November 17, 2007
Wal-Mart: Bigger than the Big Apple?
At some point in the last fiscal quarter, Wal-Mart’s total U.S. retail square footage surpassed the land mass of Manhattan, at 22.98 square miles versus 22.7.
In addition to the mind-bending image that this creates, this development is interesting because the two giants don’t like each other. Wal-Mart’s efforts to gain a foothold in the borough have been vigorously repelled by the natives. In response, the Wal-Mart CEO had the following to say in a March interview with The New York Times.
“I don’t care if we are ever here.” With which gestures do you think New Yorkers let him know the feeling was mutual? “It’s too hard to make money here.” You don’t say. Nobody in New York ever worries about this.
The biggest criticism of Wal-Mart is that it ruins communities by pricing local retailers out of business while offering only low-paying jobs with no benefits. Another complaint is that Wal-Mart is just too big; even investors are grumbling about store saturation.
Put all this together and you have a very plausible conspiracy theory: Wal-Mart intends to transplant all of its stores to Manhattan, completely covering the island and forcing everyone and everything to leave.
They could assemble the stores and with a very large winch – available at Always Low Prices – lift them over the borough and just drop them. A considerable one-time expense, but it would be sweet revenge and a clever way to reduce by a large number the liberal media and union workers, two of Wal-Mart’s most pesky foes.
I’d like to propose a more constructive strategy. Move the stores to Tuvalu. Tuvalu is the fourth-smallest country in the United Nations, a collection of nine coral atolls halfway between Hawaii and Australia. At 10.04 square miles, the nation’s land mass is less than one third of Wal-Mart’s worldwide retail space.
Tuvalu has become a global warming symbol. The island’s high point is 16 feet above sea level, and some climate change models anticipate that rising ocean levels will likely swamp the nation and its 12,000 residents at some point in this century.
(Have you noticed that climate change research is full of “may,” “likely,” and “probably”? “Sea levels may rise ten feet.” “I may win the lottery this week.” “The planet will probably see air temperatures rise three degrees." "My husband will probably take out the garbage tonight.”). So for the environmental crowd and our fear-loving media, the plight of Tuvalu has become a favored citation of our certain doom.
The benefits of such a move would be considerable for the company. Labor costs would plummet and sluggish same-store sales growth figures would vanish. As a green maneuver, it would please and confuse liberals and at least for a time stop them from burning crosses on Wal-Mart’s lawns. As the only employer on the island, Wal-Mart would have considerable leverage over the local population. “They want unions? Let ‘em eat kelp.”
For the islanders, the benefits would be even more pronounced. In addition to full employment, adding the stores would raise the island’s elevation by at least 30 feet. Everyone could live in low-cost company housing built on the roofs. As sea levels rose, provisions would simply be moved to higher shelves, easily retrieved via low-cost trapdoors and ladders.
Wal-Mart Travel would deliver to the South Pacific - in low-cost planes and cruise ships - bereft American shoppers, longing for the opportunity to again experience Always Low Prices, and now in a spectacular single package destination. “It’s a small store, after all.”
Perhaps it would make sense to expand the operation to the nation of Nauru, also in the South Pacific and at 8.11 square miles even smaller than Tuvalu.
That would leave a few square miles of U.S. stores, which could be exported to the only two members of the United Nations smaller than these islands. At .75 square miles, Wal-Mart Monaco would replace Europe’s most fashionable casinos with a much-needed dose of low-end American retail, leaving plenty of store footprint for Wal-Mart Vatican City, featuring the PopePourri product line.
There are innumerable cost inefficiencies in The New Testament, what with fig trees that don’t produce fruit when desired and swine being cast into the sea. Imagine what Wal-Mart could do for all of us if it expanded its reach beyond the secular realm with the help of its new partners in Rome. Heaven is long overdue for re-branding.
The downside would be the loss of about 1.4 million American jobs. But the liberal politicians can solve that problem. And we can start complaining about Target.
September 12, 2007
Web 2.0 University
Check out Web 2.0 University in New York on October 2, 2007. You can register here. Web 2.0 University has devised a one-day event to get people up to-speed: sub-titled “Everything You Need To Know About Web 2.0.”
August 02, 2007
Life Sciences & Healthcare Venture Summit
For those launching an emerging biotech, med tech, healthcare or life sciences startup seeking early stage funding, check out The 2007 Life Sciences and Healthcare Venture Summit on Tuesday October 23rd in New York City.
Partial list of participating VCs:
Fidelity Biosciences • Polaris Venture Partners • New Leaf Venture Partners • Wheatley Partners • Triathlon Medical Ventures • TVM Capital • Psilos Group • Bay City Capital LLC • Charter Life Sciences • Rock Maple Ventures • Pappas Ventures • NGN Capital • Astellas Venture Management LLC • Sanderling Venture Capital • Point Judith Capital • 5AM Ventures • Kaiser Permanente Ventures • Ascent Biomedical Ventures • SV Life Sciences
July 04, 2007
A Walk Through the East Village
I'm still catching up from another fabulous New York trip, a large portion of it spent with a client, and as for the other time? What else but walking the streets of the city - top to bottom. I also managed to get to B&H Photo, a block long photography store in the 30ths. A must for all photography geeks.
I had a field day in the East Village (below). My experience with SLRs has largely been centered around film until recently, so I'm still getting used to the nuances with digital - the various settings and playing with light.
June 27, 2007
No Crawling Traffic
Ah yes, the city but with no yellow cabbies in sight? Not my experience this week. I can't wait to try out my new portrait lens in the next couple of days. Stay tuned.
Hot Summer Nights
I'm still in New York and while others are miserably complaining of the humid sticky hot nights, I'm relishing in the fact that not only can I wear skirts, sleeveless tops and sandals late at night but I can sit outside at a cafe without feeling chilly. I miss this aspect most about the East Coast - that and of course October in New England.
New York women DRESS UP. I have become so accustomed to vendor t-shirts, jeans and flip flops in the Valley that I had forgotten how women dress in many other cities. It's fabulous to see. Dresses and skirts in vibrant summer floral patterns and colors, funky sandals and unusual jewelery.
I haven't indulged in a Dunkin Donuts coffee yet (a New York and Boston tradition), but plan to tomorrow. Managed to catch up with Renee Edelman and PR Week editor Keith O'Brien, who I've never met. We also did some TV today -- more on that to follow when the time is right.
Did I mention that I really love hot summer nights on the East Coast?
June 24, 2007
New York Breathes Life
New York breathes. It lives. It draws you in. Despite the fact that I've been to the city countless times, so many and often for lengthy intervals, that I couldn't give you a number, I'm always amazed at not only how much the city shouts authenticity and life, but how much it gives you life. It's a force, moreso than any other American city and every visit reminds me of this as if its my first time.
Times Square. The East Village. SOHO. The Bronx. Brooklyn. Upper West. Upper East. Grenwich Village. I plough through the sweaty crowds; the tourists walking at a snails pace with their heads arched back and eyes upward bound towards the skyscrapers and the locals, who whiz past you, with purpose, their eyes saying "don't bother me, I have ten places to go. My life is busy. Life is tough."
And yet, they're all interesting and want to draw you in, if you had a chance to stop them in their tracks and remind them why they live here in the first place. They want it as much as you do. The longing for even the briefest exchange, an exchange that makes you and them feel alive.
I always want to ask -- "who are you? why are you here?" Each and every exchange opens the door to a new international discovery. Yes, always, in a way that London often did when I lived there, but not always.
I wander through the people-laden maze on my way back to the hotel at a time when the humidity started climbing back to its typical late June numbers. The sights feel as common to me as Vivian Gornick's daily encounters with neighbors, shopkeepers and her mother's connections, all of which are there to remind her that she's part of a community, that she's safe, that she belongs, that she is New York -- all of it, everything and anything it stands for. For this, she is proud in a sarcastic, quiet and ironic way. The reader is taken through that journey again and again.
In tourist-rich areas, girls walk hand-in-hand, as do mothers and daughters, as if the linking of hands and looping of arms somehow send a signal to potential thieves and rapists - 'we may be in your site, but we're off limits.'
In Little Italy, restaurant owners call you in as if it is already so, "hey you - you're eating with us tonight." How to argue with such intensity. Many follow at the first or second calling. Others who want to play the game will walk up and down Mulberry Street challenging their calls for over an hour, eventually settling on a choice they may have made much earlier had the game not been so important.
They enjoy the game as much as they do bargaining with the guys four blocks away on the China Town/Little Italy border. Here, you can find the best fake bags in multiple colors and designs for $30-45 a pop. Some argue with you - 'yeah lady, its real leather,' whereas others give you the news honestly, "hell no, whaad' ya want for $30?' No receipt, no guarantee, no return and they only take cash, but its a thriving trade that draws in women from around the world.
Here, women can also get cheap multi-colored watches, wide-brimmed Hollywood-style sunglasses and designed perfumes and wallets for $20, not to mention the vibrant cashmere scarves for the same. It's the land of excess and also the land of the physical, where people gawk at MySpace and FaceBook. They ask me, 'why the fascination with a virtual digital world when you can have a real one?"
But in this land of excess, international tongues come together and cross paths every inch of the way, whether its sitting at the sushi bar, taking the subway, walking down the street, connecting on the cross-town bus or blading in central Park.
It's all there for the 'having' and the 'taking,' and upon each taking, you are thrown into deeply rich conversations that always surprise, force you to step into a land beyond your knowing and often beyond your comfort zone.
You are reminded to engage and dive in rather than stand on the sidelines and watch from afar. New York's theatre does this too and the same acting you just saw off-Broadway extends into New York's real world - the streets, restaurants, cafes, elevators, yellow cabs, delis, office buildings..........everywhere. The intensity of all of it -- everywhere -- is what makes New York so remarkable.
May 17, 2007
Personal Democracy Forum
When I lived on the East Coast, the Personal Democracy Forum was an easier haul. I'll miss it this year, but check out the line-up, which will connect you to the speakers and intensive blog coverage of the event in New York later this week.
February 21, 2007
BlogHer's Business Summit
Topics to be covered include:
* Should my company blog? How do we decide and then identify the best people to do it?
* What are the boundaries of "authenticity" and "transparency" for a company blog?
* How can companies find and talk to the right bloggers? What's the best approach?
* Are blogs a religion or a tool? What are some pragmatic methods to measure results
* Does the cost of social media ever outweigh the benefit?
February 10, 2007
A Glimpse into FashionWeek
A handful of my friends are involved in Fashion Week every year and while I planned to weave in one fashion blog post a week, technology, as always, always seems to take over. In full force this past week in New York, Fashion Tribes covered the annual event extensively. Spendora also does a comprehensive round-up.
Isaac Mizrahi's Fall 2007 "Frozen Spring" Collection is an interesting mix of knits, slouchy and sexy dresses, wild dashing prints and as they describe it, "a trapeze coat in a hue dubbed Psychopeach, which apparently was a crowd favorite.
He says, "I call it Frozen Spring because I couldn't bring myself to do heavy coats and heavy sweaters. Even though there are sweaters and coats in the collection that will keep you warm, I feel like they're year round and seasonless; the way I made these big springtime-looking prints fall'ish was by giving them these fur petticoats." And he seems to weave these in throughout his collection. Check out a few fun examples below.
The things you learn at FashionWeek. Ever hear of rexy? Who knew?