How Amazon Picks Deals of the Day

The Wall Street Journal: “Such is Amazon’s holiday selling might that winning a slot in one of Amazon’s short-term promotions can not only propel a merchant to a higher ranking but also trigger a windfall of sales for the rest of the season, third-party sellers say. In addition, those chosen say the promotions improve their odds of showing up in consumer search results on the site. Third-party sellers sold more than 140 million items on over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend this year, according to Amazon.”

“Amazon’s deal of the day selections hinge on two important factors—whether it thinks an item will be a hot seller and whether the discount is deep enough. Amazon also takes into account the number of units the seller is willing to offer and customer reviews, among other factors … A sales surge will influence Amazon’s algorithmic suggestions to consumers. Recommendations might include items frequently purchased together or purchased by customers looking at the similar items.”


Heisman Triumphs With Artisanal Trophy

The New York Times: “The Heisman is gritty verisimilitude. It depicts an athlete in action, dynamically stiff-arming an unseen opponent. It is the color of a scuffed shoe sole, and its chiseled features — deep-set eyes, wrinkled trousers, one bulging calf muscle — are beautiful but not pretty. So byzantine are its details and so idiosyncratic its coloring that each individual statuette feels unique. In fact, each is, even though the Heisman remains instantly recognizable and its manufacturer takes no creative license … ‘No two are exactly the same,’ said Jack Nortz, the director of sculpting for MTM Recognition, the company that produces them.”

“Suitably for a new statue designed to look old, the process of making a Heisman is both normalized and artisanal. The ancient Egyptians would have known how to make a Heisman: The lost-wax casting method has been used to fashion bronze sculptures for roughly six millenniums.”

“Not only is this year’s Heisman slightly different from last year’s, it is more different from those of a generation ago … Before 2005, the back shoe had bumps on it to depict laces while the front shoe did not. Mr. Nortz added some grooves to the top of the right foot. MTM Recognition also standardized the trophy’s dimensions after staff members noticed that past trophies’ outstretched right arms departed the body at different angles. That arm has always been cast separately from the body.”


Ultra Violet: The Color of Money?

The New York Times: “Pantone sent approximately 10 people to blanket the globe for weeks at a time last year, searching for color signals in food, cars, cosmetics, clothes and housewares. They reconvened, pooled their findings, did their analysis and declared the color of 2018 to be … Ultra Violet.”

“It ‘communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking,’ Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said by way of explanation. It is found in the cosmos (think of all those swirling purple nebulae!), the wellness movement (amethyst crystals!) and was a favorite color of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who, Ms. Eiseman said, used to wear a purple cape when he was trying to be creative. Ditto Wagner, who liked to surround himself with purple when he was composing. Also, of course, Prince.”

Ms. Eiseman also says: “It’s also the most complex of all colors because it takes two shades that are seemingly diametrically opposed — blue and red — and brings them together to create something new.” And: “We wanted to pick something that brings hope and an uplifting message.”


How Sephora Blends Community & Commerce

Retail Dive: “With so many digitally-enabled processes in place, Sephora’s members-only social platform, dubbed the Beauty Insider Community, fits right in with the brand’s tech-focused image … The first of Sephora’s experiential concepts, the Beauty TIP workshops are focused on three core concepts: teach, inspire and play … A customer conversion isn’t front-and-center in these stores and that’s probably for good reason. Sephora needs sales like anyone else, but the focus of these workshops is on customer interaction and experience.”

Sephora Studio meanwhile offers “a pair of beauty studios at the center of the store which offer up eight seats for customers to explore and interact with Sephora’s beauty advisors … The hope is that a given customer will have more than one consultation with the same beauty advisor, forming a connection that lasts over the weeks and months to come, rather than a simple one-time experience.”

“With so many digitally-enabled processes in place, Sephora’s members-only social platform, dubbed the Beauty Insider Community, fits right in with the brand’s tech-focused image … Among other things, members of the social platform can build a public profile, update their favorite looks and personal interests, join a variety of groups that discuss beauty-related topics, swap beauty tips in real time and browse the looks and videos of other clients.”


Kosher Cocktails: Man-O-Manischewitz

The New York Times: “At the Upper East Side branch of the Second Avenue Deli, they have matzo ball soup for what ails you. If that doesn’t do the trick, soon you can walk upstairs for something stronger. On Nov. 27, the brothers Jeremy and Josh Lebewohl … plan to open 2nd Floor, a cocktail lounge just above the restaurant, with a separate entrance on East 75th Street. This is fairly uncharted territory for Jewish delicatessens. In 1997, the owners of Ratner’s, the famous kosher dairy restaurant on Delancey Street that is now closed, opened a speakeasy in the back called Lansky Lounge. But delis are usually not associated with sophisticated drinking.”

“The bar will be unusual in that the liquid menu is certified kosher. Also, some ingredients are not ones you’re likely to find at any other cocktail bar in town. Man-O-Manischewitz, a riff on the gin cocktail called the Bramble, uses a syrup made from Manischewitz wine rather than the traditional crème de mûre. The Upper Eastsider, a long drink that can be made with gin or vodka, has Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda as a component. A drink called the Shofar, similar to a Jack Rose, is made up of ingredients whose flavors are associated with Rosh Hashana, including apple brandy, pomegranate (in the form of grenadine) and honey.”

“The space, which seats roughly 100, is designed to look as if it’s been there for years, with wooden floors, club chairs and an old tin ceiling. In the bathroom area, there are framed photos and posters of old Yiddish theater stars, a nod to the deli’s original location in the heart of the now-vanished Yiddish theater district.”


Saks Save Me & Wardrobe Malfunctions

The Wall Street Journal: “Sure, online shopping is convenient. But physical stores are banking on offering a human touch and personal service that not even their own online stores can replicate. Increasingly, brick-and-mortar stores are providing more personalized services, including those once reserved for VIPs, hoping to further endear themselves to shoppers.”

Brooks Brothers “typically opens locations in metro business districts earlier than 10 a.m. so people can make pit stops on their way to work. Staffs are trained to be prepared for clothing-accident victims, such as asking basic questions or swiftly assessing or measuring sizes, while keeping the person calm. Stores keep steamers close, ready to get wrinkles out of a freshly unfolded purchase. They are stocked with replacement items such as shirts, blazers and ties, especially around mid-morning breaks and lunch.”

“Saks Fifth Avenue’s women’s and men’s stores in Brookfield Place are the only Saks in the U.S. with a hotline, called Saks Save Me, that customers can email with fashion emergencies before the store’s 10 a.m. opening … J. Crew opens its doors before Brookfield Place’s 10 a.m. open three to five times a week to accommodate everything from the customer who spilled coffee on her blouse on the subway to one who ripped his button-down shirt getting into a cab … Ann Taylor stores see women needing an interview suit on the fly … Its city stores will open earlier than usual, sometimes on request.”


Hermes Windows & The Art of Retail

The New York Times: “Hermès has turned window shopping for handbags and saddles and suitcases into high art. On Nov. 8, the luxury design house opened a free exhibition at the Grand Palais museum to celebrate the pastime of looking at — but not buying — goods in store windows. The exhibition consists of eight fantasy shop window displays created by Leïla Menchari, the Tunisian-born queen of design who reigned over the picture windows at the Hermès flagship on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré from 1978 to 2013.”

“The Hermès pieces in the exhibit are one-of-a-kind works of art and not for sale. (The same was true when Ms. Menchari was creating her windows: Most of the pieces that Hermès artisans were assigned to make for them were never available for purchase.) Each display in the exhibition is constructed like an intimate, open stage, on a larger scale than an actual Hermès window, but without a barrier of glass that would have created distance from the viewer.”

“One display, based on a window in 2011, features a horse sculpture of stainless steel and tawny brown leather pieces by the French sculptor Christian Renonciat; it is flanked by matching silver and brown leather-trimmed suitcases … The exhibition coincides with the release of “Leïla Menchari, Queen of Enchantment” … Illustrated with 137 window displays, it traces Ms. Menchari’s life and work, from her birth approximately 90 years ago into a family of wealthy landowners to her fine arts studies in Tunis and Paris, her arrival as a window display assistant at Hermès in 1961 and the extraordinary career that followed.”


Tiny Houses: New Media for Big Brands

The New York Times: “The tiny house … is catching the attention of corporate America and entrepreneurs nationwide. Businesses are piggybacking off the trend, wooing customers and solidifying their brands … In December, the developer of Mountainside at Northstar in Lake Tahoe, Calif., unveiled Rendezvous Cabins, a set of three 400-square-foot homes … prospective buyers of homes in the development can spend a night in a tiny house or model home to experience the neighborhood. The plan seems to be working: About 90 percent of the visitors become buyers after experiencing a weekend there.”

“Tiny houses are also used to help companies bolster their presence on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. This summer, Hormel, the maker of Spam, sponsored a Tiny House of Sizzle Tour with an ornate unit painted in blue and yellow. The home on wheels made stops at festivals, malls and ballparks, where company representatives handed out samples as people took pictures inside and marveled at the Spam souvenirs.”

“Untuckit, a New York apparel retailer that specializes in untucked shirts, hauled a tiny house that resembled one of its stores throughout the East Coast in 2016, stopping at universities and in small towns. The aim was to expose Untuckit to more consumers and determine where to open locations, said the company’s chief executive and co-founder, Chris Riccobono. ‘If we sold shirts, that was a bonus,’ he said.”


Three Traits of Successful Leaders

Adam Bryant: “After almost a decade of writing the Corner Office column, this will be my final one — and from all the interviews, and the five million words of transcripts from those conversations, I have learned valuable leadership lessons and heard some great stories … Are there some qualities — beyond the obvious, like hard work and perseverance — that explain why these people ultimately got the top jobs? I’ve noticed three recurring themes.”

“First, they share a habit of mind that is best described as “applied curiosity.” They tend to question everything. They want to know how things work, and wonder how they can be made to work better. They’re curious about people and their back stories. And rather than wondering if they are on the right career path, they make the most of whatever path they’re on, wringing lessons from all their experiences.”

“Second, C.E.O.s seem to love a challenge. Discomfort is their comfort zone. The third theme is how they managed their own careers on their way to the top. They focus on doing their current job well, and that earns them promotions. That may sound obvious. But many people can seem more concerned about the job they want than the job they’re doing.”