Business

Peloton to briefly halt production of its Bikes, Treads as demand wanes

January 24, 2022

Peloton is temporarily halting production of its connected fitness products as consumer demand wanes and the company looks to control costs, according to internal documents obtained by CNBC.

Peloton plans to pause Bike production for two months, from February to March, the documents show. It already has halted production of its more expensive Bike+ in December and will do so until June. It won’t manufacture its Tread treadmill machine for six weeks, beginning next month. And it doesn’t anticipate producing any Tread+ machines in fiscal 2022, according to the documents. Peloton had previously halted Tread+ production after a safety recall last year.

The company said in a confidential presentation dated January 10 that demand for its connected fitness equipment has faced a “significant reduction” around the world due to shoppers’ price sensitivity and amplified competitor activity.

Indeed, according to CNBC, Peloton essentially has guessed wrong about how many people would be buying its products, after so much demand was pulled forward during the coronavirus pandemic. The company now finds itself left with thousands of cycles and treadmills sitting in warehouses or on cargo ships, and it needs to reset its inventory levels.

The planned production halt comes as close to $40 billion has been shaved off of Peloton’s market cap over the past year. Its market value hit a high of nearly $50 billion last January.

However, Peloton said, the latest forecast doesn’t take into account any impact to demand the company might see when it begins to charge customers an extra $250 in delivery and setup fees for its Bike, and another $350 for its Tread, beginning at the end of this month.

Peloton also said it has seen low email capture rates for the upcoming debut of its $495 strength training product, Peloton Guide, which is codenamed “Project Tiger” in internal documents viewed by CNBC. Email capture rates keep track of the number of people who enter their email addresses on Peloton’s website to receive information on the product. The company said this is a signal of “a more challenging post-COVID demand environment.”

The official U.S. launch of Guide has been pushed from last October to next month and now could come as late as April, the presentation dated earlier this month said. The company also said it initially planned to charge $595 for the bundle that includes one of Peloton’s heart rate arm bands and later dropped the price by $100.

Late Thursday, CEO John Foley said in a statement, “As we discussed last quarter, we are taking significant corrective actions to improve our profitability outlook and optimize our costs across the company. This includes gross margin improvements, moving to a more variable cost structure, and identifying reductions in our operating expenses as we build a more focused Peloton moving forward.”

Research contact: @CNBC

Starbucks scraps vaccine mandate

January 21, 2022

Employees at Starbucks—all 228,000 of them nationwide— are no longer required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reports Fox Business.

Roughly a week after the Supreme Court reversed President’s Biden workplace vaccine mandate, the coffee chain is following suit, according to The Associated Press.

“We respect the Court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in a memo to employees.

Still, the coffee chain is encouraging all workers to be vaccinated and boosted against the virus.  “I want to emphasize that we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” Culver added. “Thank you to the more than 90% of partners who have already disclosed their vaccination status, and to the vast majority who are now fully vaccinated.”

Research contact: @Starbucks

Coke is giving its cans a makeover

January 20, 2022

Coca-Cola is fighting for your attention. The Atlanta-based company is unveiling a new look for flavored Coke products this month, and it has a new Coke variety coming in a few weeks. It’s part of the company’s renewed focus on its Coke brand, as it dumps niche products and tries to drum up excitement for its core beverages, reports CNN.

In the United States, new versions of Cherry Coke cans and bottles are magenta, with the white Coca-Cola logo emblazoned on the regular version and a black Coca-Cola logo on the Zero Sugar version. The new Vanilla Coke cans and bottles are cream-colored, and the Cherry Vanilla flavor’s new packaging is a mix of the two (heavy on the magenta).

Coke with zero caffeine as well as Coke with zero caffeine and no sugar also have new looks, keeping with these designs.

The company decided in 2020 to cut its portfolio in half, dropping its underperforming brands and focusing on its most powerful ones, like Coke. Now, Coca-Cola is working on refreshing Coke’s look and enticing new customers with new products. The new packages will start to hit shelves in late January.

Updates to the flavored Coke packages are designed to “modernize and simplify the look … [and] help consumers find the flavor they’re looking for on the shelf,” said Natalia Suarez, senior brand manager of Coke Choice Portfolio, the company’s North America operating unit.

The updated cans are supposed to “quickly communicate flavors and clearly distinguish between full-sugar and zero-sugar/calorie-free options,” she added.

The company started overhauling its packaging last year, she noted, when it changed the packaging of Coke, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero Sugar. The company also tweaked the recipe for Coke Zero Sugar in an effort to make the drink taste more like regular Coke.

Grabbing customers’ attention as they walk down the grocery aisle is essential to brands like Coke, which have to make the most out of their shelf space.

“It’s a Darwinian struggle for space in the supermarket or in the convenience store,” Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told CNN Business last year.

Another way to get people excited about Coke is to expand beyond traditional flavors. So the company is launching a new variety of Coke with Coffee.

About a year ago, the company brought Coke with Coffee — Coke made with coffee powder — to the United States.
“Coca-Cola with Coffee was met with a widespread, enthusiastic consumer response,” when it first started selling in North America, said Brandan Strickland, brand director of Coca-Cola Trademark.

The product already comes in Dark Blend, Vanilla, and Caramel. And now a new Mocha flavor will reach US shelves on February 7. Mocha is the logical next flavor, said Strickland, noting the move was “a no-brainer.”

Coca-Cola also tried to expand beyond cola with its Coke Energy product, which hit North American shelves in early 2020 and was discontinued in the region in the spring. Coca-Cola pulled the product because it wasn’t performing well.

Research contact: @CNN

Microsoft to buy gaming company Activision Blizzard in a deal valued at $68.7 billion

Janaury 19, 2022

Microsoft is paying nearly $70 billion for Activision Blizzard, the maker of Candy Crush and Call of Duty, as it seeks an edge in the fiercely competitive businesses of mobile gaming and virtual-reality technology, reports ABC-TV.

The all-cash $68.7 billion deal will turn Microsoft, maker of the Xbox gaming system, into one of the world’s largest video game companies and help it compete with tech rivals such as Meta, formerly Facebook, in creating immersive virtual worlds for both work and play.

If the deal survives scrutiny from U.S. and European regulators in the coming months, it also could be one of the priciest tech acquisitions in history, since Dell bought data-storage company EMC in 2016 for around $60 billion.

Activision has been buffeted for months by allegations of misconduct and unequal pay, and that was addressed on Tuesday, January 18,  by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a conference call with investors.

“The culture of our organization is my number-one priority,” Nadella said, adding that “it’s critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward on its” commitments to improve its workplace culture.

Activision disclosed last year it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over complaints of workplace discrimination.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will retain his role, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the Santa Monica, California, company’s culture and accelerate business growth.

Wall Street saw the acquisition as a big win for Activision Blizzard and shares soared 27% in early trading Tuesday. Shares of Microsoft slipped less than 1%.

Microsoft said it expects the deal to close in the upcoming 2023 fiscal year, which starts in July. The Activision business unit would then report to Phil Spencer, who has led Microsoft’s Xbox division and will now serve as CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

Research contact: @ABC

One America News to be dropped by DirecTV, a major distributor

January 18, 2021

One America News Network—the far-right pay-to-play cable channel, which, since 2013, has spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, the January 6 Capitol attack, and the safety of coronavirus vaccines—will be dropped by one of its largest television distributors later this year, reports The New York Times.

The decision by the distributor, DirecTV, a satellite and streaming network with about 15 million subscribers, will come as a significant setback for One America News and its owners, the Herring family. Losing its slot on the DirecTV lineup will almost certainly diminish the network’s overall audience and cut into its annual revenue.

DirecTV did not elaborate on the precise reasons behind its decision. “We informed Herring Networks that, following a routine internal review, we do not plan to enter into a new contract when our current agreement expires,” a spokesman for DirecTV said in an email on Saturday, January15. DirecTV also plans to drop a second channel owned by the Herrings called AWE, which features lifestyle and entertainment programs.

Herring Networks did not respond on Saturday to requests for comment. The move by DirecTV was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Chanel Rion, the chief White House correspondent for One America News, derided DirecTV in a Twitter post on Friday, January 14, that referred to the decision to drop the channel. “With moves like this, DirecTV will have to become state-owned to survive,” Ms. Rion wrote, adding, “They would have better luck in Pyongyang.”

One America News, which is based in San Diego, launched in 2013. Beginning with the 2016 election, the network acted as a venue for viewpoints and coverage aligned with Donald J. Trump and his right-wing allies.

Its anchors have regularly questioned the outcome of the 2020 election. The network is facing defamation lawsuits from two election technology companies, Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, both of which have accused the channel of spreading falsehoods that they manipulated vote tallies to swing the election to current President Joe Biden.

One America News has also promoted the false theory that left-wing agitators, and not Trump supporters, were the primary instigators of the Capitol riot.

The channel also has aired false and misleading reports about the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines. In June, one anchor, Pearson Sharp, told viewers: “The fallout from the coronavirus vaccine continues to grow, and the toll on human life is now worse than anyone could have imagined.”

DirecTV is one of only a few major television distributors that carries One America News; another is Verizon Fios. The channel is also available to stream online, and it maintains a popular YouTube page with more than 1.4 million subscribers.

Research contact: @nytimes

Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes will be sentenced in September

January 17, 2022

Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos, will be sentenced on September 26 in San Jose, California, after a jury found her guilty on Monday, January 4, on four of 11 charges in a case of criminal fraud, reports Vanity Fair.

Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 after dropping out of Stanford University at the age of 19. She went on to become a billionaire on paper after raising more than $900 million from investors, based on the promise that the company’s innovative blood testing technology would be able to diagnose a wide variety of diseases with just a few drops of blood from a patient—rather than the traditional vials of blood drawn from a patient’s vein. 

However, Theranos ultimately ended up shutting down in 2018 after The Wall Street Journal published an exposé in 2015— divulging that the tests were not accurate and that Theranos was using traditional machines for its testing rather than its own technology.

That same year, the 37-year-old entrepreneur was charged by federal prosecutors with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud over allegations that she deceived investors and patients about the company’s technology.

The jury, which comprised eight men and four women, convicted Holmes on one charge of conspiracy and three charges of fraud. They determined she was not guilty of a second conspiracy charge and not guilty on three fraud charges. They were unable to reach a unanimous decision on another three fraud charges, which the U.S. government plans to dismiss, according to a court filing on Tuesday, Janury 11. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Holmes pleaded not guilty to all charges and took to the stand to defend herself during the trial, during which she admitted to having regrets but denied defrauding anyone. She also placed blamed on her former boyfriend and ex-Theranos Chief Operating Officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani for allegedly misleading her about the effectiveness of Theranos’ technology, and she accused him of emotional and sexual abuse.

Balwani will face his own trial beginning in March over his alleged role in defrauding the company’s stakeholders, following delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Research contact: @VanityFair

Free and easy: Insurers will have to cover eight at-home virus tests per month

January 13, 2022

Private insurers soon will have to cover the cost of eight at-home coronavirus tests per member per month, the Biden Administration said on Monday, January 10, reports The New York Times.

Americans will be able to get the tests at their health plan’s “preferred” pharmacies and other retailers with no out-of-pocket costs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. They can also buy the tests elsewhere and file claims for reimbursement, just as they often do for medical care.

“Today’s action further removes financial barriers and expands access to COVID-19 tests for millions of people,” Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the Biden Administration’s Medicare and Medicaid chief, said in a statement about the new guidelines.

Roughly 150 million Americans, or about 45% of the population, are privately insured—mostly through their employers. Each enrolled dependent of the primary insurance holder counts as a member.

At out-of-network facilities, insurers’ responsibility would be capped at $12 per test, meaning people could be responsible for any additional costs.

But if a health plan does not establish a network of “preferred” retailers where patients can get tests covered upfront, it will be responsible for whatever claims its patients submit for their eight monthly rapid tests, with no limit on the price.

Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, said the policy could save families hundreds of dollars a month.

“I would love to see a more comprehensive national testing policy where these tests are free for everybody, regardless of insurance status,” she said. “Will it help everybody? No. It is definitely not the ideal way to lower barriers to COVID testing. But it is helpful.”

Rapid at-home tests are typically sold in packs of two, ranging in cost from about $14 to $34. That can be prohibitively expensive, especially when tests are purchased in bulk.

Some local governments in the United States have invested heavily in rapid testing to counter the latest wave of cases. Washington, D.C., which has experienced a substantial surge in virus cases, now allows residents to pick up four free rapid tests daily at libraries across the city.

The new Biden policy will not apply retroactively to at-home tests that Americans already have purchased. Tests ordered or administered by health providers will continue to be covered by insurance without any co-payment or deductible under a law requiring insurers to fully cover tests at doctor’s offices, public sites, and other facilities.

The Administration is working on other efforts to get coronavirus tests to people regardless of their insurance status—including a plan to deliver 500 million free rapid tests to the homes of Americans who order them, starting later this month.

That plan, along with the new rules for insurers announced Monday, is part of a broader effort by the Biden Administration in recent weeks to catch up to skyrocketing demand for rapid tests, as virus cases have exploded around the nation with the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Research contact: @nytimes

Turkey Hill is offering ‘free ice cream for life’ if you can guess its mystery flavor

January 12 , 2022

Turkey Hill is going to be giving away free ice cream—a 48-ounce container of ice cream gratis once a month—to a limited number of people who correctly guess its upcoming mystery flavor, reports Fox Business.

The Pennsylvania-based ice cream manufacturer announced that the contest will run through Monday, March 14.

“Think you and your family can guess our new Mystery Flavor? Here’s your chance to put your taste buds to the test,” Turkey Hill wrote in a tweet on Tuesday, January 4. “You have until 3/14/22 to solve the most chilling mystery. Visit https://turkeyhill.com/mysteryflavor to enter for your chance to win ice cream for life.”

Unlike other food contests—which reserve their offers to one person at a time—Turkey Hill’s sweepstakes rules state that the company is extending a variety of free ice cream prizes to a list of winners.

There will be one grand prize, which is the lifetime supply. Turkey Hill’s “for life” offer will technically last for a maximum of 50 years, but in that time, the winner will be awarded a 48-ounce container of ice cream per month. That’s a whopping 1,800 pounds of ice cream if the winner redeems the full 50 years—a total approximate retail value of $3,859.40, according to the current suggested retail price in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The other prizes Turkey Hill will be awarded to correct Mystery Flavor guessers include ten free ice cream offers for one year, 15 free ice cream offers for six months, and 30 free ice cream offers for three months.

“Surprising our fans with a delicious, but mysterious new flavor is what the Mystery Flavor is all about,” Turkey Hill Vice President of Marketing Kriston Ohm said in a statement. “We like to have fun at Turkey Hill and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring the unexpected to the freezer aisle. Our new Mystery Flavor is sure to sneak some mystery and intrigue into homes across the nation-we can’t wait for you to try it.”

If you’re looking to put your name in the running, you can scan the QR code that’s printed on Turkey Hill’s limited-edition mystery flavor container or you can simply visit TurkeyHill.com/MysteryFlavor. Contest hopefuls can submit one guess per day along with their contact information. Putting in multiple submissions in a single day with alternative email or mailing addresses will lead to disqualification.

Contest entrants must be 18 or older, but entrants between the ages of 13 and 17 can enter if they have their parent or guardian’s permission.

Guesses for the mystery flavor guess must be submitted no later than March 14, at 11:59:59 (ET).

Turkey Hill’s winners will be selected the next day through a random drawing, and they will be contacted about their prizes through email or U.S. mail. Once the winners have claimed their prizes, their identities will be revealed on Turkey Hill’s Mystery Flavor contest page.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Survey: 48% of teachers are considering quitting their jobs; 38% are on the verge of changing careers

January 11, 2022

A recent survey showed that nearly half of teachers are considering quitting their jobs—with about one-third of respondents admitting that they might leave the profession entirely, reports Fox Business.

Data from Teachers Pay Teachers, an online forum for curriculum content for teachers, revealed that 48% of 6,000 teachers surveyed in November said they had considered changing jobs in the past month—an increase from 32% in June, K-12 Dive reports.

The outlet noted that 34% of those teachers surveyed said they had considered changing careers in the past month and 11% said they considered taking a leave of absence. 

“Ten years ago, the program enrollment for traditional ed [education] programs started to decrease,” Dr. Heather Sparks, director of Teacher Education at Oklahoma City University, said in an interview that aired on Varney and Co. on Monday, January 10.

“People are just not valuing the profession anymore,” she added. “These are folks who put in four years and then some, continue to get training even after their degree. and yet are paid minimally compared to other professionals who have four-year degrees.”

Schools nationwide say they are dealing with significant teacher shortages, and some principals are saying the start of the school year was the most difficult one yet.

Officals are pointing to an array of factors that have converged to create the vacancies in the wake of COVID-19, and experts warn the problem may not be fixed any time soon.

Administrators are being called into the classroom in some districts dealing with teacher shortages, and several places are calling on retirees to step in and fill the voids.

As teachers continue to flee the profession, studies show fewer college students are pursuing education degrees – a trend researchers had seen long before COVID-19 hit.

Enrollment in education programs at Louisiana colleges has fallen by nearly 8,000 students over the past two decades, according to statewide enrollment data from the Louisiana Board of Regents.

The pandemic is not the sole reason why teachers are leaving the profession, but it has contributed to the burnout that has been common among educators for years.

“Teachers, because of COVID and other reasons, are under a lot of stress,” teacher and President of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators Julia Reed said at a school board meeting last October 6, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.

Reed noted that, when she speaks with teachers, “their No. 1 issue is not money; it’s workload.”

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Saweetie and Cher collaborate in MAC Cosmetics’ ‘Challenge Accepted’ campaign

January 10, 2022

Bay area rapper Saweetie has been a brand ambassador for MAC Cosmetics since September 2021. Her latest campaign for the brand is here—and it involves none other than songstress and actress Cher, reports WWD.

The rapper and music icon feature in MAC’s Challenge Accepted campaign, which challenges its users to put their makeup to the test and shine a light on their performance.

“Challenge Accepted means challenging a status quo, and I try to do that every day with my business, with my music, with the message I give out to the world,” Saweetie told WWD.

She added, “Because I went to college, something that was said to me was: ‘Why would you be a rapper when you have a degree?’ But I challenge that. I’m going to do what I’m passionate about. So Challenge Accepted from MAC’s side; from my side, I feel like we continue to challenge the doubters.”

To announce the challenge, Hello Beautiful reports,  the 29-year-old rapper took to Instagram to share a glamourous promotional video of herself and Cher as they applied MAC makeup and primped in the mirror. “

How’d we do it, @Cher ?!!! Me and my new bestie have teamed up with @maccosmetics to challenge you to put their high-performance products to the test. Why? Because performance is EVERYTHING. #IKDR!!! Get my ICY look, set your challenge and show us what your M·A·C can do with #MACChallengeAccepted,” she captioned the IG post before tagging the cosmetics used in the video.

So what exactly is being put to the test? According to MAC it’s everything! From color-true payoff, to transfer- and sweat-resistance, to waterproof wear and longevity, MAC Cosmetics wants to prove the quality of their products is made to last and is just as extraordinary as the beauties who love it!

Saweetie continued in the press release, “M·A·C Lipglass has always been my favorite go-to lipgloss—I’ve been using it for as long as I can remember. Cher’s regal energy is so contagious so being alongside her in Challenge Accepted has been an unforgettable experience.”

Research contact: @wwd