Marketplace - American Public Media

Kitchen appliances are back in fashion

Fri, 2015-05-08 02:00

Mother’s Day is coming up. People scrambling to grab a gift often head straight to the small appliances section. But those appliances aren't just for moms. People in general are cooking more at home, they’re entertaining, they’re devouring cookbooks and food blogs. Kitchen electrics make up a $7 billion industry. But the products are a lot different than they used to be. Except, of course, when they’re not. Confused?

Let’s start with coffee. Because in the world of small appliances, the coffee maker is king. Mary Rodgers, marketing director for Cuisinart, says her company just launched a new coffee/espresso maker.  It’s elaborate; it has a milk tank, a frothing wand, a steam control dial. Retail price? $600.

At the same time, simpler coffee makers like the French press are making a comeback, thanks to coffee shops. But it’s not just coffee makers. Small appliances now either do five things at once, or one simple thing, like something your grandmother used.

Debra Mednick, a home industry analyst with The NPD Group, says it’s part of a back-to-basics movement. To a lot of home cooks, she says, what’s old is new again. Sorry, not old… retro.

“We’re seeing products that are very traditional, or that go way back, that don’t necessarily have innovation,” Mednick says.

Like the slow cooker. Or KitchenAid’s stand mixer, which has barely changed since the 50’s.

“We are seeing evidence of products that have become popular that actually require some work,” she says.

Take meat grinders. Mednick says people today want control over their ingredients, they want to know where their food comes from. Beth Robinson, public relations manager for KitchenAid, says people want to be creative and have an easier time in the kitchen.

Toast is easy, right? Not with artisanal bread. So KitchenAid this year launched a $500 toaster with longer slots to fit those oddly shaped slices. Robinson says people will pay, especially if it’s pretty, “or if they want some really great functionality, they will spend $500 for a toaster.”

Now that the microwave isn’t taking up all the counter space, there’s room for that powerful new pulverizer, formerly known as the blender.

 

Toasters for Mother's Day, and beyond

Fri, 2015-05-08 01:00
$7 billion

 

This is the size of the kitchen electrics industry. With Mother's Day right around the corner, people rushing to grab a last-minute gift will often head to the kitchen appliance section in their local mall. But those appliances aren’t just for mom. People, in general, are using new products, buying classic ones, devouring cookbooks and browsing food blogs. This is part of a bigger trend of Americans cooking at home more often. 

 

233,000

 

That's how many jobs the U.S. economy added in the month of April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. That number is right in line with most economists' estimates, according to Jay Bryson at Wells Fargo Securities. The employment rate is even rosier, at 5.4 percent, a seven-year low.

 

$3.6 billion

 

This is how much Whole Foods reported in earnings in its second quarter. The retail chain is sometimes mockingly labeled "Whole Paycheck," says food analyst Darren Seifer, due to the expensive food items it offers. Now the grocery store is planning a spinoff that's "aimed at millennials," says a company rep. The new sister chain will be more affordable and more accessible for younger consumers wishing to buy organic. 

 

$100

 

This is how much nail salon owners charge each new employee for his/her job, according to the New York Times. In this investigative report, manicurists, mostly immigrants, are routinely exploited by their employers. In addition, they also often work long hours and endure abuse, according to the article.

 

$8 billion

 

On Monday, the Eurozone Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is deciding whether to release this amount in bailout funds to Greece. Greece's creditors have made their demands clear: before Athens receives any more cash, the government must toe the line on austerity. But the Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis says this plan would push the country further in debt.   

Mother's Day follows the DIY movement

Fri, 2015-05-08 01:00
$7 billion

This is the size of the kitchen electrics industry. With Mother's Day right around the corner, people rushing to grab a last-minute gift will often head to the kitchen appliance section in their local mall. But those appliances aren’t just for mom. People, in general, are using new products, buying classic ones, devouring cookbooks and browsing food blogs. This is actually part of the bigger trend showing that people are cooking at home more. 

233,000

That's how many jobs the U.S. economy added in the month of April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. That number is right in line with most economists' estimates, according to Jay Bryson at Wells Fargo Securities. The employment rate is even rosier, at 5.4 percent, a seven-year low.

$3.6 billion

This is how much reported earnings Whole Foods has in its second quarter. The retail chain is sometimes mockingly labeled "Whole Paycheck," says food analyst Darren Seifer, due to the expensive food items it offers. Now the grocery store is planning a spinoff that's "aimed at millennials," says the company representative. The new sister chain will be more affordable and more accessible for younger consumers wishing to buy organic. 

$100

This is how much nail salon owners charge each new employee for his/her job, according to the New York Times. In this investigative report, manicurists, mostly immigrants, are routinely exploited by their employers. In addition, they also often work long hours and endure abuse, according to the article.

$8 billion

On Monday, the Eurozone Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is deciding whether to release this amount in bailout funds to Greece. Greece's creditors have made their demands clear: before Athens receives any more cash, the government must toe the line on austerity. But the Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis says this plan would push the country further in debt.   

Silicon Tally: Anyway, here's Powerball

Thu, 2015-05-07 22:52

It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, we're joined by Lily Hay Newman, lead blogger for Slate's Future Tense.

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Are music festivals a bubble waiting to burst?

Thu, 2015-05-07 14:22

Forget sweltering clubs and concert halls. Summer tours for some bands are now a matter of hopping from one grassy lawn to another.

Take the indie rock band Modest Mouse. This summer they're playing at least 10 festivals in the U.S., Canada and overseas.

The number of multi-day music festivals in North America has gone from a handful to hundreds.

“We do live in a culture right now which is heavily saturated with festivals,” says Jonathan Levine, who heads of the Paradigm Talent Agency's Nashville office.“If someone has a plot of land and a checkbook, they can suddenly find themselves in the festival business.”

Levine's roster includes the Black Eyed Peas and the Grateful Dead – a band that played one of the most iconic music festivals. But a lot has changed since Woodstock.

Music festivals have gone mainstream, and they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars. Millennials, it seems, are willing to shell out for multi-day music experiences. And deep-pocketed corporate sponsors are willing to shell out to reach them.

And it's all come none too soon for musicians.

The growth in the number of music festivals over the last decade and half has coincided with a big shift in how people buy recorded music — if they buy it. And now streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and, soon, Apple's Beats are reinventing the model again.

“The whole industry, the whole — all of it — is changing so much, especially with the internet, downloads and MP3s and stuff. So, the festivals is really where it’s at,” Katelyn Shook says. Katelyn and her sister Laurie Shook are the front-women of the Shook Twins, a Portland-based indie folk pop group.

The stretch from May to September is the biggest time of year for the Shook Twins – biggest payouts, biggest crowds, biggest publicity. They plan their tours around festival dates.

“It’s so good for an up and coming band because when we go to a new territory, we don’t have to have the pressure of filling the club all by ourselves, we’re just part of this huge thing and they’re promoting it and they’re doing all the cool stuff for it,” Laurie Shook says.

The Shook Twins, Laurie and Katelyn Shook, in their van before a show in Spokane, Washington.

Jessica Robinson/Marketplace

But is there a ceiling on all this growth?

“The problem that we’ve got is that everyone is competing for the same pool of talent. And it’s not just in North America. It’s worldwide,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert business trade publication Pollstar.

For example, Bluesfest in Australia in early April snagged Ben Harper, Hozier, David Gray, Counting Crows and a lot of other in-demand acts, Bongiovanni says. And of course, if they're in Australia, they couldn't be in the U.S. for the ever-increasing number of festivals here. In Pollstar's 2014 year-end business analysis, Bongiovanni forecast the competition for big names could lead to a “bloody market correction that weeds out weaker festivals.”

And he’s not the only one making gloomy predictions.

“There’s only so many artists that can play and anchor and headline the festivals,” Levine says. “So it’s going to be a little bit survival of the fittest. Some will thrive and others will not.”

There's another force putting restrictions on the availability of big-name acts. It's called a “radius” clause. For example, the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee might tell a band it can’t play within 300 miles of the festival two months before or after. Larger festivals use the agreements to make sure they keep exclusive rights on the headliners – and the hype surrounding them.

Still, all of this isn’t bothering Drew Lorona too much. He's one of the founders of the fledgling Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho, which just wrapped up its fourth year. Like most new festivals, it’s struggled to turn a profit. But Lorona says the urban music festival has been careful to grow slowly and put its emphasis on discovering unknown bands.

“I think the festivals that will struggle are going to be the ones that don't have that differentiation. … And that seems to be what's popping up the most – is kind of branded as like a party in the desert type of thing,” says Lorona.

And speaking of popping up, he knows of at least two new music festivals starting in Idaho this summer.

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