Beijing Surprise: All Sages Bookstore

The New York Times: “All Sages Bookstore, a haven of precisely arranged shelves and display tables, thrives on the low-rent second floor of a nondescript building near Peking University … the store represents an independent political spirit in an authoritarian one-party state … A large image of Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and freethinker, stands out among a galaxy of literary posters lining the wall of the entry staircase, a taste of what’s to come.”

“All Sages has the feel of a well-ordered, smaller version of the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan … The clientele seems to be as varied as the books. The store is strategically located, within walking distance of China’s premier university campus, but people from all over the country drop by. On a recent weekend, a manager of a chemical company in the southern city of Shenzhen pushed a trolley full of books to the cashier for dispatch home by air courier. High-ranking military officers, party officials, rich society figures and celebrity entrepreneurs are all customers.”

“The books in All Sages are all in Chinese. That makes the selection dependent not only on Mr. Liu’s broad-ranging tastes, but on the Chinese publishing houses. They, in turn, are subject to the Communist Party censors who control what is published by Chinese authors and foreign writers translated into Chinese … Among the steady sellers at All Sages are books on American history and biographies of the early presidents … George Washington’s Farewell Address, which outlines his argument for term limits — have always sold well.”

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Scrunchies Make a Comeback

The Wall Street Journal: “Women are wearing scrunchies again—in public, and most notably, to the office, where their presence is producing reactions ranging from unbridled enthusiasm, to jokes that might not be jokes, to silent judgment. Some scrunchie fans wonder if they will be taken seriously while wearing one. For an answer, they can look to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who made a decision long ago to stick to scrunchies: “I have been wearing scrunchies for years. My best scrunchies come from Zurich. Next best, London, and third best, Rome. My scrunchie collection is not as large as my collar and glove collections, but scrunchies are catching up.”

“W Magazine included scrunchies on its trend list for 2018. Scrunchies appeared on the runway at New York Fashion Week in September during the Mansur Gavriel show. Balenciaga included a lambskin scrunchie in its 2018 resort collection (they call it a chouchou bracelet) that retails for $195. And Urban Outfitters said it saw a 170% growth in scrunchie sales in 2017. Some in the pro-scrunchie camp say they’re gentler than elastics and easy, like sweatpants for your hair. Scrunchie haters say…they’re like sweatpants for your hair.”

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Bravo: Homestyle Grocer to Latino Mets

The New York Times: “Cooks scurried in and out of the kitchen carrying containers of pork ribs, stewed beef, and rice and beans. Behind a display case of Latin American pastries, a worker hurried through coffee orders. The rapid-fire banter of Caribbean Spanish filled the air. It was the lunchtime rush at the cafeteria of the Bravo Supermarket here, but one loyal customer in particular — the Mets infielder Jose Reyes — caught the eye of the head chef, who hugged him as he took his place in line yet again, like so many Mets from Latin America hungry for home cooking.”

“Opened in 2005, the supermarket has done more than provide a dose of home comfort for players, essential as they find that. It has, at times, also offered free food for strapped athletes, occasional employment or even a cheap place to stay through Luis Merejo, an owner of the supermarket and a former baseball player himself.” Mets shortstop Amed Rosario comments: “It’s home. Every Dominican likes to eat their food, and this is the closest to my mother’s cooking. It makes me feel better. Sometimes you just want to eat your rice and beans, and Dominican-style meat.”

“Bravo is a supermarket chain with at least 60 stores in Florida and the Northeast, including the Bronx and New Jersey, in areas with a high concentration of Latinos. The Port St. Lucie location has perhaps fed the most professional baseball players … A large plate of Dominican-style rice and pigeon peas and fried plantains costs $4. Add meat for only a few more dollars. It’s a steal for minor leaguers who earn paychecks that pale in comparison to those that major leaguers receive.”

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The Roxie: It’s Dog Day at the Movies

The New York Times: “Charlie, an 18-month-old Yorkie-cairn terrier mix, was one of many first-timers at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco on Monday night. The theater was holding a sneak preview of Wes Anderson’s new film, ‘Isle of Dogs,’ with a particularly appropriate twist — the screening was B.Y.O.D., or Bring Your Own Dog … Outside the sold-out event, pups posed for photographs on a red carpet before heading into the 234-seat theater to find their spot.” Isabel Fondevila of the Roxie comments: “Dogs get the seats. And we have a lint roller ready for after.”

“The stop-motion film, opening nationwide on Friday, is set in the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki, where all the dogs have been banished to a dump called Trash Island.”

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Holy Hops: Westvleteren Beer in Supermarket Sweep

The New York Times: “Smooth, complex, soft, salty and strong — yet delicate, luscious and elegant. Those are just a few of the adjectives used to describe Westvleteren beer, which is often hailed by aficionados as one of the best in the world … For more than 170 years, the beer has been produced and distributed solely by the Trappist monks of St. Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, a village in western Belgium. But that changed last week when a branch of Jan Linders, a Dutch supermarket chain, sold more than 7,000 bottles without the monks’ permission, and at 10 euros each, almost 10 times higher than the original price.”

“The supermarket sold 300 crates of 24 bottles … but did not make a significant profit despite the markup. The third-party sellers had all wanted to make a profit, too … and that was what had driven up the final sale price. The monks denounced the sale, saying the aim behind their endeavors was not to commercialize their product, but to finance themselves and support those in need. Jan Linders has since apologized for the one-off sale, but added in a statement on its website that it wanted to thank customers for introducing them to ‘this beautiful beer’.”

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Take a Chance or Fly Air France

The New York Times: “You open what looks like an in-flight care package to find 50 feet of Sudoku puzzles on a tapelike roll, Champagne-flavored gummy candies and a scratch-and-sniff patch that smells like boeuf bourguignon. In a time of low-cost airlines, where your ticket might not include an edible hot meal or free access to electronic entertainment, the box reminds you of what could be if you shell out a little more on Air France. That’s the idea behind the airline’s new ‘Take a Chance or Fly Air France’ campaign, which will begin showing up in American digital ad space this week.”

Dominique Wood, Air France’s executive vice president of brand and communication, comments: “We want to remind our clients and our future clients that there is another way to travel, even in economy, where everything is included. You’ve got a very comfortable seat, you’ve got a hot meal and a full complement of entertainment, and if you can have it — if you’re the right age — a glass of French Champagne.”

“The Air France campaign will mostly be a digital one, but visitors to the Grove mall in Los Angeles on Saturday can win pairs of round-trip economy tickets. The Sudoku puzzle tape, gummies and scratch-and-sniff patches will also be given away, and will be available in an online sweepstakes.” Henry Harteveldt, the founder of Atmosphere Research Group, comments: “As airlines have unbundled their product, they almost don’t want to remind you of what it’s like to fly them. What Air France is doing is a smart marketing move, but it’s also a brave marketing move.”

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Blackberry Keeps Coterie of Devotees

The Wall Street Journal: “The BlackBerry began life as a text pager, created in 1996 by Canadian company Research in Motion Ltd. The founders made technical breakthroughs that popularized world-wide phone texting and mobile email. Its keyboard buttons looked a little like the kernels in a blackberry, hence the name. It transformed the way people worked … But in 2007 Apple Inc. introduced the iPhone, and Android smartphones, also with touch screens, came soon after. Unlike BlackBerry with its office focus, they aimed at the mass market. Today BlackBerry has a global smartphone market share of less than 1%.”

“The diminished band of devotees must suffer for that devotion, as friends brandish other iPhone and Android devices loaded with top-of-the-line cameras and countless apps. At a rugby tournament in Vancouver in early March, Tim Powers, an Ottawa executive, says he was ‘chastised’ for using his BlackBerry. He is willing to bear these slings and arrows. The keyboard suits ‘an old rugby player with some beaten-up hands,’ he says. Also, ‘I am not gentle,’ Mr. Powers says. ‘I almost feel like I could shoot it and it would still work’ … BlackBerrys, says Andrew Stivelman, a technical writer in Toronto, are ‘built like a tank’.”

“Although the company, now named BlackBerry Ltd. , no longer makes the phones, they live on through licensing agreements with companies that make and sell BlackBerry-branded hardware with Android operating systems … Meanwhile, fans of BlackBerrys wax lyrical about features like a curved shape that fits the hand, writing in forums such as There’s magic in BlackBerry 10 on Crackberry.com . A bonus, wrote one person last year, is reduced theft risk, ‘because thieves don’t know what they are’.”

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Airport Malls: The Call of Duty-Free

The Wall Street Journal: “In the age of online shopping, retailers are finding that airports can take some of the sting out of declining mall traffic. Travelers have time to kill and money to spend when they’re captive inside airport security. Major airports around the world, from Singapore to Dubai, London to Beijing, have essentially become shopping malls with gates.”

“And the U.S. is finally starting to catch up. Just as they have upgraded restaurants and basic amenities like power outlets, U.S. airports are finding they need to improve duty-free stores, which have become a necessity for many world travelers who routinely stock up on perfume, cosmetics, alcohol and chocolate coming home from trips … Airports like duty-free shops because they get a cut of the revenue; luxury-goods makers like the chance to interact in person with shoppers; and customers like the convenience, savings and opportunity for capricious purchases.”

“Moët Hennessy, the Paris-based maker of Champagne and cognac, has a boutique in the Dallas duty-free store where it does tastings of rare editions—a spot of cognac before boarding. The unit of luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH sees airport retail as a chance to educate consumers about its brand … The store has no doors; travelers just wander through. Brands have their own areas, creating a boutique feel. There is some seating upstairs on an open, second level designed for events such as tastings, entertainment and parties that will lure curious passengers.”

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Kochhaus: Grocery Store as Cookbook

Kochhaus: “Kochhaus is the first grocery store that is not sorted by product groups, but by creative recipes … As a walk-in recipe book, the Kochhaus offers a constantly changing range of 18 different recipes worldwide. At free-standing tables full of fresh ingredients you will find everything you need for a particular dish – for two, four or more people. At any time there is a selection of appetizers, salads and soups. With creative pasta, fish and meat dishes. And of course some tempting desserts.”

“The recipe tables with large colored plates show at a glance which ingredients are needed for a dish. With the step-by-step cooking instructions in pictures, the perfect dinner is guaranteed to succeed. Delicious delicacies and clever kitchen helpers complete the concept.”

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Apple Stores: The DMV of Retail?

Business Insider: “Apple Stores have become an almost mythical part of the tech giant’s brand. Now, they could be killing it … if you’ve visited an Apple Store recently, you may have found that you weren’t visiting a magical tech utopia after all. Many customers are now comparing their Apple Store experiences to those they’ve had at a different place: the dreaded DMV.”

“Customers’ top complaints are focused on crowds and wait times, which can last for hours. Simply put, too many people need assistance at Apple Stores — and employees don’t have the time to help everyone immediately … Irritated customers tired of waiting for simple assistance tend to be less than impressed by Apple Stores’ unique design. Some say they feel Apple has prioritized artistry over customers’ needs.”

“In 2016, Apple retail boss Angela Ahrendts told Business Insider that the company needed ‘to open incredible places that almost behave like a town square, like a gathering place’ … For some, Apple Stores have become a site of frustration, not community mingling. However, the company is renovating dozens of stores across the US in an effort to better achieve its ‘town square’ goals. These revamped stores are larger, which could help with concerns of overcrowding. They also feature a new approach to the Genius Bar with the ‘Genius Grove,’ which allows a section of the store to be focused on repairs and assistance without involving lines.”

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