National / International News

As the cupcake crumbles: Lessons from Crumbs' demise

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-08 13:09

If only Crumbs had paid attention when fondue was a thing.

"Remember when we [were] all supposed to go eating fondue? "says Rita McGrath, a professor of strategy and innovation at the Columbia Business School. "I mean, in New York there must have been 20 fondue restaurants."

The reason we don’t see gaggles of fondue restaurants anymore? Because trying to build a lasting business on a temporarily popular item can be dangerous.

"People get bored, people get fat, people just want to move on to something else... and the question you have to ask is, 'Well, when the fad has run its course, what do you have to offer beyond that?'"

Adam Fleck, director of consumer equity research at Morningstar, says competition from other bakeries and other desserts meant trouble for Crumbs. Beyond fads and cake frosting, he notes, a company dependent on just one product is especially vulnerable.

"Consumer preferences can change on a dime," he says - which was especially troubling for Crumbs at a moment when kale chips and quinoa are what's for dinner.

“You know these cupcakes were very high calorie,” Fleck notes.

There are successful businesses that sell just one product. But most are in markets where it’s easy to predict demand - like steel. So, says J.P. Eggers, an assistant professor of management and organization at NYU’s Stern School of Business, “They are, in general, able to deeply understand what their customers are after, deliver what they want, how they want it, at the price that they want it.”

But there are plenty of stores that sell mostly cupcakes. Eggers says it’s unlikely they’ll all go away. He says when the cupcake bubble burst, Crumbs found itself with some odd store locations. Adam Fleck says the company expanded too quickly and got burned.

Which companies stand to learn from Crumbs' crumbling? We started brainstorming. 

So #Crumbs, the cupcake bakery is closing. Other examples of one product trends? #Cronut, #FroYo For @Marketplace

— Sally Herships (@sherships) July 8, 2014

Add to our list!:

The Cronut
Krispy Kreme
Rice Pudding (a thing in NYC for a little while)
Fro Yo
TiVo
Crocs
Sriracha
Gorilla glue

Sacked environment minister 'sorry'

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 13:02
First Minister Carwyn Jones has apologised to AMs after his environment minister asked civil servants for private financial information on senior opposition assembly members.

3 Kickstarter Food Projects That Leave Potato Salad In The Dirt

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:59

One guy's Kickstarter quest for $10 to make his first potato salad has now raised over $50,000 — a kind of Internet joke gone viral. Here are three modest food projects to consider instead.

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Older workers struggle for cred in new economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:57

The unemployment rate for Americans age 55 and older is 4.4 percent -- lower by more than 1.5 percent than the population as a whole. By contrast, the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is 21 percent.

But older workers are also at greater risk of suffering long-term unemployment than any other age group. More than half of older workers have been unemployed for six months or longer, and many of them have been actively looking for more than one year. When older workers leave the job market for a period of time -- for instance, after a layoff, or to care for a spouse or elderly parent -- they are more likely to experience a significant decline in pay and job quality (working part-time or on contract) than other age cohorts.

And older workers often feel their age status acutely in the workforce. L.D. Kirshenbaum is 52 and lives in San Francisco. Several years ago, after a divorce and with a teenager at home to support, she found a job working half-time at a local Apple retail store.

Kirshenbaum graduated from Reed College, she’d worked as a journalist and launched a mobile news app. But she says she had to earn her cred with co-workers at the Apple store. “You’re sort of judged on your cool factor,” she says. “How clever are you with social media, do you take pictures of your lattes?”

Since then, Kirshenbaum has gone on to be an independent consultant on mobile marketing -- working with developers half her age.

“There are definitely younger co-workers that assume everyone’s uncool unless proven otherwise,” she says. “I have had colleagues who are my age, and they’re very self-conscious about showing themselves to be as young as possible. They’ll wear jeans every day, and they’ll never be caught dead wearing a wristwatch.”

The challenge is amplified when job-searching, says Ofer Sharone at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He’s interviewed older workers extensively for his book, “Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences.”

HR managers can easily tell how old someone is, and how old they look, from LinkedIn, says Sharone. And he says they wonder: “Will the worker stick around? Maybe they want to retire, maybe they’re not as energetic, maybe they won’t work as many hours, maybe they’re not as technologically savvy.”

Sharone says most of the stereotypes are contradicted by research data on cognitive ability and job performance as we age. For instance, he says, older workers are likely to stay in a job longer than young workers. Also, they can be trained or retrained to be competent on new machines and technologies. And they bring experience and contacts that can benefit the organization, and also younger workers, through mentoring.

Sharone says what older workers need -- especially those who are job-hunting without success -- are groups to attend for career counseling and peer-group support, “to realize that other very competent, talented people are also not getting a job,” says Sharone. “And this lessens the fear that something is wrong with them, the degree of self-blame.”

Lauren Botney has attended a class for 55+ job-seekers at a local community college in Portland, Ore. She is 58, a lawyer by training, and she successfully ran a family-owned construction business. Now, she is trying to get back to full-time work after raising two kids (they are now teenagers) on her own.

“Back in the old days -- and I’ve been told to be careful using that phrase -- but, for my generation, once you started to have the gray hair, you were considered to be the sage expert in your field,” says Botney. “I think that now, there’s a feeling among many in the workplace that people of my vintage don’t understand anything about computers and therefore we’re too slow or we’re doddering.”

Botney’s trying to neutralize that stereotype by getting a digital marketing certificate from Portland State University.

“The one advantage that my age and experience brings,” says Botney, “is that I can usually do it faster than a newbie. And I should be able to. I’m better at knowing what the right questions are. That’s something that comes with time, experience and maybe a touch of intuition.”

What Looks Like Overcharging By Your Hospital Might Not Be

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:57

In 2012, Medicare was rocked by allegations that hospitals were systematically overcharging the program by miscoding electronic medical records. A study released Wednesday took another look.

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Froome gets all-clear after Tour crash

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:55
Britain's defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome is given the all-clear after a crash during the fourth stage of the race.

Butler-Sloss to head abuse inquiry

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:54
Former senior judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss is named as the chairwoman of a wide-ranging review into historical child sex abuse.

Leader 'gouged polar bear's eyes'

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:48
The leader of an Arctic expedition, in which a polar bear killed an Eton schoolboy, tells an inquest he tried to gouge out the animal's eyes.

Germany Gives Brazil Das Boot With 7-1 Win, Enters World Cup Final

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:46

Brazil, without striker Neymar, was in shambles. Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos scored two goals each for Germany, and Miroslav Klose became the highest goal scorer in World Cup history.

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In A Lab Fridge, An Unsettling Surprise: Lost Vials Of Smallpox

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:40

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health made an unpleasant discovery as they cleaned out an old laboratory: The lab contained vials of the smallpox virus, previously unknown to authorities.

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In A Lab Store Room, An Unsettling Surprise: Lost Vials Of Smallpox

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:40

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health made an unpleasant discovery as they cleaned out an old laboratory: The lab contained vials of the smallpox virus, previously unknown to authorities.

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VIDEO: Klose's record-breaking strike

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:31
Striker Miroslav Klose scores his record-breaking 16th World Cup goal to put Germany 2-0 up against Brazil in their World Cup semi-final.

Edinburgh Giant Panda has conceived

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:30
Edinburgh Zoo's Giant Panda Tian Tian conceives after being artificially inseminated.

VIDEO: A baby panda for Edinburgh zoo?

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:26
Edinburgh Zoo's Giant Panda Tian Tian has conceived after being artificially inseminated earlier this year, but experts say she is not technically pregnant.

Klose sets World Cup goals record

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:26
Germany's Miroslav Klose is the record World Cup scorer after netting his 16th goal in the semi-final against Brazil.

Lift-off for British demo satellites

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:24
Two UK spacecraft, including the first satellite made in Scotland, head into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Israel 'ready for Gaza escalation'

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:14
At least 15 people are killed in the Gaza Strip as Israel launches a major offensive against Hamas in response to rocket attacks on Israeli cities.

Everton sign Barry on three-year deal

BBC - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:14
Former Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry looking forward to "spending the next few years at Everton".

In Oslo, Attorney General Warns Syria May Be A Cradle Of Terrorism

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:12

In a speech in Oslo, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged European partners to do more to find and disrupt plans of would-be terrorists who head to Syria — and, once trained, might return to the West.

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In Battle Over Gaza, A Slow Build-up Shows No Signs Of Ending

NPR News - Tue, 2014-07-08 12:12

Israel stepped up its air assault on the Gaza Strip. Unlike air strikes in the past, Israel has tempered its initial show of force, but the situation appears to be steadily intensifying.

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