Costco Golf Balls: The New ‘Two-Buck Chuck’

The Wall Street Journal: Costco, the warehouse retail giant, first began selling golf balls last fall, under its Kirkland Signature brand that is affixed to a wide range of products and carries discount prices. Available for $29.99 for two dozen, the balls instantly ranked among the cheapest on the market … But what made the balls a hot item among fanatical golfers is the revelation that, by some accounts, they perform like rivals that sell for more than twice as much.”

“That idea sent shock waves through a billion-dollar industry, left Costco out of stock for weeks at a time and caused secondary-market prices for the ball to soar. Its popularity is threatening one of the sport’s long-held consumer beliefs: when it comes to the quality of golf balls, you generally get what you pay for.”

“The balls were made at a factory in South Korea by a company called Nassau Golf, which also manufactures balls for TaylorMade, one of the major equipment manufacturers … the company had an excess supply that it sold to Costco through a third-party trader … According to a Nassau executive based in Europe … both Nassau and TaylorMade, its biggest client, are unhappy with the rise of the $1.25 golf ball and that the company won’t sell excess supply in such large quantities again.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Adidas Speedfactory: Robotic Innovation

The Economist: “Behind closed doors in the Bavarian town of Ansbach a new factory is taking shape. That it will use robots and novel production techniques such as additive manufacturing (known as 3D printing) is not surprising for Germany … What is unique about this factory is that it will not be making cars, aircraft or electronics but trainers (athletic shoes) … an $80bn-a-year industry that has been offshored largely to China, Indonesia and Vietnam. By bringing production home, this factory is out to reinvent an industry.”

“The Speedfactory, as the Ansbach plant is called, belongs to Adidas … The machines carrying out this work will be highly automated and use processes such as computerised knitting, robotic cutting and additive manufacturing … Driven by software, the robots, knitting machines and 3D printers take their instructions directly from the computer-design program, so they can switch from making one thing to another quickly, without having to stop production for what can amount to several days in order to retool conventional machines and instruct manual workers.”

“Sneakerheads are likely to approve … Leaving behind manual production methods will allow Adidas to come up with novel shapes and finishes. One new material the firm has already experimented with is Biosteel, a synthetic silk made by AMSilk, a German biotech company. Production will also become more customised, perhaps even with bespoke trainers fashioned from a computer scan of how a person walks or runs.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Adidas Biofabric: A Shoe That Melts in Your Sink

Wired: “The Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric, a biodegradable running shoe, debuted at last week’s Biofabricate conference in New York … the Futurecraft Biofabric looks a lot like a modern athletic shoe. The open-knit upper has a golden sheen, and it connects to Adidas’s trademark Boost sole … the shoe is 15 percent lighter than one made from traditional polymers, and credits its weight-savings … a synthetic spider silk it calls Biosteel.”

“AMSilk creates that Biosteel textile by fermenting genetically modified bacteria.That process creates a powder substrate, which AMSilk then spins into its Biosteel yarn. All of this happens in a lab, and … uses a fraction of the electricity and fossil fuels that plastics take to produce … AMSilk also created an enzyme solution that lets shoe owners dissolve their kicks at home, in the sink, after about two years of high-impact wear … the solution comes in little packets … and can safely disintegrate a pair of Futurecraft Biofabric shoes in a matter of hours.”

“Biodegradability both defines the shoe’s appeal and presents its biggest obstacle … High performance sportswear has certainly trended slimmer and lighter … But a shoe that’s designed to disintegrate?” James Carnes of Adidas thinks it’s on trend: “Most people don’t think about buying a product that’s intended to break down. Luxury absolutely used to mean heavy and stiff and solid, and slowly it’s changed into buying other things. Like if you buy a down jacket, it’s expected to be insulated and lightweight.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

REI-mania: Flagship Store Was Beatles Arena

The Washington Post: “The vaulted, concrete-domed Uline Arena in Northeast Washington” is now the “East Coast’s largest REI store, a popular outdoor specialty chain that hopes to become a destination in the nation’s capital … Ice distributor Miguel Uline opened the eponymous arena in 1941 as a hockey rink and repurposed it into housing for service members during World War II. After the war, it was restored as a hockey and basketball arena … it was 1964 when the arena … made its biggest headline: The Beatles performed their first U.S. concert there shortly after their famed ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ appearance.”

‘Throughout the 1990s, the arena served as a trash-transfer station until Douglas Development purchased the property in 2004 … The 51,000-square-foot REI store now joins a changing NoMa landscape filled with luxury condos, office buildings and retail shops.” Norman Jemal of Douglas Development comments: “This is transformative. We looked at it as a game-changer for the community. You’re talking about a lot of history here. A lot of Washington, D.C., here. It touched a lot of people.”

“As an ode to the arena’s history, columns throughout the store are covered with concert posters of the Beatles, go-go bands and artists who performed there. One wall contains rows of seats from the original basketball arena … The store has event rooms, a courtyard and a La Colombe Coffee cafe. The National Park Service also has a kiosk inside, where an employee from the federal agency will be on hand to recommend outdoor travel destinations to customers.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Bullpen Cubs & The Sweet Smell of Success

The Wall Street Journal: “The Cubs have advanced to the National League Championship Series on the strength of many important traits, among them extraordinary depth, exquisite defense and superb starting pitching. They may also have the best-smelling bullpen in baseball … Most ballplayers use something to reduce the body odor produced by sweat-inducing activity. It’s called deodorant. Far fewer go so far as to add perfume to their pregame routine.”

To Cubs reliever Pedro Strop “the smell of victory begins with the scent of L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent.” He comments: “I always say, ‘You smell good, you perform good'” … Last year’s World Series champion, the Kansas City Royals, featured two players, catcher Salvador Perez and shortstop Alcides Escobar, who wore Victoria’s Secret perfume during games. They believed it helped them play better. David Ortiz, who just finished his legendary career with the Boston Red Sox, wore cologne during the team’s 2013 title run.”

“Cubs manager Joe Maddon is no stranger to the power of smell. In early 2014, while managing the Tampa Bay Rays, Maddon had a problem: His team stunk. To help pull the Rays out of last place, he brought several bottles of old cologne to the ballpark one day and put them on a table for players to try. The team responded with a much-needed victory … But the scent of the Cubs’ bullpen is of the pitchers’ own making” based on “a firm belief that a refined smell leads to an elegant performance.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Outside Baseball: Mets Announcers Go Rogue

The Wall Street Journal: “The Mets broadcast trio—Gary Cohen on play-by-play with Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling as the analysts—is widely acknowledged as one of the best in baseball … But what makes fans so obsessed with them begins with a revolutionary idea that has nothing to do with their sharp baseball commentary. They’re at their best when, during baseball games, they’re not talking about baseball.”

“During their 11 years on air together, the trio has mastered the art of the tangent. Take this short list of some notable midgame conversation topics from a Wall Street Journal sampling of games this season: a primer on impressionist and pointillist art; a history of French exploration beyond the Mississippi; the frustration of the 7-10 split in bowling; Mirkwood forest from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”; getting pickpocketed at Mardi Gras; the Marmaduke and Beetle Bailey comics; and at what age it’s appropriate to take up the javelin.”

Keith Hernandez explains: “We’re going to have sh***y games. And if I’m bored, I know the people out there are bored.” Here’s a sample:

What’s more “Cohen, Darling and Hernandez stand out as one of the handful of crews that avoids biased language or openly rooting for their team.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Quote of the Day: Dick Johnson

“The facts are that most of the basketball shoes that we sell never see a basketball court. Most of the running shoes that we sell never see the roads or the trail or the track. They just look really good, and they’re part of the sneaker culture that we really support.” – Dick Johnson, CEO of Foot Locker, reporting that second-quarter sales at existing Foot Locker stores rose 4.7%, via The Wall Street Journal.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Cupping: The Next Big Olympic Sport?

FiveThirtyEight: “For the past two weeks, people at the Olympics have been losing their minds trying to collect yellow and blue plastic souvenir cups that feature the silhouetted athletes of each sport. The cups are sold only with the official Olympics beer — Skol — though many collectors are just dumping out the beer or paying full price (13 reais, or about $4) for an empty cup, several vendors confirmed.”

“But although the cups, which are an advertising product for the beer, have been hugely popular, there is little in the way of official information from the company about the collectibles, which has led to the curious situation of visitors trying to complete a set of some indeterminate number.”

“The confusion comes in part because no official marketing materials were released by Ambev, the South American distributor of Skol, stating the number of cups or how best to collect them. But the mystery has only fueled fascination, making the frenzy around the cups more happy accident than calculated guerrilla marketing.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Under Armour Rocks Around Its Clock

The Street: “Under Armour (UA) has bet big on connected fitness by acquiring an array of app makers and unveiling a suite of new hardware devices, and it wants visitors to its newest retail store (at World Trade Center, NYC) to be aware of that huge wager … the showstopper was a gigantic digital clock hanging from the wall that tracks people signing up to the company’s fitness apps such as MapMyFitness in real-time. At the time of our visit Tuesday afternoon, the clock read that Under Armour had over 179 million users to its connected fitness apps, up from about 175 million exiting the second quarter.”

“Earlier this year, Under Armour debuted its ‘Healthbox’, which is box that contains a fitness tracker called the UA Band, a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled scale called the UA Scale and the UA Heart Rate, which is a strap that fits around your chest to measure heart rate. Healthbox is one of the first sections the consumer sees when walking into the World Trade Center location. The connected fitness segment represents about 2.1% of Under Armour’s sales. Sales so far this year for the business have surged 91% to $42 million.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Baseball: These Are The Good Old Days

The Wall Street Journal: “Baseball’s nostalgia is often seen as a virtue when it’s more accurately a disease. Baseball is the one business—outside of perhaps politics—that considers it good strategy to tell you its product is less than what it used to be. Baseball is currently watched by more people than at any other time in human history, and played at a higher level that we have ever seen before.”

“If Mickey Mantle ever saw a Noah Syndergaard fastball, he would never stop crying. If Babe Ruth faced Clayton Kershaw, he would call the Dodgers lefty a witch and want him burned for black magic. There were no good old days. The good old days are now.” – Will Leitch, reviewing The Baseball Whisperer by Michael Tackett.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail