Life and Style wRap: E-book scam, deadly dairy

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An e-book price-fixing scheme, Louis Vuitton, and fatal bacteria in New Zealand products

MANILA, Philippines – Here are Life & Style stories from the week of July 29 to August 3.

Louis Vuitton tops list of global luxury brands of 2013

HIGH LIFE. Louis Vuitton beat Hermes and Gucci to the top of the list

Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Gucci were the top 3 global luxury brands of 2013, with Fendi and Coach entering the top 10 for the first time, according to a study released July 31.

The 2013 BrandZ Top 100, which ranks the most valuable global brands compiled by research firm MillwardBrown, found luxury firms struggling with the need to balance exclusivity with attracting new customers through social media.

“On Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media platforms, brands across the luxury spectrum mediated the tension between the exclusivity that protects brand desirability and the inclusivity needed to attract new customers,” said the survey.

Luxury brands have become more “accessible, collaborative and experimental.”

After a modest purchase, a firm might send a “thank you” note on Twitter, while a couture customer might receive an invitation to an exclusive show.

Overall, the luxury sector’s value has risen 6 percent, compared with the 15 percent increase a year ago, the survey noted.

The top 10 brands are: Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, Prada, Rolex, Chanel, Cartier, Burberry, Fendi, and Coach.

Online reviews improve hotels

INFLUENCE. Good reviews are the best advertising. Screenshot from

Are online reviews of hotels improving travel experience? Apparently, yes.

Online review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor are reducing the likelihood of bed bugs, bad service, and terrible food in hotels. 

The power of good reviews quickly shows up in the cash register, producing a virtuous circle in which business owners bend over backwards to keep guests coming.

But bad write-ups can take a big bite out of a business – and give frustrated customers a taste of revenge served cold.

Small businesses that cannot afford advertising seem to be the biggest beneficiaries as review sites allow them to compete with well-known and well-funded brands.

“It is absolutely phenomenal how it has worked for us,” said Adele Gutman, vice president of sales and marketing for the Library Hotel Collection, which runs 4 boutique hotels in New York.

Gutman first noticed the impact of positive reviews in 2004, when one of the hotels got ranked 7th among those in the Big Apple on TripAdvisor and bookings jumped through the roof.

Not only are clued-in hotels benefiting. A Harvard study found that independent restaurants in Seattle saw revenues increase by 5 to 9 percent when their Yelp ratings rose by a star.

Another research paper from the University of California in Berkeley found the chance of a San Francisco restaurant filling its tables increased by about 20 points, for every additional half-star on Yelp.

The impact of negative reviews was harder to measure, but both studies found that reviews had no impact on large, better-known chain eateries.

World’s second tallest skyscraper ‘tops out’ in China

SKY'S THE LIMIT. The Shanghai Tower will stand 630 meters when it is finished. Photo from Wikipedia

Work on the main structure of the world’s second tallest skyscraper was practically finished on August 3, as the final beam was placed on the Shanghai Tower.

A crane placed the steel beam 580 meters (1,900 feet) above the ground in Shanghai, China’s commercial hub, as the building formally overtook Taiwan’s 509 meter-tall Taipei 101 building to become the highest tower in Asia.

Globally it is second only to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at 830 meters. The tower, which costs an estimated 14.8 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion), will reach over 630 meters when the work is completely done.

[See original image here]

“It’s a landmark and it will change the skyline of Shanghai,” Xia Jun of Gensler, the US firm which designed the tower, told a press conference on August 3 following a “topping out” ceremony.

Chinese firm Broad Group has announced plans to construct an 838-meter tower in the central Chinese city of Changsha, which they say will be completed in April.

New Zealand dairy products may contain fatal bacteria

DEADLY DAIRY. Some Fonterra products like infant formula and sports drinks may contain bacteria that causes botulism. Photo from Fonterra Brands Lanka Careers

New Zealand warned international health authorities on August 3 of exported dairy products, including infant formula, containing bacteria that could lead to botulism – a potentially fatal illness.

The government said the contaminated whey protein concentrate and products using this ingredient had been exported to Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Dairy giant Fonterra, which manufactured the products more than a year ago, said it had advised 8 customers about this develoment, and that it was also investigating whether any of the affected products are in their supply chains.

If necessary, these products would be recalled, the company said in a statement.

There have been no reports of any illness linked to consumption of the affected whey protein.

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said health authorities around the world, including the World Health Organization, had also been alerted about the contamination.

Fonterra said the concentrate was used in a range of drinks including infant formula and sports drinks.

Dairy exports are New Zealand’s major earner and its products are particularly popular in Asia, where they are considered the gold standard.

According to government data, the dairy industry contributes 2.8 percent to New Zealand’s GDP and is worth NZ$10.4 billion (US$8.1 billion) annually.

New Zealand accounts for a 3rd of the world’s cross-border trade in dairy products.

E-book conspiracy: Apple ordered to cut ties with 5 publishers

E-SCAM. Apple and 5 publishers were found to have participated in an e-book price-fixing scheme

The US Department of Justice said on August 2 that tech giant Apple should cut ties with 5 publishers with whom it was found guilty of running an e-book price-fixing scheme.

Last month, a US district court in New York found Apple guilty of conspiring with publishers to fix book prices on readers using their iPad and iPhone devices. The publishers involved are Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster.

Justice Department officials submitted to the court a plan for Apple to cut its existing ties with the publishers and make it easier for its rivals to sell books on its platforms.

“Under the department’s proposed order, Apple’s illegal conduct will cease and Apple and its senior executives will be prevented from conspiring to thwart competition in the future,” assistant attorney-general Bill Baer said.

The tech firm is constrained from entering into new contracts with the 5 publishers to limit price competition in the next 5 years, and to allow other e-book retailers to link to their products from iPad and iPhone apps for two years.

Apple would also be ordered to pay the salary of an external monitor to confirm its compliance with anti-trust laws. – With reports from Agence France-Presse

E-book image from Shutterstock

Louis Vuitton store in Siam Paragon Mall image from Shutterstock

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