Consumer

Retail Woes: They Shopped Till They Dropped

Men’s retailer Jos. A. Bank warned that sales in the quarter plunged 11%. OK, it suffered from management foul-ups, goofy marketing, obnoxious ads, and – at least at the store I looked at – dusty shirts on the shelf. But it isn’t an outlier. It’s the latest entry on a laundry list of revenue-challenged retailers whose woes are spreading relentlessly across the US.

“Wealth Effect” Mucks Up Housing, Costs Homeowners Dearly

Home prices have jumped around the country, in some cities over 20% on an annual basis. “Recovery of the housing market,” is what this phenomenon is called. Everyone from President Obama on down has taken credit for it, particularly the Fed, whose handiwork this is. But there is a very ugly fly in this illusory ointment.

The Exquisite Art Of Marketing To Pauperized Consumers

People in the upper income categories, those who don’t have to worry about the price of toilet paper, have seen their incomes rise over the years. The rest are in a downward spiral: median household income, adjusted for inflation, has dropped 7.8% since 2000. The lower end got hit the hardest. For these folks, tissue makers have a special strategy: desheeting.

Lobbying And GMO Giant Monsanto Buckles In Europe

The “March Against Monsanto” in 52 countries, an unapproved strain of its genetically modified wheat growing on its own in Oregon, cancelled wheat export orders…. A rough week for Monsanto. Now it threw in the towel in Europe where its deep pockets and mastery of lobbying had failed: “It’s counterproductive to fight against windmills,” it explained.

US Housing Bubble II: Euphoria And Other Shenanigans

The good old days are back. Those days when money grew on trees: home prices jumped 10.9% year over year, based on data through March 2013. The usual suspects: Phoenix soared 22.5%, San Francisco 22.2%, Las Vegas 20.6%. You can’t lose money in real estate. I’m already hearing it again.

Class-Action Lawsuits Come to France

In theory, a class-action lawsuit allows the little guy to stand up to a big corporation and seek redress. Alone, the little guy wouldn’t have the means. Justice comes down to money, and class-action lawsuits add leverage. In theory. It’s a world-famous American product, infested with flaws. And it’s about to be imported by … France!

Confident In The Security Of Skype And Other Encrypted Services?

Internet companies know practically everything about their users. And servers never forget. Advertisers, ID thieves, insurance companies, and others are trying to get this data. But “law enforcement” around the world can simply bully its way to it. Now Microsoft confessed: even your data and conversations on its encrypted services that you thought were secure aren’t because, upon request, it gives the crypto keys to governments around the world.

Outed By Facebook For Profit

Contributed by Chriss Street. Desperate to halt its stock’s dismal slide since going public, Facebook has increasingly sought new ways to make more money and prove its worth. As the builder of the largest “Big Data” treasure trove in history, Facebook is selling marketers and shady characters veiled access to its users’ deepest secrets.

At The Confluence of Free Money, Pent-Up Demand, And Reality

New vehicle sales have staged a phenomenal recovery from the financial crisis, when buyers went on strike. Sales below the replacement rate create a vacuum that wants to be filled. Pent-up demand. When it kicked in, sales jumped by over 10% annually. Exuberance took over the bludgeoned industry. But late February, something happened to that vacuum.

Self-Medicating With Watered-Down Bourbon: An Insidious Inflation

We’ve had an endless series of products whose ingredients have been cheapened in order to maintain the price. Consumers won’t be able to taste the difference, the theory goes. So, as the horse-meat lasagna scandal in Europe is spiraling beautifully out of control, we’re now getting hit where it hurts: Maker’s Mark is watering down its bourbon.