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Sustainability Helped Allbirds Take Flight in 2018

Allbirds has been named FN’s Brand of the Year and will be honored Dec. 4 at the 2018 FN Achievement Awards (watch the livestream here). Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 3 print issue about the successful Silicon Valley startup.

In March, Allbirds hit a big milestone, announcing it had sold 1 million pairs of its signature wool sneakers in two years. But co-founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger weren’t resting on their laurels: The same day of that announcement, they had a new eco-friendly product ready to go: wholesale shoes china made with tree fiber. And in August, Allbirds added another environmental innovation with its SweetFoam soles, which are made from renewable sugarcane sourced in Brazil.

Allbirds made a quiet entry into the sneaker market in 2016, launching its eco-friendly label under the direct-to-consumer model and finding a following among the Silicon Valley crowd. However, the brand turned up the volume this year, transforming from a company with a cult fan base to a leader in sustainable footwear.

Zwillinger told FN that Allbirds’ relentless investment in research and development is made possible by keeping its greater business model simple. For instance, the brand’s shoe assortment is slim, and transactions are done directly with consumers. “The focus of selling only one shoe in the first 14 months of our business was a real advantage; there was no pressure to constantly change,” added Brown.

However, the company did introduce a new facet to its business in 2018: brick-and-mortar retail. With a solid e-commerce foundation already in place, Allbirds opened its first branded stores this year in two of its best-performing regions stateside, New York and San Francisco. The label also opened a door in London along with an online store to support the market.

“It was the first time we launched with both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce. We learned that in some markets, having that physical presence is a statement saying, ‘Hey, we’re here,’ in a much more significant way than just opening an e-commerce platform,” explained Zwillinger.

“They want to create shopping experiences that are most convenient for shoppers. Some prefer to shop purely online, some prefer to go to stores, and some prefer both,” said Warby Parker co-CEO Neil Blumenthal, who serves on Allbirds’ board. “The beauty of a direct-to-consumer business is that they’re able to design all of those experiences for all the customer preferences.”

Allbirds and other brands focused on sustainability are well-positioned for the future, according to NPD.

CREDIT: COURTESY OF BRAND

Moving forward, Allbirds’ expansion will be fueled by $50 million in Series C funding led by T. Rowe Price Investment Management that the company secured in October. (Prior to this, Allbirds had received a total of $27.5 million from other investors, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio.)

Despite its rapid progress, Allbirds (which employs 175 people) is still a small brand in a marketplace dominated by major athletic and designer players. Recognizing this, the company linked up with retail giant Nordstrom on a pair of limited releases this year, including holiday Wool Runner colorways available now exclusively in the department store.

“We felt like the tradeoff was great — Nordstrom gets to share a new, up-and-coming brand that no other retailer gets to showcase, and on the flip side, we get access to and raise awareness with their whole customer base,” Zwillinger said.

But he said there are no plans to further venture into wholesale shoes suppliers. Instead, the duo is eyeing additional Allbirds-branded brick-and-mortar expansion in 2019. Now that the brand has a physical presence in the U.S. and the U.K, the company has plans for eight more stores next year, with Chicago and Boston set to open in the first half of 2019, followed by doors in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

 

The Key to Taco Bell's Tone?

Party Packs. Happier Hours. Fourth Meals.

Name one project you’re particularly excited about.

We’re piloting something called Party by Taco Bell. It’s a natural evolution of the Taco Bell wedding. How do we transfer that to select stores across the nation? We’ve created special-edition party supplies that you can order. We’re thinking of Taco Bell as more of a fast-food destination, a lifestyle. We’re doing this in 10 stores to start. We have an online reservation system. You can book a store, decide what the menu will be, and order party supplies from party supplies wholesale distributors that have an absolute charm and whimsy. Party hosts will have a whole new place to throw their parties.

That Taco Bell, the popular Tex-Mex food chain, sounds and feels different than its quick-serve restaurant peers is no accident. The chain is playful—silly, even—and always self-aware.

Driving that strategy is Marisa Thalberg, global chief brand officer for the company. Fortune caught up with the executive earlier this month to discuss the ins and outs of Taco Bell’s voice and explain why someone might want to get married in one of its stores. (Yes, really.)

Fortune: Before joining Taco Bell in southern California, you were a marketing executive at Estée Lauder in New York. That’s quite a change, on several levels.

Thalberg: Yes, it is. I joined the company about three and a half years ago from a completely different industry, luxury beauty. Brands sit in an interesting place in culture. At Taco Bell, there was a lot of opportunity to take it and play with it and make it bigger, brighter, and more vibrant than it already was.

At Taco Bell, everything is incredibly creative, crave-able, and affordable. I love this idea that we create access to food people want, not just what they can afford. And I love not feeling particularly wedded to any industry’s playbook. As a marketer, I’ve really gravitated to brands and businesses that have a certain cachet in people’s hearts and minds. After eight years at Estée Lauder Companies, I was ready for a change. Taco Bell and I made a bet on each other.

Surely there are similarities, though.

In some ways, we’re the fast fashion of food. We have an incredible product calendar, an incredible pipeline of ideas. You go from imagination to commercializing it to be made in close to 7,000 restaurants. We’re always innovating and bringing out limited products that create excitement for consumers and employees. But certain things are not up for negotiation. We have to be safe, fast, convenient, with incredible value. Cheap food is not hard to find, but food with taste, flavor, gratification—that’s what makes Taco Bell unique as an accessible food concept.

You’ve got your hands on the wheel of an already-buzzy brand. Where do you focus your effort?

The brand has a salience in culture. It has a past. We’ve been blowing a lot of wind on that to allow this big brand to feel more indie, more cult, more “in it” with fans. That’s really important as consumers look to brands for connection and trust. We may have the scale of a big brand, but we never think of ourselves in that way. We think of ourselves as an underdog and a challenger.

What delights me is being able to take the brand to places that no one really saw coming and having it make sense—completely surprising and whimsical, but makes sense. For example, we opened what could be considered our flagship location on the Las Vegas Strip—our Cantina concept, which serves alcohol. This is Vegas, so we asked: What about weddings? We already had enough real behavior of people going to Taco Bell on their wedding day. And you know what? We’ve had more than 100 weddings at that location.

We’re not just living culture, but creating it. There’s a little bit of intelligence with the wit. It’s really important that you know your place in the universe.

Marketers are drowning in software and tools promising better relationships with customers. What’s your take?

Well, I was really early in digital. If you think about what e-commerce is solving for—speed and convenience—quick-service restaurants already have that baked into the process. In a funny way, this industry I’m in has been on the later end of adoption of e-commerce and delivery. Thanks to our parent wholesale lighting company Yum! Brands, we have a deal with GrubHub, and we’ve been working with mobile delivery and ordering to make that possible. But you’ve got to make sure you deliver up-to-date access points. How do you make the experience uniquely yours?

Taco Bell's latest eye-winking exercise: Party by Taco Bell, which features "reserved seating" and "a breathtaking view of tacos." Courtesy Taco Bell

 

Michigan Christmas tree farmers anticipating 'the best year'

Christmas tree farmers across Michigan are anticipating that 2018 will be the best sales year in a while.

A tightening in other markets led Michigan farmers to see increases in wholesale farmhouse decor sales, and there is an upswing in people wanting cut their own tree, Michigan Christmas Tree Association Executive Director Amy Start said.

"If you grow up with a real tree you tend to want that for your family," Start said.

The Michigan tree farmers' optimism about this selling season is justifiable, National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Doug Hundley said, noting that the farmers are probably getting in orders from other states like North Carolina where the supply was low.

Nationally, if there is an uptick in sales it will be slight, Hundley said. Farmers sold 27.4 million real Christmas trees were sold in each of the last two years, according to theNational Christmas Tree Association's consumer survey conducted by Nielsen/Harris. The nine-year average is 27.8 million. The association represents growers across the U.S.

"We feel like there’s a lot of interest in young families to try out real trees if they haven’t used them before," Hundley said.

It's definitely about tradition, both ongoing and new, at Wilson's Tannenbaum Farm, at 13769 N Drive North in Battle Creek, where Cindy and Bruce Wilson have grown and sold trees for 30 years.

"We actually have had more people every year since we started," Bruce said. "It’s not as if people are just kind of going away with it. The people we started with now, their kids are doing it and their grandkids are doing it."

Bruce and Cindy took to tree farming after their neighbors decided to sell their farm. They didn't know much about trees, but, with the help of their neighbors, learned over time.

"We knew them really well, and we helped them plant a few trees," Bruce said. "I have learned about as much as you can about a tree. You know, we trim them, and we plant them, and we are going to start irrigation next year."

On average, farmers sell about 2 million trees a year in Michigan and other wholesale home decor markets,according to the The Michigan Tree Association, which represents more than 125 tree farmers out of 500 in the state,

"We have seen an uptick," Start said.

Michigan trees don't just stay in Michigan. The state ranks third for the number of trees it harvests and exports.

"We provide trees for all over the U.S. and other countries," Start said.

Start thinks more people just want to enjoy the experience of going to a tree farm and that the movement to be more environmentally conscious has helped sell more trees since they are biodegradable.

They also provide a habitat for wildlife and help with watershed quality and air quality, since they release oxygen, said Bert Cregg, a Michigan State University professor of horticulture and forestry.

When looking at sustainability in environmental, social and economic terms, Cregg says, the real trees take the cake for most sustainable.

"The thing I like to focus on more is supporting the local economy," Cregg said. "You are supporting local communities."

A recent study by the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents the artificial tree manufacturers, concluded that artificial trees "have a more favorable effect on the environment if reused for at least five years"

Under certain circumstances, Cregg noted, artificial trees could make less of a carbon footprint, like when someone keeps a tree for 20 years and isn't using the gas to drive and get a new tree every year.

"People can slice and dice this different ways," he said.

Wilson's Tannenbaum Farm opened on Black Friday with thousands of trees for customers to choose from for this holiday season. (Photo: Kalea Hall/The Enquirer)

The roughly 60-acre Wilson's Tannenbaum Farm has between 15,000-20,000 trees, species including Fraser fir, white pine, white spruce, blue spruce, concolor fir, balsam fir, Norway spruce and Serbian spruce.

The Fraser fir is the most popular.

It's $35 for a cut-your-own blue spruce and all the other trees are $7 per foot.

"We take care of all the roads so you can drive back and take a saw and go cut on your own," Bruce said.

Wilson's also sells live potted trees and has pre-cut trees, wreaths, decorative pieces and accessories.

Opening day at the farm was the day after Thanksgiving, — also known as Black Friday in the retail world — and the place was busy. The farm typically sells 1,200 to 1,500 trees through Christmas Day.

The Hollander family, Noah and Laura and their daughters, Gretta, 6, and Lyza, 4, from Battle Creek ventured out to Wilson's for a second year on Black Friday.

Laura and Noah Hollander took their daughters, Gretta, 6, and Lyza, 4, to Wilson's Tannenbaum Farm to get a tree for this holiday season. (Photo: Kalea Hall/The Enquirer)

"It was a tradition for me growing up," Laura Hollander said of getting a real tree. "It’s nice to start your own family traditions when you have your own kids."

Richard and DarShan Goodman from Marshall and their two-year-old daughter Naomi continued their family tradition on Black Friday of getting a real Christmas tree.

DarShan and Richard Goodman took their daughter, Naomi, 2, to pick out a tree at Wilson's Tannenbaum Farm on Black Friday. (Photo: Kalea Hall/The Enquirer)

"I think it's a good experience for our children," Richard said. "It's just a fun experience for them."

When people leave their farm, they leave happy, the Wilsons say.

"It’s a wonderful time because everyone is a good mood to come out here and get their trees. It’s a happy occasion," Cindy said. "Everybody is pretty jolly and happy to be here and it’s nice to see the same people come. I mean we've had people coming here for 30 years."

 

HIGH PERFORMANCE APPAREL MARKET OVERVIEW

High Performance Apparel Market specialists and experts evaluate the makers in the market and convey understandings to clear present and coming business sector patterns, purchaser desires, development, and focused powers, CAGR, working capital, venture esteem. High Performance Apparel Market likewise gives the knowledge of aggressive investigation, geological locales and conditions, type, applications, income, deals, utilization, and providers of Mobile Business Intelligence.

Overview of the High Performance Apparel Market

High Performance Apparel, simply defined, are the garments that perform or function for some purpose. These performance clothing help athletes and active people keep cool, comfortable and dry through moisture management and other techniques. High Performance Apparel consist of two sections- Sports wear and Protective Clothing. High Performance Apparel is sold to both, individual consumers as sportswear at retail prices, and as business-to-business protective wholesale women's boutique clothing at wholesale prices. For real, they have the same characteristics working to meet the needs of the wearers circumstances, and to defeat the risks of the outside environment. There are many methods to make an apparel perform. They include making of garment in specified ways, fabric and trim specification, or fiber and chemical treatments.

Scope of the High Performance Apparel Market Report: This report focuses on the High Performance Apparel in global market, especially in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, South America, Middle East and Africa. This report categorizes the market based on manufacturers, regions, type and application., High Performance Apparel is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global textile industry. This growth of High Performance Apparel market can be attributed to the changes in the life style of the majority of people today.

Active sports such as aerobics, athletics, running, cycling, hiking, mountaineering, swimming, sailing, windsurfing, ballooning, parachuting, snowboarding, and ski-ing are preferred today, over any other recreational activities. With the increasing risks in the industries due to the exposure to hazardous materials such as chemicals, polluting wastes etc. and due to increased risky events like fire, terror attacks etc. High Performance Apparel has all the more become important. The corporate wear sector is also growing with demands for more functionals clothing.

Not only functionality, it also needs to be fashionable and stylish. As such, high tech fabrics and apparel that are made for high performance has become a necessity. Apart from representing status and sophistication, today, clothing is about being fit for purpose, fashion dropshippers that performs. Although sales of sportswear bring a lot of opportunities, the study group recommends the new entrants who just have money but without technical advantage, raw materials advantage and downstream support, do not enter into the sportswear field hastily.

The worldwide market for High Performance Apparel is expected to grow at a CAGR of roughly 9.5% over the next five years, will reach 10600 million US$ in 2023, from 6140 million US$ in 2017, according to a new GIR (Global Info Research) study.

Region Segmentation:

North America (USA, Canada and Mexico)

Europe (Germany, France, UK, Russia and Italy)

Asia-Pacific (China, Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia)

South America (Brazil, Argentina, Columbia etc.)

Middle East and Africa (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa)

Report Coverage:

High Performance Apparel market report provides comprehensive analysis of the market with the help of up-to-date market opportunities, overview, outlook, challenges, trends, market dynamics, size and growth, competitive analysis, major competitors analysis.

Report recognizes the key drivers of growth and challenges of the key industry players. Also, evaluates the future impact of the propellants and limits on the market.

Uncovers potential demands in the market.

High Performance Apparel market report provides in-depth analysis for changing competitive dynamics

Provides information on the historical and current market size and the future potential of the market.

Key questions answered in the report:

What will the market growth rate of High Performance Apparel market in 2023?

What are the key factors driving the global High Performance Apparel market?

Who are the key manufacturers in High Performance Apparel market space?

What are the market opportunities, market risk and market overview of the High Performance Apparel market?

What are sales, revenue, and price analysis by types and applications of High Performance Apparel market?

What are sales, revenue, and price analysis by regions of High Performance Apparel industry?

The next part also sheds light on the gap between supply and consumption. Apart from the mentioned information, growth rate of High Performance Apparel market in 2022 is also explained. Additionally, type wise and application wise consumption tables and figures of High Performance Apparel market are also given.

 

Empty Stocking Fund ushers in changes in 35th campaign raising money for the needy

In its 35th year, The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking Fund kicks off Thursday, pairing a legacy of giving with several wholesale websites changes aimed at keeping the holiday campaign going well into the future.

Back is the same mission to raise money for 20 nonprofits across the Pikes Peak region, and a commitment by two foundations to match hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations through Jan. 18, when this season's campaign ends. But, new this year is a larger, more holistic strategy to turn the Empty Stocking Fund into a year-round endeavor — one that aims to push its fundraising into record territory for years to come.

"With a milestone like 35 years, we thought we should take a minute to think about the future," said Dan Steever, The Gazette's publisher. "And sustaining what we’re doing for 35 more years, is going to get harder without a dedicated focus and leadership.”

"Our 20 agencies tell us they’re serving more people than they ever have before, and they still could serve more if they just had the funding for it,” Steever added. "One check, one donation, helps cradle the whole continuum of services.”

Chief among the changes coming this year is the arrival of a full-time director and us dropshippers to oversee the campaign throughout the year — not just when the holidays arrive, the temperatures dip and the spirit of giving is at its greatest.

Deb Mahan, who most recently chaired the Indy Give! campaign, was hired in July as the fund's first-ever director, thanks largely to donations by The Anschutz Foundation, with help from El Pomar Foundation. Her job: push the fund to new heights by attracting more donors and hosting more fundraisers throughout the year.

For example, new fundraisers are being planned well into 2019, with each donation going to the next season's campaign. The fund's website was redesigned, making it easier to donate. And an agency advisory committee was created last year to ensure that nonprofits are getting the help they need.

And Mahan sees ample opportunity for growth. For several years, the campaign's organizers kept their fundraising goal at $1 million. And for years, the community responded.

Last holiday season, the Empty Stocking Fund topped $1 million for the 11th consecutive year, bringing in $1,176,984 and pushing its 35-year total to $20 million. It's a fundraising streak without precedent in the Pikes Peak region.

But still, there were signs that more needed to be done, campaign organizers said. In recent years, donations seemed to plateau, often ending up just shy of $1.2 million. Same goes with the number of donors contributing every year.

"It’s been around 35 years, and we want to make sure it’s still around 35 years from now,” Mahan said. "We have a 2,000-donor database. I think it should be about 50,000, given the size of this community."

There are several events planned for the community to get involved, she said, including several movie nights at The Broadmoor hotel and a bowling tournament.

Already, this year's campaign is starting off with more money than ever before. The fund has more than $118,000 in the bank from fundraisers earlier this year, including the Steve Scott Golf Classic and the tapping of FH Beerworks' Blackberry Paws brew.

The campaign began in 1984 as an attempt to offer Colorado Springs' neediest families toys and the basic necessities that many people take for granted. One person donated eight Cabbage Patch dolls – an impressive feat considering how popular they were back then. A family received birthday presents for a year from members of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, while the parents were treated to a wedding anniversary dinner, archives show.

They arrived alongside more valuable donations: Food, medicine and money for rent and utility bills. All told, that initial campaign raised $45,716 in cash donations, along with almost $7,000 in food, clothing, furniture and toys, Gazette archives show.

From that humble beginning, the giving only grew.

El Pomar Foundation became a partner in 1997, and shortly thereafter, the Bruni Foundation added its financial heft.

And in that same spirit, several traditions will continue this year.

El Pomar will still match $1 for every $3 donated to the Empty Stocking Fund, up to $200,000. And the Bruni Foundation still plans to match $10,000 for every $100,000 donated, up to $70,000.

Should enough donations come in, El Pomar is expected to top $4 million in total donations to the fund. Only a couple years ago, the Bruni Foundation alone topped $1 million in overall contributions.

"It’s a very simple, direct way for people in the community to give people who are less fortunate than themselves," said Thayer Tutt, El Pomar's vice chairman. "You couldn't ask for more than that."

And, just like every other year, every penny will go to those nonprofits, because administrative costs are covered by Wells Fargo, ADD STAFF, El Pomar Foundation, The Anschutz Foundation and The Gazette.

"One-hundred percent of what you give goes straight to the causes," said Jerry Bruni, president of the Bruni Foundation. "But really, it’s more than 100 percent. Because of the matching, it’s 100-plus. And it’s hard to match that someplace else.”

It's a unique gift, because nonprofits are granted flexibility in how to spend it.

For nonprofits such as Tri-Lakes Cares, that's a tremendous blessing. When grants come in lower than expected, money from the Empty Stocking Fund can help backfill — ensuring that programs go uninterrupted, said Haley Chapin, the nonprofit's executive director.

At Tri-Lakes Cares, for example, the $32,252 received from last season's campaign helped backfill funding for a day care offered through its self-sufficiency program, gas vouchers for residents needing transportation to school or work, and school supplies for children in low-income families.

"Being nimble in being able to assist our clients is really the best benefit of being part of the Empty Stocking Fund,” Chapin said.

But none of that happens without everyone pitching in, Mahan said.

"These kinds of campaigns only succeed if it's a collaborative effort," she said. "It's really a team thing."

 

The UK Rail Supply Chain

Without doubt, the Railway Industry Association (RIA) represents a significant membership of companies engaged in supplying the rail industry, covering a multitude of different engineering disciplines. Darren Caplan, the chief executive of RIA, stated at its recent annual conference that the industry contributes £36 billion to the economy with over 300,000 employees, both of which are impressive numbers.

Scotland recognises that a steady workload to avoid peaks and troughs yields a secure industry employment base, which in turn leads to an alignment of customer and china wholesale supplier. Developing new projects with Network Rail in CP6 is proving something of a challenge.

A short introductory video showcased a number of companies that contribute with design, project and implementation activities and demonstrated the need for a pro-active and innovative supply chain to meet the increasing technological demands of an expanding and busy railway. However, as Darren explained in his opening address, four factors make these uncertain times.

Firstly, the big message coming across from RIA member companies is the problem of ‘boom and bust’ with project funding. Not having a steady work stream leads to recruitment uncertainty and the knock-on effect of having to acquire the right calibre of people when contracts are awarded only to make them redundant again when contracts are completed, all causing an increase in cost and delivery delay.

Secondly, whilst prestige projects such as HS2, Crossrail, National Electrification, Digital Railway and others are welcome, there is little in the way of co-ordination between them to ensure the available resources and skills are effectively distributed.

Thirdly, whilst funding is given to R&D for infrastructure innovation, no equivalent money is available for rolling stock development. The goal of decarbonisation by 2040 will require continued investment in electrification (although the cost of achieving this has to be brought down) and innovative new rolling stock – not only bi-mode of electric/diesel but battery technology and hydrogen as well. Some companies are already engaged in this, but very much as a speculative venture with no certainty of end-user acceptability.

Fourthly, a satisfactory Brexit is crucial for the rail industry to continue close ongoing technical co-operation with Europe. Around 20 per cent of the UK workforce is made up of mainland European employees and their expertise must not be lost. The UK has excellent export potential and frictionless trade is essential.

The political dimension

The compere for the conference was David Begg, now the chief executive of Transport Times but well known for his transport thinking at Edinburgh University over many years. He recalled the success of the ‘Save our Railway’ campaign in the 1990s, when retrenchment of the network was a real threat. Privatisation has brought an increase in ridership and the resulting big investment projects. HS2 to Birmingham is just about assured, but David suggested that doubts may still exist with stage 2b to Leeds and Manchester.

Having the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, as a speaker was a real bonus in these uncertain times. His enthusiasm for transport in general came across, but he is adamant that value for money has to be achieved. No more so is this reflected than in electrification projects, where both costs and timescale have spiralled out of control, on the Great Western in particular.

Chris Grayling was pleased that many good things are coming out of the industry, as witnessed by UK showings at the recent InnoTrans exhibition in Berlin. However, more new thinking is required for the whole railway. New propulsion methods cannot be ignored, witness hydrogen and hybrid train projects in Germany, which could be ideal for the East – West Railway from Oxford to Cambridge, essentially a commuter railway in the making.

Digital railway techniques should provide a solution to many of the current capacity problems. The money is there – but the processes for spending it must be speeded up to ensure investment in new technology and innovation is spent wisely.

The forthcoming Rail Review, whilst concentrating on the franchising model, will aim to produce a joined-up railway, something that has to be a team effort. The industry will change shape and the supply chain must be part of that, and there is a danger that the customers – the travelling public and freight users – have become forgotten with too much focus being placed on engineering for its own sake. The Trans Pennine upgrade from Leeds to Manchester is predicting line closures of 39 weeks per year for the next five years, which is unacceptable.

The clamour for ‘boom and bust’ removal is noted but the industry should not expect safe and secure business for all time from government. While there is no shortage of work in the UK at present, with many schemes underway (Trans Pennine, Ely Junction, Dawlish consolidation, East-West rail to name but a few), huge opportunities also exist in other countries around the world and the government will support companies that engage with this – Chris Grayling even offered to make ministerial visits if the situation merited it. Despite the problems of 2018 – electrification delay, timetable introduction, Crossrail – all caused by ‘it will be alright on the night’ thinking – more opportunities exist for rail than at any time in the past with considerable private investment adding to central funding of £48 billion for CP6.

HS2 is crucial, but it should be viewed as a series of bypasses to free up space on the existing railway rather than having high speed as its primary aim. The industry has to be better at making the case for HS2, where state of the art technology and increased speed is only sensible. The project will not be micromanaged by government and it is up to big companies to support smaller firms down the supply chain.

Calls for a vertically integrated railway will be considered in the current Rail Review, led by Keith Williams, but wholesale nationalisation like wholesale from china will only suck private investment out of the industry. Greater employee participation in the industry’s future will help de-militarise the present conflicts.

Alternative politics

Andy McDonald, the shadow secretary for transport, exposed some of the myths about the opposition’s view on rail. Nationalisation will only apply to the TOCs, and only then on franchise expiry. He claimed that the evidence in support of this is overwhelming, using Virgin East Coast and the forthcoming bailout of Anglia to demonstrate that the system is not fit for purpose.

The announced Rail Review will not look at Network Rail, existing franchises or the ORR, and Andy MacDonald doesn’t believe it is needed to show up the main shortcomings. Labour has no intention to nationalise any part of the supply chain, indeed a strong supply industry is recognised as vital. A joined-up railway is the prime objective, with timetable compilation and regular asset maintenance being the mainstay of this.

A Labour government will create a public company to run the railways, with the remit of less expensive fares, easier through-journeys and close co-operation with local authorities. Control periods will be of seven years duration, with planning for the next period taking place two years before expiry of the existing one to ensure the relevant feedback and lessons are understood.

The ceasing of the electrification schemes is viewed as a major error, although the cost for new projects must be reduced. Key to part of this is the continuance of the National Skills Academy for Rail with measures put in to retain skilled staff within the industry.

On Brexit, Labour respects the referendum result despite the appalling handling of subsequent negotiations, but would maintain a customs union with the rest of Europe.

Whilst not advocating a return to British Rail, that era of industry did achieve results with minimum money. Some lessons from the past need re-learning. Railways need less political interference and should be left to the rail experts. Network Rail is far from perfect, with costs being too high, not helped by the industry fragmentation. The Digital Railway vision is supported, but the digital platforms must be much more than just the roll out of ETCS.

Conference attendees reflecting on the two political viewpoints might even consider that they are not so very different, at least for the longer-term vision.

Regional considerations

Regional clamour for a less London-centric investment approach is often vocal, but is this factual, or even fair? Four speakers from different parts of the country gave their view.

Bill Reeve, the director of rail for Transport Scotland and an engineer by background, had perhaps the easiest task as the results of Scottish rail investment are there for all to see. New lines, improved journey times, reduced emissions, better accessibility and affordability are all part of this. The electrification of the Shotts line is running ahead of time and within budget.

Whilst Scotland is only 11 per cent of the UK railway, it has 358 stations and 93.8 million passenger journeys each year, demonstrating how a devolved government can succeed.

Wales is different, as the Welsh Assembly does not have the same devolved powers as Scotland. Nonetheless, James Price from Transport for Wales stated that 100 per cent of the trains in Wales will be renewed by 2023, 50 per cent of them being assembled in the province. Coupled with 600 new jobs and £194 million of investment, this will yield 65 per cent more capacity.

Novel ideas will be free travel for under-11s, half fare for 12-18 year olds and free travel for up to 16 year olds off peak.

The big project will be the development of the Cardiff Metro operation, with a minimum of four services per hour on all routes, vertically integrated as much as possible and with better-value electrification. Improvements to information systems and closures of level crossings will be progressed.

Maria Machancoses, a director on the Midlands Connect body, explained the vision for much improved integration between east and west, from Hereford through to Nottingham. Foreseen is a £575 million boost in annual investment to achieve six million more passengers per year and many more freight paths. Connectivity with HS2 will be vital, but it needs to be influenced and integrated.

The North is perhaps the most vociferous of the regions with Barry White, the chief executive of Transport for the North, wanting increasing devolution. Current expansion is mainly rolling stock-based plus the Leeds-Manchester upgrade. More is needed, but this will need simplified procurement rules and an avoidance of projects going wrong so as to build a track record for future work.

All agree that funding for CP6 will be different, with Network Rail no longer pulling down debt. Scottish-style devolution would be welcomed, although it is recognised that Metro operation in the North and Midlands has already achieved this. Neither of these regions has seen major improvement to inter-city routes, maybe because the Network Rail situation restricts the freedom to act.

 

Celsius Holdings Reports Third Quarter Revenue Increased 54% to $16.6 Million

Celsius Holdings, Inc., maker of the leading global fitness drink, today reported financial results for the three and nine month periods ended September 30, 2018.

Non-GAAP Adjusted EBITDA* loss of $2.9 million. Excluding the $5.1 million of market investment expenses related to the company's product launch in China and distribution expansion in Hong Kong, Net-Non-GAAP adjust EBITDA reflected a positive $2.2 million which translates to an improvement of $1.1 million when compared to the year ago quarter

Currently in over 33,000 locations and over 15,000 key accounts in China market with regional distribution through partnership with Qifeng Food Technology (Beijing) Co. Ltd, a national wholesale distributor and wholesale websites of foods and beverages.

Third Quarter 2018 Financial and Business Highlights:

Revenue of $16.6 million, up 54% from $10.8 million in the year ago quarter

Domestic revenue increased 92% to $11.4 million, up from $5.9 million in the year ago quarter

International revenue increased 7% to $5.2 million, up from $4.9 million in the year ago quarter

Gross profit of $6.9 million, up 47% from $4.7 million in the year ago quarter

Net loss to common stockholders was $4.2 million compared to $1.7 million in the year ago quarter

Announced national expansion into Target and CVS stores, significantly increasing product availability

Launched two new flavors: Coconut and Cranberry Lemon, in convenient on-the-go powdered sticks

Introduced new distribution with cold vault placement in over 590 chain convenience stores

Obtained national placements in over 5,000 healthy vending and micro-market locations

Invited to the Russell 3000® and Russell Microcap® Indices

"Our performance in the third quarter reflects growing demand and the continued, solid execution of our strategy to increase placements for our products where our customers live, work and play, through a diversity of channels and geographic locations, including broadening our retail footprint in high-profile retailers and convenience stores such as Target, CVS and Wawa, as well as the continuation of our highly anticipated launch in China with our partner Qifeng Food," said John Fieldly, President and Chief Executive Officer. "We delivered a 54% increase in revenue year-over-year in Q3 results, setting another quarterly record, and reinforcing our distribution footprint to increase the availability of products to a number of markets globally."

"Demand is strong and we are capitalizing on today's health and wellness trends, consumers globally are adopting Celsius to be part of their healthy active lifestyle," continued Fieldly. "The Asia market demonstrated continued new penetration and re-orders with now over 33,000 locations. With our investment in the region to date, we have established an infrastructure, including distribution, sales, marketing and operational logistics that will support exponential growth as brand awareness increases and we continue to strengthen our foothold in the region. As we look into 2019 we are exploring further opportunities to partner with local Asian influential strategic partners to further leverage our established operations and existing networks capitalizing on today's health and wellness trends in the region."

Fieldly added, "Our wholesale from china business also delivered record revenues of $11.4 million, which was up 92% year over year for Q3 as a direct result of the work we are doing to increase brand awareness through strategic investments in sales and marketing to reach our target consumers in a variety of locations. We remain at record levels of production and this, coupled with a strong network of routes to market puts us in a premier position for a strong finish to 2018."

 

Dubai economy tracker signals slowest overall growth

 

The report contains the latest release of data collected from a monthly survey of business conditions in the Dubai non-oil private sector. Sponsored by Emirates NBD and produced by IHS Markit, the survey provides an early indication of operating conditions in Dubai. The headline Emirates NBD Dubai Economy Tracker Index is derived from individual diffusion indices which measure changes in output, new orders, employment, suppliers’ delivery times and stocks of purchased goods.

The survey covers the Dubai non-oil private sector economy, with additional sector data published for travel & tourism, buy wholesale from china and construction.

While the latest data signaled an improvement in the health of Dubai’s non-oil private sector, the rate of growth weakened to a 31-month low. Slower improvements in activity, new work and another contraction in employment contributed to the slowdown. Contrary to the general trend, the construction sector saw a stronger expansion in the latest survey.

The seasonally adjusted Emirates NBD Dubai Economy Tracker Index – a composite indicator designed to give an accurate overview of operating conditions in the non-oil private sector economy – posted at 52.5, down from 54.4 in September, and the weakest figure since March 2016. Nonetheless, it remained above the critical 50.0 mark in October, thereby stretching the current phase of expansion to 32 months.

Travel & tourism was the weakest performing sector in October at 49.6, followed by wholesale websties (53.7) and construction (55.5).

Output across the non-oil private sector increased at the slowest rate since December 2017. The expansion was below the historical average. The travel & tourism sector saw the weakest improvement during the latest survey period.

October data signaled a modest fall in employment in Dubai’s non-oil private sector. The rate of contraction matched the record pace recorded in the preceding survey. Some firms cited cost cutting as a reason behind job shedding.

Businesses reported a further increase in incoming new work during October, thereby extending the current phase of growth to 32 months. That said, the latest expansion was the weakest in two-and-a-half years. Whilst the increase was solid overall, it scored well below the historical average amid reports of slowing client demand growth in the non-oil private sector.

Despite the slowdown in output and new business, future growth prospects rose to a record high since this index began in 2012. Firms expressed optimism towards new project wins and developments surrounding Expo 2020.

Average cost burdens in Dubai’s non-oil private sector increased for the seventh month running in October. Furthermore, the rate of inflation accelerated to a three-month high.

Output charges fell once again in the latest survey. Some firms linked lower selling prices to promotional activity. The rate of decline was modest overall, however.

At 52.4 in October, down from 53.6 in September, the seasonally adjusted Business Activity Index for the travel & tourism sector fell to a ten-month low. The pace of expansion has slowed for five successive months.

Adjusted for seasonal factors, the Employment Index reached a record low during the latest survey period. The deterioration in employment levels was modest overall, however.

Travel & tourism companies across Dubai reported a fall in incoming new work during October. The fall was only the second in the survey history. Around 29% of firms noted a decline, compared with 24% that reported an increase in new business.

Despite contracting new work, firms continued to express optimism towards future business activity. The overall degree of positive sentiment reached a four-month high in the latest survey period.

At 54.0 in October, the seasonally adjusted Input Costs Index accelerated to a three-month high. The figure was indicative of a marked increase in average cost burdens faced by businesses in Dubai’s non-oil private sector.

Output charges fell once again in the latest survey period. The finding thereby streched the current phase of price discounting to four months.

October data signalled another slowdown in the rate of business activity growth across the wholesale & retail sector. Nonetheless, the figure remained well above the neutral 50.0 threshold and signalled a solid overall expansion.

At 50.4 in October, the seasonally adjusted Employment Index indicated a return to job creation in the latest survey period. The rate of growth was marginal, however.

Adjusted for seasonal influences, the Incoming New Work Index registered above the 50.0 no-change mark at 56.2 in October, thereby indicating a solid expansion in new order books. That said, the expansion was weaker than the long-run average.

Business confidence towards future growth prospects hit its highest level since the series began in March 2015. According to anecdotal evidence, marketing efforts are anticipated to lead to stronger inflows of new business over the upcoming year.

Continuing the sequence of input price inflation seen since April, businesses in the wholesale & retail sector noted another increase in average cost burdens during the latest survey period. The rate of inflation eased to a seven-month low, however.

At 43.8, the seasonally adjusted Prices Charged Index registered a sharp decline in selling prices across the wholesale & retail sector. Some firms linked falling charges to increasing competition.

October survey data signalled a sharp upturn in business activity growth. The latest expansion was steep overall and the strongest recorded since June. Anecdotal evidence linked the improvement to government projects.

Employment Index scored above the critical 50.0 mark once again. The figure was indicative of a modest level of job creation in Dubai’s construction sector.

The seasonally adjusted Incoming New Work Index hit a three-month high during October. The rate of growth was sharp overall and above the series’ long-run average. Some firms linked higher inflows of new business to government contracts.

Future growth prospects in Dubai’s construction sector matched September’s survey-record high in the most recent survey period. Anecdotal evidence suggested that developments surrounding Expo 2020 are forecast to lead to higher output over the next 12 months.

Input cost inflation faced by firms in Dubai’s construction sector eased to a three-month low in the latest survey period. The rate of inflation was only slight overall.

At 48.6 in October, the seasonally adjusted Prices Charged Index remained below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the second month running. The rate of price discounting was modest overall and broadly in line with that registered in September.

 

HOPE seeks £2m investment as it reinvents fashion for older women

 

After three years of selling directly online and dropship companies with no membership through an expanding network of independent small shops, the Berkshire-based company grew 86 per cent this quarter and expects around a £1m turnover for 2018.

Targeting the 40-plus age female, a group of 3.3 million in the UK alone, Hope sits between the high street mainstream and designer high end.

It has, says co-founder Nayna McIntosh “proved its concept that there is a market for a capsule collection of wardrobe staples using the best fabrics and yarns available.

“The relaxed pieces we produce wrap, drape and flatter women’s bodies so they feel confident and beautiful. For many it’s been a long time since they have felt that way about themselves.”

A recently updated report by marketing agency J. Walter Thompson found older women, who by and large control household spending, are the vanguard of a major social change where age no longer dictates the way people live.

Yet they regard the style of best wholesale clothing aimed at them as outdated and consider advertisers treat them as stereotypes not individuals.

McIntosh equally aware of the disconnect in 2014 spotted a gap in the market. Her insights and expertise came from two decades with M&S working to director level.

“I knew the customers because they were like me,” she says. “It was a now-or-never moment to start my own business.”

Five friends and her accountant husband Harvey Ainley bought in and Hope Fashion was born.

It now employs six, almost all of females aged 20 to 62 and including two trainees who decided on the world of work rather than university, plus a wider pool of consultants.

All design is in the UK with the majority of its exclusive, feel-good stretch fabric sourced from Italy and 10 per cent from a factory in Sheffield. Manufacture is similarly split.

Hope’s sizing descriptions are notably uplifting. Dresses float from ‘freesize’ to ‘dual curvy’ while trousers stride from ‘super slim’ to ‘super curvy’.

The company’s best-selling core is its starter Foundation Collection.

In many ways similar to the immaculate construction of performance sportwear, it offers “the wearer support, freedom of movement, breathability, freshness and comfort. The garments won’t pill and are easy to wash and wrinkle-free, so ideal for travelling,” says McIntosh.

The latest, next generation Power Foundation range builds on that, fusing together two fabric layers for more special occasion separates and pieces.

“This has doubled selling expectations,” adds McIntosh. “We find many women buy Foundation pieces as base layers then layer again with our knitwear.”

Another unexpected but very positive consequence has been the wholesale channel, helping independent shops diversify and high street footfall revive in smaller and market towns, where the keep-trade-local ethos remains strong despite the digital onslaught.

“There’s more innovative thinking happening now among retailers – for example one café owner in Devon has started selling our pieces,” explains McIntosh who aims to have 100 on board in future.

With orders from the US, Europe and New Zealand increasing, expansion is essential.

And it will happen McIntosh is in no doubt. After all the business’s name, also her mother’s, says it all.

Her grandfather was part of Jamaica’s Windrush generation who left their families to come to work in the UK and save enough to build a better life for them.

“They have passed on their determined work ethic and love of family to me,” says McIntosh. “It’s what makes Hope the company it is today.”

 

Starting An E-Commerce Store?

 

If you’re looking to become an internet entrepreneur, you may be tempted to get into e-commerce. After all, it’s easier than ever today with simple website templates, third-party fulfillment and the ability to sell inventory that you never even buy until you make your first sale. If you’re interested in e-commerce, here are five fabulous niches that are ready for big profits:

1. Jewelry & Accessories

The jewelry and accessories market online is one of the hottest markets today and is projected to grow to over 250 billion (GBP) by the year 2020. One main reason why consumers love to buy jewelry and accessories online is that jewelry dropshippers is a more impulsive buy than in a retail store — online, both men and women believe they may not see the same style anywhere else and that if they don’t buy it now, they will miss out.

Jewelry and accessories are also relatively easy to advertise through digital marketing. Here are a few things to keep in mind. First, I recommend focusing on either men’s or women’s styles, to help you focus on the mindset of your target audience. Second, avoid selling clothing due to international differences in sizing. Third, try not to sell anything generic like a necklace; instead, sell a specific set of items like a “heart” necklace, a “Paris-themed” necklace and so on, because these specific items are easier to find for someone searching for those unique terms.

2. Household Goods

One of my household goods e-commerce businesses has generated over eight figures and counting because of this trendy niche. Consumers love to spend money on their homes: Home décor, cooking and gardening are great places to start.

If you can showcase a product or product line that gives your customers a wow factor or a unique experience, your sales will skyrocket. “Wowing” people with your household product means it saves either time or money (or both). Products that wow consumers typically surprise them by showing them how to do an everyday task much faster or much cheaper, making the purchase a no-brainer in the minds of your prospects. From my experience, your household goods store will attract primarily female baby boomers, who hold incredible spending power in today’s economy.

3. Consumer Gadgets

Remember the fidget spinner craze and the fidget cube? These two products have generated hundreds of millions of dollars online — and each month, there are new gadgets on the rise. They can be anything from novelty corkscrews to portable electronics.

To gauge your potential market demand, check out Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Any products that surpass their funding are sales-worthy because people love them. Get in touch with those product owners and lock in a contract with one or two hot sellers to enjoy the ride.

If you’re going to reach out to a product owner, do your homework first so you understand what their mission and vision are. Armed with some background information, your opening email or call to them can really speak to how you will help them sell more products, which is the bottom line for any new product creator. Then, if you want to claim an exclusive contract with a highly in-demand seller, try to be flexible on payment terms and wholesale pricing — just as long as you are only paying on demand as you sell.

4. Phone Accessories

Every year, a new phone comes out and consumers need to upgrade their screen protectors, phone cases and even wireless chargers. One student of mine sold magnetic charger cables and banked over $500,000 in sales simply because of “right place, right time.”

Let’s take the iPhone X as an example. According to Fortune.com, iPhone X has sold 29 million units in a single quarter, which means nearly 30 million people suddenly need new accessories. However, not every phone accessory will sell, so make sure that the accessories you choose solve a real problem, are fashionable and appeal to a narrow segment of the market so they can find you (for instance, an iPhone X case is great, but an iPhone X case with unicorns on it is much better!).

5. Sports & Outdoors Gear

Sports lovers are always crazy about their products, rather than cheap clothing websites, whether it be golfing, fishing, hiking, snowboarding or even badminton. Sports enthusiasts spend money on their hobbies, and that means there’s plenty of room for profit.

Take recreational fishing as an example. It’s a very narrow niche within the sports and outdoors market, but according to the 2016 census report, fishing expenditures topped $46 billion in the United States alone. Taking a mere fraction of this market share can easily help you build a six- to seven-figure business.

If you decide to get into the sports and outdoors niche, here are some tips to consider. First, find a niche within a niche where there’s a need with no competition to bother you. Second, if you choose a sport you know well, you’ll be well positioned to intimately know the pain points and the problem you’re solving so you can woo prospects into becoming customers.

With these five niches, you’ll be in great shape to capitalize on big trends happening in the e-commerce space. Just make sure you fidn your niche down far enough to fill a unique need, and you’ll be steps ahead of your competition.

 

Home décor continues upward trajectory at Las Vegas Market

 

 

  Las Vegas Market announced that it has close to 90,000 square feet of new, expanding and relocating showroom space dedicated to home décor for the Jan. 27-31 market at the World Market Center.

       New, expanding and relocating home décor showroomsSeven exhibitors will open permanent showrooms in Buildings A, B, and C. Newcomers in Building A include: Anthony California, Inc., suppliers of lighting, furniture, adjustable beds and accessories, in 2,059 square feet on A4; Canvas Candy, a Canadian-based art manufacturer of quality wall décor, in 2,148 square feet on A4; the European Kitchen, Bath, Tile and Stone showroom, which is part of Las Vegas Design Center (LVDC), in 1,081 square feet on A1; Koncept, providers of ceiling fixtures, floor lamps, table lamps and wall sconces, in 431 square feet on A4; and Wantech International/OK Lighting, a wholesaler of lighting fixtures that wholesale home decor for retailers, fountains and gift items, in 2,531 square feet on A4. Classy Art, supplier of framed and unframed wall décor, is debuting in 4,134 square feet on B3 and FJ Kashanian, a designer and manufacturer of hand-knotted rugs, is showing in 639 square feet on C3.

  In addition to permanent showrooms, officials say the market’s 50,000 square feet of temporary home décor exhibits will include an expanded showcase of custom furnishings and one-of-a-kind suppliers.

   "Las Vegas Market is a one-stop shop for design-driven home décor buyers, with more than one million square feet of home décor resources in Buildings A, B, and C, along with temporary exhibitors in the Pavilions at Las Vegas Market,” said Julie Messner, senior vice president of furniture and home décor leasing for International Market Centers. “Las Vegas Market continues to bolster its position as the leading home furnishings and gift market in the western United States, with several suppliers opening new showrooms or expanding their presence this winter.”

  "We received many requests from clients to exhibit at Las Vegas Market, so we are looking forward to debuting our collections and colors this winter,” said Jonathan Kashanian, vice president of FJ Kashanian. “We will be displaying our curated style of sari wool, overdyes and Modern Luxury Collection.”

  Ten current tenants are expanding or relocating their showrooms for January. In Building A, Charleston Forge, a supplier of furniture, dining tables, drink tables, barstools and dining chairs, is relocating to a 2,562-square-foot showroom in LVDC; Dalyn Rug Company, a manufacturer of rugs, is expanding to 7,085 square feet on A3; Norwalk Furniture, a manufacturer of made-to-order upholstered furniture, is expanding to 7,623 square feet in LVDC; Privilege International, a supplier of decorative accessories, home textiles, accent furniture, lighting, wall décor, and photo frames, is relocating and expanding to 5,643 square feet on A4; Sagebrook Home, a provider of decorative accessories, vases and jars, wall décor, furniture and lighting, is expanding to 9,661 square feet on A4; and StyleCraft Home Collection, a wholesaler of lighting, wall décor, mirrors, decorative accessories and decorative accent, is expanding to 18,997 square feet on A3, and farmhouse decor wholesale services as well.

  In Building B, Orian Rugs, a manufacturer of decorative area and scatter rugs, is relocating and expanding to 6,289 square feet on B3; and Yosemite Home Décor, a supplier of lighting fixtures and related home décor products, is relocating and expanding to 8,909 square feet on B3.

  In Building C, Chandra, a provider of handmade rugs, is relocating and expanding to 8,950 square feet on C5; and Mastour, a producer of hand-woven carpets and rugs, is relocating and expanding to 1,256 square feet on C4.

  Temporary exhibits expand custom and one-of-a-kind offerings for designers

  This winter, the Pavilions at Las Vegas Market will expand its temporary home decor resources with a range of custom furniture suppliers and one-of-a-kind vintage resources. From Sunday to Wednesday of market, Pavilion 2 will showcase nearly 50,000 square feet of home decor temporary exhibits for interior designers and boutique furniture and home décor retailers.

  Within the Design Home category, buyers will find the Las Vegas Market’s largest-ever selection of custom furniture resources. New and notable exhibitors this January are: European Furniture, Gather Table Company, Mirror-tique, Nico and Yeye LLC and Robert Seliger Furniture, Inc. Pavilion 2 also includes Home and showcases accent furniture, decorative accessories, faux botanicals, home décor, lighting, rugs, tabletop, textiles and wall decor.

  “After looking through the amenities that Las Vegas Market provided, the demographics of the event, and the quality of vendors that would be present, we knew this was the place to be,” said Taylor Feero, owner of first-time Design Home exhibitor Gather Table Company. “There are plenty of places around the nation to show our tables and Las Vegas Market made the top of our list.”

  In Discoveries: The Antique Vintage Marketplace, design-driven buyers can find more than 15,000 square feet of antiques, found objects and one-of-a-kind vintage home furnishings, with all items available for immediate delivery. Key Discoveries exhibitors include: Blue Ocean Traders; Boga Rugs; Brayden & Brooks; Djem Unique Designs; Indus Designs; Go Home/Golden Oldies; House of Cindy; MD Home Collection and Vintage Addiction.

  “Las Vegas Market has helped our brand meet quality and diverse customers from all over the United States, including large chain stores, independent specialty retailers and interior designers,” said Cindy Ciskowski, founder of Discoveries exhibitor House of Cindy. “At the last market alone, our sales grew by more than 30%.”