over the younger generation seems to be in the taking of baby steps toward meeting their preferences as consumers, while basically just waiting until millennials grow up, buy cars, move out to the suburbs, and (fingers crossed) feel like a Costco membership works for their households. For the time being, Costco doesn’t work for young people simply because “you’re not going to stick big vats of mayonnaise and big stacks of toilet paper in a small apartment,” McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Dan Geiman explained to the Seattle Times. Still, Geiman applauded Costco’s efforts to woo younger shoppers. “Anything you can do to lower the age of your target market is going to be a positive in the longer term,” he said.
Based on some of the metrics mentioned in this story (such as the number of Facebook likes Walmart and Target have compared to Costco), American consumers don’t see big box stores all in the same way. Could the same thing be true for millennials? While there is some data suggesting a number of them want to live in more urban areas, this does not necessarily preclude abandoning all of the shopping patterns more commonly associated with a suburban lifestyle. Perhaps Costco is not as well known, their marketing to younger shoppers has been limited, and these younger shoppers don’t see much appeal in a warehouse sort of store (where is the cool factor in that – Target, in contrast is a chicer big box store and Walmart can be enjoyed ironically).
While companies need to have a broad case of customers, I wonder if Costco could still survive for quite a while, like the TV networks, in focusing on the bulge of older Americans who are also more likely to have larger houses.
On a rare 50 degree Chicago day, I rode Chicago’s Divvy bikes for the first time. I made three relatively short trips: from Ogilvie Transportation Center to the Art Institute, from the Art Institute to Navy Pier, and from Navy Pier to Ogilvie. Here is evidence of my rides:
My quick thoughts on the experience:
1. It is fairly easy to pay for and to get the bikes. It costs $7 for an all-day pass and rides under 30 minutes are free. There are lots of Divvy stations in the Loop so finding a stand near major attractions isn’t too hard. While it is a pain to have to wonder where other stations are when on the bike, I’m guessing $7 a day doesn’t cover a GPS with every bike.
2. The bikes themselves worked fine: big tires, nice fenders (otherwise I would have been quite splattered from all of the melting snow), good brakes, seats that are easy to adjust. The bikes only have three gears and this is limiting, but Chicago has a limited number of hills.
3. Riding near Millennium Park and Lake Michigan was easy. Riding in the Loop was not. I can handle it as I learned how to ride the mean streets of suburbia while a teenager (this may sound like a joke but we rode on a number of busy streets). Plus, traffic was pretty light in the middle of the day. However, I have a hard time imagining the average tourist wanting to do this. Some street have bike lanes but the only one I saw that was a protected lane was on Dearborn Street, a north-south street. Madison had a bike lane and I rode back to Ogilvie on Adams in the bike lane but both of these had plenty of double-parked taxis, cars, and buses. While drivers noticed me and took a wide berth, how tolerant would they be of slower groups of riders?
I would do this again, particularly in nice weather, as it is a different way to see the city and it can cut down on the time to get from attraction to attraction (less than 15 minutes biking from Navy Pier to the train). But, riding on busy streets is not for everyone and Chicago has a ways to go before having a street infrastructure that makes it easy for visitors to hop on bikes.
Museums help us know and interpret our past so what is the best way to design exhibits that tackle traumatic events?
Working to affect the museumgoer’s subconscious is how Layman talks about exhibition design. First, he strives to understand – reading, consulting with historians, trying to learn the material as well as the curators do in order to find what resonates, what surprises. When it comes to putting materials in galleries, yes, he wants to manipulate you, but for the purposes of telling the story.
“We do a technique called ‘swing focus’ as the visitors go through,” Layman said. “Their eye catches one thing after the next, and it works all the way through, and the story, then, it just unfolds almost intuitively. It comes off the walls, and the people get lost in this story, and it becomes a very moving experience.”
Earlier this winter, Layman was in the opening galleries at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, in Skokie, the ones that, in parallel, establish what Jewish life was like in Europe before World War II and how the Nazis rose to power in Germany.
The two hours Layman took to explain what his firm did in Skokie, a sort of ultimate guided tour, were absolutely fascinating. The museum deftly takes viewers into some of humanity’s least human moments and then escorts them back out. It works so well, in part, because every inch of the design is pored over. “We pay attention to excruciating detail on absolutely everything,” he said.
It sounds like the purpose is trying to tell an immersive narrative. This narrative is carefully crafted and meant to give the attendee a particular viewpoint on the world. Museums can reinforce existing cultural narratives, particularly in their ability to involve all the senses.
I like museums and what they can offer: original artifacts and powerful experiences. Yet, as someone who values education, museums seem like they can only go so far: they provide an introduction to most topics. If the museum is the only time a person encounters an important topics like the Holocaust, then that is not enough. I would encourage my students to find out for themselves, to find original texts and numerous interpretations to start developing what they think on their own. Museums can do some of this but there simply isn’t enough space (and this process requires a lot more text that the typical museumgoer would be willing to read) to tell the whole story.
A fascinating example of this is at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Before going, I wondered how they would handle conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination. But, the museum had a whole section on the various theories at the end without making a strong statement against such theories. The better parts of the museum told the story of JFK’s rise, involving artifacts, texts, and videos. The ultimate part of the journey is looking at the reconstructed spot at the sixth floor window from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired at the president. I could see that taking this all in moved numerous visitors. All together, the museum is a well-done taste of JFK’s life, legacy, and the theories surrounding his death but an individual could spend years going through all that is out there and trying to make sense of it all. The museum isn’t the final word but rather an authoritative source.
While social media is credited for helping the Arab Spring movement, social media movements don’t always succeed. Take the “Save Darfur” campaign as an example:
Focusing on the Save Darfur cause, which took Facebook by storm between May 2007 and January 2010, the team looked at the donation and recruitment activity of over one million members. Roughly 80 percent of the members joined via a referral, whereas only 20 percent joined of their own accord.Furthermore, of the one million-plus members, 99.76 percent failed to ever actually donate any money. 72.19 percent didn’t recruit anyone else, entirely missing one of the main advantages of online activism: the ability to reach out to a very large and connected audience…
“The study is an important counter-balance to unbridled enthusiasm for the powers of social media,” said UC San Diego’s Lewis. “There’s no inherent magic. Social media can activate interpersonal ties but won’t necessarily turn ordinary citizens into hyper-activists.”…
The research was published in Sociological Science and was co-authored by Kevin Lewis, of the University of California, San Diego’s department of sociology, Kurt Gray of the department of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Jens Meierhenrich, department of international relations, London School of Economics.
The advantage of social media for social movements is that it is easier to attract attention. Information can spread quickly and social movements can become popular things to support. The catch, however, is one that always seems to plague modern social movements: once people are informed, how exactly can they be convinced to actually act? Social media makes the bar for joining online quite low but that doesn’t translate into much physical action. Another example is the Kony 2012 campaign: lots of attention and views but limited follow-through.
Perhaps the difference between Save Darfur and the Arab Spring is that physical action was already occurring in places like Tunisia and Egypt and social media helped fan the flames. But, starting everything through social media is a tall order.
A recent list of the “10 Worst Cities for Singles” uses this criteria:
How did we come up with our list of the worst cities for singles? We started by looking for metropolitan areas with more than 125,000 people. Then we penalized places with small populations of singles, including the never-married, divorced and widowed. The share of unmarried residents in each of these bottom-ten cities is well shy of the national average.
Financial indicators didn’t boost the cities’ attractiveness. Although many of these areas boast below-average living costs, paychecks typically are way below average, too. We also factored in education level, keeping in mind that people with bachelor’s and advanced degrees are more likely to be gainfully employed. After all, you can’t exactly rock the single lifestyle without the earnings to fund it.
So there two primary factors in this analysis:
1. The number of single people. Presumably this has something to do with an exciting social scene, a la the culture and scene sought by the creative class. However, just measuring the number of single people doesn’t necessarily signal a more or less exciting cultural and entertainment scene.
2. The financial indicators are mainly about income, suggesting that single workers don’t want to be in places without high incomes. Does this mean younger workers only want higher-paying jobs? Is a high paying job the number one goal? The last line in the second paragraph above drives this point home: younger workers want a flashier “single lifestyle.”
All this seems to make some assumptions about single workers: they want high incomes, they want other singles around, and they want to “rock the single lifestyle.” While this may be the case for a number of them, it does highlight some different reasons for moving that are fairly accepted in American society today:
1. Economics. People need jobs. They should move where the jobs are. Young workers are particularly assumed to be more mobile and willing to move.
2. Finding exciting cultural centers. Places like Austin are held up as cities where one should move to enjoy life.
Are there other acceptable reasons for choosing where to live?
Some of these photos are clearly poorly done. Whether taken from a bad angle or including bad staging of furniture (does photoshopped furniture count?) or way too much clutter or weird clutter, this can detract from showing the home at its best. The photos also suggest plenty of people are unwilling to change their home much to appeal to potential buyers. The seller and their real estate agent should want to put the best image forward so the new buyer can imagine themselves in that space.
However, there are other photos here that don’t seem to be as egregious. The March 4, 2014 picture of a green pool. It is not inviting but wouldn’t it be better the potential buyer know that the home has a pool? While the pool should be clean, the other option is to list the home with an in-ground pool and then never show a picture. Or the February 27, 2014 picture of an unfinished hallway. Again, isn’t it better for the buyer to see the space at all rather than have it hidden? I find myself frustrated when I can’t find a picture of one of the home’s features (this seems to happen a lot with basements). Without a picture, what are they hiding? If the person isn’t going to do much to make the home look more presentable, I would still rather see that and have more information.
I’d love to see some data on how hiding some of a home’s worse spots from online photos might help boost in-home visits or eventual home sales.
If water supplies are dwindling, should cities or farmers get more of the water? One writer suggests Arizona has made a clear choice for cities:
The shift away from irrigated agriculture in Arizona hasn’t come without a fight. By some measures, farmers are still winning. According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, more than two-thirds of Arizona’s water is still used to irrigate fields, down from a peak of 90 percent last century.
Decades ago, state officials in Arizona begin to plan for a future without water—and that meant sacrificing agriculture for future urban growth. A massive civil engineering project in the 1960s diverted part of the Colorado River to feed Phoenix and Tucson. Those cities could not exist in their current state without this unnatural influx of Rocky Mountain snowmelt. Now there’s tension across the region, as the realities of climate change and extreme weather catch up with the business-as-usual agricultural bedrock that laid the foundation for the economy here.
Hopefully, future dispatches in this series about water and drought in the Southwest will begin to address the normative questions: what is the proper ratio of water for cities and farmers? Is it necessarily bad if farmers can’t produce as much in Arizona and California (could more be produced elsewhere, do farmers need to shift to new crops, etc.)? Both farming and urban growth have changed the natural water patterns in the region but does one have a stronger claim to the water in the long run?
Beginning with an early shot that pans up from Northup’s face and through dozens of layers of bricks before ending with a shot of the Washington skyline — he is in for it, that scene says — the movie takes up architectural symbols in a sustained and strategic way.
This is most obviously true in the way the porches of the slave owners’ houses tower over Northup like looming Parthenons of white privilege. It is most persuasively true of the pair of structures that Northup helps to build and that become a visual way to track his slow path back to freedom.
First comes a slave shack that he works to frame and that stands in the background, roofless, as he hangs from a tree after barely surviving a lynching attempt. Next is what turns out to be a gazebo on the grounds of a second plantation. The gazebo is roofless as well for scene after scene, until Northup meets and tells his story to a sympathetic abolitionist carpenter played by Brad Pitt.
Once they make a pact that will lead to Northup’s freedom, McQueen gives us a shot of the completed gazebo, with Northup standing under it. He’s recovered at least a suggestion of his dignity; he won’t have to work, write letters, clean himself or take abuse from his various white tormentors in the open air any longer.
Architecture is society — in this film as in all of McQueen’s work — and Northup is about to be restored to it. This is also where convention comes in: Architecture gives us one of the first signs that the movie is going to have an old-fashioned happy ending.
There is more here about how McQueen has used architecture in his other films.
This review makes it sound like the architecture is symbolic. In this film, it indicates Northup’s fate. But, what about how the characters interact with the architecture and space? What about how social space affects their interactions?
The past importance of movie theaters to suburban downtowns and the difficulty of reviving them today
Theater stories abound in the suburbs. The lavishly restored Paramount Theater in Aurora offers Broadway plays and big-name musical acts. The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles is another success story. Others — including the Wheaton Grand, Des Plaines Theater and Clearwater Theater in West Dundee — face uncertain futures after opening and closing multiple times in recent years…
Main Street theaters became popular in the late 1920s, when film was just emerging, Fosbrink said. Their construction boomed through the late 1930s and 1940s, particularly as suburbs took hold.
“Planning to have a theater in your town, or an opera house or something (for entertainment) was just as important as planning a city hall or fire station,” he said…
“People at this point in time are paying a lot more attention to how a theater can be a catalyst for economic development in a downtown business district,” Fosbrink said. “Theaters really can drive economic development, and we see a lot of that happening all over the country.”
Once a status symbol and source of local entertainment, these theaters are now possible ways to attract more people to a suburban downtown and hope they spend more money while they are there. Even though they aren’t really needed now (even the multiplexes have had a difficult time in recent years), they might anchor new entertainment districts where suburbanites don’t go to the city for culture but instead stay nearby.
It would be interesting to think about how many of these downtown theaters the Chicago suburbs could support. Particularly if they hope to all thrive, how much money is there to spread around?
While I’ve seen plenty of articles about tiny houses, it is hard to know just how big the “movement” is. Here is a story about tiny houses that discusses one couple but also suggests the homes are now part of the curriculum of one college:
Their origin is often attributed to Sarah Susanska’s 1998 book The Not So Big House. In it, she argues that new houses typical of the McMansion era—upward of 2,300-square-feet—were too big and a waste of resources…
The Tiny House movement is part of the sustainable technologies curriculum at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, which offers two-year associate degrees in the discipline.
“We do believe that part of sustainability is having a smaller carbon footprint and that means for us using fewer materials, using locally sourced materials and being extremely energy efficient in what we build,” says Laura Lauffer, the coordinator of the sustainable technologies program. “The Tiny House movement fits all of that criteria.”
The curriculum includes two classes in which students collaborate to build a tiny house. This year they will enter their final product in the competition. The Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro and Habitat for Humanity are sponsoring a tiny house contest in which novice builders will compete for best design. Each house must be less than 500 square feet, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
Limited evidence for claiming this is a movement. One couple does not a movement make and the stories about tiny houses tend to focus on small groups of people who are interested in these homes. Additionally, it is interesting that this would make its way into college classes but then again college classes address all sorts of social phenomena, some with longer staying power than others. However, there are hints of broader interest such as several cities looking into micro-apartments and trying to help the homeless in several places with tiny houses. But, how many of these tiny houses have been built? Will we eventually get Census data that will be definitive? In the meantime, journalists and others should be wary of calling this a broad movement.
I would also be interested to hear more about the links to Sarah Susanka’s Not-So-Big-House. Susanka was not calling for super small houses; rather, ones that weren’t as big as McMansions. The homes she features in her books still tend to be around the national average and they are not necessarily cheaper with all of their customized features. The principle of having a smaller house may fit with Susanka’s ideas but she wasn’t strongly calling for houses less than 200 square feet.