Blinkist Update: Top 3 Books From November

Blinkist Update: Top 3 Books From November

I’ve now read almost 70 books since I signed up with Blinkist in late September. I read one book every morning at the gym while working out on the stationary bike. Best app ever and it does indeed deliver on its promise to “Serve Curious Minds.”

and Here are my top 3 reads from November😜
For The Record – – by David Cameron

Great read from the former Prime Minister of England who was brought down by the Brexit referendum. Until I read this book I hadn’t been aware of the role immigration played in the outcome of the vote.

I thought it was all about trade but according to Cameron’s book, the biggest factor in the decision to stay or leave the EU was the influx of immigrants to Britain from other EU countries (over a million when they had been told it would be 13K).

The Ride of a Lifetime – – by Robert Iger

The inside story of Disney’s comeback and how Iger’s career was shaped by his father and by preparedness for chance encounters (one especially fateful one at a hospital while visiting a distant relative).

Iger had several career-defining moments throughout his life but one of his biggest bets came just as he was named the president of ABC TV. ABC was failing and he knew he needed something groundbreaking to get it out of its doldrums. He staked his reputation on David Lynch and the cult TV show, Twin Peaks. It was a risky gamble but it paid off. He was suddenly getting calls from filmmakers like Spielberg and George Lucas who now wanted to work with him. It had been a dicey move to go with Lynch but it cemented his reputation as a visionary leader with good creative instincts.

The low point of his career came during his first years at Disney. All his efforts were stymied by Eisner who had a particularly poor relationship with Pixar. No sooner had that been resolved then 9/11 happened. It was a very challenging start for his tenure at Disney.

However, Iger had developed a great working relationship with Steve Jobs, which led to the acquisition of Pixar. Later, with the purchase of Marvel, Disney’s fortunes turned around. Most recently, he bet big on streaming and it appears to be paying off spectacularly. His leadership has been defined by such bold, risky moves.

The Surprising Science of Meetings – – by Steven G. Rogelberg

Fantastic read on how to organize productive meetings. Here are some highlights:

  • Most meetings are scheduled to last an hour but researchers have found that shortening meetings, makes attendees more productive.
  • One company found that by starting its meetings at a quirky time, e.g., 8:48 am, people were more intrigued and they were more likely to arrive on time.
  • Another tip is to make meetings very short, e.g., 15-minutes. These meetings, known as “huddles,” have been shown to boost performance. Huddles were very popular in the Obama White House.
  • And the most intriguing tip of all: the optimal number of people to have at a meeting? No more than seven! That’s the key number if you want to have the most productive meeting. All those extra people are dead weight, and actually counterproductive!
Bottom Line.

Based on having read almost 70 books, I’m now more on board with Blinkist than ever. I love everything about it and consider it the best $99 I’ve spent on self-improvement. I am also naming Blinkist my best product discovery of the year.

Happy Reading!!

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Deliveries This Year Will Be A Nightmare

Deliveries This Year Will Be A Nightmare

This week, UPS dropped off a box on the street outside of our building. It was addressed to somebody at a building across the street. It was big and heavy but I managed to wrangle it over there and left it with the plant store on the ground floor. Then I tweeted about it and UPS got in touch and I sent them a photo of the package label. But lest you think this was a one-off problem, read on.

My trainer at the gym told me yesterday that he had the same thing happen to him this weekend. He had purchased a 56″ TV from Best Buy. He stayed home to receive the delivery which never came. Why? Because his giant TV was dropped off in an unattended lobby of a neighboring highrise – again by UPS. An honest neighbor in that building rang his buzzer to alert him. To make matters worse, Best Buy had shipped the wrong TV and he ended up having to schlep it back and get a new one.

I’ve written about this several times previously. But this year – especially from now until after the holidays, I’m expecting nothing but the worst when it comes to deliveries.

WHY?

Retailers posted a record $7.4B in online sales on Black Friday – that’s a 20% increase over last year. And Cyber Monday, at $9.2B, was up 17% from last year.

On top of those increases in online shopping, more people are demanding next day -or even same-day – deliveries.

For UPS, FedEx, USPS to meet that demand is clearly a bridge too far. They’re not able to hire enough good people nor are the logistics in place for them to be able to make 20% more deliveries in such a short period of time.

I’ve observed, firsthand, delivery guys with all their packages scattered over the street as they try to organize deliveries by building. They look stressed and they are stressed. I personally don’t understand why we need everything delivered in a nanosecond. On top of everything else, it is hugely wasteful and inefficient.

And then there’s the whole issue of porch pirates.

Research firm Edelman Intelligence estimates that 23 million Americans have had at least one holiday package stolen since 2014. Most were taken from porches while residents were at work.

For 18 to 34 year-olds who do more online shopping, 45% have had a package not show up.

Per the NY Times, in NYC, where more orders are delivered than anywhere else in the country, over 90,000 packages a day are stolen or disappear without explanation, up 20% from four years ago.

15% of all deliveries in urban areas fail to reach customers because of package theft or mistakes that result in deliveries to the wrong address.

Bottom line.

Online shopping is easy and convenient if you have a doorman or other safe way of receiving packages. For those of us who do not, it’s become a total crapshoot.

I place a monthly household order which is starting to fill me with dread as I consider whether any of my purchases will end up at my address or will some neighbor soon be enjoying my raisin bran and Lavazza coffee. The most important item ordered this month are my Blundstone boots – scheduled for delivery today. They had better not go astray.

And, by the way, I have also considered shipping items to the Amazon lockers at my local Whole Foods. But that just defeats the whole purpose of delivery which is convenience. I might then just as well buy all those items at my local drug store or at Whole Foods itself. Aaargh.

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Mom-And-Pops Are Overrated. There, I Said It.

Mom-And-Pops Are Overrated. There, I Said It.

I don’t understand why people feel the need to romanticize these frequently disorganized, out-of-date, dirty stores and restaurants.

I’ve never been a fan (or a patron) of the old-school stores and greasy spoons in my neighborhood (and I’ve lived here for almost 30 years so have seen them all). Most of them suck.

What I find most annoying is that when one of these businesses shutters, people’s first reaction is to blame greedy landlords. And they do this even if they have not patronized that mom-and-pop in years. And even when the mom-and-pop is actually its own landlord – as is frequently the case with the kitchen supply stores on the Bowery as well as restaurants in the neighborhood, e.g., Noho Star. These owners have struggled and worked hard in this neighborhood when it was at its absolute worst. Now they have the opportunity to cash out and retire. We should be celebrating them not bitching at them because they’re messing with our nostalgia for the past.

So what is happening?
First and foremost, tastes are changing
  • And they’re changing faster than ever. How we’re shopping, store design, environmental-issues, dietary restrictions, e.g., vegan, how food is served, e.g., in bowls, delivery vs. eating out, partnerships and collaborations, the excitement of product drops.
  • Those that don’t keep up, go under – and they’re going under more quickly than before.
But There are plenty of small, independent businesses
  • My neighborhood is filled with them, some are flourishing.
  • But I would never, under any circumstances, call these small, independent businesses “mom-and-pops,” e.g., Wildfang, Everlane, Allbirds, the Plantshed, Supreme to name a few.
  • My question is if these small businesses actually succeed and expand at what point are we obligated to start hating on them? The Plantshed, e.g., has two stores if it grows to ten are we still allowed to love it or do we have to go all hostile on it for being a chain?
I’m also a huge fan of independent restaurants/cafes
  • That’s all I patronize and am always rooting for them to thrive and succeed over the long haul. The “long haul,” however, is shorter today than in years past.
  • My neighborhood is filled with gems like Wayan, Uncle Boon’s (my favorite Thai), Lovely Day and Smile (Brad’s favorites), Cafe Habana, Cafe Gitane, and Freeman’s (all always bustling). And, of course, my neighbor on Rivington Street, Morgenstern’s Ice Cream is a mom-and-pop without the mom or the pop.
  • These are all creative, independent, flourishing businesses that have succeeded, where others have failed because they’ve kept up with the times. They are not resting on their laurels, they’re constantly experimenting and trying new things. Will they still be there in 20 years? I doubt it. But maybe.
To be a mom-and-pop you need a family to take over the business.
  • That is less likely to happen today.
  • Many restaurants in Chinatown, for example, are expected to close over the next few years as the owners retire and their sons and daughters have gone on to be doctors and lawyers. The adult children of some of these restaurateurs, have told me that their parents would consider themselves failures if their children were to take over their “mom and pop” businesses.
  • You can’t have a mom-and-pop if nobody is carrying on the family business.
Scroll down for more on the old vs. the new
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First Black Friday At Hudson Yards: What Happened To Decorations?

First Black Friday At Hudson Yards: What Happened To Decorations?

Wow! Barely a trace of holiday decorations at Hudson Yards. I spoke to a few people who work there, all felt it was a big miss. In the meantime, kudos to Neiman Marcus for providing the only holiday vibe with their amazing Instagram extravaganza. A must-see.

Overall impressions of Black Friday at Hudson Yards:
  • By mid-afternoon, Hudson Yards was busy but it wasn’t uniformly jam-packed.
  • The vibe was good but a bit low-energy
  • Less than 5% of people were carrying shopping bags
  • Some stores, e.g., Heidi Klein were completely empty each time I walked by – not a good sign.
  • Bags I saw most often: Zara, H&M, Muji, Sephora, Neiman’s, Madewell, Lululemon, Kenzo, Uniqlo
  • People are way more into noshing than shopping.
  • The Wells Fargo Lodge with its 360-degree photobooth is really fun. Make sure you check it out. The selfie cookies will be available next week.
  • Every day at 5:00 PM, visitors can experience LYRA, a dramatic indoor-outdoor light and music installation created by artist Christopher Schardt. This series of star-shaped sculptures, each comprised of 12,000 individually controllable LED lights are the only holiday decor you’ll find at HY.
  • The crowd was a diverse mix of ages and ethnicities. Lots of families with strollers and lots of tourists. And lots of really cool young Asians. At the Neiman Instagram event, a group of THE coolest guys (I’m pretty sure a K-pop group) came in and posed with some of the mannequins seated at the table. Their handler told me “no photos” – of course, I didn’t listen so if anybody recognizes the guy I videotaped, let me know.
Scroll down and join me on my Black Friday stroll through Hudson Yards.
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It’s Black Friday: Here Are The 5 Stores I’ll Be Hitting Up

It’s Black Friday: Here Are The 5 Stores I’ll Be Hitting Up

I currently have 5 favorite stores – all within walking distance of my home. I checked them out on Wednesday and will perhaps stop by today to pick up a few things to upgrade my wardrobe. But if the crowds are too crazy, I will head right back home😜

but first, some Thoughts on black friday shopping

In my younger years, I would rationalize buying stuff that was on sale by telling myself what a bargain it was – even if it didn’t fit quite right or I wasn’t crazy about it for whatever reason.

What I realized over time is that those “sale” items ended up almost NEVER being worn.

The important lesson I gradually learned was that I should only buy things that I was prepared to pay full price for – and if they happen to be on sale, great. Therefore, over the last 20 years, I can honestly say I never head for the sales rack.

I buy very few things but what I do get, I really love and feel great wearing. Of course, I still make the occasional mistake but I am happy to report that I could reach into my wardrobe blindfolded and whatever item I pull out I would love wearing.

One last point about Black Friday. Most of us already have brimming closets, so much so that a whole industry of de-cluttering has emerged. And yet, we still feel the need to fight for that amazing “deal.” I say, really really think about whether you need it. Be mindful about how long before it ends up in your declutter pile and ultimately a landfill?

Scroll down for more on where my wardrobe budget goes – black friday or not
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Have You Heard About UZ? It’s New On My Radar.

Have You Heard About UZ? It’s New On My Radar.

On Saturday, while walking across Howard Street in downtown Manhattan, an unusual store caught my attention. No identification outside but the interior had a futuristic vibe. Two guys, standing outside told me their wives had been in there for a while shopping. They encouraged me to check it out.

As it turns out it’s the flagship of the newest J-Beauty sensation, UZ, a highly unconventional Tokyo-based lip, and eyeliner brand. The founder started in beauty eight years ago with a company called Flowfushi that is now defunct.

The staff at the flagship is super cool and wear that eyeliner really well. Plus, they’re incredibly nice and helpful.

Here’s what the founder recently told Allure:

“Our products are often subcategory-defining products. They’re always launched through fun, unconventional campaigns that are groundbreaking and generate huge crowds and enormous buzz.”

Hiroshi Imamura, Founder UZ
And Here’s what I learned from spending 30 minutes in the store:
  • It’s not a pop-up but it closes every few months, for an indeterminate period of time, before re-opening with a new product. These “openings” are called Phases. This current one is Phase 3 and it opened on 11/15 and will close on 12/31/19.
  • They claim the Tokyo-based owner has a long lease on the building. The first-floor space, pictured above, is exquisitely restored (see more photos below). No expense has been spared to make sure every detail from the display cases to the brickwork is perfect.
But here’s what puzzles me
  • They only sell two products – an eyeliner and a self-moisturizing lip product that they claim works even when you’re not wearing it (?). Supposedly it’s the #1 lip treatment in Japan.
  • The price for the lip product is a mere $20.
  • Their eyeliner, which comes in various colors, including 7 shades of black, is $16.
  • I also learned that their blackest black eyeliner was created specifically for NYers who had requested it using those space-age phone booths (photo above) that were designed to let customers communicate directly with the founder about their product wants and desires.
  • J-Beauty is clearly up-and-coming but how does UZ make money? Unless they’re using crazy VC money none of this makes sense.
  • How can 2 products at these low price points support this flagship?
  • Especially when Glossier, which is just around the corner, has 100 young women standing in line outside of their store and UZ had at most 10 customers at any one time – many, from what I overheard, coming in to check out the futuristic, spacey decor (as I did).
Bottom Line.

I love the aesthetics of this brand. And am intrigued by UZ and its founder – even though I don’t get how they’re making any money. Maybe this is a side gig for Imamura? It’s interesting that he’s been in business for 8 years and yet there is virtually nothing on him besides two articles, one in Allure, and one in Vogue. He’s playing it very close to the vest and every article features the same talking points.

That said, he’s picked the coolest street in Manhattan for his first store. So kudos to him for knowing where the cool kids go to shop.

And a heads up for any of you who might be looking for a quick tip sheet on where to find the most creative and influential retailers in NYC. I recommend you head to this 4-block stretch of Howard Street. I wrote about it two years ago and it’s all still true.

If you make it down to UZ, I also suggest you check out Madhappy at 25 Howard St. Their concept is mental health positivity which just got them $1.8 million in funding from LVMH. Howard Street is also where you’ll find style-obsessed skater boys at Palace Skateboards. And the two brands that initially put the street on the map are still going strong as well: Opening Ceremony and Rick Owens.

Scroll down for photos from my visit to UZ.
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Holiday Windows Are Unveiled But Midtown Feels So Lonely And Sad

Holiday Windows Are Unveiled But Midtown Feels So Lonely And Sad

It used to take me 2-3 days to cover NYC’s top retail windows. This year, it’ll take me 2-3 hours because there are fewer stores and for those that are left, windows are a lesser priority. On top of that, Midtown around 57th Street from Fifth Avenue to Lexington was virtually bereft of shoppers. I’ve never seen it like this.

Fortunately, downtown was hopping. The line at Glossier was 100-strong, Soho was jampacked and Supreme, as always, had a line running down Spring Street. And, btw, I discovered a fantastic new(ish) Japanese cosmetic brand that only does eyeliner and lip treatments but they have a fabulous store on Howard Street (writing about it for Monday). Blown away!

I’m also checking out Hudson Yards this Friday and have high hopes I will not be disappointed. Their inaugural Holiday Program titled Shine On will start at 8 am and run through the day into the night.

The highlight will be at 5 pm with the debut of artist Christopher Schardt’s Lyra, a series of star-shaped sculptures, each comprised of 12,000 individually controlled LED lights, creating a visual spectacle synchronized to a classical soundtrack evoking the holiday season. The special “Shine On” show will occur every evening at 5 PM, and the lights will undulate continuously throughout the day and night.

The installation was curated by Culture Corps, a creative consulting firm founded by Doreen Remen and Yvonne Force Villareal.

While at Hudson Yards, I’m also looking forward to checking out the Wells Fargo Lodge, located near the Vessel. I’m especially intrigued to see what the 360-degree photo booth and the holiday selfie cookies are about!

But back to the Holiday Windows

I started at Macy’s (high marks for interactivity) and everyone who stepped inside the store gasped at how beautiful it looked – hopefully, this will not turn out to be a last gasp for Macy’s.

Moving on to 57th Street, I loved the Vuitton store. Wrapping stores appears to be quite the thing nowadays. Dior was also wrapped – but not with a holidays’ theme.

Bergdorfs was a bit lackluster. Tiffany’s was wrapped in scaffolding along 57th Street – a total bust. Although the under-construction Tiffany Men’s Store looks like it will be amazing.

Finally, Bloomingdale’s. It had a robotic theme but the fashion and styling brought Russian fashions of the ’80s to mind. I don’t know why but I felt it strongly. Maybe too much politics lately.

Scroll down and follow me on my Saturday Holiday Window Reveal. You be the judge as to how this year stacks up to years past.
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Check Out Virgil Abloh’s New 2054 Pop-Up Residency In Soho

Check Out Virgil Abloh’s New 2054 Pop-Up Residency In Soho

Virgil Abloh, artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear collection, clearly loves a good colorful pop-up. He did a fabulous one on the Lower East Side for his FW19 Collection and has now taken it to the next level with this futuristic “residency” for his 2054 capsule collection.

If Abloh’s got it right, LVMH’s future is shiny, bright and iridescent.

This 14–piece capsule collection has been designed to illustrate how we will be dressing in 2054, i.e., 200 years after Louis Vuitton was first launched in 1854.

The line is built around military-inspired performance wear pieces, including parkas and sneakers. Everything is multi-purpose, e.g., cargo pants with multiple removable pockets. Abloh also pays homage to Vuitton’s travel history with signature pieces, including cross-body bags and duffles that roll out to become sleeping bags.

The pop-up is located at 122 Greene Street (corner of Prince). It soft-opened a week ago but the “official” opening is December 6. When I was there yesterday morning (November 21), it was totally chill, no insane lines.

Bottom Line.

It’s worth checking out anything Abloh does. He has become a major figure in the design/retail world. His artistic vision is single-handedly altering how we perceive luxury and streetwear – especially for men. And he’s done wonders for Vuitton’s image. The brand is attracting younger shoppers and has become increasingly relevant and aspirational during his short stint at the creative helm.

Ultimately, it will be about the bottom line. Only time will tell.

The stress seems to be taking a bit of a toll on Abloh. In September he announced that on doctor’s orders he was taking a three-month medical leave and working from home.

Scroll down for more including photos from Vuitton’s summer pop-up on Rivington.
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