Category Archives: Investigations

Commerce: ‘Will Digital Payments Replace Cash?’

Is cash still king? The coronavirus pandemic may cause a drastic decline in cash usage due to the risk of contamination. The unprecedented surge in the demand for contactless payment has also shown outstanding performances for major companies offering cashless payment methods, like Apple, Square and Paypal. Could covid-19 signal the end of cash in the United States and can the U.S. really function without physical currency?

Space: The Struggle To Detect ‘Asteroid Impacts’

Stephen Hawking thought an asteroid impact posed the greatest threat to life on Earth.

Asteroids are small, rocky objects that orbit the Sun. Although  asteroids orbit the Sun like planets, they are much smaller than planets. Asteroids are small, rocky objects that orbit the sun. Although asteroids orbit the sun like planets, they are much smaller than planets.

Online: ‘Inside Amazon’s Smart Warehouse’ (Video)

Amazon is the world’s biggest retailer, and its CEO Jeff Bezos the world’s richest man, for one very good reason. His company is better than anyone else, ever, at giving people what they want, quickly. Amazon acquired its undisputed status as heavyweight champion of the retail universe thanks largely to its lightning-fast delivery times.

The astonishing feat of ferrying hundreds of millions of items, from guitar strings to saucepans to car parts, directly to your door, inside 24 hours, is nothing short of a modern logistical miracle. So how does Amazon do it? A super-smart army of slave robots, for one. Ingenious, if occasionally unscrupulous, management practices are part of the answer too.

And the modern-day voodoo of deep-learning AI – all of which are made flesh in the most advanced stockrooms the world has ever seen. So join us today, as we button up our hi-vis jacket and journey inside Amazon’s smart warehouses.

Clothing: ‘The Rise Of Patagonia’ (CNBC Video)

The Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Vest is by far one of the brand’s most popular products. It’s also one of its most divisive. Over the last five years, the vest became a must-have accessory for Wall Street workers in Manhattan’s financial district to tech bros in Silicon Valley.

The company says at its height, it was fielding 60 requests for co branded vests, a day. But Patagonia, a private company that values environmental and political activism, never sought out to become the go-to status symbol for some of the biggest and richest corporations in the world.

The combination of hefty price tags and a professional-class of super fans earned it the nickname “Patagucci” prompting it to reevaluate which companies it allowed to put a moniker on the vest as a way to ensure their partners align with their progressive culture.

Patagonia even discouraged consumers from partaking in Black Friday sales and snuck political messages into the tags of its clothing. Here’s how Patagonia’s anti consumption philosophy helped it build a billion dollar outdoor brand.

Fast Food: ‘How Much It Costs To Open An Arby’s’

Arby’s is one of America’s favorite fast food sandwich chains. They “have the meats,” according to award-winning actor Ving Rhames’ voice in the brand’s iconic commercials.

Arby’s has been known for its roast beef sandwiches since Leroy and Forrest Raffel opened the first Arby’s in 1964. They wanted to stand out in a sea of burger joints by offering something different: roast beef. They later added cheddar cheese sauce, red onion, and a toasted onion roll to the sandwich in 1978.

Flash forward, and Arby’s has started selling its famous meats by the pound. The fast food-chain also adds limited-time options to attract a variety of customers, such as an upgraded prime rib sandwich, and chicken cheddar ranch sandwich.

Today, Arby’s clearly wants to be seen as more than the place with roast beef. In fact, a campaign was launched called “Head of Sandwiches,” the main purpose of which was to promote the other sandwich options available at Arby’s. The campaign has been successful in attracting a younger consumer into the restaurant, according to Forbes.

Arby’s is currently owned by one of the largest restaurant companies in the U.S., Inspire Brands. In addition to Arby’s, Inspire Brands also owns Sonic, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Jimmy John’s. All combined, there are more than 11,000 restaurants, 1,400 franchisees, and $14.6 billion in system sales within the group, according to the company. Inspire Brands has recently filed trademarks for names of possible ghost kitchens which would offer delivery and takeout only a move that could put them ahead of several quick service chains.

If all this sounds enticing, here’s what you’ll need: The Arby’s team expects all franchise candidates to have extensive multi-unit restaurant operator experience, as well as a desire to open multiple Arby’s locations. You’ll also need a minimum of $500,000 in liquid capital, and a net worth of at least $1 million. Breaking it down further, according to Franchise Gator, Arby’s initial license fee is $37,500 for the first restaurant unit, and $25,000 for each additional store. Royalty fees are an additional 4 percent of gross sales. National and local advertising are additional fees 1.2 and 3 percent of gross sales respectively. Still on board?

Let’s keep going. Arby’s president Jim Taylor recently addressed 700 Arby’s franchisees, telling them, How is Arby’s innovating? Remember the pork belly sandwich, or the marrot, Arby’s meat carrot? Arby’s was also one of the first fast food chains to say it would never serve plant-based meat, according to Food & Wine. Still on the fence? Let’s look at a few more details about Arby’s.

As a franchisee of any corporation, what other franchisees do can trickle down to your stores. While you may own your own restaurants, you are still part of a big family. Arby’s ordered the franchisee to remove the sign and publicly issued an apology — but perhaps the PR damage was done. Which brings us to our next point to consider. Could it be better to open your own independent restaurant in lieu of a franchise? There are pros and cons to both scenarios.

As a franchisee, you benefit from branding, training, marketing, and ingredient sourcing, but also pay fees and royalties, lose some control as an owner, and are subject to scrutiny by the franchise. As an independent owner, you can control your own brand, marketing, menu, and hours, but you also start with no brand recognition, resources, training, or access to suppliers. So what did you decide?

If you’re interested in peddling those famous Arby’s meats, alongside the popular, perfectly seasoned curly fries, submit a franchise application online at Arby’s. Keep watching to see Here’s How Much It Really Costs To Open An Arby’s Franchise.

Retail Shopping: ‘How 2020 Is Reshaping Black Friday’

For years, one of the biggest days of the holiday shopping season was Black Friday. But in 2020, that could change. The coronavirus pandemic is fast-tracking big changes in retail that were already underway, pushing consumers into a digital future.

Illustration: Jacob Reynolds/WSJ

Oil & Climate Change: ‘The Economics Of Drilling In The Arctic’ (CNBC Video)

The Arctic is not a barren, frozen wasteland. It’s home to some of the most unique ecosystems in the world. More than this: it’s home to people. Those people are at the center of the controversy over drilling for oil in the Arctic. The Trump administration is now starting the formal process of selling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies, according to the New York Times. The move comes after the Trump administration opened the refuge for oil drilling in August 2020. There are potentially billions of dollars in untapped oil and gas reserves in the Arctic. But, there is value in keeping the region untouched, too. The Arctic provides more than $281 billion per year in fishing, oil, mineral extraction, tourism and climate stabilization services, according to a preliminary assessment done in 2016 by environmental economist Tanya O’Garra, who worked at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University at the time the research was conducted.

Retail Stores: ‘The Rise And Fall Of Macy’s’ (WSJ Video)

Macy’s has long been identified with the start of the holiday shopping season. But the company was hurting even before the coronavirus crisis hit the retail industry, raising questions about how far Macy’s star could fall.

Photo Illustration: Jacob Reynolds/WSJ

Politics: How Russian State Media Covers The 2020 U.S. Election (WSJ)

Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t congratulated President-elect Joe Biden, and state media appears largely to be echoing the Trump campaign’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Here’s what the U.S. elections and their aftermath look like on Russian television. Photo composite: VGTRK/Channel One Russia