National / International News
First up, it may only be September, but we're getting our first holiday retail forecasts. These offer a glimpse into what analysts think we'll be spending this holiday season, and perhaps more importantly, reflect how we're feeling about the state of the economy. Plus, we've reporting this week on the Obama Administration's new crackdown on inversions. But what about what you might consider an "inversion" at the state level: moving headquarters across state lines to get a tax break. In those cases, it's often the government that's doing the bidding. And Southern cook Paula Deen is trying to make a comeback, launching a new online network of cooking shows today. Deen was one of the biggest names in food television until offensive remarks she made off screen became public last year. Her show was then canceled and she was dropped by sponsors. We take a look at her attempts to rebuild her brand.
The west coast grocery chain Smart and Final aims to raise $100 million in an IPO today. The company plans to expand a line of stores that combine elements of warehouse-club outlets and traditional grocery stores; something like Costco without appliances or membership fees. The company wants to grab a piece of a business that's changing dramatically, and getting more competitive.
Once upon a time, we bought groceries in supermarkets. Then came Walmart, which is now the nation’s biggest grocer. And then came everybody else; Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, for example.
"If you look at the past ten years, conventional supermarkets have lost almost 15 percent market share to all these other channels," says Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarket Guru. "Whether it’s drug chains—and if you take a look at CVS and Walgreens, they're building stores that are 50 percent food—we’ve got dollar stores, we’ve got warehouse clubs, we’ve got almost everybody who wants to sell food. Even folks like Bed Bath and Beyond."
"That’s a really hard circle to square," says William McKitterick, a retail analyst with Ibis World. "It seems like all the signs are pointing toward this being a terrible industry to enter."
Even so, everyone wants in. And McKitterick won’t rule out the idea that there’s room for Smart & Final in a highly-fragmented sector.
Southern cook Paula Deen is attempting a comeback by launching a new online cooking network on Wednesday.
Deen was one of the biggest names in food television until racist remarks she made off screen became public last year. As a result, the Food Network cut ties with her and she was dropped by sponsors.
But before her racist remarks, Paula Deen was best known for her artery-clogging recipes, like the Lady’s Brunch Burger: a burger paddy stacked with a fried egg and bacon, sandwiched between two glazed donuts for buns. She gleefully described it as “over the top – even for me!”
Viewers eager for access to Deen’s old shows with said gems, plus some new content, can sign up to pay $8 to $10 a month for access to her new online network, launched by her Paula Deen Ventures with the backing of private investment firm Najafi Companies.
“About 15 percent of Americans do look up recipes online,” says Jerry Power, with the USC Marshall School of Business, adding the cook book market is also sizable. “So it’s a fairly stable and good sized market that she’s going after.”
But getting people to subscribe—controversy aside—could be a tough sell, since there’s already so many free sources of cooking shows and recipes, says Max Dawson, director of national television and video for Frank N. Magid Associates.
“Paula Deen’s audience, the sort of people who really love her, they’re not early adopters,” explains Dawson. “They’re not experimenting with new content distribution paradigms.”
Those who do could pay a similar amount for service like Netflix and getting lots more variety.
Paula Deen is far from the first celeb to start her own website. Here's a few other examples:
Created—or "edited"—by Blake Lively, Preserve is like Etsy run through an Instagram filter and marketed to a much higher income tax bracket. It's structured like a lifestyle magazine and proceeds go to Lively's charity.
Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's video site has expanded into a media empire. Its big hits like "Billy on the Street" and "Drunk History" have been adapted for TV, and "Between Two Ferns" won an Emmy after an appearance from President Barack Obama.
Gwenyth Paltrow's lifestyle site also boasts recipes, a store and a blog, which made the news in March when Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin used the site to announce their "Conscious Uncoupling" (some call that a divorce).
Another subscription service, the Sarah Palin Channel charges $9.95 a month or $99.95 for the year, but you view a national debt ticker and a countdown of Obama's days left in office for free.
Zooey Deschanel's site offers entertainment and lifestyle writing aimed at women, but everyone can enjoy their various live feeds of kittens, puppies, cicadas, owls and more.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Paula Deen's name in the headline. The text has been corrected.
Even if you don't watch the wildly popular television drama Scandal, you'd probably know of its popularity if you spent some time poking around Twitter. Aside from a huge television audience, the show is a favorite of the blue bird. With the season premiere coming Thursday of this week, we talked with Darby Stanchfield, better known as Abby Whelan on Scandal. And for the record, she has her very own hashtag: #SassyAbby.
Tell me about the community of Scandal fans on Twitter.
They’ve named themselves Gladiators. They’re super passionate. They’re smart. They’re funny. There’s not a thing that doesn’t get by them.
What’s an example of something that fans have caught that surprised you?
I used to have this signature coffee mug that I would use in my scenes, and one time I grabbed one of the company mugs that was in the kitchen area, and I think someone was like, “Wait a minute, where’s Abby’s mug that matches her hair?” Granted, every single series regular, and usually the creator, we’re all live-tweeting, whether we’re on set or we’re not working or at home.
Part of the contract.
You know it’s not, actually. We’re not paid to do it. Actually, Kerry Washington–it was her idea–and she talked to [series creator Shonda Rhimes] about it, and Shonda sent out this email that said we all needed to sign up on Twitter. We all did it, because our boss was asking us to, but it ended up being the most effective, grass-roots way to help the audience discover this crazy political drama called Scandal.
You have your own hashtag, #SASSYABBY.
One of the ways that I differentiate myself from the other cast-mates is I basically go into character during the live tweeting. And the way you know is I put my caps lock on and I just make snarky comments from Abby’s point of view.
How has the way that you think about being an actor changed because of Twitter? And how is your understanding of your own character shaped by the technology around you, even when you’re not on the set?
Twitter almost has the effect of a live theater event. You have an immediate interaction with the audience. You know when something lands and when it’s funny. When I’m on Twitter, there’s a visceral reaction immediately with the flood of tweets that come in about any given moment in my performance. And it’s as close as you can get to live theater with a television show. But in terms of my creative process or how I think about my character, I would say that’s still very traditional. I have my point of view, and I always find a way to love my character and tell that story.
Since 1962, Forbes Magazine has been headquartered on 5th Avenue in New York City, behind a limestone facade with Ionic columns. But by the end of the year, it's moving a twenty-minute train ride away to a glass tower in Jersey City.
For decades, companies in New York City have moved offices across the Hudson River, to the city that has been dubbed New York's "sixth borough."
"You can look not too far away and see Manhattan, you’re on the water, and the rent’s a lot lower," says Gordon MacInnes, president of local policy watchdog New Jersey Policy Perspective.
For many of those companies, there has been another, bonus factor: Tax breaks. Forbes has been approved for $27 million in tax credits by New Jersey's Economic Development Authority. It's a small example of a growing practice in the state, which has pledged tax incentives of $1.6 billion in the last ten months—more than in the first ten years of the millennium.
"It’s the only thing that New Jersey’s doing to crawl out of the great recession," says MacInnes. "And so if this is the only thing you have, do a lot of it."
New Jersey's incentive programs have meant a spate of calls from New York City businesses to Lee Winter, director of incentives at Grant Thornton LLP. "There’s a certain back and forth, but right now I’d say New Jersey is winning that battle," says Winter.
But how does bringing a company from New York City to Jersey City affect the regional economy?
"No one thinks in terms of the region, they just think of their state," says Winter. "So, you know, if a company moves from New York to New Jersey, those really are new jobs—to New Jersey."
While this interstate arms race isn't new, the recession made it more fierce according to Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, a long-time monitor and critic of tax incentives.
"States and cities are spending more than $70 billion a year for economic development, and that number’s been steadily up in recent years," says LeRoy. "There’s less money available to build infrastructure, to retrain workers, to keep classroom sizes small. Those are things that benefit all employers. And instead we’re putting lots of eggs in a few corporate baskets."
Seth Pinsky, former president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, defends the use of tax incentives for specific projects, such as grocery delivery company FreshDirect, which was granted more than $100 million by his agency. But he also says they were "not the optimal form of government investment," and emphasized instead the important of long-term investment in workforce training, infrastructure and basic research.
"Tax incentives are easy to explain to people," he says. "They’re easy to explain to businesses. They're appealing to politicians. Long term investments are harder. Unless and until the American public itself starts thinking long term again, it’s going to be hard to turn economic development officials back towards thinking long term as well."