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Marketplace with host Kai Ryssdal produced and distributed by American Public Media focuses on the latest business news both nationally and internationally, the global economy, and wider events linked to the financial markets.
The only national daily business news program originating from the West Coast, Marketplace is noted for its timely, relevant and accessible coverage of business, economics and personal finance.
Monday, July 28, 2014 2:22pm
Tom Crady wants high school kids across the country to think about attending Gustavus Adolphus College, even if they mangle the name.
"Some won't say the name at all. They just say, 'Tell me how you pronounce the college's name,'" says Crady, vice president of enrollment at the college, which is pronounced gus-TAY-vus uh-DOLPH-us.
The liberal arts college, perched on a bluff in southern Minnesota, is seeing fewer applicants from its home state, as well as other Midwestern states. So Crady is courting potential students from far-flung places like Texas and even India.
"We go farther and longer distances than ever before," Crady says.
Crady says the changes are occasioned by big demographic shifts. In the '90s, birth rates fell nationally. On top of that, lots of people migrated south and west. That all spells a decline in high school graduates in the Northeast and Midwest today. That's according to Brian Prescott, who directs research at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
"You can't grow 18-year-olds or high school graduates in a laboratory," Prescott says.
Prescott estimates there's been a 7 percent drop in high school grads in the middle of the country just over the past six years.
Colleges as far away as Dartmouth and Harvard have noticed fewer Midwestern applicants. But experts say the demographic changes are not a big deal for elite institutions with fat endowments and kids lined up at the door. Small, liberal arts colleges that are not household names will likely suffer more as tuition dollars shrink.
"It's very tough right now not only finding the number of your potential applicants dropping but knowing that there are others competing with you to try to get those graduates," says Diane Viacava, vice president in the higher education division at the credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service.
Viacava says many small Midwestern colleges are struggling with the shifting demographics. Among those rated by Moody's rates, a couple dozen have seen two consecutive years of declining enrollments.
Many are bumping up their recruiting budgets and offering big discounts on tuition.
"What we're finding is that some of the Midwest colleges are discounting over 50 percent to get a student to come to the college," Viacava says.
That's true at Gustavus Adolphus. On average, the college cuts its $40,000 annual tuition by about half.
But, Viacava says, as revenue falls, colleges have to figure out how to cut costs in other areas, like faculty.
"Given that many of them could have a somewhat inflexible expense structure, that can prove very challenging for operations," Viacava says.
Even some public institutions are feeling the pain. Minnesota State University Moorhead recently blamed changing demographics when it announced plans to eliminate several low-enrollment programs.
If there are any winners in this scenario, they may be the Midwestern high school students who are in such short supply. Brayden Yel begins her senior year of high school in a St. Paul suburb this fall. On a recent visit to Gustavus Adolphus, Yel said she's received a lot of emails and letters from Midwestern Colleges.
"Absolutely," Yel says. "Lots of asking for tours and stuff like that."
So far Yel doesn't seem to mind all the attention.
Region Class of 2008 (actual) Class of 2014 (projected) % change Midwest (IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, WI) 705,639 656,022 -7 Northeast (CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT) 552,289 526,820 -4.6 South (AL, AR, DE, DC, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV) 1,031,773 1,051,890 2 West (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, MT, NV, NM, ND, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY) 711,636 700,086 -1.6
Source: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
Monday, July 28, 2014 10:00am
Dollar Tree announced on Monday that it is buying rival discount chain Family Dollar for approximately $8.5 billion in cash and stock. The combined company will have 13,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada.
The deal promises big cost-savings as operations are consolidated. Both companies have reported earnings that underperformed analysts’ predictions in recent quarters. Family Dollar has also been under pressure from investor/activist Carl Icahn, who has called for the chain to be sold.
During the recession, consumers flocked to these super-discount stores. But now, says economist Chris Christopher at IHS Global Insight, consumers’ balance sheets are improving, and moderate to middle income families may be drifting away from the deepest discounts.
“Wages are starting to gain a bit of traction,” says Christopher. “And in addition, there is a little bit of migration of people from the discount stores to the middle-tier retailers.”
Christopher says the super-discount stores — all of Dollar Tree’s items sell for $1 or less; Family Dollar has a wider range of goods reaching slightly higher price-points — can’t raise prices very much. So their margins are being squeezed as inflation starts to pick up at the wholesale and retail level.
Monday, July 28, 2014 7:00am
More on the news that Dollar Tree will purchase Family Dollar for $8.5 billion, and what it means for both businesses moving forward. Plus, Nissan is hoping to turn over a new Leaf; While the company most likely loses money on its electric car, it hopes that it will see profits in the longrun. Also, the Muslim American community adds billions to the U.S. economy, especially during Eid Al Fitr, which follows Ramadan. So why haven't marketers caught on?
Monday, July 28, 2014 6:00am
Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid Al Fitr Monday -- It follows the month of Ramadan, a holy month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. For the last week or so, Muslims have been shopping for presents and new outfits for Eid.
Rafi-uddin Shikoh, CEO and Managing Director of consulting firm DinarStandard and lead author of State of the Islamic Economy, puts Muslim spending in the U.S. as high as $124 billion.
But you probably haven’t seen ads calling on American Muslims to spend their holiday money. Shikoh says capitalizing on that spending has not been a priority for marketers, because the American Muslim demographic is not as big as Hispanic, Asian or African American spending blocs.
The lack of attention is suprising, given that when it does happen, it’s a party. A Macy’s in Orange County, for example, put up decorations including ornate towers that stand tall with a message: “Happy Ramadan.”
“If you think about it, it's just these two bella tower displays in the women's store, and we had so many people coming in taking pictures with it like it's a tourist attraction,” says Jomana Siddiqui, the graphic designer hired by Macy’s to create the decorations.
Some people were so excited, they spontaneously started doing a dabke, an Arab line dance.
Siddiqui, who also founded online boutique ModernEid, says it’s not about having others validate your holiday. She says if retailers are smart, they'll pay more attention to the American Muslim demographic.
“Say you’re looking it from a retail perspective, making your customers happy and making them feel like, 'Hey, this is a store I want to stay loyal to.' -- That’s what retail is all about,” Siddiqui says. “You want customers to stay loyal to you.”
She says store managers quickly realized the opportunity they stumbled upon.
“I remember this comment stuck out in my head: ‘I'm kind of surprised nobody has done this before.’ It wasn't a question of ‘should we do this?’ It was a question of ‘why shouldn't we?’” Siddiqui says.
It’s estimated there are between 2 and 7 million Muslims in the United States. Mennah Ibrahim, with global marketing firm JWT, argues advertisers should spend more money to target Muslims, especially during Ramadan.
And many do -- just not here in the States.
“Brands like Chanel here in the Middle East provide longer variations of their outfits; brands like Hermès come in larger sizes so Muslims wear them as headscarves,” Ibrahim says.
Google launched the Ramadan hub and DKNY announced a Ramadan-inspired like called “Head Turners,” but the latter can only be found in the Middle East. The companies simply adjust their brand to the location.
Here in the U.S., though, Ibrahim says the same companies tread more cautiously because they're still getting to know the American-Muslim consumer.
Monday, July 28, 2014 6:00am
We live in the future.
That's not my phrase; it is my daughter Madeleine's invention. True, the monorails remain few and far between, but every once in a while I get a reminder that some of what was once science fiction is no longer fiction.
Recently, I got to spend a bit of time with a physicist and physician who says she is trying to do for medicine what Google did for information technology. Her idea is democratize healthcare so that the big stuff doesn't always have to go through professional gatekeepers.
Anita Goel is the chairman and scientific director of Nanobiosym, and chairman and CEO of Nanobiosym Diagnostics. Dr. Goel and her team have come up with a device about the size of an iPad that will be able to tell people if they have malaria, TB, HIV, even cancer. Stick some blood in the thing, and it will look for the genetic markers of a variety of conditions and render a verdict on the spot. The company's Gene-RADAR system is a little medical lab on a microchip, made possible by advances in nanotechnology. Her work recently won the grand prize in the Nokia Sensing X-Challenge.
The technology may end up in homes or at a clinic near you. If this sounds farfetched, remember that once upon a time you had to visit a doctor's office to get your blood pressure checked. Now you can go down to a strip mall or pharmacy, put your arm into a cuff, press the green button and see how you are doing. Or, you might buy a small digital blood pressure reader from a drugstore and use it it at home.
Imagine if this Gene-RADAR technology deployed in the developing world, where doctors, health workers, and clinics are either overburdened or hard to reach. It is likely that the existing rules guiding medical diagnostics would have to change to accommodate this technology if gene-sensing diagnostics are to become widespread. Companies with stakes in the existing ways of doing things will either adapt, or could try to thwart the adoption of something that let's consumers check their own health conditions.
Dr. Goel and her team are among the contestants in a competition that will award $10 million to those who come up with a Tricorder, a hand-held device that'll identify a list of 15 diseases. It's the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. The award ceremony is set for a year from January.
Click on the media player above to hear Dr. Anita Goel in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio
March 24, 2014