September 23, 2014

In the 1950s, more than 150 television manufacturers called the U.S. home. Today, not even component parts for TVs are produced on American soil. Still, that hasn’t stopped Wal-Mart from slapping “Assembled in the USA” stickers onto many flat screen TVs stocked in its stores. That’s because the company buys the televisions from South Carolina’s Element Electronics Corporation, which imports all their items from China.

That doesn’t mean Element is simply a middleman operation though. TVs that arrive at the Continue reading

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September 17, 2014

Although nothing in business is a sure thing, few industries are more volatile than apparel retail. In this unpredictable world, it can be almost impossible to guarantee success for a brand. For instance, Target and Kmart spent years dueling for dominance until the former won out with its more upscale marketing. However, long-term prosperity grants no safety net. Abercrombie & Fitch ruled the preppy clothing market for more than a decade, but now sales are falling as younger consumers view Continue reading

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July 11, 2014

 

A few years ago, a rash of employee suicides at Foxconn Technology prompted investigations into the working conditions at the Chinese manufacturing giant. As the maker of such in-demand items as the iPad and Hewlett-Packard servers, Foxconn employs tens of thousands of people who work long shifts and live on-site. The monotonous work and the dorm-like living quarters can make for a grey life on the Foxconn campus, leading to depression and worse.

Foxconn responded to this bleak state Continue reading

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Over the last few years, brick and mortar retailers have come up with some ingenious ways to gather data about the customers who walk into their stores. We’ve taken a look at some of them in past posts on this blog, including one story about “smart” mannequins that observe consumer patterns using cameras in the dummies’ eyes. Although that may skew a bit on the creepy side, it’s important to keep in mind that physical retailers are merely trying to Continue reading

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Like all coveted consumer items, smartphones are a prime target for theft. As the devices have become increasingly common, so have reports of muggings and break-ins involving the gadgets. According to Consumer Reports, more than 1.6 million Americans had their smartphones stolen in 2012. Meanwhile, smartphone thefts accounted for more than 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of thefts in the neighboring city of Oakland.

The uptick in gadget-related larceny has led to an outcry among Continue reading

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April 26, 2014

 

babyFor many parents, the day a child becomes potty-trained is cause for celebration. Not only has their kid progressed to a new stage of their life, but it also means that they’re done dealing with one of parenting’s messiest products: diapers. Each year Americans spend more than $10 billion on Pampers alone, accounting for 12 percent of Procter & Gamble’s sales. Although that makes Pampers the biggest brand in P&G’s portfolio, their North American market share still trails Kimberly-Clark’s Continue reading

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April 24, 2014

 

The “Happiest Place on Earth” may also be one of the priciest: last year Walt Disney increased the cost of a one-day pass for its Magic Kingdom theme park to $99. The $4 uptick came just eight months after Disney’s previous price hike, but customers don’t appear to mind. In 2013 theme park income rose by 17 percent to $2.2 billion as crowds continued to pack the company’s $14.1 billion entertainment empire.

It’s possible that the lofty costs required Continue reading

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March 31, 2014

The slow reemergence of American manufacturing has been touted by politicians on both sides of the aisle as an essential force in the recent economic recovery. But in many cases, the manufacturers driving production across the nation aren’t American at all. In fact, Honda recently announced that it built and shipped more cars from the U.S. than it imported here from Japan.

According to Honda executives, the company’s current status as an American exporting power wasn’t the intention when it Continue reading

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January 23, 2014

As emerging markets like India and Brazil continue to grow, more and more of their citizens will enter the middle class. This relatively untapped consumer group presents plenty of lucrative opportunities for companies across the globe. However, finding the right products to sell to this expanding class is not so simple, even for companies operating in their home countries. For instance, Tata Motors launched its ultra-cheap Nano model as an introductory vehicle for Indian consumers. But with a price tag Continue reading

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December 6, 2013

 

The nation’s first impression of the IBM supercomputer Watson came from the machine’s unprecedented appearance on Jeopardy. Over the course of a week, Watson handily defeated the best champions in the quiz show’s history thanks to its massive memory bank of facts. But it’s not just the supercomputer’s super-sized hard drive that sets it apart from other machines. Watson could compete on Jeopardy autonomously thanks to its ability to answer questions posed in natural language.

It’s this feature Continue reading

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