APPL’s Stock Struggles, NFLX’s Bandersnatch, and Where We Go From Here

Yesterday, Apple’s stock closed at a major deficit, causing the overall market to take a hit. If you want to know more about the stock side of things, check out the NYT or WSJ. They can explain it better than I can. What I’m here to talk about is the trajectory of American business and the role we, as young professionals and creative minds, need to be focused on playing.

Innovation is the name of the game but how do you innovate when everything you thought could be done is being done. Seriously, we just reached Ultima Thule (no, that’s not a car by Nissan) and a manned SpaceX rocket could take off as soon as 2019 (Oh s***! We’re in 2019!). Smartphones (or smartwatches or tablets or whatever other piece of tech you always have with you) are extensions of ourselves, essentially making us cyborgs, minus the inserted chip. It is an amazing time to be alive. But it’s also a confusing one. What is the final frontier? Where do we go from here? What are humans if we’re not continuing to push the society around us forward?

That is an issue that Apple is obviously struggling with. Yes, trade issues between the East and West were pinpointed as the reason for Apple’s terrible finish on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (yes, I looked up what NASDAQ stood for so you wouldn’t have to). But, Apple users, let’s be honest: the advancements we’ve seen lately are disappointingly underwhelming and increasingly overpriced. Why does a new iPhone XS, at $999, cost 77% of what a Mac Book Pro does? (I intentionally chose the least expensive versions of these items. Bells and whistles cost more, of course.) I know, I know… I can do almost everything with an XS that I can with a MBP but it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m paying so much for cellular phone. And, not to mention, the new features to the phone aren’t that great. I wasn’t inclined to upgrade my phone this time and I probably won’t be unless A) some major changes come out or B) the updates stop working (which usually happens after a few generations).

What does this have to do with Bandersnatch? I’m glad you asked. Bandersnatch is Netflix’s movie version of the extremely popular show “Black Mirror,” a show that didn’t have enough episodes to satisfy my interest but hopefully they’ll bring it back. The good thing is I cannot give anything of substance away about Bandersnatch because I’ve only seen one scene so far but I will say this: even if the movie isn’t good, the concept is simultaneously out of this world and eerily nostalgic. Remember, as a kid, reading books where the ending was up to you? I want to say Goosebumps and Animorphs had some like this but I’m sure a ton of other series did as well. Bandersnatch is that in movie form. I can only imagine the planning and time spent in shooting, editing, and coding that had to go into making this movie work but, once again, Netflix has set a new standard. Only, this time, in order to look forward, it first had to look back.

Innovation is the name of the game but, as Netflix has shown us that the answers are sometimes behind us. Brands like Apple have spent so much time pushing the bar forward that they’re starting to hit a brick wall. So, why not look back at something pre-modern technology that changed an industry and reformat it to improve our modern lives? Just a thought for Apple, General Motors, and any other company that is having a hard time being innovative.

You may have a hard time teaching an old dog new tricks but maybe you can teach a new dog a few old ones.

 

Make innovation a priority.

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#TrendingThursday Week 89

Good morning.  I hope you’re having a great last week of the month.  Here is some awesome reading to go into the spring months with.  Have a great weekend!

Where to Shop: The 10 Best Stores for Finding Affordable Men’s Style

If anyone knows how expensive it is to remain well-dressed, I do.  I love putting outfits together and making everything look like a new creation but, as a young entrepreneur, I know it can be tough to do that on a budget.  But, all things considered, I still make it happen and you can too.  Joe Webber’s article from in Primer Magazine delves into the sometimes daunting task of keeping a fashionable wardrobe while being fiscally responsible.  And, no matter what anyone says, whatever the dress code at a company, being well-dressed by their standards is necessary.  Also, Joe didn’t mention it in this article but I would definitely mention Nordstrom Rack.  It’s Nordstrom on a discount, sometimes of 50% – 95% off.  And their FREE rewards program is awesome.  If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments section.  As always, thanks for reading.

Where to Shop: The 10 Best Stores for Finding Affordable Men’s Style

The retail world isn’t geared towards men who want to dress well. It’s designed for women and for guys who just want to get in, buy something comfortable and plain, then leave before anyone recognizes them amongst the racks.  If you’re the type of guy who enjoys looking his best and wants to do so without spending a thousand dollars every month at the mall, then you’re at a serious disadvantage. Having a plan and knowing precisely what kind, type, and color of clothing you’re setting out to buy is key, but knowing what stores are best for which items will save you an enormous amount of time.  And every second not spent strolling by a food court or avoiding the suffocating scented cloud that rolls out the doors of Abercrombie and Fitch is time well spent.
This is the short list of retailers that’ll save you time, money, and in some cases… won’t even have you leaving your house.

1. Macy’s – http://www.macys.com/
What it’s good for: Suits, dress shirts, Levi’s, and sometimes jewelry for your significant other.
Macy’s is the bargain department store for guys who care about what they look like.  Their house brand Alfani and the more athletic fitting Alfani RED can be a source for great dress basics.  If you don’t have a ton of cash but need a suit?  Wait for one of their Men’s Wardrobe Sales or monthly One Day sales.  Shop then and you could find yourself paying less than $250 for an excellent Tommy Hilfiger Trim fit or Alfani RED suit, $15 for a tie, and $20 for a decent dress shirt.  But beware the sales people.  Sometimes they can be a little too attentive.

2. Nordstrom – http://www.nordstrom.com
What it’s good for: Nice suits, great in-house brands, sweaters, splurges, and terrific sales
Nordstrom is like an upscale Macy’s.  A quick glance at their brands (Hugo Boss, John Varvatos) and you can tell immediately that it’s going to cost more shopping there.  But their in house brands are superb.  Their more modern leaning house brands like Calibrate and 1901 offer quality and great fits at reasonable prices.  Plus their Nordstrom Trim Fit dress shirts are extremely well put together.  Nordstrom isn’t perpetually on sale like Macy’s, but when they do discount, it’s worth it.

3. J. Crew – http://www.jcrew.com
What it’s good for: Trim suits, chinos, some casual wear, and some bags
There’s no denying that J. Crew stuff looks good.  But sometimes the prices on the items can get a little steep.  Their Ludlow trim fit suits can look amazing, but you’ll pay for it.  When J. Crew actually does go on sale the selection can often be weak.  They’re outrageously popular and they’ve become a bit of a trend setter.  And they know their power.  For example, there’s not many other stores that can get away with selling a $200 Timex.

4. Old Navy, Gap, & Banana Republic – http://www.oldnavy.com / http://www.gap.com / http://www.bananarepublic.com
What they’re good for: Jeans, sweaters, casual and dress blazers, casual shirts, and finding cheaper alternatives to J. Crew stuff.
They’re all owned by the same company and they each have specific target audiences.  Old Navy goes after the bargain family shopper, Gap is the place for still stylish but still mostly affordable foundational pieces,  and Banana Republic touts themselves as affordable luxury.  Unlike Banana Republic, you can’t buy a suit at The Gap or Old Navy, but you can buy pretty well made blazers at all three.  Yep, even at Old Navy.  Just make sure to take them to your tailor when you’re done, and consider ear plugs for the shopping trip to keep the screaming kids from giving you a headache.

5. Lands End Canvas – http://canvas.landsend.com/
What it’s good for: Casual shirts, chinos, and cords.  Unbelievable sales too.
Land’s End Canvas hasn’t been around for more than a couple of years, and it seems like so far they’ve been a screaming success.  It’s the younger leaning, more fitted version of Lands’ End.  Their t-shirts don’t billow at the sides, their fabrics are a little slimmer in thickness but plenty strong, and they’ve got accessories available that are interesting but not loud.  During sales you can get a polo for under $10.

6. Amazon.com & Endless.com – http://www.amazon.com/ / http://www.endless.com
What they’re good for: Watches, shoes, CDs, and electronics
Amazon really is the world’s largest online marketplace.  You could waste hours scrolling through what they offer, and their “related items” lists seem @#!*% bent on making that scenario a reality.  Endless is owned by Amazon, and more often than not their shoe selection seems to mirror each other.  But sometimes the prices and shipping options are majorly different.  Endless usually offers free two day shipping even on top of big sales.
For buying watches, beware third party dealers who just use Amazon for their marketplace.  Either buy direct from Amazon, make sure the purchsae is “fulfilled” by Amazon (meaning it’s stored in the Amazon warehouses and Amazon has put more of their reputation on the line)… or at the very least extensively check out their seller rating.  Don’t waste your time looking for clothes on Amazon.  It’s a chore.

7. Zappos – http://www.zappos.com/
What it’s good for: Shoes of all kinds and incredible customer service.
Amazon actually purchased Zappos a few years back (for almost a Billion dollars) but they still feel like separate entities.  There once was a time when buying shoes online seemed beyond stupid.  Don’t you have to try shoes on first?  Not with Zappos.  They carry… everything.  Prices are pretty good too.  The 360 views, videos of employees showing the shoes, and extremely kind shipping policies make these guys one of the best in the online retail business.

8. Boden – http://www.bodenusa.com/
What it’s good for: Outerwear, blazers, and decent clearance sales
Boden is a bit of a well kept secret.  They’re based out of the U.K., they appear to have a conscience, and their models look so happy they could be intoxicated.  In fact, they just might be a little tipsy.  Beer and wine often show up in the pics, and when’s the last time you saw a couple of guys doing shots in a catalog?  A lot of their stuff is extremely bright, and can get expensive quick.  But their blazers and coats are reasonably priced and full of unique style you won’t find anywhere else.

9. Overstock.com – http://www.overstock.com
What it’s good for: Just checking before you click “buy” somewhere else
My current go-to Navy suit is a Kenneth Cole New York all wool number I bought off Overstock for… $110.  I saw the exact same suit in Macy’s a few months earlier for somewhere north of $350.  Their selection isn’t always the most current, nor is it the best place if you’re of an average build (sizes tend to run in the extreme)… but just check in every once in awhile if you’re in the market for a larger purchase.

10. Indochino – http://www.indochino.com/
What it’s good for: Custom suits
You’ve seen Indochino a few times here on Primer.  And if you haven’t tried them, consider it.  With their re-tailoring credit (up to $75) and money back guarantee… you could end up getting a custom fit suit that’s incredibly dialed in for around $300 – $400.

BONUS:
11.  Express – http://www.express.com
What it’s good for: The Express 1mx shirt, trim fit sweaters
After the age of 25 walking into an Express can make you grimace.  The neon, the pounding music, the sales associates with more product in their hair than you’ve used in the last month.  It’s a lot to handle.  But the Express 1mx button up and the non logoed sweaters are worth it.  Get on their physical mailing list and you’ll get coupons in the mail every month.  Despite sometimes questionable quality, the Express 1mx basic button up shirt can be worn with just about anything.  I’ve got four hanging in my closet and wear them all almost every week.  It also comes in two fits, one of which is trim enough that you might not even have to get it tailored.  The sweaters are decent, and won’t make you look 10 pounds heavier.

That should be a good start. Ten stores, some big department stores, some brick and mortar standards, a couple of online stalwarts, and a few surprises.  Good luck.  And may the clearance rack be filled with items in your size.

Source: Primer Magazine

Apps: The New Corporate Cost-Cutting Tool

Yesterday I was reading the LinkedIn article “Jujitsu 2013: How Apps Turn Customers Into Workers” by Dennis K. Berman. It pointed me to Anton Troianovski’s article in The Journal about the impact apps are having on branding and the overall structure of businesses these days. Great read.

TRUMBULL, Conn.—The biggest mall in town stopped staffing its customer-service desk in January. But perched on that same desk recently was a plastic cutout of a hand holding a smartphone. “Download the free app,” it said.
Apps may be creating new jobs for developers and marketers. But around the edges of the rest of the economy, they’re also starting to become a substitute for people who earn a paycheck.
Businesses often say their main goal in developing smartphone applications is to make things easier for customers and to build brand loyalty. Yet they’re finding it doesn’t take much effort to turn the smartphones carried by most Americans into payment terminals or data-entry forms.
As a result, Americans increasingly are becoming their own bank tellers, loan officers, insurance adjusters, checkout clerks, restaurant order takers, citrus-crop inspectors and mall concierges. In the case of mall owner Westfield Group, apps are giving the company a way to give directions and answer questions without paying for concierge staff, which it had begun trimming anyway.
Other companies are explicitly pushing mobile technology in hopes of paring back or redeploying workers. Domino’s Pizza Inc. Chief Executive Patrick Doyle, speaking to analysts in a conference call last week, said such savings are showing up now that mobile and online orders combined have reached a “critical mass” of more than a third of total sales.
“We are certainly in the range where you start to see some labor efficiencies,” Mr. Doyle said. Mobile orders have been growing fastest, driven by apps the company has developed for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android software.
Domino’s won’t say how much its apps cost to build. But a company official said in a meeting with investors in January that the company charged franchisees 17 cents for each order placed digitally, according to a transcript of the event.
Personal computing and the Internet have been pecking away at the labor landscape for decades, undermining demand for everyone from travel agents to call-center workers while creating jobs in other fields. The mobile-device boom, which is putting a camera, touch screen, and a high-speed Internet connection in more and more pockets and purses, is giving businesses a new way to shift work from employees to customers.
Retail chains including Stop & Shop, owned by Ahold NV of the Netherlands, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are both enabling self-checkout apps in some U.S. stores that let customers use their cameras to scan items as they put them in their shopping carts. Both retailers said they were seeking to give customers an alternative way to shop. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Ashley Hardie, said there could be opportunities to redistribute jobs in its stores as more shoppers use the app.
“It has the potential to make more associates available to assist customers with questions or restock shelves,” Ms. Hardie said.
Catalina Marketing, a retail-focused digital media company based in St. Petersburg, Fla., provided some of the technology behind the self-checkout apps at both chains. The company’s sales brochure promises its app technology “lowers your front-end labor costs by 10%-15%.”
“If a retailer is all about passing operating costs on to the consumer, you’ll probably see, yes, a reduction in labor,” said Todd Morris, Catalina’s head of mobile. “If a retailer’s strategy is a better, more pleasant shopping experience, you might see an equal cost of labor but kiosks or roaming store associates.”
For some companies, mobile apps are filling a void as they cut positions. Australia’s Westfield, one of the world’s biggest mall owners, has been closing the customer-service desks at some of its 47 U.S. malls in recent years, including, recently, the one in Trumbull.
The company has been encouraging customers to download an app that provides mall maps, turn-by-turn directions and even a “concierge” feature that encourages users to ask things like, “Where is the bathroom?”
Tushar Patel, whose Miami company Simplikate Systems LLC developed the Westfield app, points out that these are functions traditionally done by a human concierge. His company builds similar apps, in which directions are a key selling point, for other facilities like casinos and airports.
“They can physically replace people,” Mr. Patel said of those apps. He said Simplikate charges clients around $100,000 to build apps with features like mapping, weather, the ability to remember parking spots, and detailed information about stores or venues.
Westfield spokeswoman Katy Dickey said the company has been closing the concierge desks because shoppers didn’t want or expect that sort of service. Even without staffed concierge desks, Westfield malls still have personnel available to answer shoppers’ questions, she said.
The smartphone camera is what allows auto-insurance companies to create apps that let policyholders report their own claims. When photos of car damage are sent in by a mobile app, Allstate Corp.’s Esurance can sometimes avoid sending a claims adjuster into the field altogether, said Lisa Ward, Esurance’s vice president of customer experience.
Banks large and small use the camera to offer remote-check deposit via mobile banking apps. Some financial institutions are now going even further.
First Financial Credit Union, in Chicago, recently added a feature to its app that lets customers sign loan documents via a phone or tablet’s touch screen, eliminating the need to go into a branch to close a loan. Chief Executive Patrick Bassler said the credit union wrote 287 loans in November, the month the feature was introduced. That was more than double the monthly average, and the bank didn’t have to add a single temporary or permanent employee.
Mr. Bassler says he doesn’t plan to lay anyone off, but that the app’s features will help him grow without adding staff. One of his challenges, he says, is to convince employees that their jobs are safe.
“Our intent is not to use technology to eliminate employees, but it’s hard for everybody to see that,” Mr. Bassler says.
The government is also getting into the act. The Department of Agriculture spent $40,000 developing an app called “Save Our Citrus” that allows people to photograph and report diseased lemons and oranges. The department hopes the app will do the work of “two or three hundred inspectors in the state of Florida and dozens in Texas and dozens in Arizona and a couple hundred in California” that it can’t afford to hire, said Lawrence Hawkins, the USDA public affairs officer who heads the citrus initiative.
But there are risks. Even smartphones-savvy consumers sometimes prefer human interaction. At the Trumbull mall in Westfield several employees of stores near the decommissioned concierge desk said shoppers were asking them for directions instead.
Shopper Kim Farmer, marching through the mall with three young daughters and three Build-a-Bear Workshop boxes in tow, stopped by the unattended desk on a recent Saturday looking for information about gift cards and a sporting-goods store. She voiced a tinge of frustration as she walked away.
“I have my hands full,” Ms. Farmer said. “I’m not going to waste my time putting an app on my phone.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal