Category Archives: Consumerism

The Year’s Best Gadgets for Under $50

Here’s a list of some of the funnest toys/gadgets that can be had for a mere $50 or less.

  • Have you been pining to fly one of those amazing drones we are seeing more and more of? You need not pine anymore. Fifty dollars will get you a fast and furious little drone that is easy to fly, the JJRC Mini Drone. Not only is it quick and stable, it is among the least expensive drones on the market. A perfect gift for experienced dronists as well as neophytes, endless hours of imaginative fun are yours to enjoy.
  • Yes, your cellphones camera is already amazing, but here is a little tool to make it even more amazing. With this small device that instantly clips on to your phone, photographers will get 8x magnification of their subject matter. Wherever you are- a concert, sports event, family get together, you can bring your subject much closer for a great shot. The regular price is about $45, but it often sells for a mere $25. For that money everyone should have one of these babies.
  • Senbono makes a smart watch that is chock-full of apps and other functions, for a super reasonable price. This watch comes with a camera, Bluetooth, a calendar, and WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter-abled. It also has a long-lasting battery, and a reasonable price-tag of $49.
  • Do you ever get up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself, or do you have a loved one who does? Isn’t it a shame to have to turn on the light just to do your/his/her business, spoiling the chances of a quick return to your dreams? Here is a clever solution, a motion-activated night-light that hides inside your toilet bowl, shining softly from within when activated. All it needs is three triple-A batteries and for you to clip on to the side of your toilet. This clever solution for nighttime relief is only $20.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma Promises to Bring Jobs to USA

Jack Ma Yun, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Alibaba Group, is seen on a monitor during the The Future of the Global Economy. Photo courtesy World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland.

In the wake of the meeting between US President-elect Donald Trump and Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma, an Alibaba spokesman announced the company’s plan to incorporate and additional one million small US businesses onto its e-commerce platform.

The Chinese-based internet company, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, predicts that the plan, to be implemented over the next five years, will create about one million new US jobs as each business adds at least one employee. This is not the first-time Alibaba has suggested to bring more small US businesses into their enormous marketplace, but it is the first time specific target numbers have been suggested.

The meeting between the leaders took place at Trump Tower in New York, where the president-elect lives. Trump said the meeting was “great” and added that they would do “great things” together. Ma said Trump was “smart” and “open-minded.”

Ma said the focus of the meeting was to discuss the best ways to support small businesses, especially in Midwest America. The idea would be to introduce the products from farmers and small clothing-manufacturers to the vast Chinese market directly through Alibaba.

Alibaba has been aggressively pursuing foreign brands to set up Tsmall stores, their online platform which offers virtual store fronts and payment portals to merchants. His goal is to simplify the sales, payment and shipping process for the vast and growing Chinese shopper which Ma is relentlessly attracting to his e-commerce website.

Right now, there are about 7,000 US brands sitting on Alibaba’s Tmall, including US giants such as wholesaler Costco Wholesale Corp and clothing manufacturer Levi’s. Last year these companies made $15 billion in sales to Chinese consumers, although some foreign retailers say they have had a mixed success on Tmall.

Last month the US Trade Representative put Alibaba back on to an infamous list of blacklisted online retailers due to suspicions that the company does not do enough to end counterfeiting on their site.

The Ultra-Orthodox World Hits Hollywood

It’s not every day that Israeli television makes it into the American news. But recently, Marta Kauffman, producer of the outrageously popular “Friends,” has announced that she will be producing a US remake of the Israel TV drama “Shtisel.” Certainly “Shtisel,” and its focus on the Ultra-Orthodox Shtisel family in Jerusalem, doesn’t seem like a theme that will grab America’s attention.

Hollywood seems to disagree. In 2003, Daniel Taub created and wrote “The Rebbe’s Court” which was a series focused on the lives of members of a Hassidic dynasty in Tel Aviv. Until Daniel Taub’s portrayal, most depictions of the ultra-orthodox were stereotypical and two-dimensional. Daniel Taub discussed the challenges that he faced when writing the show as he said,

“The producers wanted me to put some secular characters center stage for the largely secular audience to identify with. I insisted that the goal was to bring the viewers to connect emotionally with people from a very different world, and thankfully we were able to do this.”

Taub’s series was eventually bought and broadcast by Channel 10 and was a hit with both the secular public and the ultra-orthodox. As Daniel Taub explained, “In one episode of the series, a secular song is sung by one of the actors at a Shabbat meal. I was surprised to learn from one Hassid that this was now a regular Shabbat song in his community.”

Since this groundbreaking work, “Almost Touching,” “Kathmandu” and “Shtisel” have all become hits. Such hits, it seems, that America is now gearing up for their own “Shtisel” with a top Hollywood producer. Wonders never cease.

 

 

Larger Women Growing as a Fashion Market Force

Armed with the knowledge that larger women control a large and growing chunk of the fashion sector pie, clothing retailers are beginning to understand how to lure this market and boost sales.

The first step is perhaps surprising: to eliminate the so-called “Plus-size” section of the women’s clothing department and mainstream sizes 16 and above into the center of the sales floor.

Meijer Inc, a Michigan-based retailer, has already made the switch in 15 of its 230 stores, placing the extended sizes on the same racks as the “straight sizes.” Their goal is to have the plus size section fully integrated into the straight sizes department in all of their stores by early 2017. The result will be that the majority of their fashion offerings will come in all sizes; from small to XXXL.

“We really felt all customers should have the exact same experience at Meijer,” said Annette Repasch, vice president of Softlines. “Not only by style, but by price and by location.”

Repasch added that until now the fast majority of plus-size fashion was conservative, and being relegated to the back of the store made the shopping experience less enjoyable for this sector of consumers.

The plus-size consumer is a growing segment of the market, according to a new study conducted by International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. They found that the the average American woman wears a size 16-18, up from a size 14 not too long ago. The NPD Group says that spending on plus-size clothing will reach and estimated $20.4 billion this year. That is an increase of 17 percent from 2013 and is outpacing the overall US apparel market by twice. The NPD Group also estimates that the percentage of teens purchasing plus-size clothing will reach 34 percent. In 2012 that number was 19 percent.

Barry Zyskind Explains How AmTrust Sets Itself Apart

It’s fascinating to look at how a new company grows to make its mark, and establish itself apart from competitors. One great start-up story is specialty property and casualty insurer AmTrust Financial Services, founded during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. In a recent interview with A.M. Best magazine, President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Zyskind explains how AmTrust has come up the ranks of the insurance industry.

“Early on, we recognized that we could differentiate ourselves through technology,” Zyskind said. “Every application we use, from underwriting to claims management, is built internally to maximize our productivity and data mining capabilities. When we acquire a business, we quickly integrate it on our technology platforms. Our digital strategy has absolutely set us apart in a highly competitive industry.

He continued, “We use our proprietary technology and extensive database of loss history to help appropriately price and structure policies, maintain lower levels of loss, enhance our ability to accurately predict losses and maintain lower claims costs than the industry as a whole.”

One of AmTrust’s areas of focus is warranty insurance, the first product it offered. As Barry Zyskind explained, “Our warranty program is on a rapid growth trajectory. Today, our automotive and powersports vehicle service contract division is a world leader, while our retail and consumer products extended service plan division ranks among the world’s top three.”

Zyskind emphasized that AmTrust will continue investing in technology as part of its growth strategy. “We will continue to invest in our technology platforms and look for new ways to target our most desired classes of business. We are optimistic about the organic growth prospects of our small-commercial business segment, which for the year 2015 produced over $3.3 billion of premiums, as well as the potential for growth in our other segments. We continue to look at acquisitions throughout the world and believe we are well-positioned to address opportunities that arise.”