Toys ’R’ Us grows old, Uber’s ‘wife appreciation’ and a Twitter overachiever

Planet Business: This week’s round-up has more issues than ‘Rolling Stone’

 

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: BREXIT BLUES

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, probably had an okay time at the International Monetary Fund in Washington on Monday, where he caught up with Christine Lagarde and gave a bit of a lecture. But this is the picture that captures his inner head-desker. Brexit, Carney said, was undermining the UK’s supply capacity and making it harder for the economy to grow without generating inflationary pressures.

Now, I don’t know what any of that means, but it sounds pretty bad. Sorry, that’s a line from A Few Good Men. It means both prices and interest rates are on their way up, while a period of Brexit-prompted stagflation is very probably lying in wait for the British economy as its government scrambles to form a coherent plan. In your own time. No, really. No rush.

Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

IN NUMBERS: LOST TOYS

60

Years since Toys ’R’ Us founder Charles Lazarus opened his first store with that name in Maryland, US. He had previously established a baby furniture and toy store in Washington DC in 1948, cleaning up in the postwar baby boom.

1,600

Number of Toys ’R’ Us outlets in North America that are now at risk following the company’s move to file for bankruptcy protection in the US and Canada – the latest in a string of bankruptcy filings by US retail chains.

$13.9 billion

The sales peak for the company in 2012. Cheaper online competition from the likes of Amazon means the world’s largest specialist toy retailer is in need of a financial resurrection. Buzz Lightyear to the rescue?

THE LEXICON: WIFE APPRECIATION DAY

There are many things that companies under fire for sexism should not do. One of them is to send customers in one part of the world a promotional message that reads “dear husbands, a gentle reminder – today is Wife Appreciation Day”, as Uber did in Bangalore. The message urged the husbands to “let your wife take a day off from the kitchen” with a discount for its Uber Eats food delivery service. Perhaps with its international rather than local reputation in mind, Uber later backtracked, saying the message had been “totally inappropriate” after some customers in India’s third-largest city gave the Californian company a slow hand-clap for perpetuating “regressive gender stereotypes” in India. Just another week’s work in tech land.

GETTING TO KNOW: PATRICK PICHETTE

On Tuesday, Patrick Pichette sent his first tweet in which he declared “absolutely thrilled” to be joining Twitter. But what with being the former chief financial officer of Google, he isn’t merely signing up to play hashtag games and tweet eye-rolling gifs. After a two-year sabbatical, the French-Canadian is joining Twitter, “a company that has such influence and impact on the world” (people do talk about it a lot) as a member of its board. Pichette quit Google in 2015, writing in his goodbye letter that he wanted to go backpacking with his wife, who “deserves more”, and that he needed a break after working flat out for 1,500 weeks thanks to his self-declared membership of the “FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers”. Same, Patrick. Same.

THE LIST: ROLLING STONE ISSUES

Jan Wenner, the founder and publisher of the 50-year-old Rolling Stone magazine, has put it up for sale, marking the end of an era, of sorts. Its front covers are the kind you see framed in restaurants, but some are more iconic than others. Here are five that generated attention in their time.

1 John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1980: The Annie Leibovitz photographs of a naked Lennon curled in a foetal position beside his clothed artist wife were taken hours before he was murdered.

2 Nirvana, 1992: Under his olive-green cardigan, Kurt Cobain’s T-shirt featured the words “Corporate Magazines Still Suck”.

3 Janet Jackson, 1993: The singer is topless, but luckily there’s a pair of male hands – seemingly unattached to any human body – on cupping duty.

4 Britney Spears, 1999: Spears was only 17 when Rolling Stone nauseatingly put her on its cover in her bra, clutching a Tellytubby.

5 Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 2013: The magazine courted controversy when it made a cover star out of Boston bomb suspect Tsarnaev, who was later convicted of the attack. The mayor of Boston said the move “rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment”.

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