Quote of the Day: Benjamin Friedman

“On the whole, the problem with new books is that there’s a list price set by the publisher and a discount price that’s also set by the publisher. So, as a new bookseller, you have no control over what the book sells for or what you pay for it. With used books, if you’re smart, you find ways to get them cheap, and you decide what you price them at.”

“As a general rule, on any book, a used bookseller is probably making twice as much profit as a new bookseller. And that’s the difference between making it and not making it, because the profit margins on new books are razor-thin. At a used bookstore, no one is getting rich, but you can make enough to stay alive.” – Benjamin Friedman, co-founder, Topos Bookstore Café, as quoted by The Awl.

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Whole Foods: New Limits on Local Store Autonomy

The Wall Street Journal: “Whole Foods is shifting more responsibility for buying packaged foods, detergents and other nonperishable items for the more than 430 stores to its Austin, Texas, headquarters. It is deploying software to simplify labor-intensive tasks like scheduling staff and replenishing shelves … The measures are part of a broader push to beat back competition from retailers such as Kroger Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp. that have expanded their range of natural and organic products, and frequently offer them at lower prices.”

Co-CEO John Mackey: “We want to evolve the structure in such a way that we take out redundancy and waste, and at the same time though, we’re not diminishing the culture, the empowerment efforts that make Whole Foods Market special.”

“The relative autonomy Whole Foods has long granted its stores and regional units—now 12—reflects a bedrock principle of Mr. Mackey, who helped open the first Whole Foods in 1980 … The model worked well for Whole Foods for years as it grew rapidly and established itself as the leading retailer of natural and organic groceries … But the need to offer more competitive prices is stepping up the pressure for greater efficiency.”

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The Fallacy of Data vs. Intuition

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Hilary Mason of Fast Forward Labs illuminates the relationship between data and intuition:

“One of the common fallacies is that data is opposed to intuition. Data is a tool for enhancing intuition. When I worked at the social-media company, one day the CMO of a frozen-breakfast-sausage brand came into our office. The guy said, ‘I want to know what may customers do on the social web.’ And I said, ‘Great. So first we’ll figure out who your customers are.’ He said, ‘I know who my customers are. They’re moms in the Midwest.’ I said, ‘How do you know?’ He looked at me like I was crazy. He said, ‘They’re my customers. I’ve been doing this for years.'”

“He was not wrong. He had many customers. We didn’t know if they were moms, but they were looking at mom-type things. They were in the Midwest. But he missed a cluster of customers in Texas, and they were into motorcycles and man things. He missed a cluster in the Northwest who were anti food additives [who liked his product because it] did not have these additives. We were able to show that his intuition was in no way wrong. But he was missing things that were too small to come up on his human radar.”

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Craft Breweries Turn to Mobile Canning

USA Today: “Mobile canning services, which started becoming popular about three years ago, are turning the smallest of breweries into legitimate players in America’s craft beer craze. They bring equipment to breweries and package beer on site, saving breweries tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. ICan, one of two mobile canning services with a strong presence in Indiana, charges breweries as little as $1,600 for a 100-case run.”

“Mobile canning is growing along with America’s craft beer scene. Last year the USA surpassed 4,000 breweries for the first time since at least the 1870s, according to Brewers Association and U.S. Census Bureau research. New breweries are looking for ways to distribute their products, and mobile canning is providing a key to the marketplace.”

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BMW Modulates Its Amplitude Attitude

BMW Blog: “BMW was the first automobile company to ditch AM radio functionality, with its recent i3 electric vehicle, and it caused quite a stir among i3 owners. The reason for the drop of one of America’s oldest broadcasting mediums is that the electromagnetic interference from the electric drivetrain of the car blocks out the AM signal, making it fuzzy and choppy.”

“Most Americans, and nearly everyone else around the world, feel as if AM is a dead technology and won’t be around much longer, so there’s no fuss there. However, as it turns out, nearly 3 million Americans listen to AM radio everyday, tuning in to local broadcasting stations, many talk radio stations and most broadcasted sports radio.”

“So due to AM radio’s loyal following, many automakers, BMW included, are looking for a way to reduce and eliminate the interference that comes from electric vehicles … If someone pays that much money for a car, regardless of what kind of car it is … they want to be able to listen to whatever kinds of radio they want.”

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Fresh Air: Glade Discloses Ingredients

Huffington Post: SC Johnson is “the first major player in the household chemicals industry to list 100 percent of the ingredients used to create fragrance in one of its lines of scented products, the Glade Fresh Citrus Blossoms collection of wax melts and air fresheners. That includes the chemicals ordinarily glossed over with catch-all phrases like natural ingredients or essential oil.”

“Its goal, in part, is to create a new standard of transparency that would challenge upstart competitors, who sell themselves as greener alternatives, to disclose every single component in their fragrances.”

“It’s important to lay it all out there for the scrutiny of the world what goes into our products if consumers are going to trust us,” says Herbert Fisk Johnson III, the company’s chairman and chief executive. “In the absence of information, people tend to think the worst.”

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Starbucks Gallery & Café Features New Artists

The Art Newspaper: “Starbucks has started selling art from a new coffee bar in Chelsea … with an exhibition of paintings and drawings by the young US artist Robert Otto Epstein, each of which was on sale for between $1,000 and $3,000 … A spokeswoman for Starbucks described the initiative as a ‘pilot programme’ and declined to give any more details on whether the company plans to expand its sales of art. She added that the company will commission ’emerging artists to make site-specific works—mostly murals—or to help us build a catalogue of works for customers to enjoy and discover through display in our cafes around the world.'”

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The Future of Shopping May Be Underground

Tech Insider: Garden Santa Fe, a 7-story-deep underground shopping mall in Mexico City, is a peculiar hybrid of basic infrastructure needs and a re-envisioning of contemporary retail. At a time when urban real estate is a precious commodity, going underground might just be the future of shopping … The Garden Santa Fe Mall has … circular courtyards, complete with live trees at the bottom and second level of the mall, providing a release from what would otherwise be a claustrophobic environment.”

“The presence of three full story glass atriums essentially brings the outdoors to the underground … The entire building is buried 7 stories deep, making heating and cooling much more energy efficient. Overall, the mall uses 60% of the energy of a comparable retail space. An extensive rain collection system and onsite grey water treatment and water reuse system make a similar impact in water consumption.”

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Wired to Create: The Chaos of the Inventive Mind

The New York Times: “Creativity is a process that reflects our fundamentally chaotic and multifaceted nature,” write Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, authors of Wired to Create. “It is both deliberate and uncontrollable, mindful and mindless, work and play.”

“While creative people run the gamut of personalities, Dr. Kaufman’s research has shown that openness to experience is more highly correlated to creative output than I.Q., divergent thinking or any other personality trait. This openness often yields a drive for exploration … These are people energized and motivated by the possibility of discovering new information.”

“It’s the thrill of the knowledge chase that most excites them,” the authors write, while also noting that turning that knowledge into ideas can be an uncomfortable process: “Those murky, ambiguous places, as highly imaginative people well know, are quite often where the creative magic happens,” they advise.

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Ikea Reinvents Its Dining Experience

The Washington Post: “While for decades it has been part of the Ikea experience to get your new couch with a side of Swedish meatballs, Ikea’s U.S. president Lars Petersson said in a recent interview that ‘Ikea food is becoming a core business’ for the privately-held, Sweden-based company.”

“That’s why all 41 of its stateside stores are getting restaurant makeover in the next several months … the goal is to create three zones for different types of diners. One area will be outfitted with high tables and barstools suited for scarfing down a quick bite. A second will aim to be family-friendly, with activities for kids and tables for their parents to dine nearby. The third area they call ‘Fika,’ which is a Swedish word for a coffee break that involves socializing.”

“It makes sense that Ikea is investing in its food business at this particular moment: In 2015, the Commerce Department reported that restaurants saw 8.1 percent sales growth, even as the broader retail industry saw an increase of just 2.1 percent and as home furnishings stores posted a 5.8 percent increase. There’s clearly momentum in the dining category, and perhaps a fresher look and menu can help Ikea get a piece of that.”

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