Silver Screeners: A New ‘Golden Age’ in Cinema

The Guardian: “In America and Canada, 15% of over-60s were defined as ‘frequent moviegoers’ in 2015, up from 14% the year before and 10% the year before that. It is a similar story in the UK, where between 2008 and 2015 the share of over-55s in the audience increased every year (apart from 2011), hitting a peak of 12.5% last year.”

“More than the actual films though, it is the surrounding experience at the cinema that is pulling this generation through the doors … comfort levels have been rising dramatically as ‘silver screeners’ attend in greater numbers.” For example: “An increase in depth, as well as the width, of seats means that often you now don’t have to stand up to allow others to get by on their way to the toilet.”

” … Unlike in multiplexes, independent cinemas look to create a welcoming environment for older people by making sure sound-absorbent materials are fitted into front of house areas so that customers can ‘hear one another without difficulty’ … cinemas are also increasingly convenient for a mature audience to access … instead of making the traditional move to seaside resorts, a large chunk of well-to-do retirees … are instead opting for market towns where they can continue to be active. As wealthy pensioners increasingly live in urban hubs, going to the movies has never been easier for them.”


Handle With Care: The Flatscreen Solution

The Verge: “Dutch bicycle manufacturer VanMoof found that it had a problem. As it shipped its products to customers, it found that they were arriving to customers damaged. The company came up with a genius solution: print a graphic of a flatscreen television on the side of the box.”

“By making its shippers think that they were transporting flatscreen televisions” damage to its bikes was reduced by “70-80 percent.” Bex Rad of VanMoof comments: “Your covetable products, your frictionless website, your killer brand — they all count for nothing when your delivery partner drops the ball.”


West Elm ‘Retails’ Boutique Hotels

The Wall Street Journal: “Furniture retailer West Elm is worried about following other chains down the rabbit hole of opening too many stores. So the company has another plan to sustain its growth: launching a chain of boutique hotels. West Elm will design, furnish and market the hotels, the first of which will open in Detroit and Savannah in late 2018 … Guests will be able to buy the room furniture and other décor online.”

“The hotel project thrusts West Elm, part of Williams-Sonoma Inc., into a fast-growing, but crowded field. Most of the major hotel chains have launched boutique hotel brands in recent years as travelers have come to crave unique experiences rather than the standardization that was once their biggest selling point … Industry experts say there is room for more entrants. Despite growing 24% over the past six years, the number of boutique hotel rooms still represents just 2% of the total supply.”

“To test its ideas for West Elm Hotels, the company built mock rooms in a Brooklyn warehouse … Guests who like the furnishings will have an opportunity to purchase them through an app they can download when they check in, or on West Elm’s website. No price tags will be displayed in the rooms, however.” West Elm says it “could eventually have as many hotels as retail stores.”


Cracker Barrel Tries ‘Hipster’ Makeover

USA Today: “You might be surprised to find fashion-forward apparel and wooden platters hand carved by artisans in the Philippines next to Yankee Candles and Christmas decorations at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. But the restaurant chain known for Southern food and homey gift shops filled with trinkets has slowly expanded its retail mix to lure a new, much younger demographic.”

“It’s quite a change for the 641-unit chain started 47 years ago as a single store on Highway 109 in Lebanon, Tenn. Cracker Barrel’s attempt to reinvigorate its brand is visible across departments, from its use of social media platform Snapchat for marketing purposes to exclusive music releases with hot pop groups like Needtobreathe. Lately, younger shoppers have been drawn to the vintage soda wall with options that include Southern soft drink brand Cheerwine and Ale-8-One, artisan home decor, stained-glass lamps, retro T-shirts and vintage candies like Necco Wafers and Double Bubble.”

“The tricky part of the effort is attracting younger customers without putting off the older ones … The move to attract Millennials comes as Cracker Barrel faces the same dilemmas as many other traditional restaurant chains: a growing consumer preference for more casual dining concepts.”


Lucky Charms Finds ‘Natural’ Flavors Elusive

Business Insider: “General Mills scientists still haven’t figured out how to phase out artificial flavors and colors in Lucky Charms without ruining the iconic cereal.” Mills “already pulled it off with Trix, at least in part. In that case, they used mixtures of radish, carrot, blueberry, tumeric, and annatto seed to create red, yellow, orange, and purple corn puffs. Part of the challenge is that each of those natural colors brings in some flavor too. The team abandoned the green and blue puffs after deciding they couldn’t reach those hues without ruining the taste.”

“Lucky Charms, a cereal that includes with colorful marshmallows, has proven more difficult. First, it’s easier to distort the flavor of a marshmallow than a corn puff … Second, Lucky Charms already have a subtler flavor than bold, fruity Trix. It’s so subtle, consumers struggle to define it.”

“Lucky Charms also supposedly trigger powerful feelings of nostalgia … Steve Witherly, PhD writes in “Why Humans Love Junk Food” that the vanilla aroma of marshmallows is one of the few flavors that the brain doesn’t get bored of. Moreover, it ‘may be imprinted soon after birth’ since vanilla is the main flavor of breast milk and infant formula.”


Grass-Fed Beef: Not a ‘Luxury’ Anymore

The Wall Street Journal: “Grass-fed beef, once a niche luxury, is now sold at ballgames, convention centers and nearly every Wal-Mart in the U.S. Beef labeled as grass-fed connotes much more than cattle that were raised in a pasture, say grocers and restaurateurs. Many consumers perceive grass-fed beef as a healthier, higher-quality alternative to conventional beef and are willing to pay more for it, no matter that labeling—and flavor—can be inconsistent.”

“Not every retailer is onboard. Costco Wholesale Corp., the country’s second largest retailer after Wal-Mart, doesn’t sell grass-fed beef, though it sells organic ground beef in every U.S. store. The definition of grass-fed beef is still too ambiguous, the taste too inconsistent and Costco consumers gravitate most to an ‘organic’ label for now, says Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president of fresh foods.”

“Theo Weening, Whole Foods’ global meat coordinator, expects demand for grass-fed beef to grow well beyond human appetites. ‘When a customer likes grass-fed beef and they have a dog, they want the dog to have grass-fed beef, too,’ he says.”


Singing The Cyberspace Blues

The Washington Post: “Recently, the designer Paul Hebert began tracking the color palettes of the world’s largest website … On the world’s 10 most popular websites, shades of blue and turquoise outnumber other colors by a factor of two.”

“It’s a small sample size, of course … but it was enough to prompt Wired to name blue the web’s ‘most popular color,’ and it’s validated an age-old design observation. Everything on the Internet is blue. Blue homepages, blue windows. Blue is the color of Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Microsoft,, WordPress and Pandora … among others.”

“Anecdotally, Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook is blue because he’s red-green colorblind, and Google has said the color clicked best in rigorous A/B tests. But the underlying reason may be that design, like art, imitates life — and in life, we like the color blue best … Repeat global surveys have found that blue is the most-preferred color among both men and women, more or less regardless of country.”


Kola House: Pepsi Pushes Cola Buzz

The Wall Street Journal: Pepsi’s Kola House, a new bar in NY’s Meatpacking District is mixing kola nuts “into cocktails such as the Curcuma, billed as an ‘enhancing appetizer of African and arabesque aromatics’ with turmeric, lemon and honeydew, and the Kola Love, a ‘dessert elixir and libido enhancer’ with red wine, vanilla and whipped cream. ‘We like to give people a flavor experience they haven’t had before,’ said Kola House flavor chemist Alex Ott, who trained as a biochemist in Germany.”

“Beverage-industry observers say companies like PepsiCo … are making a push into the bar scene, particularly in the all-important New York market, to reconnect with consumers who have lost interest in sugary sodas. Bars are ‘a great place if you want to get soft drinks in front of millennials,’ said Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest, a trade publication.”

“The cola buzz is also being driven by bartenders who see it as a way to jolt cocktails with flavor, reminiscent of the complex, heavily spiced cola drinks of the 19th century. Q Drinks’s Kola soda, for example, incorporates cloves, nutmeg, coriander and citrus, among other ingredients. The flavor is tangy, sweet and savory, said Jordan Silbert, the company’s founder and chief executive, but also familiar.”


Curated Retail: The Museum Gift-Shop Experience

The Washington Post: “In the vast Heritage Hall of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, employees are shelving funky sculptural dolls whose hair has been twisted and seams have been finished by local artist Francine Haskins … The museum’s retail operation is an excellent example of how the once-cheesy, forgettable gift shop has become a formidable institution-within-an-institution.”

“Once, books and exhibition catalogues were the lifeblood of museum shops. These days, most stores aim to balance academic tomes with splurge-y tchotchkes and pieces inspired by the curators’ carefully cultivated collections … ‘I tell our curators that just as you curate the museum, we curate the store,’ says Stuart Hata, president of the board of the Museum Store Association. ‘We’re not a gift shop, we’re not a bookstore,’ he says. ‘Our mission is to reflect the institution. It’s to reflect our collections’.”

“The new African American Museum will feature a host of specialty items made expressly for its shop. Blingy gold keychains, magnets, cuff links and brooches have been designed to subtly echo the venue’s latticework corona … And then there are those specially selected objects made by artists from across the country.” Ed Howell, the Smithsonian Institution’s senior vice president of retail, “hopes that shoppers will find their way to those pieces, and from them to the artisans … But more important, their work ‘makes the shop unique, and the visitor’s experience unique’.”


Art of Lodging: Hotels Offer Artists in Residence

The New York Times: “As hotels work harder to distinguish themselves in the age of Airbnb, many have focused on using local art to give their décor a one-of-a-kind look. But with artist-in-residence programs, some hotels in the United States and abroad are going further, aiming to make the art experience even more immersive for guests.”

“Under the programs, artists are often paid to stay and work at the hotels, letting guests interact with them and gain insights into their creations that go far beyond what a visit to museum or gallery can impart … At the Vendue in Charleston, S.C., the current artist is Fred Jamar … Most of the time he works in a studio on the ground floor that guests are encouraged to visit. On Thursday evenings, he paints during dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, the Drawing Room.”

“Residencies are not limited to visual artists. At the Hotel El Ganzo in San José del Cabo, Mexico, the artist-in-residence program has included visual artists and musicians who record in the hotel’s 1,700-square-foot studio and perform for guests on the hotel’s roof.” At a hotel in Tuscany, “residencies include a jazz vocalist, an opera singer and choreographer, a set and costume designer and a neurologist, who will give lectures.”