Category Archives: Shopping

Customers Are Clamoring For Pizza Hut’s Bizarre New Perfume

via Business Insider: 

It’s beginning to smell a lot like pizza this holiday season, thanks to Pizza Hut’s new fragrance.

pizza hut tbi

The pizza-scented perfume is part of a social engagement initiative led by the creative and digital agency Grip Limited

Pizza Hut decided to concoct the perfume after the company’s community managers posted a joke on Facebook last August about bottling the smell of fresh-made pizza.

Fans reacted so well to the post that within half an hour “a few thousand people” had responded saying they wanted a bottle, said Grip Limited’s managing director, Adam Luck.

Now 100 of those fans will receive their own bottles of the fragrance.

Luck said fans can expect the perfume to smell “like dough with a little bit of seasoning added.” Pizza Hut’s director of marketing, Beverly D’Cruz noted that the perfume is more about entertainment than the aroma.

“We discovered it was hard to match the smell of freshly baked bread, but it smells somewhat close,” she said.  One could also spray the perfume around a room to make it smell like pizza, she added.

 

10 Things You Still Can’t Buy With A Credit Card

via Business Insider: 

Apparently, money can’t buy happiness, and if you are using a credit card, that’s not the only thing your money won’t be able to buy. 

Despite the belief credit cards can take you ‘everywhere you want to be’ — as the old Visa slogan went — the reality is there some places where your plastic won’t be gladly accepted.

Here are ten items for which you might need to pocket the card and pull out the cash or checkbook.

 

1. Lottery tickets

If you dream of winning millions through your state’s lottery program, you’ll probably have to have some cash ready when you reach the register.

Most states prohibit the use of the credit cards for lottery purchases.

Even in the handful of states that accept credit cards, your card issuer may put the kibosh on lottery sales.

For example, even though Massachusetts allows credit card sales, American Express won’t authorize payments for the state’s Season Ticket program.

2. Gaming chips and slot machines

Like lottery tickets, many states and card issuers have made it difficult to use credit cards for casino gaming.

Many casinos are dedicated to responsible gaming practices that work to prevent behaviors that will fuel compulsive gambling.

Therefore, credit cards are off-limits for some forms of gaming while issuers may tack on additional fees for other usages.

For example, Nevada law prohibits the transfer of money directly from a credit card to many games or gaming devices such as slot machines.

Even when credit cards can be used, issuers often treat gaming purchases as a cash-equivalent purchase which can mean interest rates of up to 30 percent on your gambling habit.

3. Cars

If your limit is high enough, your credit card company would probably be thrilled to have you pay for your next vehicle with plastic.

Your dealer may not be quite so enthusiastic.

Since merchants pay a fee — typically between 1.5 and 3 percent of the purchase price — every time they process a transaction, some dealers just say no to credit card purchases.

In addition, private sellers are often not equipped to accept credit cards.

Of course, you could get a cash advance, but then you are the one stuck paying an extra fee of up to 5 percent, and you most likely get hit with an exorbitant interest rate to boot.

4. College tuition

4. College tuition

Facebook/SophieAAdam

Helping Junior get his degree can be costly.

While grants, scholarships and subsidized federal loans may be the preferred method of paying tuition, these sources don’t always cover costs.

Using a credit card can be convenient, but according to a Wall Street Journal report, not all colleges are willing to let you charge tuition.

And of those that do, you may end up paying an extra 2-3 percent fee.

5. Mutual funds and stocks

Buying stocks and mutual funds can be a risky proposition — just ask all the folks who saw their savings plummet when the stock market crashed in 2008.

It’s one thing to lose your money and another to lose someone else’s money.

For that reason, most stockbrokers and brokerage firms won’t take credit card payments for the direct purchase of mutual funds and stocks.

6. Mortgages

6. Mortgages

Getty Images/Joe Raedle

You might think making your monthly mortgage payment with a credit card is a sure-fire way to rack up reward points.

However, chances are, your lender will have no part of it. Most mortgage lenders refuse to take credit card payments. Why?

Lenders fear moving your debt from a secured, structured loan to an unsecured credit card could lead you to build up additional debt and make it difficult for you to maintain monthly payments.

In a worst case scenario, that could mean foreclosure — something neither you nor the bank wants.

7. Money orders

7. Money orders

Credit card companies make lots of money when you take out a cash advance.

So they are unlikely to allow you to make an end run around their fees by converting your credit to cash via a money order.

Many retail money order providers as well as the United States Postal Service refuse to accept credit cards as payment for money orders.

Even if you can find a retailer willing to take your credit card, your card issuer may charge a cash advance fee as well as a higher interest rate.

8. Online pornography

8. Online pornography

Porn star Mary Carey

David McNew/Getty Images

Since 2000, the company has prohibited its users from charging purchases at online adult websites.

It’s not that the company is looking down its nose at you, they probably couldn’t care less.

Instead, American Express notes the high number of billing disputes that come from these transactions.

9. Medical marijuana

Medical marijuana may be legal in 17 states, but you might need some green in your pocket to buy it.

American Express and Discover cite federal laws as why they will not process transactions at dispensaries.

Visa and Mastercard haven’t come out with similar policies, but many of the major credit card payment processors have made that decision for them by refusing to work with medical marijuana merchants.

10. Merchandise at discount stores

Everyone loves a bargain but you’ll need cash or a debit card to shop at some discount retailers.

Credit cards aren’t accepted at discount grocer Aldi nor do some Save-a-Lot stores take this form of plastic.

Head to Dollar General with your Mastercard, and you’ll be turned down although these stores will take Visa or Discover.

Limitations on credit cards are often in place to reduce merchant fees and help businesses keep their costs low.

Credit cards can be convenient, but they won’t buy you everything. Whether it is the decision of the credit card issuer or that of the retailer, these are a few of the items that may require some cold hard cash to purchase.

 

These Are The Biggest PR Disasters Of 2012

via Business Insider: 

 

From corporate social fails to “pink slime” scandals to Apple launching a widely hated mapping feature, 2012 was filled with epic PR disasters. 

While many of the public relations nightmares were due to typical company failings, others were unique to the digital era.

All it takes is a single employee’s bad tweet — like a Burger King staffer standing in a tub of lettuce — to send corporate headquarters into damage control mode.

We’ve collected 10 of the worst PR disasters of the year.

 

10. KitchenAid tweeted about Obama’s dead grandma.

10. KitchenAid tweeted about Obama's dead grandma.

During one of the presidential debates, KitchenAid tweeted to its 24,000 fans that “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics”.

KitchenAid immediately deleted the quote and tweeted an apology.

A spokesperson said that “The tasteless joke in no way represents our values at KitchenAid, and that person won’t be tweeting for us anymore.”

9. American Apparel exploits Hurricane Sandy.

9. American Apparel exploits Hurricane Sandy.

American Apparel

People were outraged when American Apparel used Hurricane Sandy — a storm that killed over 100 people and initially left 8 million without power — as an excuse to sell merchandise.

The retailer were offered a 20 percent off sale if they typed “SANDYSALE” in the online checkout “in case you’re bored during the storm.”

American Apparel decided to ignore the PR disaster and didn’t apologize.

Gap, on the other hand, also did a Sandy sale and then tweeted apologies for offending people.

8, The NRA’s magazine posted an insensitive tweet after the Aurora shooting.

8, The NRA's magazine posted an insensitive tweet after the Aurora shooting.

Hours after the nation learned about the tragic Aurora shooting that left 12 people dead at a late night showing of “The Dark Night Rises,” American Rifleman, a magazine for the NRA, tweeted: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

The tweet went up at 9:20 am EST and was taken down three hours later.

A spokesman for the NRA stated, “A single individual, unaware of events in Colorado, tweeted a comment that is being completely taken out of context.”

PR lesson: be careful with pre-scheduled tweets.

7. Apple Maps was so bad, the CEO had to issue a public apology.

7. Apple Maps was so bad, the CEO had to issue a public apology.

When Apple banished Google Maps from the iPhone in September, consumers were concerned.

Apple’s own maps app turned out to be riddled with errors, and didn’t even include public transportation mapping.

CEO Tim Cook had to issue a public apology, conceding that the maps “fell short” before suggesting users download competitors’ products from the Apps store. Cook specifically called out Bing, MapQuest, or going to Nokia and Google’s website.

The product manager who oversaw the maps team was fired months later.

6. The Internet exposes a Burger King employee who stood in tubs of lettuce.

In July, a Burger King employee thought that it would be a fun idea to post pictures on 4Chan of him standing (shoes on) in two large tubs of lettuce. The caption read: “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.”

Within minutes, other 4Chan members tracked down the culprit.

Burger King addressed the PR disaster in a public statement regarding the chain’s “zero-tolerance policy against any violations such as the one in question” and fired three employees for the incident.

5. A Taco Bell employee tweeted a picture of himself urinating on a plate of nachos.

Even though the Indiana worker assured people that the plate was going to be thrown out anyway, Taco Bell dealt with the crisis immediately by firing him.

4. Chick-fil-A’s president bashes gay marriage.

Chick-fil-A caused quite a stir when its president publicly came out against gay marriage.

Dan Cathy, who also serves as the COO, told “The Ken Coleman Show”: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

This caused a national outcry — some for, and others against. Citizens held boycotts and kiss-in protests at local chains, and mayors threatened to ban the chain from their cities. (Which mayors can’t actually do.)

More controversy arose when Jim Henson Co. slammed Chick-fil-A for its public stance, and then Jim Henson toys were prematurely pulled from the chicken chain.

3. “Pink Slime” is discovered.

In March, ABC News released a series of reports raising concern over a hamburger ingredient dubbed  “pink slime,” a mechanically separated and disinfected beef product officially known as lean finely textured beef.

People began petitioning to get supermarkets, restaurants, and schools to all stop carrying the slime, even though various consumer experts said it was safe. This PR disaster led to massive layoffs.

BPI eventually filed a lawsuit against ABC for $1.2 billion for allegedly making about 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product.

2. McDonald’s #McDStories Twitter campaign gets out of control.

McDonald’s January Twitter campaign asked readers to tweet their own special #McDStories.

The problem: people used the hashtag for horror stories like: “Fingernail in my BigMac” and “Hospitalized for food poisoning after eating McDonalds in 1989. Never ate there again and became Vegetarian. Should have sued.”

McDonald’s had no way to control what people tweeted, and all the stories showed up whenever anyone clicked the hashtag.

McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion emailed BI that:

While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the Supplier Stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned. We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

Within an hour of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell off from a peak of 1600 to a few dozen. It is also important to keep those numbers in perspective. There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald’s overall that day so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage (2%) of that.

With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger.

1. Penn State covers up the Sandusky scandal.

1. Penn State covers up the Sandusky scandal.

AP

Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged and later convicted of repeated counts of child molestation while at Penn State.

Although the scandal was unveiled in 2011, the university felt the full fallout in 2012 when the Freeh report stated that Joe Paterno and the administration covered up Sandusky’s abusesMajor companies pulled sponsorships of the program.

Part of the PR disaster was due to Penn State’s initial difficulty addressing the problem. Pulitzer-winning stories in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg initially uncovered the scandal in March 2011. But Penn State remained tightlipped. PR firm Ketchum was hired in November of 2011, and the school hired Edelman and La Torre for crisis management in April 2012. The school pledged to spend $208,000 a month for 12 months on PR support, but the damage was done.

The 10 Hottest Consumer Trends For 2013

via Business Insider:

 

The consumer experience continues to change rapidly. It’s getting more digital, more mobile, and many more companies from around the world are competing for shorter attention spans. 

In a series of reportstrendwatching.com has been tracking what consumers are demanding, and how brands are giving it to them.

Here’s what they think the 10 hottest consumer trends will be in 2013, and the businesses that are getting ahead of the curve.

 

Crowdfunding will become active, consumers will start to change and invest in new startups and products

Crowdfunding is moving from an activity where people put a few dollars forward to a more active phase, where consumers actually work with brands on the creation of products and invest in the companies that make them, all through digital platforms.

Source: trendwatching.com

Soon, average U.S. consumers will be able to own a piece of the startups they buy from

With the passage of the JOBS act earlier this year, people in the United States will soon be able to invest in startups and brands through equity crowdfunding startups like Fundable.

Source: trendwatching.com

There’s going to be an explosion of products and services from emerging markets for emerging markets

The big trends over the last two decades were developing markets selling to emerging ones, and emerging markets catering to the developed world. Now we’re going to see developing markets selling to each other and their growing middle classes, at far greater rates. Having grown up in these rapidly growing markets, they’ll often have an advantage over Western powerhouses.

Source: trendwatching.com

Lenovo is offering smartphones outside of China for the first time

Lenovo, already the second largest smartphone maker in China, is starting to expand throughout Asia. It launched in Indonesia in October, and plans to roll out a smartphone specifically for the Indian market early next year.

Source: trendwatching.com

 

Brands are going to look to engage constantly on mobile devices

Well over half of American smartphone owners don’t go an hour without checking their device. However, most app sessions last only a minute. Businesses are going to compete harder than ever to get a slice of that engagement, and make it as valuable as possible.

Source: trendwatching.com

 

Jana users can get free airtime by participating in surveys

Jana lets cell phone users in the developing world earn free airtime by participating in market research surveys via text message. They’ve partnered with mobile operators to reach almost 3.5 billion people in more than 100 countries.

Source: trendwatching.com

 

Products are out that literally grow when you plant them

Products are out that literally grow when you plant them

alexindigo via Flickr

Environmental efforts by companies, no matter how well meaning or extensive, can often seem distant to customers. Now, brands and designers are starting to make the experience more visceral, by creating products that literally have life inside of them.

Source: trendwatching.com

This new chopstick grows into a plant

As an environmental alternative to disposable chopsticks, a Korean designer created the ‘To Be Nature Chopstick.’ One of the sticks has a starch cap containing a seed, and the other can be put into soil next to it, providing a support for the plant to grow on.

Source: trendwatching.com

Healthcare apps are exploding, so actual healthcare professionals will get involved

There are 13,000 healthcare apps available in the App store. Consumers, worried about safety, will turn to the medical profession for advice. The medical profession can use this is as an opportunity to reduce costs, improve compliance, and monitor patients.

Doctors are starting to ‘prescribe’ healthcare apps

One example is Happtique, a healthcare app store by and for healthcare professionals. They recently launched a pilot program for “an electronic prescription app,” mRx which lets practitioners prescribe certified apps, and track which patients have downloaded them.

Source: trendwatching.com

Emerging markets will embrace their culture in consumer products sold worldwide

Emerging markets will embrace their culture in consumer products sold worldwide

AP

Rather than becoming homogeneous, emerging brands will increasingly celebrate the symbols, lifestyles, and traditions of their own country, using it as a selling point for domestic consumers and to pique the interest of global consumers.

Source: trendwatching.com

China’s NE-Tiger is starting to export luxury fashion

China now has its first luxury fashion brand, NE-TIGER. One of its founding principals is go “From China, to the World” according to founder Zhang Zhifeng. It presented its latest line in Milan in September.

Source: trendwatching.com

Consumers will start demanding a share of the value of their data

The discussion of “big data” has focused on how customer data helps businesses. Consumers are increasingly aware of this, and will expect to turn this around, and benefit from the value of their lifestyle data. They’ll start to look for brands that use it proactively (but not intrusively) to improve their behavior and help them save money.

Source: trendwatching.com

Opower lets users see how much energy they’re using and compete to save money

Opower is an app that allows users to connect their energy account and see a visual representation of energy use over a month. They can see particularly wasteful activities, and compare usage to friends and other households. They can also participate in competitions to reduce energy waste.

Source: trendwatching.com

Local manufacturing is coming back to mature markets

Local manufacturing is coming back to mature markets

Form 1 3D printer and the Eiffel Tower it built

Kickstarter/Formlabs

Due to increasing costs abroad and new technologies like 3D printing, manufacturing is coming back to mature markets. Consumers like to buy things made in their own countries, and that’s going to be a large part of the appeal of brands that make this choice.

Source: trendwatching.com

 

The Tesla Model S is made in California

This incredibly advanced electric car from Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors, which saw its first deliveries in June, is manufactured in Fremont, California.

Source: trendwatching.com

Brands will have to start proving that they’re transparent and socially responsible

Just making statements and running advertisements on transparency and social responsibility isn’t good enough. Trust in brands to tell the truth or do the right thing has declined significantly over the past few years. Increasingly, consumers want to see evidence and actual results.

Source: trendwatching.com

This Chinese organic farm lets customers track their food the whole way

Chinese (and foreign) consumers are increasingly concerned about food safety. Chinese organic farm Yi Mu Tian lets customers track any food item to the farm where it was grown, and actually watch the growth of vegetables on camera.

Source: trendwatching.com

Brands will start to make demands of their customers

Brands will start to make demands of their customers

Cea. at www.flickr.com

Social responsibility and sustainability efforts from companies are great, but they’re much more effective when consumers buy into them and join in. Not only does it build a brand’s reputation, it actually accomplishes something good.

Source: trendwatching.com

Vitoria is changing its uniform as its fans donate blood

Brazilian soccer club Vitoria released a uniform with white and black stripes. Fans all over Brazil have been encouraged to donate blood, and as blood banks hit their targets, the stripes will return to their traditional red, one at a time.

Source: trendwatching.com

 

Five Christmas Presents That Could Change Your Life

via Business Insider: 

A chair with no back; a helmet that’s not really there; a ‘Star Trek’-style replicator. The Christmas gifts of the future are already here.

hovding

Cast your mind back to the beginning of 2010. A certain groundbreaking product was about to change the world. “Still no one is certain what the hell this creation is actually going to be for,” wrote the technology journalist Charles Arthur, “nor even what it will be called.” The Telegraph’s then technology correspondent, Claudine Beaumont, called it the “so-called iTablet”. She was far from convinced. “People might not know what they’ll use the tablet for,” she wrote somewhat grudgingly, “but they know that they need one.”

She was right. By Christmas 2011, the iPad was already being described as a true “game-changer”. In just a few years it has transformed the way we play, do business, socialise and learn. Will we ever see its like again? In this age of hyper-creativity and rapid technological advancement, it is impossible to tell. In the meantime, however, here are some recent innovations hoping to change how we travel to work, drink, and even the way we sit:

The Intelligent chair

When I meet Roger Golten for a coffee, he is sitting in an upright yet relaxed fashion on the chair he has brought with him. It’s an odd sight; he is able to swivel, tilt any which way, and – strangest of all – spread and raise each leg independently.

“As a race, we are transforming from homo sapiens to homo sedens,” says Golten, a therapist specialising in posture improvement and this chair’s sole UK importer. “We’re not designed to sit all day, yet most of us have incredibly sedentary lifestyles. It causes all sorts of health problems.”

The “Limbic” chair is designed to eliminate those problems, and looks nothing like a chair at all. It comprises a pair of carbon-fibre wings, curved to accept the precise dimensions of the thighs of the owner. Each of these moves independently on a complex system of hydraulics. There is no back, and no cushioning to speak of. “It’s very comfortable once you get used to it,” says Golten. “It makes sitting a dynamic process rather than a fixed, static position. You can move whenever you like, and pause in a fixed position as well. It also keeps the brain stimulated.”

The chair was invented by a Swiss doctor called Patrik Künzler at MIT, in collaboration with engineers from Formula One. “Chairs have been around for 4,000 years,” he says, “but we still haven’t adapted to them. Our bodies are essentially asymmetric – when our right foot goes forwards, it is accompanied by our left hand, and vice versa. A regular chair forces us into strict, static symmetry, and prevents us from the micro-movements of the sort that we naturally make when stationary, for example in sleep.” According to Künzler, small, regular movements are essential to keep nutrients and blood flowing, and to keep the back’s vertebrae lubricated.

“This chair,” he says, “allows you to make asymmetrical micro-movements whenever you like.” I climb on. It’s a strange experience, like being cradled by a robotic hand. Instantly, however, I can understand the benefits. The chair adjusts to me. There’s an immense feeling of freedom at being able to move in any direction at will. It’s almost like floating.

Just 50 of these chairs have been sold in the world, and only two currently exist in Britain. They cost £6,500, plus VAT. Golten says it particularly suits people who have to work in a fixed position for long periods. “My ideal client,” he explains, “is someone who sits all day, and makes a lot of money doing so.” golten.co.uk

The ‘invisible’ bike helmet

In Spring 2005, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, two Swedish industrial designers, were studying at Lund University when they became interested in cycle safety. The catalyst for their thesis project – the “Hövding” invisible bike helmet – was the introduction of new tough laws in Sweden that made bicycle helmets compulsory for children under the age of 15.

According to their research, 40 people die and 30,000 are injured each year in cycling accidents in Sweden alone, but the vast majority of cyclists do not wear helmets. The reason?

“Bicycle helmets are bulky and impractical to carry around when you’re not on your bicycle,” says Haupt. “People think bicycle helmets look hideous and make them look silly. They ruin your hair and you can’t get a hat on underneath.”

Their “invisible” solution has to be, well, seen to be believed. It takes the form of a scarf-like collar that zips up around the neck and is available in different coloured and patterned sleeves. When sensors pick up “abnormal movements of a bicyclist in an accident”, an airbag hood pops out instantaneously, protecting the head.

Amazingly, the Hövding complies with safety requirements. It is, according to the designers, “a practical accessory [that] will save your life”. It is available now, for the price of ¤499 (£400). Sleeves cost an additional ¤59 (£47.50)hovding.com

The cardboard BiCYCLE

Izhar Gafni, an Israeli inventor and cycling enthusiast, is also an expert in designing automated mass-production lines. These skills and interests came together in the invention of the cardboard bicycle, which will last for years, costs as little as £10 and, to answer everyone’s first question, can indeed withstand the rain.

“It has always excited me to take old raw materials and then turn it into something completely different, something useful,” he says. “The idea is like Japanese origami. You fold it once and it doesn’t gain twice the strength, but three times the strength.” The initial inspiration came when he heard about a man who managed to build a canoe from cardboard. “I thought, why not make a bicycle out of cardboard?”

The initial prototype looked like “a hybrid between a packaging box and a bicycle – a package on wheels”. It was only when he realised it needed to look like a serious bicycle that “the real challenges started”. Part of the design’s success is the special coating, made of an undisclosed combination of organic materials, which rendered the bicycle waterproof and fireproof. To finish the product, a layer of lacquer is applied.

Although Gafni is prevented by patenting issues to reveal the precise details of the design, he says the bicycle will contain no metal parts at all, not even in the brakes, chain and pedal bearings. All will be made of recycled and recyclable materials.

Gafni believes that his cardboard bicycle will be a game-changer in Africa. Plans are already under way to produce child-sized versions, as well as a cardboard wheelchair. Grants will cover the cost of production in Africa, and the product will be free on delivery. His latest prototype has reached the requisite standard, and mass production will begin in the next few months.

The wine-enhancing glass

According to Château Baccarat, the French wineglass manufacturer, it’s all in the shape. The company’s signature glass has a wide, heavy bowl that tapers into a cylindrical funnel. It looks rather odd, but there is method in the madness; this, it says, could be the wineglass of the future.

The shape of the Baccarat glass – which has different iterations for reds, whites and bubbles – has three features. The concave bottom and wide base prevents the alcohol from climbing up the glass when swirled, and keeps the aromas contained. The sharp, closed angle of the walls condenses the alcohol’s “volatile matter” and allows the aromas to billow around the glass as it is rotated. The vertical chimney acts to reunify and consolidate the aromas. The result is a punchy hit on the nose, which acts as a potent precursor to the wine and influences the perception of taste.

Put simply, it makes great wines taste even better, and not so great – i.e., cheap – wines taste good.

Hugues Lepin, the head sommelier at The Connaught Hotel in London’s Mayfair, now uses Baccarat glasses exclusively as they “open the potential of the wine”. Whereas most wines are “unlocked” when they are decanted, he says with the Baccarat glasses it is unnecessary; these are “decanting glasses”.

This radical design, Lepin says, is “the ultimate sommelier’s glass”. baccarat.com

The HAND-HELD 3D scanner

The Go!SCAN 3D portable scanner may look like a hairdryer, but it’s in fact the closest science has come to producing a Star Trek-style “replicator”. Created by a Canadian company, Creaform, it makes an exact, three-dimensional image of an object on a computer screen, which can be spun around through 360 degrees and manipulated at will. Then, using a 3D printer, a copy can be made.

3D scanning isn’t exactly a new technology, but professional-quality scanners have long been prohibitively costly and cumbersome. This portable version can go anywhere, and theoretically scan – and copy – any object you can point at. The applications for the scanner are wide ranging. Museum curators, restorers and archivists will be able to digitise and archive artefacts online. Archaeologists and palaeontologists may use the gadget to assemble the parts of a fossil or ancient site. Or, if you’re a car enthusiast who can afford the £16,000 retail price, you’ll have access to an infinite supply of spare parts without ever needing to bother the manufacturer. The American talk-show host Jay Leno demonstrated this with the valve of a rare 1907 steam car. It was broken, and getting a replacement was impossible. So he scanned it and printed a plastic version of the valve with a 3D printer; this was used as a mould to produce a metal version.

The Japanese company Omote 3D scans human beings, prints a statue of them, and paints it to look lifelike. This, they say, will be the family photograph of the future.

Nick Allen, founder of 3D Print UK, admits that the process is “expensive and slow, so will not replace traditional mass-production methods. But for bespoke objects it is ideal.”

New possibilities for using this technology are still being discovered, not all of them good. Allen, for example, was once asked to scan and print multiple ATM skimmers, which could record card details. He immediately informed the police.

According to Simon Bradshaw, a barrister who has made a detailed study of the intellectual property issues of 3D printing, copying an object purely for private use isn’t strictly illegal – yet. “What I expect will happen is that there will be growing pressure to regulate this area,” he says. The case, as they say, continues. goscan3d.com/en

J. Crew’s $145 Baby Sweater Is Smarter Than You Think

via Business Insider:

Collection cashmere baby sweaters from J. Crew.

As soon as J. Crew revealed its new cashmere collection, people began ridiculing the $145 baby sweater.

The price was considered extravagant for a tiny sweater that the wearer would likely spill pureed peas on. Twitter exploded at the news, expressing disbelief that a big retailer would be so “stupid.”

“I’m sorry J. Crew, but no baby needs a $145 cashmere sweater,” tweeted one user, while another asked “Who will buy it?”

But the luxe sweater actually hits a booming market of 30 and 40-something professionals in a very sweet spot: their children. Many of these professionals have money to blow, but aren’t yet wealthy.

Luxury marketing expert Pam Danziger calls these people HENRYs, for “High Earners Not Rich Yet.” They earn between $100,000 and $250,000 annually.

HENRYs are a growing segment, while the wealthiest people are making less than they used to.

This consumer insight makes J. Crew’s thinking on the expensive baby sweater more clear.

People are generally more willing to spend on their children than themselves, a mentality that, combined with the group’s spending power, could mean J. Crew will sell a lot of sweaters.

Consumers spending on gifts for their children could help holiday sales go up 3.7 percent this year, according to a study by IBISWorld. 

Eve Vawter at Mommyish writes that she would buy the sweater for her children.

“There is nothing wrong with wanting to splurge on expensive baby clothes on occasion, and I think all parents have done this,” she writes. “A cashmere sweater never goes out of style.”

Here’s The Excuse For Why Black Friday Sales Were DOWN Nearly 2% This Year

via Business Insider: 

Expect to hear a lot about “pulled forward demand” in the coming weeks.

macy's black friday

The firm ShopperTrak reported yesterday:

ShopperTrak, the world’s largest counter of retail foot traffic, estimates that, when compared to Black Friday last year, retail foot traffic rose 3.5 percent, to more than 307.67 million store visits. Retail sales decreased 1.8 percent, however, with shoppers spending an estimated total of $11.2 billion yesterday.

But then it added:

“Black Friday continues to be an important day in retail,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. “This year, though, more retailers than last year began their ‘doorbuster’ deals on Thursday, Thanksgiving itself. So while foot traffic did increase on Friday, those Thursday deals attracted some of the spending that’s usually meant for Friday.”

One analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, who was hanging out at a mall on Black Friday told BI:

…the pulled forward promos (starting weds and midnight openings) does seem to have pulled some traffic from Black Friday. Mall traffic seems thinner.

So this week, when the analysis is done, that will be the explanation.

 

Holiday Shopping Season Off to Record Start

via TIME: 

Holiday Shopping

(NEW YORK) — If you make holiday shopping convenient, Americans will come in droves.

It’s estimated that U.S. shoppers hit stores and websites at record numbers over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation on Sunday. They were attracted by retailers‘ efforts to make shopping easier, including opening stores on Thanksgiving evening, updating mobile shopping applications for smartphones and tablets, and expanding shipping and layaway options.

All told, a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the four-day weekend starting on Thanksgiving, up 9.2 percent of last year, according to a survey of 4,000 shoppers that was conducted by research firm BIGinsight for the trade group. Americans spent more too: The average holiday shopper spent $423 over the entire weekend, up from $398 last year. Total spending over the four-day weekend totaled $59.1 billion, up 12.8 percent from 2011.

(MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Black Friday)

Caitlyn Maguire, 21, was one of the shoppers that took advantage of all the new conveniences of shopping this year. Maguire, who lives in New York, began buying on Thanksgiving night at Target’s East Harlem store. During the two-hour wait in line, she also bought items on her iPhone on Amazon.com. On Friday, she picked up a few toys at Toys R Us. And on Saturday she was out at the stores again.

“I’m basically done,” said Maguire, who spent about $400 over the weekend.

The results for the weekend appear to show that retailers’ efforts to make shopping effortless for U.S. consumers during the holiday shopping season worked. Retailers upped the ante in order to give Americans more reasons to shop. Stores feared that consumers might not spend because of the weak job market and worries that tax increases and budget cuts will take effect if Congress fails to reach a budget deal by January.

Retailers, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue in November and December, were hoping Thanksgiving openings and other incentives would help boost what’s expected to be a difficult holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion. That’s more than a percentage point lower than the growth in each of the past two years, and the smallest increase since 2009, when sales were nearly flat.

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said retailers can be encouraged by the first weekend of the holiday shopping season.

“Retailers and consumers both won this weekend, especially on Thanksgiving,” he said.

Here were the trends that emerged over the weekend:

— Online wave: According to comScore, which tracks online spending, online sales rose 26 percent to $1.04 billion on Black Friday compared with a year ago. On Thanksgiving, online sales rose 32 percent from last year to $633 million. And online sales on Black Friday were up 26 percent from the same day last year to $1.042 billion. It was the first time online sales on Black Friday surpassed $1 billion.

— Thanksgiving shopping: Many stores, including Toys R Us and Target, opened on Thanksgiving evening this year. No data is out yet about how much shoppers spent on that day, but it appears that consumers took advantage of the earlier start: According to the National Retail Federation’s survey, the number of people who shopped on Thanksgiving rose 23.1 percent. That compares with a 3.1 percent increase for Black Friday.

Linda and James Michaels of Portland, Ore., were among those shopping on Thanksgiving. They hit up the big sales on the day and got everything they were hoping for that night.

They picked up remote control cars and some Mickey Mouse items on sale at Toys R Us. Then they went a few doors down to Target and scored the last Operation game on sale for $7. They were even able to pick up some pajamas and shoes along the way for the kids. In total they spent about $300.

“I felt lucky that I caught the deals and there was no craziness, no fighting,” said Linda Michaels. “I was nervous.”

ShopperTrak, which analyzes customer traffic at 40,000 U.S. stores, plans to release sales data for Thanksgiving later this week, but the firm is estimating that retailers generated $700 million in sales on the holiday.

— Black Friday flop: It appears that the Thanksgiving openings may have hurt sales on the day after.

Black Friday is still expected to be the biggest shopping day of the year, but sales on that day slipped to $11.2 billion, down 1.8 percent from last year, according to ShopperTrak. That’s below ShopperTrak’s estimate that Black Friday sales would rise 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion.

Karen MacDonald, a spokeswoman at Taubman Centers, which operates 28 malls across the country, said that Thanksgiving openings hurt business. Based on a sampling of 10 malls, sales growth was unchanged up to mid-single digits on Friday, and unchanged up to low single digit on Saturday.

“It was a different feeling,” she said. “It was a good Black Friday, but I don’t think it was great.”

The disappointing sales on Black Friday may have been the result of shoppers like Miguel Garcia, a 40-year-old office coordinator.

“I can’t deal with all that craziness,” said Garcia, who was at a Target in the Bronx borough of New York City on Saturday. “Compared to what I saw on TV yesterday, this is so much more comfortable and relaxed. I can actually think straight and compare prices.”

 

Black Friday shoppers at Walmart seen running over strikers

via Bloomberg: 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) workers demanding better pay and benefits vow to mount 1,000 protests online and outside stores up to and including Black Friday. The strategy risks showing the company’s strength not vulnerability.

To work, the approach will require protest leaders to turn out significant numbers of strikers and persuade deal-chasing shoppers to go elsewhere. Similar protests in recent weeks have had little perceptible impact on the world’s largest retailer.

The Black Friday protests are unlikely to be any different, said Zev J. Eigen, an associate professor at Northwestern University School of Law who specializes in labor relations.

“Shoppers in the parking lot will say ‘Oh, that’s terrible — OK, where do I get my discounted electronics,’” said Eigen, who is based in Chicago. “That’s one of the big challenges for thelabor movement. We’ll sign online petitions, but we won’t vote with our wallets.”

For years, the United Food & Commercial Workers union has tried and failed to organize Wal-Mart workers. In recent months, the union has adopted a new tactic: backing two groups, OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart, and waging a media campaign and mounting protests comprised of activists and Wal- Mart workers at stores and warehouses around the U.S.

The protest organizers have declined to say how many Wal- Mart associates they expect to be involved in the latest round of actions. About 30 workers from six Seattle-area stores went on strike Nov. 15, and others plan to do so, the groups’ members have said. Wal-Mart has more than 4,500 stores and clubs and 1.4 million employees in the U.S.

Strong Reputation

While Eigen compared the movement to “a few drops of food coloring in a giant vat of water,” he added a caveat: “It is significant because Wal-Mart has such a strong reputation of shutting down even the tiniest, tiniest labor actions.”

On an earnings call Nov. 15, Wal-Mart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said he was “not aware of any major disruptions that are going to happen Black Friday.”

Still, later that day Wal-Mart fired a warning shot, filing a complaint against the union with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. Wal-Mart accused the group of violating federal labor lawsby inappropriately picketing, demonstrating, trespassing on company property and intimidating customers and employees — or making threats to do those things.

The union has tried to force Wal-Mart to the bargaining table even though it does not officially represent employees, according to the complaint. Wal-Mart asked the board for an investigation and immediate injunction.

Adverse Impact

“We are taking this action now because we cannot allow the UFCW to continue to intentionally seek to create an environment that could directly and adversely impact our customers and associates,” David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said in an e- mailed statement. “If they do, they will be held accountable.”

The NLRB said today it may respond to Wal-Mart’s complaint as early as tomorrow.

The protesters are demanding more-predictable schedules, less-expensive health-care plans and minimum hourly pay of $13 with the option of working full-time. The average hourly full- time wage at Wal-Mart is $12.57, Kory Lundberg, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Wal-Mart’s refusal to improve working conditions ultimately will be self-defeating, Lynsey Kryzwick, a spokeswoman for the non-profit Making Change at Walmart, said in a Nov. 16 telephone interview.

Customer Service

“Under-staffing going on in stores leads to low customer service leads to lower sales,” she said.

On Nov. 15, Wal-Mart forecast fourth-quarter profit that trailed analysts’ estimates after economic conditions slowed U.S. sales gains. Fourth-quarter profit will be $1.53 to $1.58 a share, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said in a statement. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was $1.59.

Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke has been reducing prices to lure U.S. shoppers that are still suffering amid sluggish economic growth and 7.9 percent unemployment. Discount chains such as Dollar General Corp. (DG) and Dollar Tree Inc. (DLTR) have attracted some of those customers with smaller-format stores that allow for quicker trips and by adding food items.

The shares fell the most in more than six months after the earnings report on Nov. 15 and by the next day had lost a combined 5 percent to close in New York at $68.03. The shares have risen 15 percent this year.

For Wal-Mart to acknowledge the union’s demands, many more employees will have to be willing to walk off the job, said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based non-profit group that researches issues for American workers.

“If this is as big as the strikes and protests ever get, it’s not going to amount to much,” he said.