Mueller Chocolate: Gross Profits

The Washington Post: “It’s a Saturday afternoon at Philadelphia’s popular Reading Terminal Market … On a busy day like this, Mueller Chocolate might serve 800 customers … As crowds of shoppers move past the Mueller stall, some stop to point, stare and whisper: ‘Oh, my goodness, what is that?’ Well ‘that’ is a display of kidneys (with candy kidney stones), brains, livers, eyes, hands, feet (with almonds as toenails) and noses — all edible, all chocolate.”

“It started, Glenn Jr. recalls, one Valentine’s Day in the late 1990s, when his mother decided that ‘these heart-shaped boxes are stupid.’ She had a mold created based on a drawing of a human heart in her son-in-law’s medical school textbook … When the chocolate heart made national news, orders came in from around he world, he said, and demand hasn’t slowed down.”

“The sweet stuff takes hundreds of forms at the Mueller stall, none more infamous than the chocolate-covered raw onion. It was created in 1983, when the creator of a local children’s television show, ‘Double Muppet Hold the Onions,’ asked the Muellers to make a chocolate-covered onion for Kermit to present to Miss Piggy.” Glenn Meuller Jr. explains: “The chocolate onion . . . is hideous, but we’ve been doing it for 30 years. It changed our trajectory.”

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Michaels: The Art & Craft of The Retail Experience

“We’re not Apple. We don’t make the new iPhone that people will line up in advance for. We need products that people want in an environment they want to shop in,” says Chuck Rubin, CEO of Michaels, in Forbes.

“Michaels is one of the most surprising retail successes of recent years. It has stuck to transforming its brick-and-mortar stores while almost completely ignoring e-commerce … While the company’s core hasn’t changed–it sells cheap craft supplies–Rubin has modified its stores to make it easier for novice crafters to find items. They’re bringing in more of those types of customers by moving beyond sewing-room basics, adding cooler items, like those coloring books, and Michaels-exclusive products, such as Isaac Mizrahi-branded yarn.”

“The most striking part of Michaels’ success is how it contradicts the digital era’s implied mandate for retailers–that survival hinges on selling online. But Michaels hasn’t wasted millions competing with Amazon.com on e-commerce. It’s grown while focusing squarely on improving what’s within its stores’ four walls … The Web remains a no-man’s-land for Michaels … Rubin knows all that stands between Michaels and Bezos is the in-store experience.”

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Big-Bang Retail: Hershey Chocolate World To Triple Size

“Hershey said it would open a new New York City flagship location triple the size of its existing Times Square store,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “At a little more than 2,200-square feet, Hershey’s Chocolate World store at West 48th Street and Broadway is popular, but its size limits the number of brands and experience the company can offer, a Hershey spokeswoman said.”

“Hershey will join other Times Square tenants creating more interactive or engaging retail environments … Last month, the National Football League, Cirque du Soleil and the National Football League Players Association announced they would open an NFL Times Square experience, a four-story, 40,000-square foot permanent exhibit also at 20 Times Square. The exhibit will include an NFL store, a 350-seat theater, and high-tech, interactive displays designed to re-create an immersive experience of a football game for fans.”

Andrew S. Goldberg of CBRE Group comments: “If you look at all the stores now [in Times Square], it’s not traditional retail being done in the old format way. Everyone is looking at how to keep the customers engaged longer and having them stay and be more involved in the store.”

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Cultural Evolution: Nintendo Goes With Partnerships

The New York Times: “Nintendo — which took an early lead in mobile gaming and then proceeded to blow it — offers a lesson in how corporate cultures can make or break a company, especially those that are pioneers in a field … If Nintendo is easily likened to Apple for its autocratic insistence on groundbreaking innovation, it is also like Xerox in that it has failed to take advantage of ideas as valuable as the mouse.”

“Pokémon Go, this month’s gaming phenomenon, came about only because Nintendo has gone years without a hit and was forced to find partners … Pokémon Go demonstrates that Nintendo’s stable of characters … can form the basis for others to develop lucrative mobile games. But that would turn Nintendo into a different kind of company — one … that is content to hit singles and doubles rather than swing for the fences.”

“Nintendo has shown before that it can adapt. It got its start making playing cards in 1889. By the 1970s it was designing video games, leading to the release of the Donkey Kong video game machine in 1981 … In 1983, it added a modem port to the home video game console that would eventually become the popular Nintendo Entertainment System, decades ahead of a time when Xbox and PlayStation gamers connect with one another around the world.”

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Theater as Retail: El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Boredpanda: “Tucked away in Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires is a beautiful bookshop called El Ateneo Grand Splendid … which currently welcomes over one million visitors each year … It is built within the almost 100-year-old Grand Splendid Theater, which opened in 1919.”

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Cadillac House: Not Your Father’s Dealership

The Verge: “The next stage in transforming Cadillac is to bring its 925 dealers up to snuff. That’s where the Cadillac House comes into play, a chic public space where anyone can drop by and steep in the brand’s past, present, and future. Each detail of the facility has been carefully considered — it sells Joe Coffee (a local favorite), offers free Wi-Fi, stages art installations … it hosted a block party bash featuring a short set by My Morning Jacket. The Cadillac House has a few cars on view, but it’s not a car dealership. Discreet product specialists are trained to answer questions about features on new models like the CT6.”

Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen comments: “Our office, the Cadillac House, this is what our dealer experience should be like. Our focus here must be on increasing the overall quality of the business. It must be about increasing transaction prices. It must be about brand positioning and upgrading quality of the dealer and doing so in a way that we continue to build the relationship between Cadillac the manufacturer and our dealer network. We have to navigate a very difficult path.”

He adds: “It’s really those small dealers that we want to turn into powerhouses. We want to create a boutique experience, separate from the rest of the GM brand, and we want to help our dealers.”

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The Barbie Doll As ‘Purpose’ Brand

The Wall Street Journal: “Mattel researchers found that when people thought of Barbie, they thought about the pink convertible, the Dreamhouse and the closet full of tiny, plastic stilettos. They thought of a character whose life was more ‘Real Housewives’ than real world.”

“And so begins yet another crucial quest for Mattel: It is working to use marketing and other strategies to reposition Barbie as an emblem of imaginative, creative play … Mattel executives like to say that they want to change the focus from what Barbie has to what kind of play activity Barbie enables.”

“Mattel executives say that, in some ways, this new strategy takes the brand back to its roots. Before Barbie, most dolls were baby dolls, designed to allow girls to practice nurturing. Barbie was invented by a mother named Ruth Handler who wanted girls to have the option of acting out other grown-up activities …. Elizabeth Sweet, who studies gender-based toy marketing at the University of California at Davis, comments: ‘Unfortunately, the Barbie brand is rooted in appearance and beauty and body. And I don’t think they can really get away from that’.”

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Terrell Place: Where The Walls Do The Talking

Gizmag: ESI Design “has outfitted Terrell Place in the US capital Washington, DC, with 1,700 sq ft (158 sq m) of interactive media displays that react to activity within the building.”

“The aim of the installation is to create ‘a sense of connection across the building’s common areas,’ with the walls treated as a single media canvas to do so. The (almost) floor-to-ceiling displays are integrated into the walls of Terrell Place throughout the public spaces of its ground floor.”

Michael Schneider of ESI Design comments: “Each of the media scenes reflects the time of day and the movement of people through the lobby, acting almost as a large abstract data-visualization of the ebb and flow of Terrell Place.”

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Sonos Builds a ‘Wall of Sound’

Engadget: “The new Sonos store in NYC “features seven listening rooms designed to let consumers experience Sonos products firsthand. But the most outstanding decor is … known as The Wall of Sound. It’s a 17-by-24-foot installation made up of roughly 300 Sonos speakers, of which eight are plugged in and active.”

“The store is intended to provide a home feel. For example, each listening room is laid out differently, giving you the sense you’re sitting in a study room, home theater or kitchen as you jam out to a Play:1, Play:3, Play:5 and Playbar.”

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When Labels Say … They Really Mean …

The Wall Street Journal: “Government regulators forbid ouright dishonesty, but labels with narrowly defined, cleverly deployed or unregulated buzzwords can confound shoppers trying to figure out what’s what.” For example: “‘Made with’ often means ‘made with very little,’” said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Many consumers assume it means made only of whole grain. That’s simply not true.”

“Cage-free: Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are confined in small, wire cages that measure 67 to 86 square inches per hen … Cage-free birds, on the other hand, are allowed to roam in a room or open area—but they are not guaranteed access to the outdoors. Free range: These chickens … do have outdoor access, although producers may provide minimal outdoor space or use screened-in porches with floors made of concrete, dirt or grass to provide the access.”

“Hormones aren’t allowed in poultry or hogs … Nonetheless, some producers label those products ‘no hormones added’ … Natural: This refers to the preparation of a product, not how a plant or animal was raised, and the label is supposed to include a statement explaining what it means … ‘Free’ means there is less than 0.5 gram per serving of a nutrient that has a daily value … ‘Low’ means there are 3 grams or less per serving … And ‘reduced’ means there is at least 25% less of the nutrient compared with another food.”

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