News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

LANDRIANO, Italy — In August, the roof fell in on Yoox Net-a-Porter Group.

Near the beginning of the month, a summer storm hit the Richemont-owned fashion e-commerce leader’s new logistics hub in Landriano, Italy, a municipality about 40 minutes from the centre of Milan. It damaged the building so badly that the warehouse, where most of the work is automated, was out of operation for several weeks, according to multiple sources, who said employees were encouraged to keep communication about the incident off email to stop the news from spreading.

The warehouse snafu was the latest in a series of mishaps stemming from a troubled technology and logistics overhaul at the group — known as YNAP — that began more than three years ago and has cost hundreds of millions of euros.

The project was ambitious in both scale and scope, but the full extent of the troubles at the luxury e-commerce platform, which Richemont fully acquired in May 2018, was not made clear until mid-May 2019, when Richemont announced its financial results for the previous fiscal year. The Swiss conglomerate — which also owns Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chloé among other brands — reported its weakest profit margin in more than a decade, taking analysts by surprise.

Richemont’s “Online Distributors” unit — made up of YNAP and secondhand-timepiece seller Watchfinder — delivered double-digit sales growth for the year ending March 31. The company also reported a €264 million operating loss (around $291.7 million at current exchange rates), including a €165 million ($182.3 million) write-down of the value of its YNAP acquisition.

Read the rest of this article at: Business of Fashion

News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On the afternoon of September 18, 2019, WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann was in his office at WeWork’s Chelsea headquarters when he got a text alert on his iPhone. The Wall Street Journal had just published an explosive article chronicling what it said was his reckless management of the coworking start-up, the era’s preeminent unicorn. Neumann is dyslexic, and reading is a challenge, so advisers quickly briefed him on the story’s most troubling details: vivid accounts of his heavy drinking, marijuana use, and habit of making grandiose pronouncements like wanting to be elected president of the world, live forever, and become humanity’s first trillionaire.

The article could not have arrived at a more perilous moment. Two days earlier, the We Company, WeWork’s parent, announced that it was delaying its IPO after investors universally rejected the offering, even when WeWork slashed the valuation by 75 percent, to between $10 and $12 billion. In the run-up, a string of high-profile executives had walked out the door, including the chief communications officer, the cohead of the firm’s real estate fund, and the global head of real estate partnerships. Just weeks earlier, WeWork had been privately valued at $47 billion—which was $10 billion more than the market capitalization of Ford and double the GDP of Iceland. Now, unless WeWork secured a new source of emergency funding, it would run out of cash before Thanksgiving.

For an embattled CEO running a company on life support, being the subject of a takedown by the business paper of record would mean instant career death. But Neumann, characteristically, assured colleagues that the article was not much more than a speed bump. He controlled 65 percent of the stock and had the power to fire the board of directors if the board moved against him. (So confident was Neumann of his job security that he once declared during a company meeting that his descendants would be running WeWork in 300 years.)

WeWork executives had long grown accustomed to Neumann’s belief that the laws of economics—even reality itself—didn’t apply to him. It was in the nature of unicorns that they bent reality, and that certainly had been true of WeWork. Fueled by $12 billion of venture capital and debt, Neumann grew WeWork in less than a decade from a single coworking outpost in SoHo into a 12,500-employee company with 500,000 users in 111 cities across 29 countries. But in 2018, WeWork had lost $2 billion and had a highly questionable business model—the company signed long-term leases and sublet space to freelancers and corporations on a short-term basis. Its valuation somehow kept rising.

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

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SAN FRANCISCO — In the face of mounting investigations, subpoenas and lawsuits, Juul Labs has insisted that it never marketed or knowingly sold its trendy e-cigarettes and flavored nicotine pods to teenagers.

As youth vaping soared and “juuling” became a high school craze, the company’s top executives have stood firm in their assertion that Juul’s mission has always been to give adult smokers a safer alternative to cigarettes, which play a role in the deaths of 480,000 people in the United States each year.

“We never wanted any non-nicotine user and certainly nobody underage to ever use Juul products,” James Monsees, a co-founder of the company, testified at a congressional hearing in July.

But in reality, the company was never just about helping adult smokers, according to interviews with former executives, employees and investors, along with reviews of legal filings and social media archives.

Juul’s remarkable rise to resurrect and dominate the e-cigarette business came after it began targeting consumers in their 20s and early 30s, a generation with historically low smoking rates, in a furious effort to reward investors and capture market share before the government tightened regulations on vaping.

As recently as 2017, as evidence grew that high school students were flocking to its sleek devices and flavored nicotine pods, the company refused to sign a pledge not to market to teenagers as part of a lawsuit settlement. It wasn’t until the summer of 2018, when the Food and Drug Administration required it to do so, that the company put a nicotine warning label on its packaging.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Candice Dixon showed up for her first day of work at an Amazon warehouse in Eastvale, California, she stepped into a wonder of automation, efficiency, and speed. Inside the sprawling four-story building in Southern California’s Inland Empire, hundreds of squat orange robots whizzed across the floor, carrying tall yellow racks.

As a stower, her job was to stand in a spot on the floor, like hundreds of others in that million-square-foot warehouse, and fill an unending parade of merchandise racks. Another worker, known as a “water spider,” would bring her boxes upon boxes of goods—jars of protein powder, inflatable unicorn pool floats, laptops, makeup, Himalayan sea salt, vibrators, plastic toy cars. She’d grab each item out of a box, scan it, lift it onto the rack, and scan its new location. She’d use a stepladder to put things on the top of the rack. For heavy items—she remembers the cases of pet food in particular—she’d have to squat down to hoist them in, then pop back up to grab the next item. As soon as she’d filled a rack, she’d press a button, and one robot would zip it away while another robot would bring a new one to fill.

The moment an Amazon customer clicked “place your order,” a robot would haul one of those racks to a picker, who would grab the right item for the order and send it on a series of long conveyors to a packer, who would stuff it in one of those familiar, smiling cardboard boxes.

The clock was always ticking on Amazon’s promised delivery time. Dixon had to scan a new item every 11 seconds to hit her quota, she said, and Amazon always knew when she didn’t.

Dixon’s scan rate—more than 300 items an hour, thousands of individual products a day—was being tracked constantly, the data flowing to managers in real time, then crunched by a proprietary software system called ADAPT. She knew, like the thousands of other workers there, that if she didn’t hit her target speed, she would be written up, and if she didn’t improve, she eventually would be fired.

Amazon’s cutting-edge technology, unrelenting surveillance, and constant disciplinary write-ups pushed the Eastvale workers so hard that in the last holiday season, they hit a coveted target: They got a million packages out the door in 24 hours. Amazon handed out T-shirts celebrating their induction into the “Million Unit Club.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 12.02.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Boris Johnson assumed office as prime minister in July 2019 and proceeded, without the mandate of a general election, to appoint a cabinet that was arguably one of the most rightwing in post-second world war British history, many commentators called it a coup. The free market thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs felt self-congratulation was more in order, however. “This week, liberty-lovers witnessed some exciting developments,” the IEA said in an email to its supporters. The organisation, whose mission is to shrink the state, lower taxes and deregulate business, noted that 14 of those around the Downing Street table – including the chancellor, Sajid Javid, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, and the home secretary, Priti Patel – were “alumni of IEA initiatives”.

The IEA had good reason to boast about its influence. Just a few years earlier, on the occasion of its 60th birthday in 2015, Javid had declared that it had “reflected and deeply influenced my views, helping to develop the economic and political philosophy that guides me to this day”. In a speech to the IEA the same year, Raab also enthused about the organisation’s effect on his younger self. A few years back, he told the audience, he had been on a beach in Brazil. He’d had a couple of drinks, and had gone in to the sea to mull over an idea: that New Labour had “eroded liberty” in Britain and created a “rights culture” that had fostered a nation of idlers. Lost in thought, the tide had dragged him far from his starting point, and back on the beach, he had trouble locating his family among all the “scantily clad Brazilians”. On stage, he thanked the IEA for helping him develop this idea, which became the starting point for the book Britannia Unchained, an anti-statist tract, co-written with other MPs who would go on to join Johnson’s new cabinet – Patel; Elizabeth Truss, now trade secretary; Kwasi Kwarteng, business minister; and Chris Skidmore, then health minister.

The authors were also members of a parliamentary faction called the Free Enterprise Group, whose aim was to rebuild confidence in free market capitalism in the wake of the financial crisis, and for which the IEA has organised events, co-authored papers and provided administrative support. Other members included future Johnson ministers Andrea Leadsom, Matt Hancock, Robert Buckland, Julian Smith, Alister Jack, Alun Cairns, Jacob Rees-Mogg, James Cleverly and Brandon Lewis.

Libertarian thinktanks in the US, such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) have had this sort of close relationship with incoming Republican administrations for years, furnishing them with staff and readymade policies. Thinktanks – non-governmental organisations that research policies with the aim of shaping government – have long been influential in British politics, too, on both left and right, but the sheer number of connections between Johnson’s cabinet and ultra free market thinktanks was something new. In the period immediately before the Brexit referendum and in the years since, a stream of prominent British politicians and campaigners, including Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks, have flown to the US to meet with thinktanks such as the AEI and the Heritage Foundation, often at the expense of those thinktanks, seeking out ideas, support and networking opportunities. Meanwhile, US thinktanks and their affiliates, which are largely funded by rightwing American billionaires and corporate donations, have teamed up with British politicians and London-based counterparts such as the IEA, the Legatum Institute and the Initiative for Free Trade, to help write detailed proposals for what the UK’s departure from the EU, and its future relationships with both the EU and the US, should look like, raising questions about foreign influence on British politics.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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