What economists and marketers are learning from newly accessible consumer data … Around the world, billions of sales transactions every month, down to a can of Coca-Cola from a local store, are recorded in some way by Nielsen, the measurement and information firm that has been gathering data from retailers and consumers for 90 years. For most of its history, Nielsen shared those data primarily with its retail customers and manufacturing customers under strict agreements that protected customer confidentiality. Academic researchers gained access to some data by negotiating directly and often at length with Nielsen, or by partnering with a corporation and promising the data and results would be for internal use only. … Now Nielsen is sharing three datasets through Booth, with a staggering amount of information. One dataset covers purchases by 40,000–60,000 households in the United States. Another contains sales results from 35,000 stores—grocery stores, drugstores, discount chains, and similar outlets—for the years 2006 through 2011. Those records span up to 3 million bar codes, and the data represent about 33% of the volume at mass merchandisers and about 55% of US retail volume from grocery stores and drugstores. … The information now available is a gold mine for researchers, marketers primarily, but also economists who see the potential to explore longstanding questions about consumer behavior.
Look up and eastward from the old streets of downtown New York, look over the crimson banners of the auction houses on University Place, and you will see an ancient wall of brick jutting into the sky, throwing its shadow upon the roofs and chimney pots of Union Square. If the sun is bright or the neon lights in full flush, you can read on that expanse of grimy brick a faded legend: “F. A. O. Schwarz—Toys of All Kinds.” Painted in plain, white letters, the words create a nostalgic stir in the beholder, especially if he is a New Yorker who can recall grandfatherly tales of horses whinnying at stable doors in Washington Square, of grooms shouting in cobbled byways, and country carts bumping along with loads of aromatic hay. It is, indeed, an old, old sign, thickly brushed in the times when Santa Claus sometimes had an “e” at the end of his honored name. ... Ride fifty blocks uptown, and you will see that name set up again, neat and bright, in inch-high block letters of wood that occupy a one-foot length of the most valuable space on earth: a Fifth Avenue show window. The letters, gleaming white and blue amid the sawdust of a rodeo exhibit (with rocking horses at a hand gallop), repeat the name “F. A. O. Schwarz” and nothing more, nothing about toys. It’s no longer necessary for the Schwarz store to shout. This low Whisper will serve. Everybody knows it is the chief toy emporium of the world, unique because it is the biggest store that sells nothing but toys.
Amex has faced trouble before. In the wake of the 1987 stock market crash, merchants started to turn away the Amex card because of its hefty swipe fees, which at the time were as high as 3.5 percent. In 1991, a group of 100 restaurateurs in Boston staged what became known as the Boston Fee Party. “There was a big recession going on,” says Steve DiFillippo, owner of Davio’s, a popular Italian restaurant in the city and one of the Fee Partiers. “The garbage guys and the meat guys were helping us out, but American Express wasn’t doing anything for us.” Visa did its best to make the situation worse with an ad campaign featuring celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and other merchants who didn’t take American Express. ... JPMorgan and Barclays have poached Amex’s high-spending customers with generous card offers and lower annual fees. Two years ago, Chase cards surpassed Amex in American households making at least $125,000 a year ... “Part of my job is to persuade,” Chenault said. Never mind that even the Black Card no longer has the same mystique with the young moneyed set that Amex desperately needs to attract. In 2004, Kanye West boasted about his, memorably referring to it in a song as the “African American Express card.” But last year, Young Thug, the rap icon and influencer of the moment, rhymed in the hedonistic hit Lifestyle about having a $1.5 million spending limit on his Visa card.
Since taking over in 2006 from the outsider Knight first recruited for the job, Parker has overseen a more than doubling of Nike’s sales. To outward appearances, Knight and Parker are a study in contrasts. Knight is an MBA and still an irascible presence around Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., corporate campus. Parker is a soft-spoken shoe designer, known for a thoughtful if demanding management style. ... Parker was one of Nike’s earliest recruits—he joined a design outpost in New Hampshire in 1979—and has succeeded at every task assigned to him since. ... Parker’s meticulous approach to product development, known as “design thinking,” is all the rage, thanks to the acclaim of Apple’s products under its famed designer Jony Ive. Parker remains committed to his original craft: He still noodles on two limited-run sneaker lines with famed Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, one of them with Nike spokes-icon Michael Jordan and the other with Japanese stylemaker Hiroshi Fujiwara. ... Parker equates his managerial style with being an editor, with his process focused on helping subordinates hone their ideas. He even edits himself.
The Honest Company’s origins are now tech-world legend. When Alba was pregnant with her first daughter, Honor, now seven—husband and father is Cash Warren, a Yale graduate and a producer and tech investor—her friends threw a baby shower and she received a closetful of new baby clothes. When she washed her unborn baby’s onesies with a detergent her mother had recommended and broke out in hives, she was hysterical. “I was thinking, what if my baby has a reaction and I don’t know? What if her throat is closing? I had all this fear and anxiety because I was always so sick as a child.” That night she Googled every ingredient and discovered that some toxins can be labeled as “fragrance.” Her mission was clear: “I wanted safe and effective consumer products that were beautifully designed, accessibly priced, and easy to get.” Great idea, but how to implement it? ... In 2012, the company’s first year, sales reached $10 million. It launched with only 17 products, in the diapers-and-wipes category, all of which were delivered to subscribers’ homes on a monthly basis, or à la carte.
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.
Alibaba is the hottest e-commerce company of the past five years, a fusion of eBay and Amazon whose 386 million active users accounted for $394 billion in sales in fiscal 2015—six times the sales volume of its biggest Chinese competitor. The company created a huge marketplace and a sophisticated distribution network just in time to serve a generation of Chinese consumers attaining middle-class prosperity. “We are seeing Chinese consumers adopt new retail formats and online shopping faster than any of their global counterparts,” says Jasmine Xu, president of e-commerce for Procter & Gamble Greater China. Those trends fueled a rise so impressive that even the mighty Amazon became an Alibaba partner ... Today, however, Alibaba looks mortal. Its growth has slowed, hampered by China’s ebbing economy and by competition from a growing crop of rivals like JD.com. Its stock has fallen 26% from its post-IPO highs, from $115 to the mid $80s. To reignite its growth, chairman and founder Jack Ma and CEO Daniel Zhang plan to lean on U.S. companies—brands that hold enormous appeal in China. “This is an incredibly important strategy for the future of Alibaba,” Ma says. ... Alibaba is pitching itself as a shortcut to the world’s most populous market. Alibaba is helping foreign companies with marketing, data analytics, and shipping. And more recently it has sweetened the pot with a newer service, Tmall Global, that lets U.S. brands sidestep many of the taxes, regulatory hurdles, and logistics hassles that trip up foreign companies in China. ... Tmall, went live in 2008 with a business model sharply distinct from Taobao’s. Tmall is Zhang’s brainchild. He positioned it as a marketplace for higher-quality clothing, food, and electronics, with a focus on luxury brands. ... Tmall owes its growth to China’s rapidly expanding, brand-conscious middle class. Currently there are 109 million Chinese people with a net worth between $50,000 and $500,000, according to Credit Suisse, which estimates that those ranks could surpass 500 million by 2022. It’s a demographic that’s very comfortable with e-commerce: 40% of Chinese consumers buy groceries online, for example, compared with only 10% of Americans.
In pulling back the curtains, Amazon, one of the most private public companies in the world, revealed how it is racing to piece together an immensely complex puzzle—much of which it is having to build from scratch, at giant expense and with painstaking attention to the minutiae, as it tosses out assumptions that American customers have taken for granted for decades. In doing so, the company, an upstart here, has thrown itself into a knife fight with two privately owned and much more established Indian competitors—Flipkart Internet Pvt. and Snapdeal, owned by Jasper Infotech Pvt.—as well as a clutch of smaller Indian startups that are nipping at all of their heels. ... It is a fight that Amazon is far from certain of winning, yet one it cannot afford to sit out. The company predicts that India will be its biggest market after the U.S. within a decade and that the Indian e-commerce market as a whole will ultimately be gigantic. ... It is not hard to see why the battle for India is this fierce, nor why Bezos, famously obsessed with analytics, would see it as essential for Amazon’s future. The numbers alone are dizzying. India’s population of 1.25 billion is four times as big as the U.S.’s and more than double Europe’s. And since the median age is 27—a full decade younger than Americans’—the trajectory will be steep. India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country in just seven years, according to the UN. It is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy, and the IMF projects 7.5% growth next year. The roads and railways might be creaking under the strain. Many laws governing business are a confounding tangle, including a law forbidding foreign companies from selling products directly to Indians. That law effectively renders Amazon India a platform for vendors—akin to its “fulfillment by Amazon” program in the U.S. ... Barely one-quarter of India’s population has access to the Internet at home, whether on a smartphone or computer, and only a small fraction of those have ever shopped online. ... By some estimates the company is spending nearly $25 million a month in India already.
Muji was launched in Japan in 1980, as Mujirushi Ryohin, which means “no-brand quality goods.” It was intended to be a generic line for the Seiyu Supermarket Group, boasting the tagline “Lower prices for a reason.” Initially, Muji included only forty different products, mainly food and household goods. Today, it is an independent two-billion-dollar company, selling more than seven thousand items ranging from furniture to soap. It keeps prices low by paying close attention to processing and packaging (most of Muji’s paper products are unbleached), and by using undesirable and industrial materials, which are cheaper in bulk (it once famously sold “U-Shaped Spaghetti,” made from the discarded ends of pasta). ... According to its 2015 year-end report, Muji is currently in what it calls its “jump” phase (preceded by “hop” and “step”), defined by growth abroad and efficiency at home. ... Muji has succeeded in part by incorporating the aesthetic consequences of cost-cutting into its design philosophy.
Price tags are a consideration of titanic importance. They’re more important even than the ideal number of window displays (five, with two for women’s wear and one each for men, kids, and home), or whether jeans should be hanging or folded (hanging for more fashion-forward styles so you can see the detailing, folded for basics). ... Price is by far the biggest reason Primark is the undisputed victor in Britain’s cheap-fashion war. Secondary are its up-to-the-minute designs, jazzy stores, and tireless promotion on social media. Primark doesn’t sell online and barely advertises. Instead, customers advertise it for free, posting thousands of selfies with their latest outfits, using the #Primania hashtag to be rated and critiqued. The best images get cycled onto giant in-store LED screens to spur impulse buying. ... It’s a relentless curator and promoter of clothes so ridiculously cheap that buying them on a whim because you like someone’s outfit on Instagram is an entirely reasonable idea. ... The idea is to offer prices Americans are used to seeing on less-than-hip clothes from Kohl’s or Walmart on trendy pieces that change from day to day. ... If Primark has a father, it’s a man named Arthur Ryan, but he’s not easy to get to know. Having hardly ever given an interview or a speech, he’s the Keyser Söze of retail. ... Weston is emphatic that Primark’s prices don’t come from cutting corners on labor. “We buy clothes from the same factories that everyone else buys from,” he says. “Everyone.” Instead, he says, undercutting competitors is basically a matter of volume—selling low-margin items many, many more times. ... In an industry where retailers cancel orders that are already on freighters and force suppliers to take financial hits when product doesn’t sell, that edge gives suppliers the confidence to cut better deals for Primark
To many of us, QVC is a 1980s relic of grandmas and shut-ins. When QVC (which stands for "Quality, Value, Convenience") first went live in 1986, televised sales pitches were a disruptive idea in retail—bringing products that lived in malls to a growing cable audience in search of things to watch. The network wasn’t first-to-market in its genre—HSN (the Home Shopping Network) had launched a year earlier—but QVC’s impact was immediate. QVC would set the fiscal sales record for a new public company in its first year ($112 million) by avoiding malls, while teenage rock star Tiffany would become a pop icon by performing in them. From day one, QVC’s niche was the unhip. ... But if QVC’s 24/7/364 approach—they go off-air for Christmas—is a fossil, it’s a living one. While U.S. mall popularity peaked in 1990, QVC’s revenue continues to grow. The network now does $8.8 billion in worldwide sales a year, and like every other big company, it is eyeing expansion in China. While the grandma stereotypes are indeed a bit true—QVC’s audience is 90% women, ages 35 to 65—QVC quadrupled its young recruit customers between 2009 and 2013 from 3% to 12%. Maybe more importantly, over the last decade, QVC has been gracefully making the transition from landline caller to smartphone user. Forty-three percent of its U.S. sales now come through e-commerce channels, and 30% of these are through mobile. The television channel has become the fifth largest mobile retailer in the world. Even a hot startup like Kickstarter has learned from QVC: each product must be accompanied by a video interview with its creator. ... Ninety percent of QVC’s customers are repeat customers—the most sought after, profitable type, the same carefully cultivated by companies like Starbucks with Starbucks Rewards and Amazon with Amazon Prime. ... But while Starbucks offers the promise of free caffeine, and Amazon gives us faster shipping and streamable movies, QVC has personalities—27 hosts who are each responsible for selling hundreds of millions of dollars in products a year. They’re middle-aged. Often overweight. Family types—the average American, with better makeup and whiter teeth, each a character in a retail soap opera that viewers at home can follow forever.
Q-tips are one of the most perplexing things for sale in America. Plenty of consumer products are widely used in ways other than their core function — books for leveling tables, newspapers for keeping fires aflame, seltzer for removing stains, coffee tables for resting legs — but these cotton swabs are distinct. Q-tips are one of the only, if not the only, major consumer products whose main purpose is precisely the one the manufacturer explicitly warns against. ... The little padded sticks have long been marketed as household staples, pitched for various kinds of beauty upkeep, arts and crafts, home-cleaning, and baby care. And, for years, they have carried an explicit caution — every box of Q-tips comes with this caveat: "Do not insert inside the ear canal." But everyone — especially those who look into people's ears for a living — know that many, if not most, flat out ignore the warning.
The untold tale of Target Canada’s difficult birth, tough life and brutal death ... Fisher, 38 years old at the time, was regarded as a wunderkind who had quickly risen through the ranks at Target’s American command post in Minneapolis, from a lowly business analyst to leader of a team of 400 people across multiple divisions. Launching the Target brand in a new country was his biggest task to date. The news he received from his group that February afternoon should have been worrying, but if he was unnerved, Fisher didn’t let on. He listened patiently as two people in the room strongly expressed reticence about opening stores on the existing timetable. Their concern was that with severe supply chain problems and stores facing the prospect of patchy or empty shelves, Target would blow its first date with Canadian consumers. Still, neither one outright advocated that the company push back its plans. “Nobody wanted to be the one to say, ‘This is a disaster,’” says a former employee. But by highlighting the risks of opening now, the senior employees’ hope was that Fisher would tell his boss back in Minneapolis, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, that they needed more time. ... Nobody disagreed with the negative assessment—everyone was well aware of Target’s operational problems—but there was still a strong sense of optimism among the leaders, many of whom were U.S. expats. The mentality, according to one former employee, was, “If there’s any team in retail that can turn this thing around, it’s us.” ... Roughly two years from that date, Target Canada filed for creditor protection, marking the end of its first international foray and one of the most confounding sagas in Canadian corporate history. The debacle cost the parent company billions of dollars, sullied its reputation and put roughly 17,600 people out of work.
Plank has the affect and intensity of a head coach--direct eye contact, military analogies, the air of someone you do not want to disappoint. "Winning is a part of our culture--it's who we are," he says in his lofty office overlooking the harbor. (The only artwork behind his desk: a giant UA logo, its letters stacked to evoke arms raised in victory.) "And culture is formed on habits." Perhaps the most important guardrail, and the company's official mission, is seeking to "make all athletes better." It has long equaled thinking about clothes as high-performance gear, but recently it's taken on a big new meaning. ... Over the past two years, Under Armour has spent close to $1 billion buying and investing in three leading makers of activity- and diet-tracking mobile apps. By doing so, the company has amassed the world's largest digital health-and-fitness community, with 150 million users. Plank envisions all of those users, and their metrics, as a big data engine to drive everything from product development to merchandising to marketing. Many observers, though, balked at the $710 million cost of the acquisitions ... the high-stakes bet on Connected Fitness will be slow to pay off. Under Armour recently increased its projections for the next two years, estimating that it would nearly double net revenue by 2018, to $7.5 billion (up from a previous estimate of $6.8 billion). Only $200 million--a paltry 2.7 percent--will come from Connected Fitness. ... "If I'm right," he says, Connected Fitness "becomes a force multiplier that takes us from shirts-and-shoes company to true technology company. If I'm wrong, it costs us some money--we have $710 million on the table."
In 1976, the best surfers in the world began seeking Quiksilver because they were the best. The combination of Velcro, snaps and a high waistband made them grip hips and stay on, even in the largest waves. Before long, Hawaii-based Americans such as Hakman sported them. Soon, the surf mags were running photo after photo of pros gliding down famous waves such as Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach while wearing them—the best advertising imaginable. ... From its garage-like space, Quiksilver swelled. Within 10 years, it became the first publicly listed surfwear company; soon after, it opened boutiques in New York, Paris, London and Dubai. And by 2004, it announced annual earnings that exceeded $1 billion. ... the brand has crashed mightily ever since, leading up to this past Sept. 9, when Quiksilver sought relief in a Delaware bankruptcy court from $826 million in debt ... "Rossignol, I think, was the thing that killed Quiksilver in itself," Pezman says. "When you try to be all to everyone, you lose the support system. When you de-specialize, you lose your attraction to the specialized markets you had."
“It’s been this way for the last seven years,” since President Obama got into office, says Mike Moore, Westside’s account manager at RSR Group, a large national gun-and-ammunition wholesaler based in Winter Park, Fla. Moore and others in the industry marvel at the staying power of what they call “the Obama surge”—elevated sales driven by the (unfulfilled) fear of tougher federal gun control. ... “There’s four things selling guns at the moment,” says Rocky Fortino, one of Hopkins’s employees. “One: ‘I’m afraid they’re going to make it harder to buy a gun, so I better get one now.’ Two: ‘I’m afraid of home invasions and other violent crime.’ Three: ‘I’m afraid of mass shootings.’ And four: ‘I’m afraid of terrorism.’” ... With an estimated 300 million firearms already in private hands and surveys showing that a third or so of American households possess a gun, one might assume that the consumer market is saturated. “It’s not,” Hopkins says. “Gun owners are buying more guns, and lately we’re seeing some first-time buyers, too.”
That now-infamous overhaul, under then-CEO and former Apple retail guru Ron Johnson, sought to reposition Penney as a flashier retailer with fancier merchandise. But it backfired: Customers fled, sales tumbled by almost a third, and Penney was crippled financially. Three years ago the board brought back Mike Ullman, the CEO it had unceremoniously chased out in favor of Johnson, to stop the U.S.S. Penney from sinking. And last summer he handed the reins to Ellison—an executive the opposite of flashy. ... It’s fitting that Ellison, a lifelong musician, plays electric bass, an instrument that rarely gets a flashy solo but without which no band can click. He made his reputation in retail at Home Depot, helping engineer that chain’s turnaround by focusing on unsexy but primordial things like the supply chain and the integration of stores and e-commerce. He’s a data devotee who grounds every decision in information—including that seemingly intuitive shoe move. ... The trees look nice, but the forest is daunting. Penney’s sales, an estimated $12.6 billion for the just-completed year, are still down 37% from their 2006 peak. Its nascent recovery, part of its fourth turnaround effort since 2000, hasn’t swayed Wall Street—its stock trades close to a 35-year low. In the long term, the problem isn’t just that Penney has been dysfunctional; it’s also that Penney is a department store, a practitioner of a business model under siege.
This is the Amazon Marketplace, where anybody can sell just about anything right alongside Amazon's own wares. Unlike eBay, where each vendor maintains a separate listings page, Amazon tidily groups its Marketplace sellers by item, hiding away the inferior offers, to showcase the best deals up front. (In seller parlance, landing the number-one spot is called "getting the buy box.") What looks so clean on your screen obscures the messy and massive jungle of the Marketplace: There are now more than two million sellers on Amazon. While the Seattle-based giant still sells the most popular items on the site itself, Marketplace sellers now ship nearly half of the products--about two billion items each year, all told--and those sales are growing twice as fast as Amazon's, according to the consultancy ChannelAdvisor. The Marketplace started in 2000 selling used books. In 2016, it's a retail phenomenon as significant as any in the past 50 years--together these sellers ring up what ChannelAdvisor estimates to be $132 billion in sales each year. That's more than Walmart sold in 1997. Yet we know so little about who they are. ... Pharmapacks, notched $31.5 million in revenue in 2014, which made its three-year growth rate 3,035 percent, good enough to earn it the 115th spot on the Inc. 500. By the end of 2015, its annual revenue was $70 million. Vagenas proudly told me the company was on track to do $140 million to $160 million in revenue in 2016, the vast majority coming from those platforms (and around 40 percent from Amazon). ... Inventory often stays in their warehouse only for a few hours before going right back out the door. The business is less like traditional merchandising than it is like a commodities trader from a bygone era, buying and selling well-known goods and turning a profit on each transaction.
All of her reactions, and her answers to the questions Motte asked as Megan used the site, went into a growing database. Expedia, the parent company of more than a dozen travel-oriented brands in addition to Expedia.com, is obsessed with figuring out how to make booking travel online more intuitive, more efficient, and more enjoyable. That means, among other things, understanding the psychodrama of trip planning: the shifting desires and paralyzing wealth of choices, the unsettling gyrations in room rates and ticket prices, the competing demands of family members and budgets and schedules, the need to balance the thirst for adventure against the fear of Zika virus in Latin America or Islamic State in Europe. ... The goal of Expedia’s usability researchers is not only to make Expedia’s various sites and mobile apps more efficient but also to make them an extension of the vacation fantasies that are always running in the back of our heads. ... What distinguishes Expedia is its dedication to understanding the psyche of the modern travel planner. That may be most apparent in the Usability Lab, but much of it happens on the sites themselves, as the company relentlessly tests new ideas about look and feel and function. ... each of Expedia’s brands has its own technology and marketing teams, and they’re encouraged to set their own course. They all benefit from the massive inventory of hotel rooms and plane tickets and the financial resources and technological firepower of the parent company. ... Two-thirds of the A/B tests Expedia runs show no effect or a negative effect, and most of the successful ones are only marginally so.
To an outsider, Wawa appears like a normal, run of the mill convenience chain — except to residents in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. To them, Wawa is a community hub that deserves praise, fan mail and even country songs. ... On a separate occasion, a Thanksgiving food drive supports employees and customers in need. Whether it’s helping out store associates or donating thousands of dollars to charity, many Wawa stores take pride in their communities. It might seem unusual for a store that sells gas and Sizzlis. ... Later, Wawa became a go-to milk delivery company, but the service unraveled during the late 1950s and early '60s. ... Wawa opened its first food market on April 16, 1964 in Folsom, Pennsylvania. ... It’s not out of the norm for Wawa employees to stay with company 30 to 40 years. At HQ they've pasted photos in their cubicles, work memories throughout the years, alongside kitschy memorabilia. ... 41% of the company is owned by employees through Wawa's employee stock ownership program. ... “You think of a Wegmans, you think of an In-N-Out Burger, they are very slow growth, very deliberate — and i think there’s an element of that cult status that’s attached to that in some regard," Gheysens. ... Annually Wawa brews more than 195 million cups of coffee, sells 80 million built-to-order hoagies and serves 600 million customers. In 2015 the company ranked No. 34 on Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies, bringing in $9.7 billion in revenue each year. In 2016 Wawa plans to open 47 new locations.
IN THE 2013 offseason -- coming off a year in which Curry had started 78 games and the Warriors had made the Western Conference semis -- Nike owned the first opportunity to keep Curry. It was its privilege as the incumbent with an advantage that extended beyond vast resources. "I was with them for years," Curry says. "It's kind of a weird process being pitched by the company you're already with. There was some familiar faces in there." ... Curry was a Nike athlete long before 2013, though. His godfather, Greg Brink, works for Nike. He wore the shoes growing up, sported the swoosh at Davidson. ... Nike had every advantage when it came to keeping Curry. Incumbency is a massive recruiting edge for a shoe company, as players often express a loyalty to these brands their NBA franchises might envy. And Nike wasn't just any shoe company. It's the shoe company that claims cultural and monetary dominance over the sneaker market. According to Nick DePaula of The Vertical, Nike has signed 68 percent of NBA players, more than 74 percent if you include Nike's Jordan Brand subsidiary. ... According to Forbes, Nike accounted for 95.5 percent of the basketball sneaker market in 2014. In short, its grip on the NBA universe is reflective of a corporation claiming Michael Jordan heritage and a $100 billion market cap -- all advantages that might explain why Nike's pitch to Curry evoked something hastily thrown together by a hungover college student. ... A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant's name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. "I stopped paying attention after that," Dell says.
Amazon’s CEO has driven his company to all-consuming growth (and even, believe it or not, profits). Today, though, as he deepens his involvement in his media and space ventures, Bezos is becoming a power beyond Amazon. It has forced him to become an even better leader. ... More has gone right for Bezos lately than perhaps at any other time during his two-decade run in the public eye. His company is expanding internationally and spreading its hydra-headed product and service offerings in unexpected new directions. Bezos, too, is evolving. Always a fierce competitor and stern taskmaster, he has begun to show another side. With the Post, he’s taken a seat at the civic-leadership table. And with his various projects Bezos is also becoming known as a visionary on topics beyond dreaming up new ways to gut the profit margins of Amazon’s many foes. ... Bezos is preternaturally consistent. He still preaches customer focus and long-term thinking. Yet of necessity, as Amazon has become massive—and as he has indulged his eclectic and time-consuming pursuits—he has become the sort of leader who empowers others.
I wondered whether a diamond grown in a lab could carry the same emotional weight as the real thing, without the guilt. And really, if it was identical to a natural diamond down to every last atom, as Roscheisen swore it was, what does it even mean to be the real thing? ... A carbon atom has four electrons in the shell around its nucleus—four little guys just looking to bond with electrons of other atoms. If four of those electrons form single bonds with, say, four hydrogen atoms, you’ll get CH4, methane. If the carbon atoms bond with more carbon atoms in a layered, chicken-wire pattern, you’ll have graphite—just one of many forms of pure carbon. ... So when you think about it, diamonds are a life force in its mightiest form: The densest, hardest, strongest expression of carbon, the element underlying all of life on earth. ... As scientific knowledge goes, our understanding of the conditions that cause carbon to bond this way, or exactly how long it takes, is limited. That’s because it occurs over 100 miles inside the planet, at extreme temperatures and pressures. Many of the world’s diamonds were formed billions of years ago, and scientists don’t know exactly how those carbon atoms got down there inside the mantle to begin with.
The company’s genesis can be traced back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair that took place in Chicago. A recent MIT electrical engineering grad, William Henry Merrill, was hired by insurers to investigate Nicola Tesla’s work illuminating the exposition, which apparently consumed three times as much electricity as the rest of the city of Chicago at the time. Buildings were catching on fire at the fair, and insurance adjustors wanted to know why. Realizing the myriad potential fire hazards that the burgeoning lighting and electricity industries could pose, Merrill decided to stay in Chicago and set up an organization dedicated to testing electrical products and writing safety standards for them. ... More than a century later, UL is still contending with the same problems Merrill saw at the Columbian Exposition—short circuits, faulty wiring, shoddy manufacturing; anything that can cause a product to catch fire. But for the most part, our electronics and houses don’t spontaneously combust, and, in the US, that’s generally because of the increasingly specific and bizarre tests UL puts products through.
The L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Boot has gone on expeditions to both Poles, and been commissioned by the U.S. military to go to war as well. They've popped up on the feet of Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chloë Sevigny, and recently, as shown on Twitter, the feet of a woman dancing on stage during a Bruce Springsteen concert. They seem to wander college quads and main streets with equal ubiquity. And when the boots return to where they were made in Brunswick, Maine, to be repaired, each is tagged with its home port for resending ... last year alone: Roughly half a million Bean Hunting Boots were manufactured and sold, marking a 300 percent increase from a decade ago. Even the guys over in corporate can't explain it. They see it less as a fluke than as a question of longevity: If you stick around long enough, you become the trend again. ... All you really need to know is that the waiting list on back orders—from the sorority sisters of the SEC to old-school hunters—recently ran as high as a hundred thousand. Inside the company, where the boot is simply known as the Boot, they can't crank out product fast enough. ... The Boot was famously birthed in 1912 by one L.L. Bean, an orphan who came to love the Maine outdoors, and who swore, after a particularly miserable hunting trip involving cold, wet feet, that he'd never repeat the experience.