National / International News
Hasbro has long been known for brands like Nerf and G.I. Joe. But last year it snatched a contract from the hands of rival Mattel: the Disney princess contract.
Jaime Katz, an analyst for Morningstar who tracks Hasbro, says that contract is worth around $300 million per year. And of course, it includes the famous princess sisters Elsa and Anna from the hit film Frozen.
But licensing isn't the only growth strategy for Hasbro. It still sends reps to game inventor shows and develops relationships with the people whose ideas become hit card games, according to Mary Couzens, founder and CEO of the Chicago Toy and Game Group.
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Years ago, under another name, the shop at 2900 West 87th Street, on Chicago’s South Side, was a convenience store, which happened to sell lottery tickets. Then, Mr. Chan Park took over and turned it into Lucky Mart— a kind of Lottery Tickets ‘R’ Us. Park sold more than $5 million worth of tickets last year.
Lucky Mart's tellers sit behind thick glass at the ticket windows. There are still Honey Buns and chips on the shelves, but nobody buys any—at least, not in the hour-and-change I spend here. The ticket machines, however, never stop ringing and buzzing.
Chan Park came to the U.S. from South Korea in 2001 and bought a laundromat. A few years later, he took over this store.
However, with three big discount supermarkets right nearby, he knew he needed to reinvent the business. "I thought, I don’t have any competitive power for that kind of grocery," he says.
Not for groceries. But he knew the store had sold a $28 million lottery ticket, and that seemed worth building on. He re-branded as Lucky Mart. Park says he believes there’s something lucky about the location.
He doesn’t mention it, but the location has another advantage: This is a primarily African-American neighborhood. Research shows African-Americans play the lottery a lot more than other groups.
About ten minutes into our conversation, we’re interrupted by a visit from Park's sales rep from the Illinois lottery accompanied by three regional officials.
They say they had no idea a reporter was coming. They're here for what's become an annual ritual: Awarding Park a plaque commemorating his success as the operator of the state lottery's top-grossing location.
The officials agree that the store’s focus— and location — explain that success.
Also, customer service — in particular a clerk named Becky Reidy, who has been selling lottery tickets here since before Mr. Park took over.
Frank Taylor, the Chicago area’s sales director, calls her the best he’s ever seen. "She’s super with the players," he says. "She knows all of our games, she knows all of our promotions. And she’s, like, really into the lottery."
To Reidy, I admit: I’ve never played the lottery.
"Don’t start," she says. "Bad habit!"
She smiles— and laughs, a little nervously —but she seems to mean it. She says she doesn’t play anymore.
I ask her if she feels a little funny about selling it.
"Oh sure," she says. "I know the economy sucks. Money could go elsewhere."
One economist found that, when people buy lottery tickets, they’re often using money they would have spent on household necessities—like food.
"I could never work in a casino," Reidy says.
But here’s the thing: Casinos are arguably less of a rip-off than the lottery.
In Illinois, and around the country, about 60 percent of what lottery customers spend on tickets comes back as prize money. At slot machines, where casinos make the most money, it’s often more like 90 percent.
More drones could be coming to a neighborhood near you, and they’ll be from your insurance company.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved several insurers to use drones to assess property damage.
Soon our blue skies might be dotted with hundreds of little drones.
Sound like science fiction? It’s not.
“In light of the proposed new regulations from the FAA that came out a few weeks ago, there [are] going to be a lot more commercial agencies using drones for all kinds of things from insurance assessments to agriculture to fire rescue,” says Matt Sloane, president of Atlanta Drone Consultants.
Part of that, Sloane says, is because they’re so useful.
“What drones really offer is the ability to get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on, so that doesn’t help in every industry,” he says. "But certainly for things like insurance assessments where you fly something like this just a hundred feet over, over a damage scene to do an assessment, you really get a different view of what’s going on.”
During natural disasters helicopters are typically used to assess damage, but they can cost $1,000 an hour and put people’s lives in jeopardy, Sloane said.
That’s why insurance companies like State Farm are so interested in drones.
The insurer was the first to get FAA approval to use unmanned aircrafts for damage assessment.
"If we can send a drone to look over at our customer’s house and determine, 'Okay they have significant damage there,'” says Justin Tomczak, the Georgia spokesperson for State Farm. “That information could be relayed to their agent and we can call [our client] and say I noticed your house has significant damage, we’re cutting you a check right now to cover your immediate expenses that you may have.”
If you’re worried about all those little devices recording you, Matt Sloane says you might just have to get used it.
“Although I will say most of them don’t have cameras with the ability to zoom so it’s not going to be a sort of satellite situation from a 1,000 feet you could zoom in and see every little detail,” says Sloane. “You really need to get a lot closer with a drone to be able to see a detailed image.”
The FAA currently has a public comment period open to address concerns; it ends on April 24.
Investment firm Morgan Stanley on Monday became the last of the major banks to report earnings, and it was more good news for investment banking. The firm beat forecasts. Net revenue was up 10.3 percent.
Last week, other major U.S. banks also reported mostly good news and, in almost all cases, profits were boosted by the firms' investment banking businesses — the very same businesses that came under increased scrutiny and regulation after the 2008 financial crisis, and that were the subject of tighter regulations.
"After the crisis, a false narrative developed" about investment banking, says Charles Calomiris of Columbia Business School. Banks that engage is investment activity are not necessarily taking big risks with money. "There's a wide variety of activities that actually have very little risk, that are fee for service, that actually add a lot to the stability of the banking system," Calomiris says.
Those services include facilitating stock trades, advising corporations and wealth management. Fees for such services are playing a big role in bank profits now, and the timing has to do with soaring stock prices, according to Lawrence White, an economics professor at New York University.
"The stock market has been doing well lately, and the volume, the pace of mergers and acquisitions has been increasing," which in turn increases banks' revenues from fees, says White.
But, White cautions, big banks are under increased regulatory scrutiny because there is still risk involved in their dual practices of investment banking and traditional banking, especially if the current good times come to an end and banks looks for riskier ways to bring in profits.
The NBA and the International Basketball Federation are playing host to a basketball development camp in Havana this week.
That propels the NBA into sports history: it will be the first American sports league to visit Cuba since President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations. Cuban Basketball Federation President Ruperto Herrera was quoted in an NBA press release as saying, “This is a great day for Cuban basketball and our federation.” It’s also pretty savvy on the NBA’s part.
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Traditional celebrity gossip—be it in print, on television, or written about online—deals in the real world goings-on of celebrity life. But a popular Instagram account is garnering attention for looking at the social media lives of those in the entertainment industry. The Shade Room, as it’s known, focuses on how well-known personalities interact in forums like Twitter and Instagram.
“It’s very much kind of an intra-instagram kind of network,” says Jenna Wortham, technology reporter for The New York Times, who recently wrote about The Shade Room, calling it Instagram’s very own “TMZ.”
“You’re going to see lot of things very specific to social media,” says Wortham. “It tends to focus on when Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are having a back and forth on instagram. It captures that and posts it. It aggregates all of that it in one space.”
Wortham met and interviewed the founder of The Shade Room, a 24-year-0ld woman named Angie, who wants to be known only by her first name.
Given the popularity of her ‘Insta-blog,’ why is she so secretive?
“She knows that the appeal of Shade Room is that it kind of has this sort of Oz-like omnipotence,” says Wortham. “To show the wizard behind the curtain would remove some of the mystique and the mystery.”
It’s smart decision on her part, adds Wortham, because the mystery keeps things more fun and interesting.
Angie runs the blog with the help of a handful of employees. The Shade Room started out on Instagram, but since then it has launched a regular blog. It also has accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and advertises on all of these platforms.
Could this turn into a breaking news site for celebrity news? “I think down the line absolutely it could be a place where people break news or want to make announcements or talk about an album release or a new concert tour,” says Wortham. “I dont think thats’ out of her reach at all.”