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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: Nordstrom
May 15, 2013 at 2:52 PM

No easy solutions after Bangladesh factory deaths

The final toll of workers killed in the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh is 1,127. It is a staggering tally of loss. By contrast, the infamous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City killed 146. The Triangle fire, where factory managers had locked fire-escape doors, galvanized the Progressive movement in America, leading to new safety codes, labor laws and increased unionization. Such a favorable outcome in Bangladesh is much less likely.

As the Seattle Times’ Amy Martinez reports, officials at Nordstrom are scrutinizing the safety conditions at the three Bangladesh factories where some of its garments are made (none were made at the factory that collapsed). Benetton, H&M, Joe Fresh, Mango, Tesco and Zara are among the companies that are pushing a binding agreement that requires them to help pay for better safety conditions at Bangladeshi apparel factories. Gap, Sears, and J.C. Penney are among others who have yet to sign on. Gap, for example, has said it fears lawsuits from American lawyers. Wal-Mart, the biggest player, is drafting its own plan, but critics worry it won’t be enough to prevent further deaths.

In addition to the lack of a united front by Western retailers, the Bangladesh government is corrupt and deeply captured by the international garment industry. Ready made apparel is the poor country’s largest export. The government did say it would allow garment workers to unionize and raise the minimum wage, but it’s unlikely these reforms will do much good in such an environment.

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Comments | More in Consumer spending, Global economy, Nordstrom

March 22, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Vote: Is the economy getting better for you

The stock market is up and housing sales are recovering. Unemployment remains stubbornly high and mandatory government cutbacks will be kicking in with the sequestration. Job openings increased slightly in January, but there are 3.3 job seekers for every position. The Seattle area is booming; the rest of Washington, not so much. Today’s poll asks how you are faring personally compared with six months ago:

Read on for the best links of the week and the haiku:

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Comments | More in Amazon.com, Global economy, Gold and precious metals, Google, Great Recession, H1-B skilled foreign worker visas, Income/living standards, Jobs/Unemployment, Nordstrom, Outlook

October 1, 2012 at 10:03 AM

Seattle-area companies make top brands survey

Puget Sound companies put in a respectable showing in the 13th annual Best Global Brands report from Interbrand, a consulting outfit owned by the Omnicom Group. It ranks brands the top 100 brands based on “ongoing investment and management of the brand as a business asset.” Among the criteria: Brand strength (“the ability of the brand to secure the delivery of expected future earnings”); financial performance and the role of brand (“the portion of the decision to purchase that is attributable to brand–this is exclusive of other aspects of the offer like price or feature”).

Microsoft is No. 5 out of 100, followed by Amazon.com at No. 20, and Starbucks at 88. Oregon’s Nike placed at 26. The top spot went to Coca-Cola, followed by Apple.

Amazon was the second biggest brand riser, up from 36 in 2010 and 26 in 2011. The survey comments, “…Amazon has much to celebrate. However, its unfriendly stance toward unions, hardball battles to evade sales taxes in certain parts of the U.S., and a highly publicized story about the harsh treatment of workers in a Pennsylvania warehouse last year have put a dent in the company’s image. To leverage the full potential of its brand, Amazon needs to manage the reputation of its business and work to improve employee relations.”

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Comments | More in Amazon.com, Apple, Consumer products, Consumer spending, Costco Wholesale, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Starbucks, T-Mobile


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