Business

Greet (and eat) the ‘croiffle’ at one of Godiva’s 2,000 new cafes

April 18, 2019

For nearly 100 years, Godiva has made life sweeter and more pleasurable for chocoholics worldwide. But until April 17, the Belgian confectioner offered only its beloved premium-quality boxed chocolates, chocolate-covered strawberries, ice cream, and drip coffee at its 800 boutique stores across 105 nations.

Starting with a Manhattan location this week, Godiva has announced that it is rolling out 2,000 cafes through 2025, at which the company will offer a menu of fanciful food items, including the “croiffle”— a croissant and waffle hybrid that’s stuffed with fillings like cheese or chocolate and pressed on a waffle iron, The Chicago Tribune reports. Other items include an expanded list of coffees and a new collection of teas; as well as grab-and-go items such as sandwiches and yogurt parfaits. And of course chocolates.

The cafes mark Godiva’s first foray into prepared meals, the Tribune notes. It’s all part of an ambitious growth plan spearheaded by CEO Annie Young-Scrivner, who took over Godiva’s helm in 2017 after serving as a top executive at Starbucks. Her goal: to increase its revenue fivefold by 2025, the news outlet says.

The company, which is privately owned by Turkish Yildiz Holding, doesn’t report sales or profits—but according to reports, Godiva was about a $1 billion business in 2017. It expects 40% of its total sales to come from the cafes in the future.

“We really have a stronghold on formal gifting but we want to expand to everyday consumption,” Young-Scrivner said in a phone interview.

A few of the current boutiques will be converted into cafes, but Godiva is looking beyond malls and will also have stand-alone storefronts and airport locations.

Research contact: @GODIVA

Tiger Woods swings back with a Masters win

April 17, 2019

It’s been a long time since Tiger Woods last won a Masters tournament—14 years—but Americans love a comeback.

Branding experts say his single-stroke victory on the 18th green during the final round on April 14 at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia also shows that Woods, at 43, is still a winning investment for Nike and his other sponsors, NBC News reported.

Woods delivered $22.5 million in media exposure for Nike during the tournament on Sunday, according to Apex Marketing Group.

“He’s eclipsed what he provided Nike in brand exposure for the four majors last year with just this one major,” Apex President Eric Smallwood told the network news outlet. “He’s got that drive now and he’s playing the best golf he’s played in recent years. I think he’s going to continue to provide Nike with enhanced exposure because the TV is going to follow him.”

President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on April 15 that he would be awarding Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom: “Spoke to @TigerWoods to congratulate him on the great victory he had in yesterday’s @TheMasters, & to inform him that because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM!

Bob Dorfman, creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco told NBC News that Woods’ victory—especially if it is followed by future wins—could go a long way to helping him to re-engage the wide variety of brands he endorsed before a sex scandal and tabloid-ready divorce prompted brands like Gatorade, Accenture, and AT&T to drop him.

“It legitimizes him — there were certainly questions about whether he was still viable,” he said.

This is good news for sponsors seeking a return on their investment, and for Woods’ own bottom line. “I would not be surprised if, in the long run, this win yesterday at Augusta is worth $50 to $100 million in future benefits to Tiger. He will see revenue streams from this win for years to come,” said Rick Burton, the David Falk professor of sport management at Syracuse University.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Look ‘fly’: Allbirds is dropping five limited-edition sneakers for Earth Day

April 16, 2019

In celebration of Earth Day, on April 22, Allbirds has announced that, each day this week, the company will release one of five new limited-edition colors inspired by endangered birds.

More than one billion people in 192 nations now take part in what has become the largest civic-focused day of action worldwide—and Allbirds, the trendy, environmentally friendly footwear brand based in San Francisco, hopes that its customers will be wearing its new sneakers for the occasion.

All proceeds from sales of the new collection will be donated to the National Audubon Society. What’s more, the five birds that are the inspiration for Allbirds’ Earth Day shoe styles were chosen because they are featured in Audubon’s Birds and Climate Report: Species on the Brink—which shows that half of all birds in the U.S. are at risk of losing the places they call home because of climate change.

The Painted Redstart is found in the Southwest, the Scarlet Tanager migrates long distances, and the Mountain Bluebird is a voracious insect eater (93% of its diet), and although they are all very different birds, they may share a similar fate. For all three birds, their summer homes are shrinking and shifting so rapidly due to climate change that they may not be able to adapt fast enough.

The Pygmy Nuthatch is a small bird that tends to gather in fussy flocks, and the Allen’s Hummingbird only lays two eggs per clutch. These two tiny birds are climate-threatened because both their summer and their winter homes are shrinking and shifting dramatically due to rising temperatures and the impact of climate change.

The new collection comprises five different color combinations for the Wool Runner($95) and Tree Runner ($95) styles. Kicking off this special Earth Day-themed event is the Painted Redstart Tree Runner on Monday, April 15.

You’ll need to check back on the Allbirds website every day to see and shop their final forms, but you can get a sneak peek of the colors now with the above illustrations.

Tuesday, April 16: Pygmy Nuthach Wool Runner

Wednesday, April 17: Mountain Bluebird Wool Runner

Thursday, April 18: Allen’s Hummingbird Tree Runner

Friday, April 19: Scarlet Tanager Wool Runner

Research contact: @Allbirds

Disney+ to come out of the starting gates in November

April 15, 2019

Disney’s bold new foray into subscription streaming with Disney+ got a thumbs-up from investors on April 12—pushing shares up over 10% in morning trading ,  while Netflix’s stock was down more than 3%, Variety reported.

The global entertainment and theme park company announced that its Disney+ subscription video on demand (SVOD) service would cost $6.99 per month, which is nearly half the price of Netflix’s standard $13 monthly plan.

Disney is investing heavily in Disney+’s U.S. launch, slated for November 12, the news outlet said. In fiscal 2020, the Mouse House will spend $1 billion in cash on original programming for Disney+, while it will have just under $1 billion in operating expenses, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy told analysts.

The platform will be supported by subscriptions; not advertising. Indeed, Disney’s projections for Disney+ — to reach 60 million-90 million subs by fiscal year 2024—were far above Wall Street expectations. The breakeven point for the SVOD service of FY 2024 also is more aggressive than analysts predicted, Variety said.

Out of the gate, the news outlet reported, Disney+ will be the exclusive U.S. SVOD streaming home for Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm films—starting with 2019 releases, which include “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Aladdin,” “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King,” “Frozen 2,” and “Star Wars: Episode IX.”

All told, Disney+ will include 25 original series, including Jon Favreau’s Stars Wars-set “The Mandalorian” and a “High School Musical” series; along with ten original films and specials. In addition, it will be stocked with 400 library films — including 18 Pixar titles, nearly all Marvel movies and, within the first year, all the movies in the Star Wars franchise — and 100 recent movie releases from the Disney portfolio.

Also, it will feature 7,500 episodes of current a past TV shows; that includes 30 full seasons of “The Simpsons,” which are moving from FX’s Simpsons World app to the new service — one tangible result of Disney’s Fox takeover.

Disney will “likely” intro a discounted bundle of Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, Kevin Mayer, chairman of the company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment said on April 11 — which will give the company additional levers to play with. In addition, Disney’s absorption of Fox’s entertainment assets provides “an unparalleled arsenal of IP to support its streaming services,” Patrice Cucinello, a director at Fitch Ratings, told Variety.

The announcement of the $6.99 monthly price point “generated a collective gasp in the room,” MoffettNathanson principal analyst Michael Nathanson said in a note published Friday. The service “looks like a bargain compared to other entertainment options.” Nathanson reiterated a “buy” rating on Disney stock and boosted his target price to $141 per share (up $7).

Research contact: @Variety

Under attack, National Enquirer is put up for sale

April 12, 2019

The National Enquirer—the supermarket tabloid that in February allegedly extorted Jeff Bezos about his extramarital activities and, during the 2016 campaign, “exposed” then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s “secret health crisis”—is up for sale, according to an April 10 report by The New York Times.

Owned by American Media and helmed by David Pecker—a longtime pal of Donald Trump’s who used the scandal sheet to run a smear campaign against Clinton during the 2016 elections—the Enquirer is likely to have a buyer in a matter of days, the Times said.

The most likely prospect is rumored to be billionaire investor Ronald W. Burkle, a supermarket magnate with ties to President Bill Clinton, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations. Such a move would turn the political tables on President Trump.

In addition to his offensive strikes against Amazon CEO Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post, one of the president’s “fake media foes”) and Hillary Clinton; Pecker is said to have sealed a deal to buy a story from Karen McDougal—a Playboy model who said she had an affair with the president.

The company acquired McDougal’s story for $150,000 and never published it, following a practice known in the tabloid business as “catch-and-kill.” Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York gave Mr. Pecker an immunity deal during an investigation of the arrangement.

Prosecutors identified the $150,000 payment to McDougal as a political contribution made in violation of campaign finance law, the Times reported. Under a non-prosecution deal, American Media affirmed that it had made the payment to “influence the election.”

That agreement, signed in September, stipulated that American Media “shall commit no crimes whatsoever” for three years, and that if it did, the company “shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge.”

The deal has put the company in a difficult position, the Times said—pointing out that federal prosecutors now have have started investigating the blackmail claims by Bezos.

Indeed, the principal owner of American Media, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, led by Anthony Melchiorre, pushed Pecker to sell the tabloid after it found itself in the cross hairs of the federal investigation and at the receiving end of Bezos’ wrath.

Melchiorre no longer saw an upside in being associated with The Enquirer, the people familiar with the matter said, and the tabloid’s financial losses provided further motivation for a sale.

Research contact: @nytimes

Walmart rolls out robotic ‘smart assistants’ at its locations nationwide

April 10, 2019

Every hero needs a sidekick: Think of the selfless contributions of R2D2 of Star Wars fame, Optimus Prime of the Transformers superhero franchise, and Robot from Lost in Space.

And now, Walmart believes, the stockroom, janitorial, sales, and front-end associates at its discount stores could use a little robotic help, too. So, as of April 9, the largest U.S. retailer has announced that it will be putting automated helpers at its locations nationwide.

“Smart assistants”—which is what the retailer has dubbed its automated staff—“have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly,” Walmart said in a press release this week.

Indeed, Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time each associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks—such as cleaning floors or checking shelf inventory. This gives associates more of an opportunity to serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.

Throughout the year 2018, pilot tests of these technologies have been well-received. “But it’s not enough to have these cutting-edge systems in just a few locations,” the company says.” That’s why additional technologies are coming soon to stores across America.”

And, Walmart promises, “We’re going big.”

Among the new additions will be:

  • 300 additional shelf scanners, aka “Auto-S”: This technology scans items on store shelves to help ensure availability, correct shelf location, and price accuracy.
  • 1,200 FAST unloadersWorking with the shelf scanner, the FAST unloader automatically scans and sorts items unloaded from trucks, based on priority and department. This allows associates to move inventory from the back room to the sales floor more quickly.
  • 900 pickup towers: When a customer places an order online and selects for an in-store pickup, an associate loads the ordered item into a pickup tower. The customer then receives a notification via email that the item is available from the pickup tower; which works like a giant vending machine to retrieve and unload the purchase.

That’s a lot of extra help for associates—and the staff is enthusiastic. According to SVP of Central Operations for Walmart U.S. John Crecelius, “Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable, and manual.

“It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”

Research contact: @Walmart

Recipe cards go digital with a little help from CuratorCrowd

April 9, 2019

Does your family have its own set of cherished, hand-written recipe cards, passed down from generation to generation? Now, there’s another reason to value them dearly: Thanks to Nashville-based CuratorCrowd, they soon may be obsolete.

On April 8, CuratorCrowd, a division of American Hometown Media, launched its  Recipe Box Plugina traffic and engagement platform built specifically for food blogs and websites. The Recipe Box Plugin enables users to easily save and curate recipes and content from any participating site on the web directly to the cloud—becoming a central food-related repository that gets frequent return traffic.

Once saved to the Recipe Box, recipes are easily searchable and users can create collections (folders) to better manage and organize recipes. They can also easily filter recipes by source/website.

Prior to this week, the Recipe Box was not available to other sites on the web. American Hometown Media has its own  Just a Pinch Food Group—a select group of food-only bloggers.

However, now, other culinary sites can take advantage of what the box offers—nearly a decade of usage and proof of concept (over 2 million active recipe boxes and more than 24 million saved recipes from over 24,000 publishers).

“As the food technology/media vertical matures, users are looking for online tools to enhance and make their lives easier,” says Dan Hammond, CEO of American Hometown Media. “The Recipe Box Plugin does that while helping food influencers and publishers build their brands and user engagement. That sounds like a recipe for success.”

The technology to power the Recipe Box Plugin is free to online publishers, websites, and food bloggers, and can be easily installed in minutes, the company claims.

Over the next year AHM plans to roll out new products in the CuratorCrowd platform— including a food-specific trending content recipe exchange, a syndicated content engine, and Recipe Box TV, which will channel and monetize video content into popular streaming platforms to build brand awareness and revenue. Future enhancements anticipated for the Recipe Box include ecommerce and shoppable recipes, as those solutions mature.

Research contact: @JustAPinchCooks

Now Moms can ‘Rent the Runway’ for their budding fashionistas

April 8, 2019

Is your child a budding fashionista or influencer? Does she have a unique sense or style? Or are the clothing trends that are popular at your child’s school just too rich for your wallet?

Now, there’s a solution that won’t break your bank account: On March 28, Rent the Runway—an online service that has been successfully offering designer dress and accessory rentals to women since 2009—announced that it has added kids’ items to its website, suitable for Vogue Bambini.

Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman, who is a mother herself, told Business Insider recently that this was a natural extension of the business. Many of the service’s 11 million members have children, and these women are deciding what their children wear, she said.

Kids are constantly growing out of their clothes, so there is an economic and environmental advantage in not having to buy lots of new clothes. But, it also means that mothers can dress their kids in fancy clothes without worrying about those items being ruined.

“Kids are messy,” Hyman said. “With this launch, you’ll never have to worry about a stain or a spill because Rent the Runway handles everything.”

The new offering will function as an extension of the monthly subscription services Unlimited and Reserve. Members will be able to include kids’ items in the four pieces of clothing or accessories they are able to rent via the unlimited service or add on items for an extra fee.

The brands on offer include Chloe Kids, Fendi Kids, and Stella McCartney Kids, with a mix of special occasion and everyday wear.

“Nothing is off the table for Rent the Runway,” Hyman said when asked about the likelihood of offering menswear or home decor items in the future.

Research contact: @businessinsider

CVS Pharmacy launches same-day, ‘On-Demand’ Rx delivery nationwide

April 5, 2019

Finally, the one type of retailer that consumers really need deliveries from has stepped up to the plate to provide the service: CVS Pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Health announced on April 4 that it is now offering same-day prescription delivery within hours; in addition to its 1-2 day prescription delivery service available nationwide.

The service, delivered by Shipt, is available at 6,000 CVS Pharmacy locations across the country, giving patients a faster and even more convenient way to get their medications.

“A year ago CVS Pharmacy redefined convenience for customers by introducing prescription delivery nationwide in order to extend the connection that our trusted, local pharmacists provide to their customers at our nearly 10,000 locations around the country,” said Kevin Hourican, president of CVS Pharmacy.  “Today we’ve taken another step forward by expanding same-day delivery nationwide and enhancing the experience with our On-Demand delivery service.”

Through CVS Pharmacy’s newest delivery offering, the majority of CVS Pharmacy stores across the country are able to offer same-day delivery of eligible prescriptions. When a medication has been filled and is ready for pickup, patients can opt to have their medications delivered within hours. They simply have to select On-Demand prescription delivery service via the CVS Pharmacy app, through SMS text, or by calling their local CVS Pharmacy. The delivery service charge is $7.99 and the packages will be delivered by Shipt.

Along with eligible prescriptions, thousands of the most popular health and household items carried by CVS Pharmacy, including cold and flu remedies, allergy medications, pain relief, first aid, digestive health, vitamins, baby, personal and feminine care products, can be added to delivery orders. Controlled substances and medications that require refrigeration cannot be delivered to most locations at this time.

Research contact: @cvspharmacy

Theranos whistleblowers launch advisory group on ethical practices for tech startups

April 4, 2019

March seemed to be “Theranos month” on U.S. television, as network, premium cable, and streaming channels ran stories on the stunning rise and fall of the Silicon Valley company helmed by Elizabeth Holmes—who claimed she had found a way to test for a full range of diseases with a small blood sample and a “magic box.”

Now, Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz—two former employees who blew the whistle on Theranos—have launched a new organization called Ethics in Entrepreneurship, which seeks to help other entrepreneurs from suffering the same fate as Holmes, CNN reports.

Cheung, who lives in Hong Kong, is the former Theranos lab worker who tipped off the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to look into the blood testing startup.

Shultz, who is the grandson of Theranos board member and former Secretary of State George Shultz, was an ex-research engineer instrumental in helping Wall Street Journal investigative reporter John Carreyrou expose the company, according to the news outlet..

Theranos had a reported $9 billion valuation and employed hundreds of workers who bought into its mission to create a cheaper and more efficient alternative to traditional blood testing methods. After Carreyrou’s initial investigation into the company in 2015, its technology and testing methods started to unravel.

In March 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission settled charges against Theranos and Holmes, over “massive fraud “involving more than $700 million raised from investors. In September, Theranos announced plans to dissolve itself. The company remains the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

Ethics in Entrepreneurship, which is seeking non-profit status in the United States and Hong Kong, according to CNN, wants to make talking about ethical practices the norm in the startup world. The founders plan to help connect early stage entrepreneurs to ethicists, seasoned entrepreneurs, and other relevant industry experts who can guide them on how to make ethical decisions when building a company. It also plans to make available tools and frameworks for ethical decisions that benefit businesses, employees and consumers.

There were so many instances, even for someone like Elizabeth Holmes, to turn back and say, ‘I’m taking things a little too far here,'” Cheung told CNN Business. “She had many opportunities to — even at the very end, she could have said, ‘OK, I’m sorry. I messed up. I’ll stop processing patient samples and I’m going to get my team together, we’re going to work on this and we’re going to make a good product.’ I don’t think she’s ever said that, until she had to go to court and say those things.'”

The organization is accepting donations on its website to help support the development of resources guides and workshops.

“I do think entrepreneurship can empower people and empower society but we also have to not let things escalate to this degree,” Cheung said.

Research contact: @saraashleyo