Indigo: Bookselling as a Cultural Experience

The New York Times: “It may seem strange for a bookstore chain to be developing and selling artisanal soup bowls and organic cotton baby onesies. But … Indigo is experimenting with a new model, positioning itself as a ‘cultural department store’ where customers who wander in to browse through books often end up lingering as they impulsively shop for cashmere slippers and crystal facial rollers, or a knife set to go with a new Paleo cookbook.” Book-industry analyst Peter Hildick-Smith, comments: “Cross-merchandising is Retail 101, and it’s hard to do in a typical bookstore. Indigo found a way to create an extra aura around the book-buying experience, by creating a physical extension of what you’re reading about.”

“The atmosphere is unabashedly intimate, cozy and feminine — an aesthetic choice that also makes commercial sense, given that women account for some 60 percent of book buyers. A section called ‘The Joy of the Table’ stocks Indigo-brand ceramics, glassware and acacia wood serving platters with the cookbooks. The home décor section has pillows and throws, woven baskets, vases and scented candles. There’s a subsection called ‘In Her Words,’ which features idea-driven books and memoirs by women. An area labeled ‘A Room of Her Own’ looks like a lush dressing room, with vegan leather purses, soft gray shawls, a velvet chair, scarves and journals alongside art, design and fashion books.”

“The new approach has proved lucrative: In its 2017 fiscal year, the company’s revenue exceeded $1 billion Canadian for the first time. In its 2018 fiscal year, Indigo reported a revenue increase of nearly $60 million Canadian over the previous year, making it the most profitable year in the chain’s history.”

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The Figaro: Everyone Knew Her As ‘Nancy’

The New York Times: “The tiny Nissan Figaro has an almost cartoonish design that is guaranteed to stand out. To an American living in Britain, who regularly spots pristine Figaros, it would appear to be a highly popular model that was made recently. Every part of that guess is wrong: The Figaro is rather old, built for the 1991 model year, and there never were large numbers anywhere. Nissan never even exported it from Japan.”

“Britain never had dominant carmakers like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Instead, for generations, it had a profusion of small-to-medium manufacturers. Those carmakers produced a much wider array of designs than their American counterparts, a good number of them quirky, small, underpowered, none too practical — and beloved by their many admirers … An increasingly competitive and global market had less room for eccentric cars, British or not, or for models that sell only a few thousand.”

“Owners join Figaro clubs and Facebook groups, give their cars names, often buy more than one per family, and sometimes pay over 10,000 pounds, or $12,500 — more than the car cost new … It has an unusual ‘fixed profile’ convertible roof — the middle folds down, but the sides stay put … Nissan built the Figaro in pale shades of aqua, green, gray and taupe … More than 3,000 of the cars are registered as being in active use in Britain, but numbers are no longer rising, and the pipeline has slowed to a trickle. ‘There’s only so many, and they’ve been around awhile,’ said Peter Pattemore, who drives a Figaro (named Jimmy), as does his wife, Sandra (hers is Sally). ‘But we’re going to keep them as long we can’.”

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Amazon ‘Surprises’ Members with Samples

Axios: “Amazon is quietly piloting a program to let brands like Maybelline and Folgers pay to send free samples to consumers — all based on what the retail giant already knows they’re likely to buy. Turning free samples into new targeted ads plays to Amazon’s strength as a trusted delivery service of everyday goods, something Americans already expect from the company … The tech giant has the purchasing data and logistics infrastructure to offer samples of actual products, which could be more effective than display ads on Facebook or search ads on Google for certain kinds of consumer packaged goods brands.”

“Amazon has more than 100 million subscribers to its Prime services alone, meaning it has established long-term relationships with users. Millions more purchase goods regularly from the company, even without a Prime subscription … Samples of new products are sent to customers selected using machine learning based on Amazon’s data about consumer habits, according to recent job postings and details listed on its site.”

“There could be privacy concerns. Customers are getting items that Amazon’s vast trove of customer data predicts they’ll want to buy. But that some customers could feel violated when something they haven’t ordered shows up unexpectedly on their doorstep … Amazon tells consumers that it ‘surprises select customers with samples that we think will be delightful and helpful,’ sent to their account’s default address.”

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Books & Brews: A Community on Tap

The New York Times: “The first thing one notices about Books & Brews is that it’s off the beaten path, tucked into an unassuming strip mall in a cluster of industrial-supply stores and a sprawling outpost of The Home Depot near 96th Street on the far north side of Indianapolis. The second thing you may notice upon entering the shop is how inviting it feels, with its bright, bookshelf-lined walls, clusters of sturdy wooden tables and racks of board games — and that’s before you get to the back of the store with a craft-beer taproom, small stage and even more packed bookshelves.”

Founder Jason Wuerfel comments: “The fundamental flaw of the bookstore is that it’s designed to be quiet and not let people connect to each other. When you encourage people to walk around, and you have books and board games and music that breathes life into spaces, you naturally provide the framework for social engagement.”

The books for sale all around the store are mostly used, taken by donation and sold for $3 each … Ten percent of used-book sales are given to Indy Reads, an area organization that promotes literacy … As for the brews, the company has its own line of craft beers, sporting playful names like Shogun Soba Ale and Charlie and the Chocolate Stout … The Books & Brews mother ship is not alone anymore. Wuerfel expanded and franchised the business over the past few years to eight other locations (so far) around central Indiana and now partners with Flat12 Bierwerks to produce his beer.”

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Five Below Performs Well Above Expectations

The Wall Street Journal: Five Below, “which sells everything from Spalding basketballs to Bluetooth headphones and yoga mats for $5 or less, might be the most successful retailer you’ve never heard of. By the end of this year, Five Below’s store count will have nearly quadrupled to 750 locations since its 2012 initial public offering … Five Below uses a formula that has largely insulated it from competition from Amazon.com Inc. The chain keeps prices low by creating products from scratch with hundreds of suppliers around the world and sells them in an environment where children want to hang out. Its own e-commerce sales are so negligible the company doesn’t break them out; shipping often costs more than the entire purchase.”

“At 8,000 square feet, its stores are relatively small, making it easy to wander the mazelike floor plan grouped around eight categories: sports, technology, party, candy, style, create, room and now—the latter filled with seasonal products such as Halloween costumes or Christmas decorations … Shelving is no higher than 5 feet, creating a comfortable space for preteens and teenagers who have outgrown traditional toy stores and are Five Below’s core customers. They are encouraged to bounce the basketballs, test-drive radio-controlled cars and participate in slime-making contests—anything that will help them spend their allowance money.”

“Five Below also has items for grown-ups, including cucumber face-masks, yoga mats, storage bins, greeting cards and vintage candy from Mike and Ike fruit-flavored chews to Goetze’s Caramel Creams. Unlike other bargain stores like Dollar Tree or Family Dollar that focus on necessities such as laundry detergent and toothpaste, Five Below is the place to come to find things you didn’t know you wanted, such as squeezable foam toys called ‘squishies’ that have gone viral on YouTube .. It also is testing ‘Ten Below’ sections in four stores that offer items such as wireless home speakers and skateboards for $10 or less.”

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Wannamaker’s Temple: Retail as Religion

The Wall Street Journal: The John Wanamaker Department Store was one of America’s first great temples of consumption … In “Wanamaker’s Temple,” Nicole C. Kirk argues that Wanamaker’s was more than a successful business enterprise, it was also a successful ministry. She notes that John Wanamaker, a Presbyterian, was as committed to evangelism and the social gospel as he was to selling silks and satins. As she writes: “Wanamaker saw his retail empire not as separate from religion but as an instrument of it, as a means for achieving moral reform in business, in the city, and in individuals’ lives.”

“Born into a working-class South Philadelphia family in 1838, Wanamaker began his career as a clerk in a men’s clothing store owned by a friend of his grandfather’s. By accident, he walked into a prayer meeting and heard a hat maker explaining that religion was part of his trade. Wanamaker was soon swept up in the Businessmen’s Revival, a Protestant prayer movement.”

?The store was filled with innovations: electric arc lamps, elevators, pneumatic tubes to move money and receipts. And it was infused with Wanamaker’s religiosity. In full-age newspaper ads, six days a week, he assured potential customers of his high-quality merchandise, his honest treatment of customers and his fairness to employees. ‘It was more than image making, although it was that as well,’ Ms. Kirk writes. ‘Wanamaker saw it as a part of his business mission—to make business a Christian enterprise and profitable’.”

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Hospitals ‘Tiptoe’ into Grocery Business

The Wall Street Journal: “Invoking the mantra that food is medicine, hospitals across the country are taking measures to prevent and treat illness through diet. To nudge patients into eating well at home, they have opened food pantries that offer nutrition counseling and healthful fare. They are growing their own produce, adding farmers to the payroll and hosting greenmarkets. A few are even tiptoeing into the grocery business.”

“ProMedica, a not-for-profit health system headquartered in Toledo, Ohio … set up two food pantries, where patients can receive nutritional guidance and free groceries. ProMedica opened a grocery store a few miles from one hospital, in an area that had been bereft of healthful food. Called Market on the Green, the store is open to the public, not just ProMedica patients.”

“Most grocery-store checkout counters are a gauntlet of candy. At Market on the Green, cashiers are surrounded by produce, while candy bars are tucked down an aisle. Whole-grain cereal is shelved at eye level, sugar-laden cereal can be found on harder-to-reach shelves … The store is a nonprofit enterprise (and) tries to steer shoppers with prices, putting smaller markups on healthful fare. For instance … whole-grain chips cost less than regular ones. Chocolate milk is ‘priced high’ to encourage children to drink skim milk.”

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The Doughnut That Ate Dublin

The Washington Post: “It looked like closing time at the county fair or the week before Christmas at the mall: cars just sitting there, bumper to bumper, waiting their turn to inch along. Dozens of vehicles lined up and down the aisles of the parking lot, honking as if every single driver in front of them was staring at their cellphone while stopped at a green light. It sounded like the traffic jam of the century. But, in fact, it was the Krispy Kreme drive-through at 1:30 a.m. in Dublin — the first to open in the country.”

“Neighbors complained to local government and Krispy Kreme executives that the noise from the doughnut drive-through had kept them awake for days, they told the Irish Times.After just one week, Krispy Kreme had to shut down Dublin’s 24-hour drive-through … Krispy Kreme has been around in the United States since 1937 and has more than 300 locations nationwide. It’s been called a ‘cult’ favorite in the past, inspiring ‘pilgrims’ to ‘pile into the car and drive for hours just to have a couple of Hot Nows,’ as Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Marlene Parrish wrote in 2001.”

“But Ireland’s reception appeared to be in a league of its own … As of Friday morning, the Irish Times reported a wait time of 30 minutes for the doughnuts, with metal barriers set up to control the queue like those found at a theme park.”

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Motorcycles Try ‘Post-Heritage’ Designs


The New York Times: A surfer-meets-biker festival in Biarritz, France, was an unlikely backdrop for America’s oldest motorcycle maker to showcase its latest handiwork. But that is where, in June, Indian Motorcycle made the announcement that a one-off design concept, inspired by county-fairgrounds racing machines, would become a production model.”

“Indian, based in Minnesota, is not alone among motorcycle makers in taking a daring, and perhaps unexpected, leap with its designs. Ducati, based in Italy, has hit pay dirt with its out-of-character Scrambler, introduced in 2015 … which expanded the company’s portfolio beyond muscular sport machines … Likewise, Husqvarna Motorcycles, a Swedish motocross legend now resettled in Austria, has branched out with a range of lithe, futuristically styled bikes. Even Royal Enfield, a British expat built in India, is moving beyond its frozen-in-time single-cylinder models.”

“Breakthrough models like the Scrambler are not necessarily the result of market research, Ducati’s chief executive, Claudio Domenicali, said, emphasizing that the Scrambler is a ‘post-heritage’ statement rather than retro.” He comments: “When we try to follow the competition, we’re not successful, so we look at what’s available and we invent products.”

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Merchants of Honor: Dirty Lemon Trusts its Customers

Anne Kadet: “At the Drug Store, a new shop in Manhattan carrying a single line of soft drinks, the prices are so high—$10 for a 16-ounce bottle—you might be tempted to steal one. And that would be easy enough. At this store, there is no cashier. Not even a payment kiosk. It runs on the honor system. The company behind this store is Dirty Lemon Beverages, a local beverage maker that sells what it markets as health-enhancing drinks directly to customers through text messaging.”

“Chief Executive Officer Zak Normandin says he decided to operate his first store on the honor system because it is the most convenient way to serve customers. ‘No one likes standing in line,’ he said. The Drug Store is a tiny storefront on Church Street in Tribeca, a few blocks south of busy Canal Street. The high-ceilinged space, decorated with old-fashioned black-and-white tile, features a three-door refrigerator case and a 5-foot plant. A digital display mounted on the wall says ‘Grab a bottle and txt us’ followed by the store’s phone number.”

“Mr. Normandin says he isn’t worried about shoplifting at the Drug Store. The shop has cameras and heat sensors to track foot traffic. He said there have been no reports of theft at the store since its opening on Sept. 13.”

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