January 7, 2015

For decades it seemed like nothing could stop McDonald’s march towards total fast food domination. By the time 2011 rolled around, the company was boasting eight consecutive years of same-store sales growth while also holding the title of top performing stock on the Dow for five years running. But just when everything seemed to be going right for the chain, the golden arches started to lose their shimmer. Changing consumer tastes and a rocky transition between CEOs are leading towards Continue reading

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October 31, 2014

The multi-billion dollar home goods company Procter & Gamble produces hundreds of items, but the iconic business owes much of its success to just one brand. More than 135 years ago, James Norris Gamble led a team that created a vegetable oil-based soap with a distinctly white hue. The color presented the company with the perfect brand name, Ivory, while the item’s ability to float provided a unique selling point. What’s more, Gamble advertised the bar of soap as being Continue reading

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October 28, 2014

For more than 50 years, the Red Delicious has dominated the American apple market. But while no one can dispute the fruit’s famous color, many consumers have begun to take exception to the “Delicious” portion of its name. Even though the U.S. still produces 54 million bushels of Red Delicious annually, production of the fruit has dropped 40 percent since 2000 as demand for other varieties has increased.

The Red Delicious began its ascent way back in the 1870s when Continue reading

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October 23, 2014

Society depends so greatly on medical procedures like blood transfusions and vaccines that it can be difficult to remember that these practices have only been around for about a century. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1940s that hospitals became sophisticated enough to offer a patient better care than they could receive in their home. Since then, human life expectancy has leapt to nearly 80 years while advanced procedures like organ transplants are now common.

With so much ground broken Continue reading

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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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