Posts tagged with "Marketing"

No extra legroom, just more money: United announces new charges in coach

December 12, 2018

Air travel alert: Even sitting in coach is getting way more expensive. Starting December 14, coach passengers on United Airlines who want to avoid the back of the plane may have to ante up for it, according to a December 10 report by CNBC.

The air carrier will charge a fee for so-called “preferred seats” on flights throughout its network. These seats don’t come with extra legroom or other perks. They’re standard economy seats are located behind the Economy Plus rows, which do come with more space to stretch out.

Ready to switch airlines? It won’t help. United’s rivals American Airlines and Delta Air Lines already have a surcharge in place for such seats, CNBC notes—pointing out that the airlines all seem to be attempting to get customers to pay up for perks that used to be included in airfare.

United did not say how much more travelers would have to pay for seats in these preferred locations. On competitors Delta and American, the prices vary by aircraft, route, and demand, the cable news outlet says.

For example, a preferred seat on a Delta flight from New York to Los Angeles in early January was $80. On an American flight from New York to Paris at that time, the price of a preferred location seat ranged from $62 to $81. Prices are for each leg of the itinerary.

Seating is a key part of the airlines’ bare-bones basic economy product, which United and American rolled out last year, following Delta. In exchange for what is usually the lowest fare, basic economy passengers can’t pick their seats ahead of time or make changes to their tickets. They also board last.

What’s next? Maybe charging for the oxygen masks that deploy when an airplane hits an air pocket and sinks rapidly in rough weather.

Research contact: @lesliejosephs

Sweetening the pot: Altria goes all in on the cannabis market

December 10, 2018

Is the Marlboro Man becoming a stoner? Altria— the parent company of Philip Morris USA and the manufacturer of market-leading Marlboro cigarettes—announced on December 7 that it has taken a 45% equity stake in Cronos Group, a Toronto-based cannabinoid company.

The deal, which will cost Altria about US$1.8 billion (CA$2.4 billion), is making news just two months after Canada became the first G7 country to nationally legalize recreational marijuana. Sales started on October 17—generating excitement and long queues at the shops, which are now reporting a cannabis shortage.

The acquisition of a stake in Cronos gives Altria a foothold in Canada. It also positions Altria to participate in the emerging global cannabis sector and creates a new growth opportunity in an adjacent category that is complementary to Altria’s core tobacco businesses.

Indeed, Altria has been struggling with the steady decline of the U.S. market for tobacco products—and sees potential to tap into a vital new segment as marijuana moves into the mainstream. In a formal statement CEO Howard Willard characterized the investment as “an exciting new growth opportunity.”

Meanwhile Cronos CEO Mike Gorenstein said the deal would “meaningfully accelerate our strategic growth.”

Word on the street is that this may only be a first step for Altria. According to Bloomberg, the company is in talks “to buy a stake in Juul, another fast-growing company threatening the traditional cigarette space. The possible expansions in more than one direction show it’s open to any number of approaches to resume growth.”

Research contact: @Altria News

Walgreens joins with FedEx to offer next-day prescription home delivery

December 7, 2018

When an incapacitating or communicable illness hits home, getting dressed and driving to the drug store suddenly becomes an Olympic-size challenge—and one that could spread your germs to the other customers at the pharmacy. Now, there may no longer be the need to drag yourself out the door.

On December 6, Walgreens and FedEx jointly announced the nationwide launch of next-dayiprescription delivery service—bringing together Walgreens’ extensive network of neighborhood pharmacy locations with FedEx’s air-and-ground delivery fleet in order to enhance convenience for customers.

In doing so, Walgreens claimed it will become “the fastest choice for next-day prescription delivery across the nation.”

Customers enrolled in text alerts will receive text notification when qualifying prescriptions are ready. Following a simple process on their mobile devices, they then can have their qualifying prescriptions delivered right to their homes as early as the next day (for a $4.99 fee nationwide). In addition, same-day delivery now is available in select markets—and will be expanded in 2019.

“Walgreens is driven by a desire to make healthcare accessible to all across the thousands of communities we serve. Next-day prescription home delivery is another convenience-driver, alongside our industry-leading number of extended hours pharmaciesiii and one of the most downloaded digital apps in the category, designed to put care in the hands of our patients,” said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of operations. “This expansion of our alliance with FedEx illustrates our commitment to making filling prescriptions as fast and easy as possible.”

Walgreens ExpressT allows patients to preview their cost, prepay for eligible prescriptions, and choose between home delivery or express pickup in store. Patients who prefer collecting prescriptions at their local Walgreens can enter a dedicated Walgreens Express pickup checkout line to receive their prescriptions.

“FedEx and Walgreens are empowering consumers to choose when and where they receive their orders,” said Randy Scarborough, vice president of Retail Marketing, FedEx Services. “Just as FedEx package pick-up and drop-off services at Walgreens locations provide customers with much-needed convenience, the ability to ship prescription medication directly from Walgreens to their homes offers valuable flexibility to best meet individual needs and schedules.”

Research contact: morry.smulevitz@walgreens.com

Dia serves the 70% of U.S. women whom the fashion industry ignores

November 21, 2018

Nearly 70% of American women—about 100 million coast-to-coast—wear a size 14 or larger, according to market research firm Houston-based Plunkett Research. But what are they wearing? Only 18% of the clothing sold in 2016 was considered plus-size, Port Washington, New York, market research firm NPD found in a recent study covered by the cable network CNBC.

On a personal level, that’s something that Nadia Boujarwah, CEO and co-founder of New York City-based Dia&Co, has realized for a long time. The former Wall Street executive says on her company’s website, “I’ve always loved fashion, but struggled to find clothes that fit my body and worked with my personal style. I’ve been everything from a size 12 to a size 22 and I couldn’t help but notice, no matter my size, that there was nothing for me.”

Indeed, she told CNBC in a recent interview, since the retail industry isn’t catering to this majority, “the average plus-sized woman is only spending 20 cents on the dollar that women in smaller sizes are spending on apparel.”

“So instead,” Boujarwah says, “I co-founded Dia&Co in 2014 [along with Lydia Gilbert], as a way for women just like me to embrace their individuality. It grew out of a personal need and now, Dia&Co is a place where everyone can explore all the incredible things that style can really do.”

The company offers clients personal styling exclusively in sizes 14 and up, as well as monthly boxes of curated plus-size clothing. A spokesperson for the company said the styling service has had more than 1 million users and ships to all 50 U.S. states.

Like the popular online retailers, Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, Dia&Co asks prospective customers to complete a profile, and then a stylist curates the items that are shipped to her. Dia charges a $20 styling fee, and the customer pays for the clothes she wants to keep.

Boujarwah told CNBC that her company is not only helping the customer find clothes, but it’s helping create clothes as well. “We do everything from work with brands to enter plus for the first time,” she said. “We build our own brands, all the way down through really creating the content and the community, to inspire her to participate.”

She added: “If you think about how many problems that are inherent” among plus-sized women, Boujarwah explained, Dia has taken “a very comprehensive view, and we’ve really said every part of this challenge for her is our job.”

Research contact: @erincstefanski

Forgot to pack a warm coat? Try the airport vending machine

November 15, 2018

If you are traveling by air, don’t worry about packing lightly. There’s almost no limit to what you can buy at the airport now, if you find you have forgotten an important item or need something unexpectedly.

Zara Harding had a nagging concern as she walked to her gate after an airport layover last June,” she told The Wall Street Journal for a November 14 story.  She had run out of time to buy a coat for the glacier hike in Washington’s Cascade Mountains she was heading to and was “worrying about being cold in the snow.”

But to her surprise and delight, she found her solution right there at Hollywood Burbank Airport. “Lo and behold,” she says, “a Uniqlo brand vending machine appeared in my path.”

Harding, 39, a group fitness instructor from Northern California, told the business news outlet that she paid $69.90 for an ultra-light down jacket made by the Japanese casual clothing retailer.

Indeed, according to the Journal, the retailer started rolling out vending machines in August 2017 at airports and shopping malls near New York, Houston, Oakland, and seven other U.S. cities—selling basic, travel-friendly attire to customers with no time to browse through the racks or wait on a line.

Although Uniqlo won’t comment on its sales, San Francisco International Airport officials told the New York-based newspaper that the machine there brings in a whopping $10,000 a month.

And according to the Journal, Uniqlo is in the forefront an exponentially expanding number of companies that are using vending machine to sell everything from apparel to makeup, to electronics and high-end foods at hubs nationwide.

The machines can be stationed in unused corners of an airport and make sales around the clock. Some new machines have touch screens and robotic suction arms to deliver expensive products.

“There’s only so many stores you can fit in an airport,” Elias Bizannes, CEO of San Francisco-based ZoomSystems said in an interview. The company operates machines for Uniqlo, as well as Best Buy, Benefit Cosmetics, Nespresso, and Proactiv.

Sarah Skwire, a senior fellow at a think tank in Indiana was on her way to Washington, D.C., when she got a text message that she needed her own makeup for a filming, the Journal reports. At Indianapolis International Airport, she found one of the pink, 59 bus-shaped Benefit machines that are parked at 37 U.S. and Canadian airports.

Before, she says, “I would make sarcastic remarks: Who’s going to blow $40 on Benefit while waiting for a plane, from a vending machine?”

This time, Skwire, 47, bought a travel makeup kit to get herself camera-ready. A few months later, she was back at a Benefit machine after a compact of pressed powder came apart in her bag during a security screening. “I went from a skeptic to a minor enthusiast.”

At some airports, vending machines offer local flavor. Ted Drewes, a St. Louis frozen-custard institution, has been selling $6 “concretes”—custard so thick you can turn it upside down without spilling—from machines at St. Louis Lambert International Airport since mid-2015. Travelers bought 15,000 concretes in the machines’ first year and sales climbed 25% the next year, according to Las Vegas-based AVendCo, which operates the four frozen-custard machines.

At Pittsburgh International Airport, a vending machine operated by Arcadia Publishing sells books on the history of local neighborhoods for about $20.

What’s next? Maybe food or other supplies for all of those companion animals that are catching flights with their owners?

Research contact: @alyrose

Half retail pop-up, half laboratory: Mall owner debuts BrandBox

November 14, 2018

One of the nation’s biggest mall operators has come up with a way to fill empty storefronts—and it’s offering emerging brands plenty of perks to move in and do business for six to 12 months.

Santa Monica, California-based Macerich is launching a concept known as BrandBox at Tysons Corner Center just outside Washington, D.C., CNBC reported on November 12.

Under the BrandBox concept—half retail pop-up, half laboratory—the mall will house six brands, including luxury apparel retailer Naadam (founded in 2010) and upscale makeup company Winky Lux (founded in 2015).

Each brand will pay rent for its own mini store inside an 11,000-square-foot space, with new retailers funneling in and out each year, CNBC said.

For its part, Macerich will provide fixtures like shelving, data on foot traffic, radio-frequency identification tagging for inventory, marketing and even help finding staffing.

The rollout of BrandBox comes as more than 140 million square feet of retail space has been shuttered nationwide in malls and shopping centers already this year, according to real estate research group CoStar. Closures by Sears and Toys R Us are leaving a blank canvas at many malls for new uses like these so-called pint-sized and modern-day department stores.

Macerich plans to take BrandBox to its malls in Santa Monica, California; Philadelphia; and Scottsdale, Arizona, CNBC reported. In fact, the idea eventually is envisioned for all of its U.S. malls in some way. The company is considering adding multiple BrandBox locations inside some shopping centers, where there’s more demand for smaller retailers over department stores.

“I think what we’re learning as an industry is that we need to have modular space that can be reconfigured, “Macerich Chief Digital Officer Kevin McKenzie told CNBC. The physical walls within each BrandBox will be movable, he said. Sometimes two companies might fill the space; sometimes, seven.New York-based fashion house DKNY, an already established brand, also will be inside BrandBox at Tysons Corner Center at launch to test a new concept. McKenzie said the space can be a way for even traditional retailers to try out a new market before investing in establishing a permanent presence there.

Brands are appreciative of the real estate and the perks. “We view BrandBox as a safe environment to test our brand in a mall environment,” Matt Scanlan, CEO of Naadam, told CNBC. The technology Macerich is offering is a “major perk,” he said. “They have set us up with retail technologies and subscription software that are normally inefficient to install for a pop-up but can be transformative in terms of learnings.”

Macerich is the first major mall operator to announce plans to roll out a concept like this at a large scale, and one that’s been incubated from within the company. Rival Simon has been testing a rotating pop-up exhibit called “The Edit” at Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, New York, but has yet to open other locations.

Research contact: @laurenthomasx3

Hen parties: Chick-fil-A tests catering and home deliveries

November 6, 2018

With a growing demand for food to-go, Chick-fil-A—the home of the Original Chicken Sandwich with two pickles on a toasted, buttered bun—is testing a new restaurant prototype. New locations that opened in Nashville and Louisville last month have no dining rooms; and, instead, focus on catering and delivery.

Customers in both cities now are able to place orders at any of the local Chick-fil-A restaurants, but the new locations will serve as hubs for catering and delivery.

One of the things that makes the Nashville hub so unique is the lack of a dining room or drive-thru. Roughly 4,200 square-feet of the restaurant’s 5,800 square-feet will be dedicated to kitchen space. That’s more than two times the size of a normal Chick-fil-A kitchen.

Using the regular Chick-fil-a menu, customers can place a single order for one sandwich and fries either by walking up to the front counter inside the restaurant, or through the DoorDash delivery service. They also can order catering to be delivered or picked up at the restaurant.

There’s just one catch: no cash. The new location will only accept credit/debit, making the Chick-fil-A Mobile App the easiest way to order.

Along with the new location in Nashville, a similar format will be built in Louisville. At 4,800 square feet in size, the new Chick-fil-A Louisville Catering and Delivery location also has no dining room or walk-up ordering; and is focusing solely on preparing catering and delivery orders for Chick-fil-A restaurants in the city’s East End.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to create a better experience for restaurant Team Members and customers alike,” said Bruce Smith, Operator of the new location. “Team Members can stay focused on making sure every customer has the best possible experience at our restaurants. It’s never been easier for customers who are picking up their catering orders.”

According to Thrillist, Chick-fil-A just keeps getting bigger. It’s on track to become the third-largest fast-food chain in America and for the third year in a row, it’s bheen named the nation’s favorite fast-food joint.

Research contact: @ChickfilANews

NASA considers selling naming rights for rockets to brands

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.

The Trump administration also has discussed a desire to cut off government funding for the International Space Station and move toward privatizing the project in the coming years.

Research contact: christian.davenport@washpost.com

Allbirds perches in New York City and plans more stores nationwide

September 5, 2018

The newest product to come out of Silicon Valley needs no tech support—but it’s supporting the feet of such well-known techies as Google Co-founder Larry Page, former Twitter chief Dick Costolo, and venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Mary Meeker, according to a September 4 report by CNBC.

Called Allbirds, the new brand of footwear—produced with such sustainable resources as merino wool, tree fibers, and sugar— already has won over customers on the West Coast and is expanding fast. The company opened its first store on the East Coast, in New York City, just after Labor Day.

At more than 4,800 square feet, the new flagship location in New York’s SoHo neighborhood on Spring Street will include a “service bar” to help buyers find the right size, along with room for customers to lounge. It will replace its temporary home on Prince Street, which was about 900 square feet and is closing later this week.

Like the wildly popular Warby Parker (eyeglasses), Casper (mattresses), and  Everlane (clothing), Allbirds began business as an etailer.

The company only recently began opening stores, serving as a place for shoppers to try on the sneakers before buying and helping create more buzz around the brand. The company has since launched a new sneaker made out of tree fibers and flip-flops made out of sugar, along with a kids’ line called Smallbirds.

Indeed, the brand has become so buzzworthy that, last month, actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio became an investor, People magazine reported.

Creating sustainable consumer products requires a deep commitment from brands that understand the role they have in helping solve our environmental crisis,” DiCaprio said in an exclusive statement. “Allbirds is on the forefront of developing new materials that will serve as a model for the footwear industry. This kind of innovation is crucial for creating a more sustainable future. I am proud to join the company as an investor.”

“Given how tactile our product and brand story is, it’s important that we continue to create these opportunities to interact with customers,” Allbirds Co-founder Joey Zwillinger said. “Our goal is to continue to create retail spaces that allow customers to truly engage with the brand in an authentic off-line experience that embodies Allbirds’ unique comfort and thoughtful design.”

Allbirds plans to open eight more stores in the United States in locations including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles,  and Washington, D.C. The company also said it’s thinking about adding two locations overseas.

“There is and has been incredible pent-up demand for Allbirds around the world,” Zwillinger told CNBC. “When we launched the brand, we were thoughtful to keep our distribution limited to the regions we felt we could service impeccably — the United States  and New Zealand, our home countries.”

Since then, Allbirds has grown into Australia and Canada.

Research contact: lauren.thomas@nbcuni.com

Vaping companies offer college scholarships to high school students

June 11, 2018

Just five years ago, nearly three times as many U.S. high school students smoked as puffed on e-cigarettes. Today, almost twice as many secondary school kids vape as smoke, based on findings of a National Youth Tobacco Survey released by the Office of Smoking and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

That amounts to one in every four high school students and more than one in every 14 middle school kids who have been hooked on nicotine by e-cigarettes, according to a report by Science News for Students. It is not a risk-free practice. In fact Irfan Rahman, a professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester in New York says that, while vape pens—including the Juuls and KandyPens that are trending with teens—are far less dangerous than conventional butts, not only will they ruin a user’s gums and loosen his or her teeth, but studies suggest that kids who vape are more likely to smoke real cigarettes in the future.

According to Rahman, “The liquid and vapor that vape users inhale (and exhale onto others) contain harmful chemicals such as anti-freeze, a host of carcinogens, and other substances known to cause cell death. Meanwhile, the concentrated nicotine in vaping solutions poses a unique, toxic threat to small children who unintentionally swallow the liquid or spill it on their skin. In a word, e-cigarettes aren’t safe for your kids and aren’t safe around your kids.”

Rahman emphasizes that even flavored vapes can be harmful to the lungs. ““Nicotine-free e-liquids have generally been considered safe; however, the impact of flavoring chemicals, especially on immune cells, has not been widely researched  Even though flavoring compounds are considered safe for ingestion, it is not safe for inhalation.”

Scholarships sweeten the success of vaping

The data show that an estimated 16% of high school kids vaped in 2015. That adds up to 2.39 million teens. By comparison, just 1.37 million high school kids smoked cigarettes. And the number of vapers is increasing—partially because of a new marketing campaign launched by the companies that sell e-cigarettes and vaporizers. Their latest tactic: Offering college scholarships and getting students to write essays about the joys and benefits of vaping, in contrast to cigaretttes, in order to win the money.

News of the grants is spreading quickly online—posted at such websites as DaVinci Vaporizer, Slick Vapes, and SmokeTastic For example, SmokeTastic says on its site, “Under the ST Scholarship Program, we shall be awarding one scholarship award of $1000 to the winning candidate which will be determined by our judges and possibly published on our site. Our scholarship is aimed at helping all students, from all walks of life, afford the rising costs in education fees, books, and living costs. The scholarship will be made payable directly to the university/school that the winners are from by cheque.

Eligibility is no problem, the company says: “We are open to any current college-going student, including incoming freshman enrolled in any educational program to apply. We do ask however, students must be enrolled at an accredited college, university or trade school. No major or trade requirements. We have opened the scholarship up to students to apply from all countries. We do also ask that the students have a minimum GPA of 2.5.”

And under “Details of the Essay,” SmokeTastic tells students to submit an essay of 500 to 1,500 words, talking about such subjects as:

  • Why do people still choose to smoke in society?
  • Is vaping a new problem with younger smokers and potentially introducing them to smoking?
  • Would a smoke-free world really improve society?
  • What message do you have for current smokers thinking about vaping?
  • Is vaping addiction a real concern?

Although some of the scholarships are limited to students 18 and older—the nation’s legal age to buy vaping products—many are open to younger teens or have no age limit.

Research contact: Irfan_rahman@urmc.rochester.edu