Gummy Pills: Helps The Vitamins Go Down

The New York Times: One reason gummy vitamins are so popular with adults these days is “pill fatigue.” A 2005 AARP study found that, on average, adults 45 and older said they take four prescription medications daily. But some people say that switching to a gummy version of a vitamin or supplement makes them feel as if they aren’t taking so many pills. Gummies also appeal to people who … have difficulty swallowing pills. The flavorings in gummy candy can also hide the taste.”

“But the pleasures of chewing come at a cost. Consumers can take one Nature Made Vitamin C 1,000 milligram pill costing about 10 cents … To get the same amount of vitamin C from a Nature Made gummy vitamin, consumers would need to take eight gummies, at a cost of about 70 cents … And gummy vitamins typically contain one to two grams of sugar each.”

Susan Pica agrees. Ms. Pica, 40, … saw a gummy vitamin C display at CVS, along with a coupon to ‘buy one get one free.’ She had fond memories of the Flintstones chewables she took as a child, so she thought she’d try them … After seeing sugar sprinkled on the vitamins and settled at the bottom of the bottle, she checked the ingredients on the label. The bottle listed sugar, corn syrup and sodium citrate among the ingredients.”


Gucci & Groceries: The Malling of Supermarkets

The Wall Street Journal: As the internet reshapes the way Americans shop, landlords of mid- and low-quality mall properties are adapting to stay relevant, trying everything from restaurants to indoor skydiving. Now a few are bringing in supermarkets … The goal for landlords of covered malls is to provide one-stop destinations where consumers can pick up a broad array of items and, ideally, visit multiple times a week. These massive rectangular structures surrounded by vast parking lots are usually built to serve shoppers up to 25 miles away.”

Tom McGee of of the International Council of Shopping Centers, comments:”Consumers, particularly millennials, are placing a high priority on experiences while also valuing convenience. As a result, among other things, we are seeing more restaurants, movie theaters, health clubs and grocery stores serve as anchors.”

“But supermarkets might not do much to lift other retailers in struggling malls, analysts said. Grocery shoppers, especially seniors, often are sensitive to the distance between their car and the store, and might not want to navigate busy malls with grocery bags in tow, or supermarkets with mall purchases in hand.” Jeff Edison, a mall grocery-store operator, observes: “You’re not going to buy a Louis Vuitton bag or a dress when you’re carrying your groceries.”


Bulgari, Baccarat & The Hoteling of Retail

The New York Times: “The convergence of hotels and merchandise started, perhaps unsurprisingly, at luxury properties. Almost two years ago, Baccarat, a French crystal manufacturer, opened a 50-story building with a hotel and apartments across the street from the Museum of Modern Art, six blocks from its Manhattan flagship store. Crystal designs are displayed in public areas. Guests can order from the display and have their purchases shipped to their homes, saving time and a trip to the retail store. Select guest room entrances exhibit art inspired by crystal pieces.”

“Bulgari, an Italian designer of jewelry, watches and leather goods, has properties in Bali, Milan and London. Hotels in Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai are expected to open by the end of the year. The hotel website links to an online store … Tommy Hilfiger, whose designs include apparel, luggage and linens sold at Macy’s, Kohl’s and online, purchased the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach in 2014 and is developing it in conjunction with the Dogus Group, a Turkish conglomerate.”

“West Elm, a division of Williams-Sonoma that sells modern furniture and accessories online and in nearly 90 stores nationwide, has created model hotel rooms.” Stephani Robson of Cornell “said she expected that West Elm was hoping to reach beyond existing customers.” She observes: “A brand like West Elm can signal ‘our brand is experiential’ — reinforce positioning for customers not familiar with the brand.”


Family Video: Not Your Daughter’s Netflix

Forbes: “Family Video is the dominant player in rural America, where 90% of its stores reside. There, many customers either have limited access to high-speed internet or are reluctant to adopt alternatives like Redbox, Netflix and Hulu. Inside the stores, employees greet every customer who walks through the door, often by name; kids’ movies are always free to rent; and late fees are negotiable. When new locations open, the ribbon-cutting ceremony is a community affair, complete with face-painting stations, promotional giveaways and snow cone machines. Almost all of Hoogland’s top executives started in one of his stores, and many employees have enjoyed benefits like full-tuition scholarships for their children.”

“Instead of accepting discounted movies in exchange for agreements to split revenue, as Blockbuster did, it has opted to buy films outright and keep 100% of rental proceeds.” Keith Hoogland “has also kept his stores entirely company-owned, and he keeps costs down by making many of the items needed for new locations in-house—everything from shelving to point-of-sale software. Most important, though, the company owns just about all the real estate underpinning its stores … Keith acknowledges that his movie rental empire won’t last forever, but he sees Family Video as an easy way to expand his real estate portfolio, which has no obvious expiration date. The formula is simple: Open a store, use rental sales to pay off the mortgage and hold on to the property.”

“Most significantly, copyright agreements on motion pictures are often less stringent for physical videos than for streamed content, meaning that rental stores frequently have access to new releases weeks, or even months, before Netflix or Hulu get them.”


Sensory Memories: Smells Like Olfactory History

The New York Times: “Over the past year, a Columbia University preservation expert and a curator at the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan have been engaged in an unusual poetic-scientific experiment in the little-visited olfactory wing of history, trying to pin down the powerful connection between smell and memory — in this case, collective memory … Their goal is perhaps someday to be able to convey a sense of the building’s history beyond just its look and feel. Their primary tool is a sampling device that looks like a contraption out of Jules Verne: a crystalline dome with plastic tubing snaking from its side.”

“The sampler is placed gently on objects — rare books, furniture, carpets — to capture the escaping molecules that create a distinct smell … Carlos Benaim, a master perfumer … said that the thousands of molecules that were trapped in the glass-bell sampler would be categorized to determine which of them constitutes the smell profile of objects and surfaces from the Morgan … The project, which drew attention after an article in the art blog Hyperallergic, may end up some day recreating these smells as a way to help visitors experience the library in a different way, possibly through an olfactory exhibition or sensory gallery.”

Jorge Otero-Pailos, professor and director of historic preservation at Columbia, explains: “In the end, we’re after meaning, historical meaning, cultural meaning and how to do that is something we hope to figure out.”


In-Store: Walmart App Promises Faster Transactions

The Washington Post: “Walmart is making yet another bid to speed up its in-store shopping experience. The big-box chain is creating express lanes in its pharmacy and money services areas, in which customers will be able to use new functions in the Walmart app as part of the transaction process. By allowing shoppers to do some things in the app instead of at the counter, and by letting them bypass the main queue, the theory is that customers should get in and out of the store more quickly.”

“In the new set-up, customers can input key information directly to the app before coming to the store. This eliminates a tedious in-store process in which they filled out paperwork by hand, only to stand by as a Walmart employee keyed all that information into a computer. Similarly, in the pharmacy department, customers will be able to complete a transaction by coming to the counter, entering a PIN on their phones, and then using their phones to scan a code displayed at the register. The hope is that this shortened process alleviates a key customer pain point.”

“The express lanes in both pharmacy and money services departments will arrive in a limited number of stores in March and should be available in almost all of the chain’s 4,700 locations by fall.”


Bowery FarmOS Yields ‘Post-Organic’ Produce

Christian Science Monitor: “A newly launched modern farming company, Bowery, is growing what they call the world’s first “post-organic” produce. Their concept breaks from traditional agricultural practices by growing plants indoors in vertical rows without any pesticides. With the help of proprietary technology, Bowery can closely monitor the growth of their crops and meticulously manage the resources needed. More than 80 types of crops are currently being grown at the company’s farm in Kearny, New Jersey, and they are selling several types of greens and herbs in stores in the New York region.”

“The idea for the company spawned when co-founder and CEO Irving Fain discovered a promising trend in LED lighting cost and efficiency that could improve indoor farming.” He explains: “The pricing of LED lights dropped dramatically a little over 5 years ago. We’ve also seen the efficiency more than double. What makes this even more exciting is that research suggests that this trend will continue. This means that not only are LED’s a viable solution for indoor farming today, but this solution continues to scale out in the future. While traditional farming methods waste resources and endanger our future food supply, advancements in indoor farming make it possible to address a wide range of agricultural issues.”

“FarmOS, a technology system built by the Bowery team, allows crops to grow year-round, at a faster rate, and using 95-percent less water than traditional agriculture. FarmOS creates ideal conditions using automation, LED lighting that mimics the sun, and a 24-hour monitoring to ensure a reliable yield without wasting resources.”


Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stores

The New York Times: “It is 3 in the afternoon, and Anthony Palmer, 62, is behind the wheel of the beat-up, retrofitted and rebranded bread truck that is Anthony’s Rolling Store. Today his wares include vegetable oil, cornstarch, Alka-Seltzer, oatmeal pies, ramen noodles, ice cream, Slim Jims, doughnuts, ChapStick, Dial soap, little cigars, chips, fruit punch and Saltine crackers.”

“Mr. Palmer’s truck is among the last of a small and dying tradition in this section of black Atlanta, just west and northwest of downtown. In the 1970s and ’80s, there were rolling stores all over neighborhoods like English Avenue and Vine City, stocked with all of the fixings for a real supper … the disappearance of the rolling stores may simply be a result of the relentless and multifarious pace of change in Atlanta, one of those American cities that move and morph at the pace of the nation itself.”

“The truck does not roll as much as it used to — just a few hours a week. The Atlanta Falcons are building their new football stadium just down the road. It looks like a cut diamond, or like some futuristic building on Mars. Everyone is talking about neighborhood revitalization. Mr. Palmer can envision the day when the threadbare old houses like his are replaced by condos with fitness centers. It bothers him some. But sometimes he talks as though change in the city is a force too powerful to be judged, but rather something at which to marvel, like a storm.”


Mall Writer: Novel Idea for Shopping Experience

Quartz: “The Mall of America, parthenon of consumerism, is looking for the next Joan Didion …you can apply to be the first writer-in-residence at the US’s biggest shopping mall. The writer will spend five days inside the mall, which has its own aquarium and theme park, and record ‘on-the-fly impressions.’ In return, the shopping center, which measures 5.6 million square feet, will pay the winner $2,500 and put him or her up in a hotel for four nights.”

“Its panel of submission reviewers will weigh ‘creativity’ over quality, and the work can’t be critical of any aspect of the mall … The writer will also be expected to work from 11am to 7pm, and has to physically sit at a public desk in the mall for at least four hours per day. Pending approval, the winner may also have her work displayed in ‘almost-real time’ on a large monitor inside the building, and it ‘may scroll continuously’ throughout the day.”


Walmart & Home Depot Build With Bricks

The Wall Street Journal: “Wal-Mart said more shoppers came to its stores and spent more when they did, as the company invested heavily to lower prices and improve customer service … The retail behemoth is investing billions to raise U.S. store worker wages, lower prices and expand e-commerce sales to better compete with Amazon … Wal-Mart’s sales grew in most of its categories, particularly clothes and health products … The company has worked to strengthen its e-commerce capabilities, purchasing Inc. for $3.3 billion last September.”

“Home Depot’s same-store sales rose 5.8% in the fourth quarter, driven by a strong housing market that prompted customers to start bigger home-improvement projects and replenish their toolboxes … The retailer also pointed out that while its online sales are growing, nearly half of those orders were fulfilled through in-store pickup.” Home Depot CEO Craig Menear comments: “While we are seeing significant growth in our online business, our stores have never been more relevant.”

“Wal-Mart and Home Depot’s performance contrasts with many other brick-and-mortar retailers, which are challenged by shoppers gravitating to less-profitable online shopping and discounters offering low prices.”