Spending on Valentines goes to the dogs


February 13, 2020

Your move, Emoji Mashup Bot. Google said yesterday that its new “Emoji Kitchen” is bringing hybrid emoji to the Gboard keyboard for Android. The news reminded us of a classic combo — Sax Caterpillar: 🎷🐛. Ain’t he cute? Today:

  • Romantic spending has us seduced
  • Open hiring gives job seekers a boost
  • Your .com bill could soon be juiced
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Puppy Love

Valentine’s Day spending is booming. Your coworkers and pets are getting more of the love.

Attention, procrastinating lovers: You’ve got one day left before Valentine’s Day is here, and then your time to shop for flowers and candy is up.

If you do decide to play along with one of our most cloying traditions, you won’t be alone. The National Retail Federation says expected spending on Valentine’s Day is taking off — up to $196.31 per lovebird this year. That’s up 21% from last year.

But something weird is happening

Spouses and significant others are still expected to see Cupid’s share of that spending — 52%. But that’s a much smaller chunk of the chocolate box than it used to be. A decade ago, it was 61%.

Where’s the rest of the money going? To your coworkers (why??) — and your furry friends.

  • The NRF says the shares of Valentine’s Day spending on coworkers (7%) and pets (6%) have both doubled in the last decade (from 3% each). 
  • That translates to more than $1.5B for each group.

Here’s what gift-givers are buying:

  • Jewelry is still king — Valentine’s day shoppers will spend $5.8B on it.
  • They’ll also spend $2.3B on stems. 1-800-Flowers.com expects to sell 18.5m flowers, 11m of which will be roses.
  • Another $2.4B will go toward candy.

Speaking of candy — for fans of Sweethearts, the classic confection stamped with mini messages like BE MINE, this year’s holiday is bittersweet.

That’s because their original maker got dumped 

Necco went out of business in 2018. Their new manufacturer — Spangler Candy, famous for Dum Dums lollipops — couldn’t get them back on the shelves in time for Valentine’s Day 2019.

HuffPost found that the beloved treats are indeed back this year — but without many of the sayings that made them so famous in the first place. Spangler blamed the chalky taste of silent disappointment on printer troubles.

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Outside the Box

One retailer wants to bring in more workers — by asking them less

Some job seekers struggle to find work because of questions about their past, a big gap on a résumé, or even a criminal record.

What if companies recruited differently? What if they got rid of some of the harder questions, and gave applicants a chance to break out of the cycle of struggle?

It’s called open hiring — and The Body Shop is all in

Here’s how it works: No background checks. Just answer a few questions — are you authorized to work in the US? Can you meet the job’s physical demands? — and you’re in.

The cosmetics company tried it with seasonal workers at a North Carolina distribution center. The Body Shop wants to expand the practice to all of its retail stores this summer.

The early results were impressive:

  • The company got the holiday-season staffing it needed.
  • Monthly turnover fell by 60%.
  • Productivity increased.

And it all started with some brownies

The Body Shop got guidance from New York’s Greyston Bakery. Founded in 1982 under the Buddhist principle of non-judgment, it hires workers who meet basic criteria on a first-come, first-serve basis as positions open. 

It’s possible you’ve tasted Greyston’s goodies. Whole Foods and Wegmans have sold its brownies, and Ben and Jerry’s mixes them into its Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.

Greyston’s Center for Open Hiring helps businesses that want to open doors — and floors — to workers who have previously been shut out.

Lowering barriers can be good business

Hiring practices that exclude people with criminal records keep lots of people out of a job.

  • 30% of US adults have a criminal record, defined by the FBI as an arrest on a felony charge.
  • Of these 70m people, ¾ won’t be convicted.

And research shows their exclusion is costly.

  • One study found that employers who stopped asking about criminal activity experienced less turnover.
  • It costs $3.5k+ to replace an $11/hour worker.
  • Money saved on recruiting can go toward benefits and other employee-retaining perks.
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A Tangled Web

Your .com could soon cost you more .cash

Changes are coming to the Wild West of web properties. And they could be bad news for internet cowboys who like to rope domain names.

At the .com corral, there are 2 major players:

  • The nonprofit ICANN, which organizes all of the unique domains …
  • … and Verisign, a private company that administers the .com’s and the .net’s.

They announced a proposal that could raise the going rate of a .com — and some companies are steamed.

That’s because the price of a .com has been capped since 2012

And the changes mean the cap could be coming off. Here’s how the process typically works:

  • To lock down a .com domain, companies must use a registrar like GoDaddy or Dynadot.
  • Those registrars pay Verisign a fee, which has been capped at $7.85 for the last 8 years.
  • It’s capped because Verisign basically has no competition.

But the new agreement allows Verisign to raise the $7.85 price by 7% for each of the next 4 years. And then 4 out of every 6 years after that.

ICANN and Verisign say they’re just going along with the wishes of the Department of Commerce, which gave them the green light to raise prices.

But Verisign could strike gold

Namecheap estimates that there are 140m+ .com domains out there. Ars Technica says that means Verisign could see $500m in additional revenue per year, if the changes stick.

It’s not yet clear how much of the price hikes will be passed on to consumers. But Namecheap’s CEO said it’s likely that domain-name registrants will end up paying for most of them.

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