TIME Retail

Walmart Will Stop Selling Assault Rifles

walmart store sign exterior
Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images Shoppers are seen outside a Walmart store in Rosemead, Calif. on Jan. 29, 2014.

The largest U.S. retailer of firearms says it will stop selling assault rifles because of declining demand, not political pressure

Walmart will stop selling AR-15 assault rifles as well as other modern sporting rifles because of lower consumer demand for those weapons rather than for political reasons, the company said on Wednesday.

The world’s largest retailer will replace rifles, which are sold at about one third of its U.S. stores, with shotguns and other hunting weapons. Quartz reported the news earlier.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of demand for those products so we replaced them with products we have seen customers coming into purchase it,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told Fortune. Within the next two weeks, MSRs (modern sporting rifles) shouldn’t be in any more Walmart stores.

Walmart, the single largest seller of guns and ammunition, has often come under criticism from gun control advocates for selling these items, particularly after high profile incidents such as the 2012 massacre of school children in Newtown (where the killer used an AR-15), Connecticut.

The move by Walmart comes as firearms makers struggle with declining sales: Remington Outdoor Group last week reported that its sale of firearms fell 13.3% in the first half of the year, while Smith & Wesson’s overall sales saw a 12% drop. Sales often spike when gun enthusiasts believe there will be tighter gun laws put in place, then often slip when those concerns pass.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Country Crock

Customers Are Blasting Country Crock’s New Recipe Online

Courtesy of Country Crock

They’re angry and not afraid to show it

Butter spread Country Crock, owned by Unilever, is getting some unsavory comments for its new “simple recipe.”

Consumerist reported the trend, which has customers on Twitter, the product’s website, and on Facebook enraged. Apparently, the new recipe is turning once-delicious recipes into disgusting entrees and desserts.

“So disappointed when using this to cook with. When it melts it leaves a hardened film that feels like plastic. It also burns in the oven in less time than directed, on temperature recipe called for,” said one reviewer on the product’s website. “I spread it on the top of a biscuit and it left a whitish film!” The page now has over 210 one-star reviews and jut 31 five-star reviews.

Facebook, too, is filled with negative comments from self-professed loyal fans of the food. Some of the comments prompted a response from Country Crock:

We’re very sad to hear you’re not a fan of our new simple recipe. frown emoticon It’s made with no artificial preservatives or flavors, & contains 0g trans fat per serving, and has the country fresh taste you know and love. That’s why we’re so excited about the change and we sure hope you’ll give us another chance! Also, your feedback is very important to us, so please send us a note at consumer.services@unilever.com with more details.
TIME Retail

Disney Is Planning a Mega Event to Unveil the New Star Wars Toys

May the Force Friday be with you

To ensure the marketing force is strong with the much-awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney is holding what it calls the world’s first-ever “global live toy unboxing event” on Sept. 4.

The livestreamed event will last over 18 hours, during which time Disney will display a new suite of Star Wars toys in an event dubbed “Force Friday.” It will start off in Sydney on Sept. 3 at 7:45 a.m. local time before rolling through other cities, each the site of the unboxing of a new Star Wars toy by popular toy unboxers, gamers and hardcore fans.

The entire launch schedule can be viewed on Disney’s website.

“Star Wars toys have always played an important role in how our fans interact with the Saga,” Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said in a company statement. “They’ve inspired multiple generations to relive the experience of the movies and to create new adventures all their own. These spectacular Star Wars: The Force Awakens products will continue that tradition.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is expected to be one of the biggest movies of all time, with analysts and industry experts estimating the film could earn as much as $3 billion from the global box office, which would top Avatar as the highest-grossing movie ever. Merchandise sales from toys and apparel linked to the film could also reach $3 billion annually.

The movie will be released in U.S. theaters on Dec. 18.

TIME recycling

Got a Great Recycling Idea? H&M Wants To Give You 1 Million Euros

Shoppers And Retail Economy As German Investor Confidence Jumps
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

H&M's chief exec: 'No company, fast-fashion or not, can continue exactly like today'

The world’s second largest fashion retailer, H&M, is offering an annual 1 million euro prize — about $1.15 million — to those who come up with new recycling techniques, Reuters reports.

The move is part of a larger effort by the retailer to reduce its impact on the environment, operate more ethically, and address raw material shortages.

The fast-fashion model that H&M follows, providing good quality products at inexpensive prices, encourages people to buy more clothes than they probably need, likely leading them to throw away a lot of what they’ve purchased. Consumers are starting to become aware of the huge negative impact this has on the environment.

Karl-Johan Persson, Chief Executive of H&M, told Reuters: “No company, fast-fashion or not, can continue exactly like today. The (prize’s) largest potential lies with finding new technology that means we can recycle the fibers with unchanged quality.”

Existing methods of recycling cotton produce low quality material.

The prize is funded by H&M and the Persson family, the retailer’s main owners.


Pumpkin Flavors Are Arriving Earlier Than Ever

Pumpkin spice
Michael Phillips—Getty Images

Is August too early for pumpkin ale?

Pumpkin-flavored beers are being released earlier than ever before. Some brewers have refused to even wait until the beginning of September and have released their pumpkin flavors in August.

From September to November of last year, fall seasonal beers made up over 20% of the $19.6 billion annual craft beer market, with pumpkin and Oktoberfest varieties being the biggest seasonal sellers, USA Today reports. Because there is so much competition in the market, it has led to a wider range of seasonal brews and earlier arrival.

Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale has already been released this month. Keith Villa, founder of Blue Moon Brewing, explained to USA Today why it arrived so earlier:

There are two main reasons we start our distribution of Harvest Pumpkin Ale in August. First, it means our beer is available when people first get pumpkin on their minds and second, it ensures we’ve reached peak distribution by the time September and October roll around.

In caffeinated beverages, Starbucks announced its wildly popular Pumpkin Spice Latte–which this year will contain real pumpkin–will hit stores Sept. 8.

TIME Starbucks

This Is The Day Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Will Hit Stores

Starbucks Price Hike
Gene J. Puskar—AP

There will reportedly be 'early access' for certain customers

Labor Day, which falls on Monday, Sept. 7, is already a national holiday. But for Starbucks fans out there, Sept. 8 might as well be one, too. That’s because that Tuesday is the national release of the coffee chain’s wildly popular Pumpkin Spice Latte, according to NBC.

There will reportedly be “early access” for certain customers, according to the NBC report, citing staff members.

Love it or hate it, or love to hate it, the latte has been a boon for Starbucks sales. But this latte won’t be like those consumed in years past. In fact, as Fortune recently wrote, the beverage has a new recipe that includes real pumpkin and no caramel coloring.

“After hearing from customers and partners about ingredients, we took another look at this beverage and why we created it so many years ago,” wrote Peter Dukes, director of espresso Americas for Starbucks, in a blog post. The prior version was made with “warm fall spices with delicious flavor of pumpkin pie,” he wrote.

According to NBC:

In the past, Starbucks has granted early access based on rewards status or completion of an online scavenger hunt. In previous years, certain cities have gotten it earlier after residents placed the most votes to get them ahead of the rest of the nation.

This timeline is a shift of a more than a week from last year’s early access date of August 26 and later than last year’s nationwide launch of Sept. 2. Labor Day, which is traditionally a harbinger of autumn activities, also falls later this year. Like last year, PSL’s official launch is slated for the day after the holiday.

TIME mcdonald’s breakfast

Can the Egg McMuffin Save McDonald’s?

McDonalds To Offer Its Breakfast Menu All Day Long
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A McDonald's Egg McMuffin.

It could boost sales by 2.5%, a report says

The Egg McMuffin may just be a saving grace for fast food giant McDonald’s, which is struggling from lagging sales.

How? Because if the popular breakfast item is sold all day, it could boost the chain’s sales by as much as 2.5%, according to a McDonald’s exec.

Mike Andres, the McDonald’s U.S. president, presented the idea to franchise owners this month, Bloomberg reported. An optimistic analysis of Egg McMuffin sales found that offering the breakfast staple all day could lift guest counts as much as 2.3% and help each restaurant generate $31,000 more in profit, Bloomberg said.

The report added that the move comes as CEO Steve Easterbrook is working to streamline the McDonald’s menu and offer innovative options to fast food-eaters who have turned to other food options in the last few years. Recent reports said McDonald’s could start offering all-day breakfast nationwide as early as October.

According to Bloomberg:

McDonald’s is planning an advertising push to help sell breakfast fare all day, according to an internal e-mail that Daniel Delligatti, the chain’s national advertising fund chairman, sent to franchisees earlier this month.

“Based on preliminary test results, all day breakfast is a significant business opportunity and a marketer’s dream that leverages our strengths and will generate positive media news and social media energy for brand McDonald’s,” he said.

TIME Apple

Apple Store’s New Look Demotes iPods From Tables To Shelves


It now has to slum it with the accessories

Apple is making significant changes to its stores, including demoting the iPod from tables to shelves, 9to5mac reports.

Apple products that are valued more highly than others tend to be displayed on tables and stored in the back of the store, so the customer has to wait for someone to bring the product out to him or her. The iPod was once Apple’s biggest moneymaker, proudly displayed on a table. With today’s smartphone capabilities, a device that only plays music and video is essentially outdated.

Now the iPod will be displayed on shelves among the Apple accessories, such as headphones and cases.

At least customers who go in to buy an iPod will have a much more efficient Apple store experience since they won’t have to wait for a salesperson to retrieve it from the back room.

These changes will go into effect on Tuesday night so that customers going into stores on Wednesday morning will see the new, simplified look.

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s New Secret ‘Flex’ Service Spotted In Seattle

Amazon; Amazon.com
Paul Sakuma—AP

There are also talks of one-hour liquor delivery.

Amazon’s new Kirkland, Washington location seems to be set to launch the company’s new “Amazon Flex” service, GeekWire reports.

Amazon has not yet officially announced its new “Flex” service, but a sign at the location gives a hint as to what it may be. It reads, “Please take a ticket located behind you. Please look for your number on the top corner of the wall on your left. Proceed to pick up your package once your number is displayed.” This suggests that it may be a service that allows customers to pick up their packages at the facility.

The company also has yet to announce the launch of its Prime Now one-hour delivery service in the Seattle area, but it has been fairly clear that’s what the facility will being used for since GeekWire discovered documents in May that had the site labeled by architects as “Prime Now.”

Liquor license applications filed for the three Seattle area Prime Now locations suggest that they will be the first in the U.S. to offer a one-hour alcohol delivery service.

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Defends His Company After a Scathing New York Times Article

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Bezos says the brutal portrayal 'doesn't describe the Amazon I know'

Jeff Bezos has sent out an internal memo to staff in which the Amazon founder and CEO dismissed the scathing criticism of his company’s workplace culture in an article from The New York Times.

According to CNBC, Bezos said in the memo that the NYT article “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.” The article, published over the weekend by NYT, depicts an exceedingly harsh environment for employees at Amazon, which recently surpassed Walmart to become the world’s most valuable retailer. The story describes Amazon as a “bruising workplace” where employees are routinely mistreated and pitted against one another, all while working long hours.

But, in Bezos’ estimation at least, the NYT article does not come close to capturing the experience of life at Amazon and he invites his employees to e-mail him directly to share any stories they have that would corroborate the story told in the scathing piece. “Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero,” Bezos notes in the memo.

Bezos is not the first high-ranking person at Amazon to speak out against the negative article. Nick Ciubotariu, Amazon’s head of infrastructure development, responded on LinkedIn on Sunday, with a post defending his company, and arguing that “singling out several outliers to vilify an entire company does not represent truth in journalism.”

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