Can American Malls Be Saved?


Photo of abandoned mall: Sarah Martin

Today’s Top Stories

The Malls of the Future: Companies reimagine what we can do with all that space.

A Zenefits Gamble Pays Off: An unconventional offer leads to a more motivated workforce.

Tim Cook’s Run Around Trump: The Apple CEO allies with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Has Fresh Food Become a Luxury in the City? Farmers markets are more expensive there and they tend to be in places that can afford it.

Pharmaceutical Kickbacks Aren’t What They Used To Be But They’re Still Effective: Even a slice of pizza can impact what prescriptions get written.

The Malls of the Future. Companies are aiming to reimagine the brick-and-mortar store (Fast Company). At a 10,000-square-foot location in Manhattan, activewear seller Bandier uses the first floor for traditional retail but devotes two other levels for events and various fitness classes. According to Neil Boyarsky, Bandier’s CEO, “What are the experiences you actually need to leave your home for and go see for yourself?” Fast Company frames this as a story about revitalizing malls. Indeed, many malls in the U.S. are turning into ghost towns, which offers an opportunity for businesses trying out ways to bring them back to life. There’s a lot of space to fill. Bandier’s New York City location, at a desirable Fifth Avenue location, may not augur much for the abandoned malls in much less hip locations, but it does suggest that retail companies with access to a lot of space can diversify what they use that space for and increase both foot traffic and revenue.

A Zenefits Gamble Pays Off. Last week we reported on a move by Zenefits that included layoffs and what CEO David Sacks called “The Offer”: a modest severance package to any remaining employees who did not believe in the company. He set a 48-hour deadline. How’d it go? Sacks says around 10% of employees took him up on the deal (Venture Beat). Give workers at a scandal-tainted business a public chance to bail or double-down; it’s likely that the Zenefits workforce as a whole is more committed than it was a week ago.

Tim Cook’s Run Around Trump. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is taking a pass on sponsoring the Republican National Convention that will likely nominate Donald Trump and instead hosting a private fundraiser later this month for the political operation of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (Bloomberg), who’s the closest thing to Trump’s counterweight in the GOP. Ryan isn’t necessarily a friend of many of the issues Cook advocates. But large companies and their CEOs want to curry favor with prominent representatives of both main political parties in the U.S. And Ryan is certainly closer to Cook’s and Apple’s positions than Trump, who called for a boycott of Apple back in February over the San Bernardino phone-unlocking case.

Has Fresh Food Become a Luxury in the City? Fresh food costs more in the city. A study by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shows that vendors charge high prices at urban farmers markets than those held in rural areas (Washington Post). According to farmer Jim Crawford, the urban areas that host farmers markets tend to be “a lot more affluent, and the vendors there all know that.” The piece leaves out a key fact: farmers markets in cities tend to happen only in upscale neighborhoods, leaving other areas virtual fresh-food deserts.

Pharmaceutical Kickbacks Aren’t What They Used To Be But They’re Still Effective. Every now and then we see stories of lavish payment or benefits swaying physicians to prescribe certain drugs or treatments more commonly. Turns out it doesn’t take a seminar in Aruba to make an impact on what patients get. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, even cheap meals–less than $20–can influence what doctors prescribe. (Wall Street Journal). A voluntary code by drugmakers to “rein in more lavish perks” and the 2010 Affordable Care Act requires drug and medical-device makers to report payments and gifts. But, according to lead study author R. Adams Dudley of UCSF, “the study calls into question the notion that visits by sales reps are purely educational.” Transparency will help here, but humans are humans.

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