Is Binge Watching Breaking Bad for You?

“Binge-watching TV shows is trouncing our mental health,” reports Vice. “That’s according to a new University of Toledo study, anyway, which found that, of 408 participants, 35 percent qualified as binge-watchers, and those binge-watchers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than their non-binge-watching counterparts. The study found 77 percent of participants watched TV for two hours or more without a break on an average day, with anyone doing more than that … classified as binge-watching.”

“‘Binge-watching is a growing public health concern that needs to be addressed,’ said the scientists who headed up the study. But so can just watching TV in general. A long-term American Journal of Epidemiology study in 2011 found that watching TV for more than three hours a day put women at 13 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with depression. So can winter weather, or summer weather, or smoking, or sleeping too much, or not sleeping enough. So can, according to about a billion studies from 2010 onwards, too much Facebook.”

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Coloring Books Color Retailers Surprised

The Washington Post: “Coloring books for adults — a genre once considered little more than a novelty — are suddenly a big business, a bright spot in the financial results of publishers and retailers alike. Nielsen Bookscan estimates that some 12 million were sold in 2015, a dramatic jump from the 1 million sold the previous year. The books have “attracted legions of enthusiasts who are looking to de-stress, who see scrawling away at an image of a tree or an animal as a low-key, low-stakes way to channel imagination or to keep their hands busy while they let their minds wander.”

However: “While many find the act of coloring to be a calming distraction from hours spent tapping, swiping and staring at screens, some early adopters aren’t exactly hooked. ‘Most of the pages are full of pictures that are so small I can hardly see the details to color them, which causes more stress than if I hadn’t tried to color in the first place,’ wrote one reviewer of a popular coloring book on Amazon.”

“It’s not clear whether the rise of adult coloring books has come at the expense of sales in other categories, but the impact of the craze can be seen in various corners of the retail industry: Barnes & Noble has said that strong demand for adult coloring books and artist supplies provided a tail wind to the chain’s total sales in the last three quarters. Walmart, meanwhile, moved in November to add a dedicated four-foot section for adult coloring books in 2,000 of its stores. And Target started carrying adult coloring books in 1,300 stores in August and within months rolled them out to the rest of the chain.”

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Storytelling & The Haagen Dazs Effect

Quartz: Many global brands of the last decade have taken names of false provenance and enjoyed great success thanks to a paradigm hereby dubbed, “The Häagen-Dazs Effect.” … Häagen-Dazs ice cream, meant to sound Danish, was born in the Bronx. But the name tells a tale, from that umlaut to the silent “s” on the end, of premium, European origins. And when consumers reach for a pint, they sense the true value this faux identity adds.

“The Häagen-Dazs Effect makes an impact as well in these four notable brand names with made-up or embellished heritage and powerful identities: Sir Kensington’s makes high-end condiments and tells “the tongue-in-cheek ‘saga’ of an Oxford-educated gent who developed the original spiced ketchup recipe for Catherine the Great of Russia.” St. Germain, an elderflower spirit made in the USA, is named for the Saint-Germain-sur-Rhône region of the French Alps, where the stuff was first made.”

Warby Parker “took its name from Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker, two characters from one of Jack Kerouac’s journals … Brandy Melville was created by merchandising veteran Silvio Marsan and his son Stefan in Italy … Purportedly, the name is based on an imagined American girl (Brandy) who falls in love with an Englishman (Melville) in Rome … Ultimately, we’re talking here about the critical importance of a name that succinctly tells a compelling brand story­–whether that story is imagined or not, it must be told with richness and believability. These brands are a few to do so, making the Häagen-Dazs Effect, when done right­, a tactical tool for naming success.”

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Echo: Amazon’s Next Billion Dollar Baby?

“A bit more than a year after its release, Amazon’s Echo has morphed from a gimmicky experiment into a device that brims with profound possibility,” writes Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times. “Here is a small, stationary machine that you set somewhere in your house, which you address as Alexa, which performs a variety of tasks — playing music, reading the news and weather, keeping a shopping list — that you can already do on your phone.”

“But the Echo has a way of sneaking into your routines. When Alexa reorders popcorn for you, or calls an Uber car for you, when your children start asking Alexa to add Popsicles to the grocery list, you start to want pretty much everything else in life to be Alexa-enabled, too. In this way, Amazon has found a surreptitious way to bypass Apple and Google — the reigning monarchs in the smartphone world — with a gadget that has the potential to become a dominant force in the most intimate of environments: our homes.”

“Many in the industry have long looked to the smartphone as the remote control for your world. But the phone has limitations. A lot of times fiddling with a screen is just too much work. By perfecting an interface that is much better suited to home use — the determined yell! — Amazon seems on the verge of building something like Iron Man’s Jarvis, the artificial-intelligence brain at the center of all your household activities.”

“Scot Wingo, the chairman of ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce consulting firm, said the early signs suggested that the Echo was on a path to become Amazon’s next $1 billion business.”

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Burger King Re-Discovers its Inner Whopper

The Wall Street Journal: “Following unsuccessful efforts to appeal to a broader, more health-conscious customer base with salads, snack wraps, smoothies and low-calorie french fries, Burger King has returned to its roots as a purveyor of inexpensive burgers, fries and, now, hot dogs.”

“The bloated menu complicated kitchen operations and failed to attract customers as hoped. In 2010, Burger King launched more than 30 limited-time offers and 20 permanent menu items. By comparison, it launched 20 limited-time offers last year and no permanent menu items.” Burger King President Alex Macedo: “In a moment when a lot of brands in quick service are trying to become more fast-casual, we’re taking an opposite view.”

“David Harper, a franchisee who operates 72 Burger Kings in several states, said the chain has learned not to repeat its biggest mistake: copying rivals. ‘We know who we are now,’ he said … The changes are showing results. Burger King’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization grew 68% between 2010 and 2015 … Same-store sales at U.S. and Canadian restaurants grew 5.7% last year, better than most big rivals.”

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For Whom The Cash Registers

“High-end stores hide registers to force contact with salespeople, eliminate lines and add fancy sheen,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Stores aim to make the experience of paying more elegant, akin to private shopping, and to eliminate a pain point that keeps some shoppers from completing a purchase—having to wait in a visible line. Hiding the cash register also forces shoppers to interact with the salespeople and might even encourage them to buy more.”

Dexter Peart of luxury label Want Les Essentiels: “We’re downplaying that last transactional part of the experience. … We want the human interaction as one of the last touch points … This time also gives our sales associates an opportunity to get to know the people shopping in our stores a lot better.”

“Stores say customers’ expectations have risen with the success and ease of online shopping, making waiting in line seem unenlightened … But making cash registers discreet and encouraging customers to work through sales associates instead could make some shoppers uncomfortable. The unfamiliar protocol may feel strange at first.” Barneys maintains “a few visible cash registers in the downtown store in case a customer feels more comfortable paying the traditional way.”

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Excavating Problems at Anthropologie

The Washington Post: It’s hard not to see the parallels between what’s ailing J. Crew and what’s ailing Anthropologie: Both chains are simply failing to offer shoppers the kind of clothes they are looking for. And while it was easy at first to write off Anthropologie’s stumbles as a temporary blip, a full year of unattractive merchandise in dresses — one of the chain’s most essential categories — raises questions about whether it might be slipping into a rut.”

“It’s not all bad news for Anthropologie: The company said that sales of home products, beauty products, accessories and shoes were strong in the latest quarter.” CEO Richard Hayne “told investors he is so bullish Anthropologie’s potential as a home goods retailer that he said he could foresee a future in which clothing accounts for less than 50 percent of the store’s sales. If the store can pull off that change in the mix of the business, it may not matter so much if the apparel category goes through a soft patch.”

“And the retailer seemed to suggest that it is going to be more focused on building an international growth strategy this year, a move that could provide it with a fresh stream of sales growth.”

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Beds-in-a-Box: The Big Mattress

The Wall Street Journal: “Mattresses were long considered immune to the e-commerce boom. For decades, they have been sold in showrooms full of dozens of styles with dizzying discounts and high-pressure salespeople. But a new breed of upstarts with slick websites has cracked into the $14 billion U.S. mattress industry. The online sellers offer just a few varieties at fixed prices—and ship free to customers’ doors a foam mattress that is compressed into a box the size of a large suitcase.”

“In place of the chance to try out a $5,000 Tempur-Pedic with adjustable base or lie down on a $2,500 Serta iComfort with gel memory foam, they promise free shipping, 100-day guarantees and free returns. It is a process aimed at the often wealthier, younger and busy shoppers who care less about kicking the tires and more about convenience … Compressed mattresses promise high margins because they are cheaper to ship than inner spring mattresses that can’t be compressed … Because of how carriers like FedEx and UPS charge, delivering a 90-pound compressed mattress is less expensive than home delivery with a regular truck.”

“Returns, however, are a challenge.” As Scott Thompson, CEO of Tempur Sealy, explains: “Getting the bed back in the box, that’s a little bit of a problem.” Other online mattress sellers include Casper Sleep, Leesa Sleep and Yogabed.

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UK Record Shops Enjoy Record High

“The number of ‘bricks and mortar’ entertainment stores has reached a record high – despite rising online sales of music and film,” the BBC reports. There are now some 14,800 shops selling CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray, with supermarkets and high-street chain sales leading to the rise … The number of stores selling music and video has more than doubled since 2009, with DVD and Blu-ray available in 14,852 stores in 2015 and CDs and vinyl in 14,727.

Kim Bayley, CEO of the Entertainment Retailers Association: “Conventional wisdom has always suggested that the internet spelled the end for physical entertainment stores, but these numbers show that traditional retail still has a place, particularly for impulse purchases and gifts. After all, you can’t gift-wrap a download or a stream.”

Bayley adds that “the trend is clear – just as the internet has demonstrated that accessibility and convenience are key to selling entertainment, physical stores are demonstrating that if you put entertainment in front of people, they will buy it.”

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