September 19, 2018
Following an announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump late on September 17 that he intended to impose a 10% tax on a $200 billion list of Chinese imports, ranging from consumer goods to manufacturing materials, the People’s Republic now has retaliated in the ongoing trade war.
The Chinese Finance Ministry announced on September 18 it would go ahead with plans announced in August to tax 5,207 types of American-made goods—a $60 billion list, ranging from coffee to farm machinery. The smaller, mismatched dollar amount reflects the fact that China is running out of American goods to tax, due to its trade imbalance, NBC News reported..
The new round of tariffs is aimed at curbing “trade friction” and the “unilateralism and protectionism of the United States,” the ministry said on its website.
The new tariffs, levied at a rate of 5% and 10%, will come into effect on September 24. NBC said — the date Trump targeted for his latest round of punitive tariffs. Trump also has stated that the new tariffs will rise to 25% by January 1.
According to the network news source, Trump has repeatedly said his goal is to force partners to the table to renegotiate current trade deals that he and his supporters view as unfair to American economic and security interests. Foreign businesses have long complained that China’s protectionist policies are pushing them out of promising economic opportunities.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry said that it had been forced to react because the U.S. was creating an “economic emergency.”
Economists have warned that the escalating battle could knock up to 0.5 percentage points off global economic growth through 2020.
Research contact: @lbayly_nbcT
September 18, 2018
Time magazine is about to change hands for the second time since November 2017, when it was acquired from Time Warner by Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith—up until then, best-known for its flagship publication Better Homes & Gardens.
On September 16, Meredith announced that it had agreed to sell the Time media brand to Marc and Lynne Benioff for $190 million in cash. The Benioffs, who are the billionaire co-founders of Salesforce—a leading global customer relationship management platform—have said that they “will not be involved in the day-to-day operations or journalistic decisions, which will continue to be led by Time’s current executive leadership team.”,
The husband-and-wife team now have become the latest tech titans to take the reins of an iconic media brand. Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, bought The Washington Post in 2013. Last year, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, agreed to acquire a majority stake in The Atlantic magazine through her organization, Emerson Collective, from David G. Bradley, who retained a minority stake.
“We’re pleased to have found such passionate buyers in Marc and Lynne Benioff for the Time brand,” said Meredith CEO Tom Harty, in the company’s formal release. “For over 90 years, Time has been at the forefront of the most significant events and impactful stories that shape our global conversation. We know Time will continue to succeed and is in good hands with the Benioffs. We thank the Time team for its ongoing hard work and passionate commitment.”
Meredith acquired TIME as part of its purchase of Time Inc., which closed
“We are honored to be the caretakers of one of the world’s most important media companies and iconic brands,” said the Benioffs. “Time has always been a trusted reflection of the state of the world, and reminds us that business is one of the greatest platforms for change.”
“On behalf of the entire Time team, we are very excited to begin this next chapter in our history,” said Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal. “We can’t imagine better stewards for Time than Marc and Lynne Benioff. The team is inspired by their commitment to high-quality journalism and by their confidence in the work we have done to transform and expand the brand in new directions.”
As part of the transaction, Meredith will provide short-term business continuity services and has entered into a multi-year agreement with the Benioffs to provide services such as consumer marketing, subscription fulfillment, paper purchasing, and printing. Meredith will also be able to include the Time brand in large corporate advertising buys.
Research contact: Art.Slusark@meredith.com
September 17, 2018
It had all of the appeal of a 1998 Furby toy, but a much longer lifespan. Volkswagen’s Beetle is ending an 80-year global run as one of the most visually engaging and best-selling vehicles of all time.
Produced as Volkswagen AG’s first-ever model in 1938 in Wolfsburg, Germany, the Beetle endured because it was a well-built, affordable compact car that—with its unique shape and youthful spirit—sparked the imagination of buyers worldwide. Since then, 22.7 million Beetles have hit the road—and like their insect “cousins,” have flourished in nearly every ecosystem worldwide.
For many Americans, the Beetle was the ultimate “hippie car” of the Baby Boomer generation—paving the way for an influx of economical foreign models in the 1970s and 1980s.
According to a September 13 report by The Wall Street Journal, VW’s decision marks the second time the car will disappear from American showrooms. Production of the original Beetle ended in 1979, but a more-modern version of the car that was larger and had more creature comforts debuted in 1997. The newer model has been produced in Puebla, Mexico, since 1999.
U.S. sales of the Beetle stopped in 1979 and resumed with the “New Beetle” in 1998. The revamped Beetle, which featured a quirky dashboard flower vase and front-mounted engine, was replaced by a more muscular-looking version in 2011. But neither redesign caught on like the original among its Baby Boomer fans or younger generations of car buyers.
Even though the United States is the vehicle’s biggest market today, VW sold only 15,000 Beetles nationwide last year, the business news outlet said. That is less than 5% of the 339,700 cars the company sold in the States. in 2017.
Company officials said the move comes as VW focuses on other models and its electric-car lineup, but left the door open for a return of its best-known nameplate. “There are no immediate plans to replace it,” Hinrich J. Woebcken, the head of VW’s American operations, told the Journal.
.The German automaker said it would stop building the compact next year at a factory in Mexico, the last plant in the world to make the car.
Research contact: email@example.com
September 14, 2018
On September 12, Apple introduced a line of three new smartphones—the 5.8-inch iPhone Xs and the 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max—both with Super Retina displays; as well as a colorful, lower-cost model, the iPhone Xr. The company also launched a new version of the Apple Watch—geared for Baby Boomers who want not only a wicked-rad smartphone, but the advantages that, until now, only came with a range of devices on the market, including the Kardia handheld ECG, the Philips Lifeline fall detector, and the FitBit workout tracker.
If a Baby Boomer not only wants to be au courant—but also wants to feel safe and connected to assistance—this new Apple Watch Series 4 is the technology to try out. It comes featuring a larger screen, fall detection, the ability to take an electrocardiogram, and a workout tracker—all in one , with the phone service, watch face and alarms that the buyer expects.
The watch still requires FDA approval. But when that’s accomplished, Apple says in its press release, the watch will enable “customers to take an ECG reading right from the wrist using the new ECG app, which takes advantage of the electrodes built into the Digital Crown and new electrical heart rate sensor in the back crystal.
“With the app, users touch the Digital Crown and after 30 seconds, receive a heart rhythm classification. It can classify if the heart is beating in a normal pattern or whether there are signs of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a heart condition that could lead to major health complications. All recordings, their associated classifications, and any noted symptoms are stored in the Health app in a PDF that can be shared with physicians.”
What’s more, the Apple Watch intermittently analyzes heart rhythms in the background and sends a notification to the user, if an irregular heart rhythm such as AFib is detected.3 It can also alert the user if the heart rate exceeds or falls below a specified threshold.
Fall detection on the phone uses a next-generation accelerometer and gyroscope, which measures up to 32 g-forces, along with custom algorithms to identify when hard falls occur. By analyzing wrist trajectory and impact acceleration, Apple Watch sends the user an alert after a fall, which can be dismissed or used to initiate a call to emergency services. If Apple Watch senses immobility for 60 seconds after the notification, it will automatically call emergency services and send a message along with location to emergency contacts.
In addition to its other features, the new watch makes it easier to stay connected. Customers can reach their friends with just a tap of the wrist with WalkieTalkie, a watch-to-watch connection that is an entirely new way to communicate around the world over Wi-Fi or cellular.4
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS) starts at $399 and Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $499—both featuring the updated design and new health features. Series 3 will be available at the new starting price of $279, making it even more accessible to customers. A new collection of bands debuts this fall and all bands continue to work with any generation of Apple Watch.
Research contact: Lance_Line@apple.com
September 13, 2018
When Nike “just did it” early in September, many Americans, from the president to the buying public, thought that the company might take a stumble in the marketplace.
What the footwear and apparel manufacturer was doing could only be characterized as extremely controversial—creating an advertising campaign around the personality and politics of Colin Kaepernick, the athlete who first “took a knee” to protest that #Black Lives Matter during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner at an NFL game
However, according to a September 10 report by NBC News, Nike sales jumped by 31%—nearly one-third—after debuting quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick as a new company spokesman.
What’s more, market observers say that the president’s public displays of anger may have backfired by drawing more attention to Nike.
“Controversial endorsements tend to generate a lot of hype,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for Retail at The NPD Group, a market research firm, told Martha White of NBC. “These kinds of statements and brand partnerships make for a big impact on brand selling.”
Specifically, according to data from Edison Trends, online sales of Nike products jumped 31 percent between the Sunday before and the Tuesday after Labor Day, nearly double last year’s 17% increase over the same time period.
Kaepernick—now a free agent, but a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers when he first started what became a league-wide protest—is part of Nike’s 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” tagline. A TV ad narrated by Kaepernick debuted Thursday on the opening night of the regular NFL season.
“Nike is a company that is focused on younger generations and expanding their market. This ad did that for them,” Hetal Pandya, co-founder of Edison Trends, told NBC.
But if Trump is no stranger to controversy, neither is Nike. The company’s decision to use Kaepernick —who is currently claiming that the NFL colluded against his employment in a lawsuit, isn’t the first time the athletic apparel company has used its brand platform to advocate for a cause or push for social change. Previous ad campaigns have taken on AIDS, gender inequality, disabilities, religion, and other cultural flashpoints.
“The brand has a rich history of positioning itself as a progressive company that connects with its customers through conflict constructive conflict,” Pandya told NBC News.
Experts say that by continuing to insert himself into the ongoing debate regarding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, Trump may have inadvertently helped out Nike by criticizing the brand on Twitter.
“Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts,” Trump wrote last week, and video clips of people destroying Nike products quickly went viral. But contrary to Trump’s assertion, while calls for a boycott across social media dragged down the company’s stock immediately after the news broke, share prices have since recovered.
Drafting Kaepernick as a spokesman has more upside than downside risk for Nike, analysts say, because the company knows its customer base well. Market research from YouGov Plan and Track shows that 46% of Nike customers have a positive view of Kaepernick, compared to 34 % of all Americans. YouGov also found a 10 percentage point increase in the number of Nike customers versus the general public who say a company should take a stand on social issues and have a “moral message.”
“The company understands societal trends and its customer demographics better than most,” Edison Trends’ Pandya said. “It’s a calculated risk, but one that our data shows has had a positive impact so far in terms of online sales.”
“In this case, controversy is a good thing to their target market,” NPD’s Cohen said. “Consumers who are most likely to shop online, and shop athletic apparel and footwear, are very much in tune with the movement and the willingness for a mega-brand to stand up against the establishment.”
Research contact: @MarthaCWhite
September 12, 2018
Support for tougher gun laws hit a 25-year high last March in the United States, in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A Gallup poll fielded that month found that 67% of Americans supported tougher restrictions on guns.
At that time, several businesses, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, responded to the death of 17 students—and the nationwide fear of gun violence—by limiting their sales of semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15, as well as the bullets that go with them.
But those companies with no ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA) or gun sales hesitated to take a stand, for fear of alienating their customers. Except, that is, for Levi Strauss & Co., which in November 2016 requested in an open letters from its CEO that gun owners not bring firearms into its stores, offices, or facilities—even in states where it is permitted by law.
In a September 4 commentary piece published by Fortune magazine, Levi Strauss President and CEO Chip Bergh recalls the backlash after that letter became public—and challenges other like-minded businesses to do the same.
“In the days after I published that letter,” Bergh says, “I received threats to our stores, our business, and even on my life. It was unsettling. But these personal attacks pale in comparison to the threats that activists and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and daily incidents of gun violence face every time they speak up on this issue.”
However, he says to other business leaders in the opinion piece, “We simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option….Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and walks of life.”
As of September 4, Bergh said, “on top of our previous actions, Levi Strauss & Co. is lending its support for gun violence prevention in three new areas.”
- First, says Bergh, the company has established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from Levi Strauss & Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.
- Second, Levi Strauss will partner with Everytown for Gun Safety and executives including Michael Bloomberg to form Everytown Business Leaders for Gun Safety—“a coalition of business leaders who believe, as we do, that business has a critical role to play in and a moral obligation to do something about the gun violence epidemic in this country.”
- Third, he says, “We know that some of our employees have been personally affected by this issue and want to see change.” Therefore, the company is doubling its usual employee donation match to organized aligned with its Safer Tomorrow Fund. In addition, Levi Strauss is encouraging its staff who are concerned to get involved. The company provides employees with five hours a month (60 hours a year) in paid volunteer time—and recently expanded this to include political activism.
“As a company,” Bergh says, “we have never been afraid to take an unpopular stand to support a greater good. We integrated our factories in the American South years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. We offered benefits to same-sex partners in the 1990s, long before most companies did. We pulled our financial support for the Boy Scouts of America when it banned gay troop leaders.
“While each one of these stands may have been controversial at the time, history proved the company right in the long run. And I’m convinced that while some will disagree with our stand to end gun violence, history will prove this position right too.”
The NRA commented immediately after the opinion piece ran, saying” In a repulsive insult to the nation’s 100 million gun owners, Bergh likened Levi’s campaign to restrict the rights of law-abiding Americans to previous company efforts aimed at combating pre-Civil Rights Era racial bigotry. Among gun owners, Levi’s has used its name and resources to attack gun rights.
“Given the majority of Levi’s 165-year history, Bergh’s decision to use a formerly quintessential American company to attack a quintessential American right is a particularly sad episode in the current surge in corporate virtue-signaling. We can only assume that Levi’s accountants have determined that resulting skinny jeans sales will be enough to offset the permanent damage to their once-cherished brand.”
Research contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
September 11, 2018
As if NASA doesn’t already have a “high enough profile,” the U.S. space agency is reportedly looking into selling naming rights to spacecraft and allowing astronauts to appear in advertisements for brands—Jim Lovell on a box of Wheaties?—as a move to boost public awareness, The Washington Post reported on September 10.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, whom President Trump appointed to the post in April, announced at an August 29 NASA Advisory Council Meeting that he was forming a committee to look into the issue.
Bridenstine said at the meeting that having astronauts appear on cereal boxes, like professional athletes do, would inspire kids and help the agency become “embedded into the American culture.”
“I’d like to see kids growing up, instead of maybe wanting to be like a professional sports star, I’d like to see them grow up wanting to be a NASA astronaut, or a NASA scientist,” he said.
“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said, according to the Post. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”
Critics of the plan, including former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, argue that allowing brands to purchase ad space on rockets could present ethics conflicts for the agency.
Kelly told the Post that the move “would be a dramatic shift from the rules prohibiting government officials from using their public office for private gain.”
A recent study from the federally funded Washington, DC-based Science and Technology Policy Institute found that selling naming and branding rights could yield significant revenue for NASA.
The proposal comes at a time when NASA is seeing a boost in its cultural popularity, with an increased interest in the possibility of space tourism and Hollywood movies highlighting the agency. A NASA multimedia liaison told the Post that requests to use the agency’s logo on products and apparel have skyrocketed.
Research contact: email@example.com
September 10, 2018
We all have heard the expression, “free as a bird”—so it is fairly shocking to learn that “birding” in the United States is a $40 billion industry.
You read that correctly. It turns out that bird-watching takes more than a pair of binoculars and a field guide on our feathered friends. According to findings of a 2011 study by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, there are nearly 47 million birders nationwide, age 16 and older—or about 20% of the total population—and they are willing to spend big on travel and equipment to catch a glimpse of a whopping crane or a San Clemente loggerhead shrike in its native habitat.
Birders spent an estimated $15 billion on their trips and $26 billion on equipment in 2011, the study found. For trip expenditures, 52% of the cost was for food and lodging; 34%, for transportation; and 14 %, for other necessities, such as guide fees, user fees, and equipment rental. Equipment expenditures were relatively evenly distributed among wildlife-watching equipment (29%), special equipment (37%), and other items (30%).
To be counted as a birder by the researchers, an individual must either have “taken a trip for the primary purpose of observing birds” and/or closely observed or tried to identify birds around his or her home. Thus, people who happened to notice birds while they were mowing the lawn or picnicking at the beach were not counted as birders. Trips to zoos and observing captive birds also did not count.
Backyard birding or watching birds around the home is the most common form of bird-watching. Fully 88% (41 million) of birders are backyard birders. The more active form of birding—taking trips away from home—is less common with 38 percent (18 million) of birders active travelers.
The average birder is 53 years old and, more than likely, has a better-than-average income and education. She is slightly more likely to be female and highly there is also a good chance that she lives in the South in an urban area.
Research contact: @USFWS
September 7, 2018
Do you have money—or costly clothes—to burn? Until this week, the British luxury fashion house Burberry did exactly that with garments that did not sell out in-season, so that their posh clients would not see the “hoi polloi” wearing the same raincoat or outfit at half price.
However, the label took a lot of heat for from environmentalists for its conspicuous and lavish destruction of unsold inventory—and now management has opted to operate in a way that’s more politically correct.
In a September 6 press release, Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said, “Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible. This belief is core to us at Burberry and key to our long-term success. We are committed to applying the same creativity to all parts of Burberry as we do to our products.” The policy change will come into “immediate effect.”
What’s more, the company said, in another bow to environmentalists, their stores would stop selling “real fur,” promising that, “There will be no real fur in Riccardo Tisci’s debut collection for Burberry later this month, and we will phase out existing real fur products.
These commitments, the venerable fashion house said, build on “the goals that we set last year as part of our five-year responsibility agenda.”
Indeed, Burberry noted, to “tackle the causes of waste,” the group already is set to “reuse, repair, donate, or recycle unsaleable products and we will continue to expand these efforts.”
In doing so, the company stated outlined, “Our responsibility goals cover the entire footprint of our operations and extend to the communities around us. “
In May, Burberry said, it became a core partner of the Make Fashion Circular Initiative convened by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. In doing so, the brand has created a partnership with sustainable luxury company Elvis & Kresse, through which it will transform 120 tons of leather offcuts into new products over the next five years.
“We continue to invest in communities, from supporting young people in disadvantaged areas of London and Yorkshire, to developing a more inclusive and sustainable cashmere industry in Afghanistan,” the fashion line stated. “These efforts have been recognized by Burberry’s inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the third consecutive year.”
Research contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
September 6, 2018
Years of doomsday talk at Silicon Valley dinner parties has turned to action. Seven Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have purchased huge steel underground bunkers from Texas-based Rising S. within the past couple of years and planted them in New Zealand At the first sign of an apocalypse — nuclear war, a killer germ, a French Revolution-style uprising targeting the 1 percent — the tech giants plan to hop on a private jet and hunker down, according to a September 5 report by Bloomberg.
“New Zealand is an enemy of no one,” Gary Lynch, the manufacturer’s general manager, told Bloomberg in a recent interview from his office in Murchison, southeast of Dallas. “It’s not a nuclear target. It’s not a target for war. It’s a place where people seek refuge.”
The isolated island nation, located 2,500 miles south of Australia, has a population of nearly 5 million (4.8 million) people—and six times as many sheep. It has a reputation for natural beauty and not much else, which makes it the perfect place to disappear. The nation allows emigres to essentially buy residency through investor visas, and rich Americans have poured a fortune into the country, often by acquiring palatial estates.
Indeed, the news outlet reports, the Investor Plus Visa, which requires a minimum investment of NZD$10 million ($6.7 million) over three years, attracted 17 U.S. applicants during fiscal 2017, after President Donald Trump’s election. Previously, it averaged six applicants a year.
Billionaire hedge-fund honcho Julian Robertson owns a lodge overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, the South Island’s luxury resort destination. Fidelity National Financial Chairman William P.Foley III has a homestead in the Wairarapa region, north of Wellington, and Hollywood director James Cameron bought a mansion nearby at Lake Pounui.
More than ten Americans from the West Coast have bought multimillion-dollar properties in the Queenstown region in the past two years, said Mark Harris, managing director of the local Sotheby’s real estate office.
“It’s become one of the places for people in Silicon Valley, mostly because it’s not like Silicon Valley at all,” said Reggie Luedtke, an American biomedical engineer who’s moving to New Zealand in October for the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship, a program created to lure tech innovators.
Luedtke, 37, told Bloomberg’s Olivia Carville that people in California have asked him if he’s relocating as part of a doomsday contingency plan, because “that’s what the country is known for.”
“It’s known as the last bus stop on the planet before you hit Antarctica,” former Prime Minister John Key told Carville in a phone interview. “I’ve had a lot of people say to me that they would like to own a property in New Zealand if the world goes to hell in a handbasket.”
But now, the remote nation may be pushing back on the sudden influx of anxious Americans. In August, partly in response to Americans gobbling up swaths of prime real estate, New Zealand’s government banned foreigners from buying homes, with the restrictions set to take effect in coming months. Legislators are trying to keep New Zealand real estate affordable for its own population.
Indeed, as early as October 2017, current New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden told Bloomberg, “Foreign speculators will no longer be able to buy houses in New Zealand from early next year. We are determined to make it easier for Kiwis to buy their first home, so we are stopping foreign speculators buying houses and driving up prices. Kiwis should not be outbid like this.”
But will those who go underground also be affected? Better to be “sight unseen” is their philosophy.
For their part, the New Zealand locals find this both crazy and amusing, but the former PM thinks that the tech flight might be a good idea: “We live in a world where some people have extraordinary amounts of wealth and there comes a point at which, when you have so much money, allocating a very tiny amount of that for ‘Plan B’ is not as crazy as it sounds.”
Robert Vicino, founder of the Vivos Project, a builder of massive underground bunkers, told Bloomberg that Silicon Valley elites discussed detailed plans to flee to New Zealand last year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He said they foresaw “a revolution or a change where society is going to go after the 1 percenters.” In other words, them.
New Zealand isn’t the best solution, he said, because a tsunami caused by an asteroid strike in the Pacific could submerge the island’s highest point. But Vicino is a businessman, and demand dictates he get to work on a bunker on the northern tip of the South Island that would accommodate about 300 people. The price: $35,000 a head.
That’s a bargain compared with the most expensive bunker Lynch’s Rising S has shipped to New Zealand — $8 million, according to Bloomberg.
It takes about two weeks to excavate the land and bury the average bunker. It’s all done very discreetly, so local residents aren’t aware. Once installed, passersby would have no way of knowing it’s there. And that’s just fine with the Americans.
Research contact: @livcarville