Back-to-school shoppers leave state retailers wanting

September 6, 2010
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Cautious consumers aren’t spending heavily in their back-to-school shopping.

The Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of the Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, shows slower sales for July, the first month of the traditional back-to-school sales period. Other data for national sales through August show the trend continuing through the season’s first two months.

“Michigan retailers expect rising sales in September because of lackluster sales in July and August,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan.

“The slow sales in July and August appear to be the result of a number of factors, including hot weather, a stronger consumer focus on necessities and insufficient job growth.”

The survey for July found that 39 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 45 percent recorded declines and 16 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 42.4, down from 46.6 in June. A year ago July, the sales performance index stood at 45.

Index values below 50 generally indicate a decrease in overall retail activity.

Looking ahead, 49 percent of retailers expect sales during the August-October period to improve over the same period last year, while 20 percent project a decrease and 31 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted sales outlook index at 62.3, up from 60.7 in June. A year ago July, the index stood at 52.7.

Google experts lead seminar

Search engine marketing is the topic for a seminar this week that will bring two Google Adwords experts to Grand Rapids from their Ann Arbor offices.

LEAD Marketing, Grand Rapids’ only Google AgencyLand member, is sponsoring the event from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 9 at The Club in Van Andel Arena. Cost is $99, but discounts are available through Linked Up Grand Rapids, LEAD President Tom Sullivan said.

Google’s Brian Germain and Dan Vaughn are scheduled to make an appearance.

Being an AgencyLand member “allows us direct access to their strategic ad specialists at Google to work with small and medium-sized businesses,” Sullivan said.

Google AgencyLand is a learning platform for agencies and other third-parties that help companies plan and executive advertising on Google.

“Search engine marketing includes several things, including the paid areas of a search,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to be talking to small and medium-sized businesses who are interested in being found in search results. Google has 80 percent of the market and they are by far the leaders in every way — right down to customer service, to their resources and their technology.”

Advertisers like the pay-per-click approach because the costs are targeted to people who show they are interested, Sullivan said.

“One hundred percent of this is working because people clicked. If 10 people come in or 10,000 people come in, it’s still worth it.”

Participants will receive a website review, including a keyword analysis, how many people are searching for what your business offers, seasonal search trends and other characteristics. For more information, call 254-8681.

Lamar building lauded

A now familiar landmark along I-196 at Hudsonville has garnered yet another industry recognition. The Lamar Corporate Headquarters building, completed in 2007, has earned national recognition in the 2010 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program, or IDEAS2, and members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction during a public ceremony at the headquarters building at 10 a.m. Friday.

Conducted annually, the IDEAS2 awards recognize “outstanding achievements in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects around the country.”

Team members on the project included owner, steel erector and general contractor Lamar Construction Co. of Hudsonville; architect Integrated Architecture of Grand Rapids; structural engineer Structural Design Inc., Ann Arbor; steel detailer and fabricator Van Dellen Steel, Dutton; and consultant Medhi Setareh, P.E., Ph.D., Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Lamar Corporate Headquarters is a national winner in the category of projects less than $15 million, making it one of only seven projects in the country to receive the honor.

“A construction company's vision to place its corporate offices in a cantilevered space above warehouse and shop space challenged the design team to create a satisfying work environment in an unconventional structural context," commented Jennifer Richmond, vice president, project management, Novel Iron Works Inc., Greenland, N.H., and a judge in the competition. “As designers sought to realize the owner's vision, guidelines were quickly established that would affect all aspects of the office design.

"This is not a building you could drive by without taking a second (or third) look," Richmond said. "The use of steel to create the illusion of a floating building really worked to make this project a standout."

"The entire Lamar Corporate Headquarters project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and innovation,” said Roger E. Ferch, president of AISC. “The result is an office building that serves its workers extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel."

Brownfield approvals advance

The city of Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority signed off on a pair of projects last week. The tax credit plans now face review by a state board and the Grand Rapids City Commission.

20 Monroe Building Co. LP plans to construct a new, four-story mixed-use building at 12 Monroe Ave. NW, 26 Monroe Ave. NW and 330 Ottawa NW. The building will include a variety of uses including manufacturing of packaged food, retail, entertainment, hotel and condo suites.

The project, known as Bobville, will reuse the contaminated site adjacent to The BOB in downtown Grand Rapids. According to Greg Gilmore, CEO of the Gilmore Collection, the project will create approximately 150 new permanent jobs as well as a significant number of construction jobs. The initial anticipated private investment is approximately $24 million — $22.6 million of which is eligible investment for MBT credit purposes.

20 Monroe will apply for an MBT credit for the project equal to 20 percent of its eligible investment. 20 Monroe intends to begin the eligible investment in early 2011. The project is expected to be completed by December 2012.

Health Park Central LLC plans to construct a new three-story office building immediately adjacent to the existing medical office building at 245 Cherry St. SE. The project will incorporate several parcels including 245 Cherry St. SE, 236 State St. SE, 216 State St. SE, 114 Jefferson Ave. SE and 120 Jefferson Ave. SE, as well as former or existing street and alley property

The project will provide renovated medical office space as well as new, additional office space. Developers anticipate the project will create 35 to 40 new permanent jobs as well as a significant number of construction jobs. The anticipated total private investment is more than $15 million.

Health Park will apply for a MBT credit for the project equal to 12.5 percent of its eligible investment. The project is expected to be completed by May 2012.

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