Hunting the thieves behind a rash of six-figure wine heists ... “They’re not crawling under laser beams or anything. They’re using sledgehammers and crowbars. But they know what wine they want. This is wine stolen to order.” ... The FBI thinks so, too. The agency’s San Francisco bureau has been tracking the crimes for similarities. The thefts usually occur over a holiday, when the targeted restaurant is closed. Only certain types of wine are taken–usually French or Californian, priced at thousands of dollars a bottle. ... A wine theft is notoriously hard to investigate. It’s often compared to an art heist, because once a bottle is stolen it usually makes its way through a series of black market dealers before winding up in somebody’s private collection, where it remains unseen for years. But unlike art, if stolen wine does resurface, it’s difficult to prove what it is or where it came from. ... Downey trained as a sommelier before becoming a part-time wine fraud investigator. For the past 10 years she has been on a one-woman crusade to rid the wine industry of counterfeit and stolen wine. And there’s a lot of it out there. The French newspaper Sud Ouest estimates that 20 percent of wine sold in the world is either fake or stolen; Wine Spectator puts it at around 5 percent.
Keeping a 3-year-old girl away from Disney’s princesses is a lot like trying to get through January without hearing about the Super Bowl. Since Walt Disney lumped Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and its other poofy-dressed ladies together under the brand Disney Princess in 2000, the market for all things pink and sparkly has skyrocketed. Princess merchandise—dolls, clothing, games, home décor, toys—is a $5.5 billion enterprise and Disney’s second-most-profitable franchise, after Mickey Mouse. ... Disney doesn’t manufacture most of the Princess products. It licenses them to all sorts of companies: Glidden makes pink and purple wall paint, Stride Rite makes sparkly shoes. In toys, the most lucrative Disney Princess license is dolls. Specifically, 12-inch Barbie-esque figurines that girls can dress and undress until the dolls’ hairdos get tangled, they’ve lost their shoes, and it’s time to buy another. ... Mattel has worked with Disney since 1955, when it became the first sponsor for the Mickey Mouse Club, and it’s been the company’s go-to dollmaker since 1996. Last year, Mattel put the size of its Disney Princess doll business at $300 million, though analysts at Needham say it’s closer to $500 million. ... The princess business disappears on Jan. 1, when Disney packs up its glass slippers and takes them to Mattel’s biggest rival, Hasbro. ... Hasbro, meanwhile, has traditionally kept to the boys’ side of the toy aisle, with brands such as Nerf and Transformers. But it has big plans for the princesses.
If you’ve ever dressed up as a movie or television character for Halloween, the costume you bought was probably made by Rubie’s. The odds drop a little with generic characters like witches or vampires—plenty of smaller companies make those—but with more than 20,000 costumes and accessories for sale at retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Party City, Rubie’s has probably played a part in your Halloween festivities. What started in 1951 as a soda shop/novelty store in Queens has, over the past 65 years, grown into an international business that earns hundreds of millions. (It doesn’t disclose figures, but the analytics firm IbisWorld estimates $251 million in revenue in the U.S.) Rubie’s has 3,000 employees, contracts with 12 factories in China, owns four factories in the U.S., and runs six large warehouses, four on Long Island, one in Arizona, and one in South Carolina. Rubie’s has also spawned 15 subsidiaries in countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.K. It sells Carnival costumes in Brazil, Day of the Dead dresses in Mexico, and Easter Bunny and Santa Claus suits around the world. But in America its bread and butter is still Halloween. ... Americans will shell out a record-breaking $8.4 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That figure has jumped almost 70 percent in just 10 years, making Halloween the second-largest holiday in terms of decoration sales, behind Christmas. ... Rubie’s tries to anticipate Halloween trends a year in advance, but it’s constantly adjusting its plans as expected blockbusters flop (The Legend of Tarzan), beloved actors die (Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka costume will be popular this year), or millions of people get swept up in the Pokémon Go craze and Beige finds himself mass-manufacturing last-minute Pikachu costumes to fill thousands of back orders. ... unlike regular clothes, which are subject to high import duties, most costumes are considered “festive apparel” and can be imported duty-free.