The lure of the China market is legendary. The dream: Sell something to 1.3 billion people, and you're set.
The reality is totally different.
Ask the MBAs from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who tried to launch Auntie Anne's pretzels in China. The result is a funny, instructive and occasionally harrowing journey that is now the subject of a new book, The China Twist.
A number of luxury retailers are rolling out tactics this year to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year. For Bloomingdale's in New York City, though, reaching out to Asian shoppers during the cultural celebration is a decades-long tradition.
The upscale department store's marketing strategy traces back to 1971, the year President Nixon lifted the U.S. trade embargo with the People's Republic of China. Immediately, Marvin Traub, then-president of Bloomingdale's, decided he wanted to sell Chinese goods in his flagship store on the Upper East Side.
In rural Vermont, the U.S. Postal Service decision to discontinue Saturday letter delivery is yet another blow to an institution that's long been a fixture of village life.
Last year, the U.S. Postal Service abandoned plans to close thousands of small post offices, opting instead to cut hours. But there are fears the cuts will continue until the rural post office is no more.
Toyota and BMW have formed an alliance to work on fuel cell cars. So have Daimler, Ford, and Nissan, with hopes of having cars on the road by 2017. But why now, and what obstacles still stand in the way? Jennifer Kurtz discusses the current state of hydrogen fuel technology.
The No. 1 song in the country right now is "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a rap group out of Seattle. Their claim to fame: They got the song to the top of the chart by themselves, without being signed by a major label.
Civil rights advocates have long relied on a principle called, "disparate impact," to prove minorities are discriminated in housing. Now, the Supreme Court is poised to review whether it's a legitimate tool in such cases. Host Michel Martin speaks with investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has written about the issue for ProPublica.
All right. And our last word in business today is snakebite.
Over the next couple of weeks skies in many parts of Asia will be lit up with fireworks to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The Year of the Dragon is ending and Sunday marks the start of, yes, the Year of the Snake.
We'll begin NPR's business news starts with strong winds in Spain.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREENE: Spain has a pretty good location in the south of Europe. They are accustomed to good weather, plenty of sunshine, clear skies and wind - which the country is putting to good use. Spain has become a leader in renewable energy.
In fact, the countries wind farms have broken a new record, as Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.
(SOUNDBITE OF WIND TURNING TURBINES ON PLAINS SOUTH OF MADRID)
Boeing engineers in the Pacific Northwest are voting on whether to authorize a strike. The labor dispute is playing out against a dramatic backdrop. Here, the engineers are needed, now more than ever, to help fix the batteries on Boeing's flagship 787 Dreamliner.
As Ashley Gross of member station KPLU reports, that's given the engineers something that is rare for unions, these days - leverage.
Congress likes to say it no longer does earmarks, the provisions that direct federal dollars to serve local interests or campaign supporters. And though that may be true, it's also a fact that targeted provisions are still useful in moving legislation — even critical legislation like the bill that pulled Washington back from the fiscal cliff last month.
The National Transportation Safety Board says the battery fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner was caused by multiple short circuits in a single cell, but it still doesn't know what caused the problem. The NTSB also says the process the FAA used to approve the plane needs to be reviewed.
Movies are big business in China, and 2012 was another record year: Theaters raked in about $2.7 billion, pushing China past Japan to become the world's second-largest market.
Those blistering sales were expected; China's ultimate box-office champ, however, was not.
Hollywood blockbusters usually do well in China. And last year, competition was stiff, including a new installment of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, as well as Skyfall, the latest James Bond flick.
Thursday marks the beginning of New York Fashion Week, where big-name designers like Michael Kors, Anna Sui and Vera Wang will debut their Fall 2013 collections. It's part of an industry that generates billions of dollars of revenue for New York City, employing hundreds of thousands of workers. But the real business of fashion happens several blocks south of the glamorous Lincoln Center runways,in New York's Garment District.
Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 8:16 pm
Germany was the world's most future-oriented country in 2012, followed by Switzerland and Japan, according to the "Future Orientation Index." Researchers found that in Germany and 10 nations last year, more people used Google to search for "2013" than for "2011."
The 11 countries represent a gain over 2011, when only seven countries had as many searches for the upcoming year as for the prior one.
Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 12:54 pm
Lower-calorie foods are driving growth and profits for chain restaurants, according to fresh research, suggesting that people are making smarter choices when it comes to burgers and fries.
We're still ordering the burger and fries, mind you. But we're going for smaller portions and shunning sugary drinks. French fry sales dropped about 2 percent from 2006 to 2011, while sales of lower-calorie beverages rose 10 percent, the study found.
NPR's business news starts with Boeing's battery problem.
Boeing's new fleet of Dreamliner 787 aircraft is grounded. But there is one in the air right now. The FAA cleared the plane's flight this morning from Fort Worth, Texas to Seattle. Engineers at the Boeing factory there will study the plane's lithium ion batteries and look for ways to reduce fire risk. Regulators around the world grounded the Dreamliner last month after batteries overheated on two planes. Only crew are aboard the 787 currently on its way to Seattle.
And we have news of another fire sale. Our last word in business today is the buy of a lifetime.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
That's what some are calling the sale of a 20-acre estate outside Cedar Falls, Iowa, which sold for a winning bid of around $600,000. The precise amount was not disclosed. One expert says to build something like that estate today would cost $1.5 million.
In exchange for multibillion-euro bailouts, Greece was required to sell state-owned assets. But the sweeping privatization process is behind schedule. In addition, European governments are nervous that Chinese, Russian and Arab companies are lining up to take advantage of the Greek fire sale.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 5:12 pm
What do the Kansas City Royals, C. Everett Koop, Jack Nicholson and the United Methodist Church all have in common?
Turns out the Major League Baseball team, the former surgeon general, the actor and the denomination's general board and church society are all enemies of firearms, and as such have made it onto the National Rifle Association's list of "National Organizations With Anti-Gun Policies."
Epic water battles are the stuff of history and legend, especially in the West. And as a severe drought drags on in the Midwest, a water war is being waged over a river that irrigates agriculture in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.
It's that last border crossing where this water war is under way. Kansas has gone to the Supreme Court to argue that Nebraska uses too much water from the Republican River, and that there's not enough left for Kansas farmers.
The economy may be on the rebound, but life is getting tougher for some people in the middle class. With rising gas prices, insurance costs, and higher payroll taxes, people are feeling squeezed. Host Michel Martin asks if there's any financial relief in sight.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 12:29 pm
Update at 2:25 p.m. ET. It's Official:
Praising Sally Jewell as an executive who turned outdoors equipment retailer REI into one of the nation's most successful and environmentally conscious companies, President Obama just said he is nominating her to be his next interior secretary.
Noting that Jewell, who in a previous job worked as an engineer for Mobil, has also climbed mountains in Antarctica, the president joked about that being "just not something I think of doing."
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 11:30 am
Business leaders involved in homebuilding, oil drilling or automaking are happy about the way 2013 has kicked off. Lower- and middle-income consumers, on the other hand, are feeling like the year has kicked them in the head.
"Consumers have not rebounded with the arrival of the new year," says Ed Farrell, director of consumer insight at the Consumer Reports National Research Center. "Middle-income Americans were particularly hard hit this month and appear to be losing ground."