Starbucks to test delivery in NYC, Seattle
Starbucks' first stop on the road to becoming a delivery service: the Empire State Building. The coffee chain announced plans to begin testing delivery in New York and Seattle, with the iconic 102-story office tower serving as its Big Apple proving ground. In New York, customers will order through a Starbucks website and eventually transition to its mobile app. Chief Executive Howard Schultz has said delivery is a logical extension of Starbucks' digital strategy, which he calls "e-commerce on steroids." The company's mobile app has 14 million users, and customers at 650 locations in the Pacific Northwest can now order ahead and pay for coffee on their phones. The next step is bringing lattes and mochas directly to customers at their desks, or front doors.
Toys 'R' Us to exit New York's Times Square
Toys 'R' Us, the world's largest toy chain, plans to leave its flagship store in New York's Times Square early next year as it faces an expected rent increase. The 110,000-square-foot store at 1514 Broadway, famed for its indoor Ferris wheel and mechanical Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur, is too large for any single tenant, said C. Bradley Mendelson, vice chairman at Cushman & Wakefield Inc., who is handling leasing for building owner Bow Tie Partners. The landlord plans to break up the space, Mendelson said. "The configuration of space is just too expensive for any one tenant," Mendelson said in a phone interview. "Market rates have changed substantially. It has nothing to do with Toys' ability. Toys has been a very good tenant for the last 15, 16 years."
Monsanto to settle suits over GMO wheat
Monsanto said it will pay about $350,000 to settle class-action lawsuits brought by farmers in seven states over genetically modified wheat. The St. Louis company said it will make donations of $50,000 to agricultural schools at land grant colleges in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The lawsuits relate to the discovery of genetically modified wheat on a farm in Oregon in May 2013. The wheat had not been approved, and after the discovery, Japan and South Korea temporarily suspended some wheat orders. The European Union called for tougher testing of shipments from the U.S.
Sony next up with streaming TV service
Television fans who want to break free from a traditional TV subscription now have more options than ever to pay for what they want to watch, and how they want to watch it. Sony added to the flood of new offerings with the introduction of PlayStation Vue, its Web-based streaming TV service, which offers a bundle of channels along with a personalized, searchable approach to watching live and on-demand television. For $49.99 a month, subscribers can access more than 50 channels, including CBS, Fox and NBC, and cable channels such as USA, TBS, Fox News and Discovery. Special features include the availability of the previous three days of popular programming and personalization features based on a user's viewing habits.
Sweden cuts main interest rate to –0.25%
The Swedish central bank again cut its main interest rate, bringing it deeper into negative territory to head off deflationary pressures. The executive board of the Swedish Riksbank said that it had cut its main rate target by 0.15 percentage point to minus 0.25 percent, and that it would buy government bonds valued at 30 billion kronor, or about $3.5 billion, over the next few months. The bank said in a statement that it saw signs "that inflation has bottomed out and is beginning to rise," but that the strength of the currency "risks breaking this trend." Sweden, like its Nordic neighbor Denmark and most countries along the perimeter of the eurozone, is fighting to keep its appreciating currency from pushing inflation, already at dangerously low levels, into outright deflation.
Music streaming offsets decline in CD sales
The U.S. retail music business was essentially flat in 2014 as growth in streaming revenue helped offset further decline in sales of CDs, a report from the Recording Industry Association of America said. Overall, retail revenue declined about half of a percent to $6.97 billion. Wholesale revenue for the recorded music industry, meanwhile, grew 2 percent to $4.86 billion. The industry's revenue mix last year was more balanced between physical, digital and streaming sources than ever before, the RIAA said. Permanent downloads made up 37 percent of the total market, down from 40 percent in 2013. Streaming revenue was 27 percent of the total, up from 21 percent a year earlier.
German Uber drivers must have taxi permits
A judge in Frankfurt, Germany, dealt a setback to Uber, ruling that drivers for its ride-sharing service UberPop must hold the official permits required of taxi drivers to operate in Germany. The ruling reinstates one of the most severe legal restrictions faced by the company anywhere in the world. The decision, by Judge Joachim Nickel, overturns a ruling from September that allowed UberPop to operate. The injunction against the service was sought last year by a taxi drivers' trade group. Uber operates two other services in Germany and elsewhere in Europe — UberBlack and UberTaxi — that use only professionally licensed drivers. Those services are not affected by Wednesday's ruling, which also ordered that Uber be fined 250,000 euros, or about $270,000, for each violation.