By Colin Campbell - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 0 Comments
A monthly scorecard on the state of the economy in North America and beyond
Markets are sinking; foreclosures are rising; and the fiscal cliff is looming. The United States is in pretty rough shape again. Right on cue, the Occupy Wall Street movement is back, with a new campaign launched last week called Rolling Jubilee. Described as “a bailout of the people by the people” it buys up distressed household debt (like credit card debt) that’s normally sold by lenders to collection agencies for a fraction of its original value. Rather than try to collect on it, Rolling Jubilee forgives the debt. As of last week, it had raised $285,000 in donations, enough to buy $5.7-million worth of defaulted loans.
Rolling Jubilee has received almost unanimously positive attention (even Forbes praised the idea). It uses private donations, and the way the distressed debt is sold means those lucky enough to have their debts forgiven are chosen at random. More importantly, it’s a creative, free-market response to what is still a serious problem dogging America’s economy, and one that could soon blow the bottom out of Canada’s.
Last week, a Bank of Canada official warned yet again that household indebtedness is the biggest risk facing the economy—bigger than a U.S. recession, Europe’s debt crisis or falling demand for commodities. Interest rates aren’t going anywhere (except maybe down), either, so indebtedness is only going to keep growing. (It’s fair to say the central bank’s debt warnings over the years have been useless, and now border on disingenuous). Continue…
By Erica Alini - Monday, March 14, 2011 at 6:12 PM - 4 Comments
Just two years after inaugurating a superstore in Shanghai, Barbie is packing up
Just two years after inaugurating her six-storey superstore in Shanghai, Barbie, Mattel’s iconic doll, is packing up. Her bright-pink mansion, which included a spa, a cosmetics counter, and a cocktail bar, served its purpose of establishing the brand in the new market, the toy maker said, but analysts insist the closure proves that Barbie failed to charm Chinese consumers.
Some experts say the doll’s exquisitely Western glamour—she was last seen wearing sexy clothes designed by Patricia Field of Sex and the City—didn’t quite cut it with a female public that adores the more girly gadgets of Hello Kitty. Others cited Chinese parents’s legendary rigor to explain why local children have displayed an unusually muted enthusiasm towards the toy industry.
Admittedly, Barbie’s sales have been stagnating across the world for years. But other thriving U.S. retailers have seen similarly awkward debuts in China. Both Best Buy and Home Depot recently announced store closures there. Like Mattel, the two retail giants offered expensive products that Chinese consumers could easily get from cheaper local competitors. Even as retail sales grew more than 18 per cent in 2010 from year-ago levels, China, it turns out, isn’t a sure money-maker.