Street Talk: Surviving the ‘Amazon effect’


For those outside of the retail industry, the advent of Amazon and e-commerce as a whole seemed to spell the “apocalypse” for brick and mortar retail, but surprisingly, the brick and mortar model is changing to adapt to the new landscape.

The early part of 2017 experienced a lot of “big trees” that had fallen because they wouldn’t sway with the breeze, as Jeff Hainer, senior research analyst for Colliers International West Michigan, put it. West Michigan “big box” retailers like MC Sports and Family Christian Stores had to file for bankruptcy and close their doors.

But smaller retailers quickly came to fill the empty space, within a few months of being on the market, both former MC Sports locations welcomed new occupants, with Dunham’s Sports to occupy 4830 Wilson Ave. SW and Ashley Furniture set to open at 28th St. SE. Galactic Toys also opened in the former Family Christian location.

“I think the trend is toward a smaller footprint,” Hainer said, “People can still go to the store, but the stores don’t need that massive inventory. A lot of people still want to go to the store and physically pick up the item.”

Before Woodland Mall’s Sears closed its doors, it took up approximately 350,000 square feet of retail space. Following its closing, the plan is to divide that space into six or seven separate venues. When Von Maur, a high-end clothing retailer, arrives, it will occupy a mere 90,000 square feet of the total left behind.

Hainer speculated the changing retail market will be more accommodating to retailers who have fewer square feet and know how to make the most of that space. He said it’s no longer efficient for retailers to manage massive amounts of inventory and retail space. The survivors of the “Amazon effect” may be those retailers who have increased their e-commerce presence while slimming down their square footage.

Beer run

You don't need to check in. You don't need a carry-on bag. You don't need to go through Transportation Security Administration. You don't even need to board a flight at an airport.

However, you do need to have a passport and be over the age of 21 to become a “Brewsader” in Grand Rapids.

Brewsaders travel to 25 different breweries listed in their Brewery Passports and before leaving, they get their passports stamped. One of the breweries listed in the passports is Grand Rapids Community College’s Fountain Hill Brewery.

The brewery is open on Thursdays and Fridays to both students and community members.

“The Brewsaders program has brought a lot of traffic our way,” said Jake Brenner, a professor at GRCC’s Craft and Brewing Program. “It is very beneficial for us. Quite often, they are people who have made reservations at The Heritage (Restaurant), and they catch a beer or two before they actually sit down at the restaurant.”

The offerings are proving quite popular.

“Right now, we have a total of 12 different drafts,” Brenner said. “We have a Blonde Ale, Coffee Chocolate Powder, Bourbon Barrel Imperial Style, a really huge Barley Wine (beer) that was aged in red wine barrels, Dark Saison, Dunkelweizen, Wet Hop Pale Ale, Imperial IPA, Nitro Undrafted Beer … we have a pretty wide spectrum of stuff.”

Brenner said Fountain Hill’s prices are similar to other breweries, with nothing more than $7.

Tug of war

GOP leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate are in a tussle over how to get a tax reform bill passed that stimulates the economy while avoiding a long-term national debt spike.

The House wants to pass its proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by year’s end — but will the Senate play ball?

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said his chamber will not support some of the main provisions of the bill and, on Nov. 7, announced a counterproposal that would “make it easier to comply with Senate rules that aim to limit any legislation’s impact on the debt,” in the words of the Washington Post.

Phil Mitchell, CPA and president of Grand Rapids-based Kroon & Mitchell, said a central component of the House Republicans’ proposal released Nov. 2 was lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

He — and many other analysts — said that move would increase the national debt by at least $1.5 trillion, possibly more, over a decade.

Mitchell said he understands the House’s wish to stimulate the economy by cutting the corporate tax rate, which he described as “pretty high compared to other nations,” and said a change could force companies like Apple to stop skirting taxes by sending operations overseas.

“(The House Republicans are) trying to create a tax structure going forward where you can’t defer that tax forever,” he said, but noted that even if a tax cut went through, it would take years to potentially trickle down and impact hiring and wages.

Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, plans to back whichever plan will cut the corporate tax.

“The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world,” said Patrick Doyle, BLM board chair and president and CEO of Domino’s. “Anything we can do to lower that rate will put dollars directly into the American economy and create new jobs.”

Doug DeVos, chair of BLM’s federal issues committee and president of Amway, said BLM is cautiously optimistic change can happen at the hands of the GOP, preferably this year.

Cultural competency

Western Michigan University’s Grand Rapids public health and social work faculty collaborated with Native American partners in greater Grand Rapids to develop curricula aimed at improving cultural competency for health professions students.

The project, called "Enhancing the Circle of Health: Culturally Competent Public Health-Health Care Collaboration to Address Type 2 Diabetes and Tobacco Reduction in Native American Communities," was funded through a $14,637 joint grant provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research.

The curricula address diabetes and tobacco use among Native Americans and serve as a tool for university health faculty to teach health care providers how to offer culturally competent care to Native Americans.

There were five video clips of local Native American experts included in the case study.

Lorraine “Punkin” Shananaquet of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi is the Gun Lake Tribe language and culture coordinator and one of the participants.

“My input was to emphasize the value of tradition, spirituality and an indigenous food-based diet to keep the assault of our health and our children’s health in check by embracing the ways of our grandmothers and grandfathers,” she said.

“I also wanted to emphasize the generational distrust of the government, and therefore, the distrust for mainstream health services, such as doctors, dentists and any other medical type services.”

Once the CDC approves the final case study, it will be available for use in graduate school classrooms across the country.

The grant proposal was submitted by Shannon McMorrow, assistant professor for the WMU-Grand Rapids Master of Public Health program, along with Dee Sherwood and Vivian Valdmanis, program coordinators of the WMU-Grand Rapids Master of Social Work program and Master of Public Health program, respectively.

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