TIME Food & Drink

Papa John’s Now Sells a Pizza Topped With Fritos and Chili

"I can't believe I waited 30 years to put Fritos on a pizza"

In a new ad, Papa John himself admits he’s ashamed of something: “I can’t believe I waited 30 years to put Fritos on a pizza!”

A pizza topping that surely someone must have been asking for. Right? Maybe? Well, Papa John’s CMO Bob Kraut told Businessweek a chili and Fritos-topped pizza was a “no-brainer,” so clearly someone thought it was a good idea.

While we have yet to try the new dish, which is being marketed to NFL watchers, the staff of Esquire did it for us. In the words of the publication’s Anna Peele, “Eating this pizza is like having sex with a coworker: Primarily intriguing because it’s transgressive, then instantly regrettable.”

American fast-food chains have a long way to go before entering the same league as its Asian-based locations’ weird fusions — Pizza Hut Korea literally put shrimp, calamari, bacon, steak and sausage on a pizza and then stuffed the crust with either cranberry or cinnamon apple nut and cream cheese filling — but it’s good to know America is putting its hat in the ring.

TIME Retail

Wal-Mart’s Apple Pay Competitor Has a Secret Weapon

Grand Opening At A New Wal-Mart Store
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. signage is displayed on a check out register during the grand opening of a new location in Torrance, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It's perfectly tuned for low-budget shoppers with phones that aren't always cutting edge

Wal-Mart is among the biggest retailers not accepting Apple Pay, Apple’s new mobile payment system that got underway last week to rousing early success. The big box behemoth is instead going with a different, decidedly lower-tech solution called CurrentC, a mobile wallet developed by a group of merchants, Wal-Mart included, called MCX.

Despite not launching publicly yet, CurrentC is being lambasted in the tech press this week. Why? Over the weekend, several retailers involved with MCX stopped accepting Apple Pay after initially allowing it, which read to many as unfriendly to consumers. And on Wednesday, MCX revealed its email vendor was hacked, exposing CurrentC users’ email addresses and giving the company yet another PR headache.

CurrentC is also seen by many as having been designed more to benefit merchants than consumers. It’s certainly less user-friendly and probably less secure than Apple Pay, but it will help merchants sidestep the much-hated fees they have to pay every time a customer swipes a credit card. CurrentC is also just less cool than Apple Pay—from a tech obsessive’s perspective, it looks like a budget sedan to Apple Pay’s Tesla Model S.

But here’s the thing: None of the tech journalists I know shop at Wal-Mart. For Wal-Mart’s lower-income shoppers, CurrentC could actually have some advantages over Apple Pay. To wit:

1. CurrentC is QR-code based, like Starbucks’ payment app. That makes it backwards compatible with older, cheaper phones (and Android phones) whereas Apple Pay only works with Apple’s top-of-the-line, brand-new phones. Eventually, those iPhones will get older and trickle down into lower-budget shoppers’ pockets, but that’ll take years. The trade-off here is that Apple’s NFC-based system is inherently more secure, as it doesn’t give retailers vital data about your payment method.

2. CurrentC supports consumer loyalty programs (read: coupons), whereas Apply Pay does not. Many shoppers deride loyalty programs as annoying, but I can speak from my experience as a broke college student when I say that coupons can be a vital lifeline for lower-income shoppers. Of course, that support comes at a privacy price: Loyalty programs are really just a thinly-veiled way for retailers to collect data about their consumers.

You’ll notice both of those points contain significant tradeoffs in terms of privacy, a point that Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized when he introduced the company’s service. Still, there are plenty of reasons for low-end shoppers to adopt CurrentC over Apple Pay, if they embrace the mobile wallet at all. Many won’t—but let the best mobile wallet win.

MONEY Gas

$3 Gas, and Its Impact on What’s Under the Christmas Tree

This week, the national average for a gallon of regular should hit $3, a low that hasn't been reached since 2010. That means consumers will have more money to spend during the holidays, right?

Not so fast.

Yes, gas prices have been plummeting in the U.S., bringing much-welcome relief to household budgets. Average prices around the country reached a new low for 2014 recently, and then just kept on falling, hitting a low not seen since 2010. As of Monday, according to AAA, the national average stood at $3.04 per gallon after falling 32 days in a row, making prices at the pump 25¢ cheaper compared to the same time one year ago. With prices falling roughly 1¢ per day (the average was down to $3.03 on Tuesday), we’re on pace to reach the all-important psychological mark of $3 per gallon by the end of this week.

But let’s step back. Is the $3 mark—and cheaper gas prices in general—really all that important for the economy as a whole?

A GasBuddy post crunched some numbers, and found that Americans are collectively saving $110 million per day on gas compared to what we spent a year ago. The timing of decreasing gas prices would seem to bode well for retailers, which are hoping that some of that money that’s not being spent on gas will be spent instead on holiday purchases in the weeks ahead. Data from the research firm Deloitte indicates that retail holiday sales will rise 4% to 5% this year, or perhaps even higher considering that the average household could spend $260 less on gas for 2014 as a whole.

Retail analyst Mary Epner told CNBC recently that cheaper gas prices could wind up giving a boost to a few categories of retail in particular:

“A drop in gas prices should be great for Ross Stores, Walmart, and dollar stores (for consumers who must live paycheck to paycheck),” she said. “This also helps low-cost teen retailers, as most teens have a finite amount of money and they will usually opt to put gas in their cars before buying other things.”

Overall, however, cheaper gas prices shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a holiday season savior for retail. As a recent Fortune post pointed out, gas prices had already begun their downward trajectory in September, but the month was basically a dud in terms of consumer spending. The effect of cheaper gas on holiday spending is expected to be minimal as well. At the higher end of the income spectrum, shoppers aren’t going to alter holiday spending based on gas prices shifting by 10% or even 20%. For middle- and low-income earners, stagnant wages, weak hiring, and higher costs for housing and health care are likely to far outweigh any “savings” that come via cheaper gas prices.

What’s more, as a Bloomberg News story noted, today’s shoppers have grown so accustomed to huge discounts that they’re programmed to ignore all but the most dramatic price slashings and promotions. Add in that over the past few years, drivers have seen gas prices retreat, rise, then retreat and rise again, so there’s an appropriate level of skepticism concerning the idea that we could be paying less for gas for the long haul.

Few people will head promptly to the mall and splurge because the price of a gallon of gas drops by a few pennies. Nor should they.

TIME Retail

Midnight Taco Bell Craving? There’s An App For That

Now you can order Gorditas using your iPhone or Android smartphone

Your late night Gorditas craving just got easier to satisfy. Taco Bell launched an app Tuesday that lets customers buy food from its restaurants using only their phones.

Orders can be made via the chain’s iPhone and Android apps, which will offer exclusive menu items and deals. “I can’t name the specific products yet,” said senior director of digital marketing and platforms Tressie Lieberman during a conference call. “[But] before something goes national you will be able to place that order in the app.”

In preparation for an 11 a.m. EST announcement, the social media-friendly chain even made its Twitter and Facebook accounts go dark. Its website was turned into a black screen as well.

The only information was placed in the Twitter bio, which reads #OnlyInTheApp.

Taco Bell said it began developing the app two years ago, and The Washington Post reported that the app has been in beta testing at least since February.

“Customers are already telling us they love it,” said Taco Bell President Brian Niccol.

While you might be able to buy Chicken McNuggets with your phone already using Apple Pay, Taco Bell beat McDonald’s and other competitors to having an independent app that allows direct ordering and customization.

TIME Smartphones

This 1 Number Shows Why Retailers Shouldn’t Turn Off Apple Pay

Retailers have their own rival technology in the works

Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday that users of the company’s new mobile payments system, Apple Pay, registered 1 million cards on the service in its first three days. That’s bad news for two of the nation’s top drug stores, CVS and RiteAid, which are disabling the already-installed register technology upon Apple Pay relies.

Why wreck a tech that’s already installed in your stores? Because CVS and RiteAid are part of a group of companies that also includes heavy-hitters like Walmart working on a mobile payment system of their own called CurrentC.

From a retailer’s perspective, CurrentC has several advantages over Apple Pay. Most importantly, it’s designed to sidestep the fees that retailers have to pay credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard every time a customer makes a credit card purchase, marking their latest move to duck those charges. Apple Pay, meanwhile, has the support of credit card companies because it keeps those fees intact. CurrentC also keeps customers’ data in the hands of retailers, while Apple Pay encrypts customers’ purchases, making it impossible for the retailers to track shoppers and advertise to their interests. If CurrentC has an advantage over Apple Pay from a customer’s perspective, it’s that it works with older phones that lack Near-Field Communication (NFC), a necessary ingredient for Apple Pay that’s only found in the newest iPhones and higher-end Android devices.

By disabling NFC (which also affects Android owners using Google Wallet), CVS and RiteAid are essentially trying to stamp out Apple Pay before it gains millions of users, further institutionalizing Visa and MasterCard’s fees. The problem? They’re too late. To disable a service that’s already showing such staggering popularity is a profoundly consumer-unfriendly move. If Apple Pay users love the service as much as Cook’s early figure suggests, they could be willing to change their shopping habits to match — goodbye CVS, hello Duane Reade.

It’s also a bold gambit that retailers have a better shot than one of the world’s most successful technology companies of succeeding where so many have failed before: convincing shoppers it’s easier to pay with the flash of a phone rather than the swipe of a card. Given its very early success here, the smart money’s on Apple. Still, whether Apple Pay will crush the competition or simply open a door for rivals — by getting customers used to paying with a phone — remains to be seen. As consumers, though, we’re in for a long platform battle.

TIME Retail

Macy’s to Open First Store Outside U.S.

Macy's Cuts Profit Outlook For The Year After Soft Q2 Sales
A sign hangs above Macy's in the Magnificent Mile shopping district on August 14, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Abu Dhabi will play home to the department store's first overseas venture

For the first time in 156 years, Macy’s department store will take its iconic red star overseas, launching its first foreign branch in an upscale shopping center in Abu Dhabi.

The shopping center will also host the world’s second overseas Bloomingdales, according to the property developers backing the project, Gulf Related and Al Tayer Group. Associated Press reports that the shopping center will be located on Al Maryah Island, a booming construction zone which has been slated to be the city’s central business district.

The center’s grand opening is scheduled for spring 2018, and the first sale (presumably) shortly thereafter.

[AP]

TIME Retail

Walmart Apologizes for Advertising ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ on Its Website

"This never should have been on our site," a spokesperson says

Retail giant Walmart caused a stir on Monday, after a listing for plus-size Halloween outfits appeared on their website under the heading “Fat Girl Costumes.”

The retail chain quickly backtracked, issuing an apology before changing the heading to “Women’s Plus-Size Halloween Costumes.”

“This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize,” a spokesperson for the company said. “We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

A Twitter user named Kristyn Washburn first brought the slipup to the public’s attention with this tweet, People reported:

The widespread outrage caused by the ill-advised labeling made “Fat Girl Costumes” a top trend on the micro-blogging site, with several other users expressing their indignation:

Jezebel, which first reported the story, speculated that it might have been an inside joke by the site’s developer that wasn’t corrected before going live.

[People]

TIME Retail

Beyoncé Launching Athletic Brand With Topshop

London Celebrity Sightings -  October 17, 2014
Beyonce sighting at Harry's Bar in Mayfair on October 17, 2014 in London, England. (Keith Hewitt--GC Images) Keith Hewitt—GC Images

You may be able to buy it as soon as 2015

Attention, Beyhive: Beyoncé and Topshop are partnering to create an athletic sportswear brand that you can wear as soon as fall 2015.

Beyoncé and Topshop will start as 50-50 partners in a venture called Parkwood Topshop Athletic Ltd. “This not a collaboration. This is about building a brand and building a business — a separate, proper business, with separate overhead and a separate office,” Topshop owner Sir Philip Green told Women’s Wear Daily.

“I could not think of a better partner,” Beyonce said in a statement on Topshop’s website. “I have always loved Topshop for its fashion credentials and forward thinking. Working with its development team to create and produce a technical and fashion-led collection is exciting and I’m looking forward to participating in all aspects of this partnership.”

The line will have clothing, footwear, and accessories for dance and fitness that are still stylish enough to wear as regular clothes. Everything will be sold in Topshop stores and on Topshop.com. Beyoncé already has a fragrance line, a temporary tattoo line, and a hip-hop inspired clothing brand she developed with her mother, Tina Knowles. Topshop also recently collaborated with Kate Moss.

TIME Companies

Apple Pay: Who Won and Who Lost?

Not all Apple Pay winners are created equal

Mobile payments are happening to the retail industry like bankruptcy happens to Mike Campbell in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: gradually, and then suddenly all at once. Google has offered mobile payments for three years, and Walmart and Best Buy have been talking about mobile pay since 2012. But Apple is one of the few companies that many observers say can quickly lead a critical mass of people to wave their phones in the air for everything from bed sheets to burgers.

Retailers, credit card companies and banks all have made big bets on Apple’s new mobile payment system, which makes it more likely to succeed. “We will put our shoulders into a big step change like this,” says Matt Dill, a senior vice president at Visa, an Apple Pay partner, in an interview with TIME. “Apple Pay is a tipping point for major institutions going all in.”

If Apple Pay becomes as ubiquitous as most observers expect, it won’t just change the way consumers pay for things, it’ll reshape the financial institutions that facilitate our purchases. That’s not good news for everyone — many companies felt pushed to join up with Apple so they weren’t left behind. For some, it was either the Apple Pay-way or the highway.

Here’s a list of the major players, roughly in order of who won the most to who won the least.

Apple. Every time a customer make a purchase with Apple Pay, Apple earns a 0.15% charge. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but researchers say it’ll add up in the long run. Equity analysts at Nomura estimated that charge will account for $1.6 billion in projected revenue by 2017. On the lower end of estimates, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that Apple Pay will generate revenue of $118 million in 2015 and $310 million in 2016.

Perhaps more importantly, Apple Pay, if successful, will increase demand for Apple devices. And once customers are using Apple Pay and all their purchases are wrapped up to their phones, it’ll be that much harder to leave Apple for Android or another smartphone platform.

“Just getting part of the transaction itself will be big” for Apple, says Rajesh Kandaswamy, researcher at Gartner. But “the largest issue is it’s harder to switch away if you’re an iPhone user.”

Banks. Consumers won’t have to pay for Apple’s 0.15% fee on Apple Pay transactions; banks will. The six big banks who have signed up for Apple Pay aren’t enthusiastic about that. But in the long run, banks expect Apple Pay will push people away from using cash and toward transactions that run over their networks. Online shopping will be faster, too, as customers won’t have to input their billing information every time they make a purchase.

Finally, because Apple Pay uses a difficult-to-hack system that encrypts all financial transactions, banks will experience less cybercrime breaches for which they’re held financially liable. “Banks are going to make less money on the transaction than if it were made on a regular card swipe” because of Apple’s fee, says Michelle Evans, an analyst at Euromonitor, “but they can make more money in the end if they can drive volume over the card network and reduce fraud.”

Credit Card Companies. Visa, MasterCard and American Express have loudly trumpeted Apple Pay’s rollout. They stand to make money off Apple Pay for the same reason the banks will: the program pushes customers to their global credit business. Dill, the Visa SVP, calls Apple Pay an “on-ramp” to Visa’s network and a growth-fueler. “If we didn’t encourage innovation” like Apple Pay, “then we would be the worst enemy to our own growth,” Dill says.

But there’s another reason credit card companies are enthusiastic about Apple Pay: the alternative, CurrentC, could be pretty scary. CurrentC is a payment system mega retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are working on that could cut out credit card companies altogether. While Apple Pay leaves the traditional credit card system intact by simply moving it to your phone, analysts speculate that the CurrentC program will link payments through a network connected directly to your savings account. Voila: no middleman.

“If a technology comes along that’s focused on getting you to not use Visa, then that’s a competitor to us,” says Dill. The threat of CurrentC makes Apple Pay look more like a rickety lifeboat for the credit card companies than the super-fast motorboat Apple has promised.

Retailers and Merchants. Walgreens, Macy’s, McDonald’s and other merchants that began using Apple Pay on Monday get the same bonus that they have always gotten from debit cards and credit cards: new customers who can spend money faster. If customers spend money more easily, retailers make money more easily.

Apple Pay is also a good way to move customers through lines more quickly. It could eventually lead to retailers adopting more self-checkout lines; for merchants, that means paying fewer cashiers and lower overhead.

But Apple Pay also reinforces a system that retailers never really liked: they have to continue to pay a fee for every credit and debit card transaction. “Retailers don’t like the fees they pay,” says Kandaswamy. “Apple Pay is going to consolidate power among the same players even more.” CurrentC, on the other hand, could allow retailers to collect customer-specific data. That would let businesses like Walmart target customers with products in the same way that Google or Facebook target their ads.

Two days into Apple Pay, there aren’t yet any data on the program’s success. It’s too early to know how many people have used it or how much money Apple has made from it. But financial institutions believe the way we pay for things is changing quickly, even if we don’t quite notice it yet. “The U.S. is in the midst of an innovation in payments,” Carolyn Balfany, senior vice president at MasterCard, tells TIME. “Payment security is going to change more in the next five years than it has in the past 50.” If Apple Pay does take off, then it is happening gradually before it’s here all of a sudden.

TIME Retail

Staples Investigates Reports of Possible Credit Card Data Breach

Staples To Close 225 Stores
A Staples store is seen on March 6, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Potentially the latest in a string of high-profile data thefts

The world’s biggest office-supply retailer is investigating reports of a possible data breach of Staples customers’ credit cards after banks detected a pattern of unusual charges concentrating on a group of shoppers.

Staples acknowledged on Tuesday that it had launched an investigation and requested assistance from law enforcement officials, Bloomberg reports.

Reports of fraudulent charges recently surfaced on an independent security blog, which noted that the bulk of the card data appeared to come from a group of stores clustered in the northeast, including seven in Pennsylvania, three in New York and one in New Jersey.

The security concerns come amid a wave of breaches in the past two years against retailers like Home Depot, Kmart and Target. The latter said in August that its breach was expected to cost some $148 million.

[Bloomberg]

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