Naperville considering 8 new rules to limit bar and alcohol problems

Naperville may just be a victim of its own success: the city is looking at 8 possible regulations intended to limit problems related to bars and alcohol.

“I don’t think anybody here could deny this is detracting from the Naperville brand,” council member Robert Fieseler said about “the whole rowdiness thing.” “We can do something about that.”

Drawing from a liquor service best practices manual developed a year ago and recommendations the liquor commission made last week, the council asked for documents to be drawn that would restrict drink sizes, limit discounts on drinks, regulate shot sales, require additional training for security and prohibit entry to bars within one hour of closing time.

The council also asked staff members to research ID scanning technology with a goal of requiring bars to install it by May 1, 2015; to prepare a list of police statistics that should be analyzed as part of a review of night life activity; and to create a plan to train security personnel at bars in conjunction with the training program the police department already mandates for servers…

The eight regulations the council supported Tuesday do not include reductions in bar hours, which drew opposition from bar owners and the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

An interesting set of regulations ranging from more education for bar owners and workers to limiting the size of beers from a maximum of 24 ounces to 20 ounces.

This could be viewed from multiple perspectives. One is a concern with safety. There have been some violent acts, public drunkenness, and a recent car crash that killed two young adults. But, I think the more important perspective – which doesn’t preclude the importance of safety – is the image of Naperville. Few communities, particularly well-off suburbs, want to be known for incidents related to bars, alcohol, and related violence. This is the same reason many communities prohibit tattoo parlors in their zoning laws: the image of such places do not lend themselves to a family-friendly atmosphere. Could such incidents in downtown Naperville stop people from moving to the suburb or hinder them from spending their money in the downtown? Even if the answer is no, this is the sort of risk a suburb like Naperville does not want to take.

Chicago Tribune suggests the University of Chicago is the birthplace of sociology

In a column about how Chicago could better market itself to the world, there is a bit about sociology at the University of Chicago:

Chicago’s reputation has consistently lagged behind reality. Who among us traveling abroad hasn’t mentioned his or her hometown only to hear: “Al Capone! Bang, bang!” It happened to me in Beirut, while the Israeli army and Yasser Arafat’s forces were battling in 1982. Lebanon’s capital has been fought over so many times that keen-eyed inhabitants would point to pockmarked walls, dating them as “old damage” or “new damage,” depending on how recently tanks had shelled them…

Perhaps an image consultant can give us a municipal makeover. Chicago’s motto, “Urbs in Horto” — City in a Garden — is too namby-pamby. It doesn’t inspire anyone to grab the next flight to O’Hare.

Gilding the lily doesn’t work either, as the University of Chicago found when it hired a hotshot adman who pitched it as a “fun” campus. You can’t sell the birthplace of atomic energy and sociology with an “Animal House” image.

The birthplace of sociology is at the University of Chicago? A few qualifiers might be in order:

1. Perhaps the birthplace of American sociology. Other schools might want to debate this.

2. Perhaps the first academic department in sociology. Again, I don’t know the exact history here.

But to suggest that sociology was founded at the University of Chicago misses a lot of the early thinkers, like Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Spencer, that helped make that early department possible. Of course, the U of C department has had a large impact on sociology but the founding claim is off.

Side note: this reminds me of some of the international visitors my dad used to host in Chicago. They, too, were very interested in Chicago’s mob past and wanted to see places where Al Capone and others had been.

How Wal-Mart plans to regain its edge

Here is an interesting summary of Wal-Mart’s corporate plans for the near future. The headline of the article says it all: “Wal-Mart, humbled king of retail, plots comeback.”

Three years ago, Wal-Mart ruled for convenience, selection and price. But today it is losing customers and revenue, and smarting from decisions that backfired.

Wal-Mart is not in danger of ceding its place atop the retail world. But competitors have begun to chip away at its dominance.

Over the last year, revenue at Wal-Mart stores open at least a year has fallen by an average 0.75 percent each quarter, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Revenue rose by an average of nearly 1.7 percent at Target, 8 percent at Costco and 5.9 percent at Family Dollar.

To fight back, Wal-Mart is again emphasizing low prices and adding back thousands of products it had culled in an overzealous bid to clean up stores. It’s also plotting an expansion into cities, even neighborhoods where others dare not go.

Even as the article talks about stagnant or slightly declining sales at existing stores plus some questionable decisions (like reducing the number of products on the shelves), the main issue seems to be perceptions. On the business side, Wal-Mart has been challenged, particularly on the lower end by dollar stores. But business has not tanked and Wal-Mart still thinks it has new markets to tap in the United States, particularly in urban areas. What do investors and shareholders think – is it just about stronger growth right now? On the public image side, stores like Target have offered an enticing alternative. And yet Wal-Mart has changed the layout and design of its stores to look more like Target and this seems to have helped. Ultimately, the article says Target’s revenues are still one-sixth of that of Wal-Mart.

It sounds like Wal-Mart thinks they need to make some changes. There is no guarantee that any business, even a behemoth like Wal-Mart, will continue to expand or even be profitable. And just by virtue of its size, Wal-Mart’s actions will continue to be scrutinized.

The continuing image battle between Walmart and Target

Two articles from CBS illustrate the image battle being waged between Target and Walmart. While the stories are supposedly about what you should and should not buy at each place, here are the opening paragraphs about the relationship between the two retailers. The first story focuses on Target:

In the battle for public opinion, Target has shellacked its larger competitor, Walmart. Whether it’s environmentalists attacking the very concept of big-box retail or workers’ rights advocates lambasting the chain’s treatment of employees, Walmart has become the poster boy for the excesses of capitalism. Target, meanwhile, has built a reputation for cheap chic, pairing with Liberty of London and Michael Graves to churn out high-design at low prices. Walmart gets blamed for putting mom and pop stores out of business, while Target recently opened its first store in Manhattan, a market Walmart has yet to crack.

Recently, however, Target has looked vulnerable, suffering more in the economic downturn than Walmart did, and committing a rare public relations gaffe by making a political contribution that angered gay groups.

The companion piece examines Walmart:

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Walmart is the nation’s largest retailer, there are plenty of people who wouldn’t be caught dead in one. To these folks, Walmart conjures images of a rapacious juggernaut of stadium-sized stores offering low-quality merchandise, spotty service, and mistreating employees and the environment — while driving small local retailers out of business.

But many of those misgivings are starting to fade, partly as a result of some well-timed improvements to the company’s product line-up and its environmental record. What’s more, there’s nothing like the worst recession in 80 years to nudge “low prices” a little higher on the collective priority list. And while Walmart may not be making its employees rich, the chain handed out very few pink slips in the downturn and remains the country’s largest private employer.

To be sure, there are plenty of reasons to remain wary of the retail behemoth. Whether you are concerned about the threat to a downtown business district, object to the retail culture, or just have a mental picture of the Walmart shopper that you can’t square with your own self image, it may not be for you. But it’s worth keeping in mind that, when it leverages its enormous scale for good, Walmart can make a difference in a hurry. It’s one thing when a boutique sells fair-trade coffee, but when Walmart gets into the game, a lot of sustainable farmers benefit. Here are five product categories where you can comparison shop in good conscience at the nation’s “low-price leader.”

These openings are illustrative of how brand image matters in our world. The Walmart article opening begrudgingly admits that Walmart could contain some good for shoppers and shoppers could benefit if they are “in a hurry.” The real meat of the story is supposed to be the good deals (and not so good deals) each store offers compared to other retailers but this gets buried behind this editorializing about the image of each place. There could be a lot of interesting work done on examining how exactly Target has crafted a different kind of image and what markets each store serves.

Even with the negative publicity, surveys suggest Americans feel fairly favorably toward the Walmart. According to Rasmussen data from the summer of 2009, only 33% view Walmart unfavorably and only 26% “rarely or never shop at the store.”