Moxy Times Square: Cool & Cheap

The New York Times: “Moxy Times Square is a cool 612-room hotel that opened in September — and you can stay there from just $99 (£73) a night. The hotel offers guest rooms and coworking spaces designed by international design firm Yabu Pushelberg, as well as Magic Hour, which it says is the city’s largest indoor-outdoor hotel rooftop.”

“Room rates start at $139 (£103) a night for a standard double, but the hotel also has 19 $99 ‘Crashpad’ rooms on offer ‘meant for customers who order one too many drinks or don’t want the night to end,’ bookable only through Magic Hour.”

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Late & Great: Fred Bass

Quartz: “Fred Bass, co-owner of New York’s massive used bookstore, fondly known as the Strand, died of heart failure Jan. 3 at 89. Bass transformed his father’s modest store into the four-story bookshop immediately recognizable to New Yorkers and tourists today: The store on Broadway, with its red-and-white awning over $1-book carts lining the southern-facing exterior.”

“There are two basic things a good bookstore can provide: The delightful maze of human-curated shelves, or the satisfaction of efficiently getting the book you’re looking for. Amazon has done its part in taking away business from the bookstore chains that have excelled at the latter, like Borders and Barnes & Noble. The now Everything Store once sold nothing but books, and one way it’s done so successfully is by offering deep discounts. The Strand, though nowhere near as ubiquitous as Amazon.com, has been able to tout dizzying volume at the same time it’s maintained a beloved shopping experience.”

“What Amazon has done well—sell its vast inventory to you for super cheap—Bass did first. And with tote bags. Nearly all the store’s books are sold at a discount, ranging anywhere from a couple dollars off a new title to less than a $1 for a classic or a book that’s run its course … Today clutching one of Strand’s 100 or so bag designs is a proud display of reader identity.”

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How Big Data Disrupts Big Brands

The Washington Post: “Launched in 2015, ZX Ventures is charged with ‘disrupting’ the beer industry by developing and investing in businesses that will provide value and improve user experiences — and make more money for AB InBev — somewhere down the road. They’ve invested in e-commerce delivery systems, beer-rating applications and home-brew suppliers, all of which provide data points that can tell them about trends and help them get ahead of the market.”

“According to its mission statement, ‘ZX Ventures is hopelessly dedicated to creating and analyzing the data necessary for determining our ideal strategies, products and technologies. We believe that the more we know and learn about our consumers and products, the better chance we have of anticipating their needs in the future.’ Translation: They want to know everything about purchasing patterns and decisions. What are customers looking for? What are influencers thinking? How can they make it easier to get AB InBev’s products into the hands of people who might want beer?”

“The ZX Ventures team is interested in access to a large number of data points: The most popular and trending beers, styles and search terms in any region around the world. Are more people giving high ratings to saisons in London than Los Angeles? Are Bavarians searching for IPAs available to them? What are the most highly rated beer bars in the Southeast? Which beer styles have grown the most in the last year, in terms of average ratings or the number of searches, and where? If certain cities are rating sour beers higher than the norm, for example, Elysian’s sour pineapple seasonal or a new wild saison from Wicked Weed could be given extra promotional play in those markets.”

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How ‘Ankle-Biters’ Nip Big Brands

The Wall Street Journal: “Consumers in rich countries once embraced the consistency, convenience and affordability of their offerings, from disposable razors to ready-to-boil ravioli. In other parts of the world, a growing middle class clamored for many of the same trusted, Western brands.”

“Today, that isn’t good enough. Shoppers have gravitated in droves toward smaller, niche or locally made products. In many cases, they are seeking out healthy alternatives and more natural ingredients. Manufacturing costs have fallen, allowing small players to seize quickly on trends. Social media and e-commerce have made marketing and distribution easier.”

RBC analyst James Edwardes Jones comments: “We think big incumbents—however well managed—are going to continue to struggle against the depredations of the ‘ankle-biters’.”

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Amazon Has a ‘Basic’ Problem

The Wall Street Journal: “There is one major problem with the idea that Amazon will eat the entire universe … Amazon is good at identifying commodity products and making those as cheap and available as possible … But this system isn’t very compatible with big-ticket, higher-margin items. Could Amazon’s Lab126—famous for both the successful Echo and the failed Fire phone—ever produce something as premium as an iPhone or an OLED TV? Its success in electronics has come from driving their prices to the very bottom.”

“The same goes for Amazon’s other businesses. For example, could Amazon Studios, which has shown little ability to create hits, ever produce a franchise like Marvel’s Avengers or HBO’s Game of Thrones? … Amazon may be mastering commodity goods; its own Basics line went from about 250 products in 2013 to over 1,500 today. But making items widely available at low prices runs directly counter to the way higher-profit businesses work.”

“Consider the makers of high-end handbags, which limit who can distribute their wares and, as a result, who can buy them. Not surprisingly, many of those brands refuse to sell on Amazon at all … The bulk of our everyday goods and services may one day come from Amazon, and everyone from CVS to Uber should watch their backs. Even so, there will continue to be countless competitors that would never dream of branding any of their products ‘Basic’.”

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How Mushrooms Battle Dirty Laundry

The New York Times: Scientists from a “Danish biotechnology company … Novozymes, regularly trudge through the mud, hunting for oyster mushrooms that protrude from a fallen beech or bracken fungi that feast on tough plant fibers. They are studying the enzymes in mushrooms that speed up chemical reactions or natural processes like decay … Their work is helping the company develop enzymes for laundry and dishwasher detergents that would require less water, or that would work just as effectively at lower temperatures.”

“Enlisting enzymes to battle dirt is not a new strategy. Over thousands of years, mushrooms and their fungi cousins have evolved into masters at nourishing themselves on dying trees, fallen branches and other materials. They break down these difficult materials by secreting enzymes into their hosts. Even before anyone knew what enzymes were, they were used in brewing and cheese making, among other activities.”

“Novozymes and its rivals have developed a catalog of enzymes over the years, supplying them to consumer goods giants like Unilever and Procter & Gamble … In 2009, Novozymes scientists teamed up with Procter & Gamble to develop an enzyme that could be used in liquid detergents for cold-water washes.” Phil Souter of P&G comments: “We knew this was something that consumers would want. I think this is a very tangible and practical way people can make a difference in their everyday lives.”

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Stinky Cremes: The Odor of Authenticity

The New York Times: “Among skin-care enthusiasts, Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 has a formidable reputation for its exfoliating powers — and an extremely stinky aroma. Formulated decades ago, the French toner contains a hyperspecific blend of lactic acid, onion extract and plankton that loyalists swear will clear up acne and render your skin silky smooth. If you can withstand the assault on your nose, that is.” Danuta Mieloch of Rescue Spas comments: “It’s highly addictive because it helps to achieve healthy, glowing skin. You sort of can’t live without it …Women go to extremes to maintain their skin. A little smell — it’s a small price to pay.”

“P50 is not the only classic beauty product causing a (literal) stink. SkinCeutical’s brightening and firming C E Ferulic serum has a noticeable ‘metallic smell,’ says the New York dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. ‘One of my patients told me it smells like dirty hot dog water’ … The phenomenon represents a sharp departure from fragranced creams and serums from other luxury purveyors … that leave behind a richly perfumed trail with every application. Yet not masking the au naturale aroma of ingredients lends a certain air of authenticity.”

Dr. Amy Wechsler, a New York dermatologist and psychiatrist, comments: “The thinking is that if something stings and smells bad, then it must be doing something … People associate medicine with a bad smell and bitter taste; so with skin care, they think there must be some really active ingredients in there … it’s like, ‘Oooh it’s supposed to smell bad,’ and it feels even more secret and special.”

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