Dillard's Department store is the quintessential American success story that begun in 1938. By 1953, it was the leading store in Texas. The company grew rapidly, and evenutally went public in 1969.
In the early 1990s, several complaints were filed about the mistreatment of, and racist attitudes toward customers and employees. The company's stock peaked at $50 in November of 1992. Thereafter, with all the lawsuits and media reports, the stock went down and continued to sink.
By the time management paid a $5.6 million settlement in July of 2001, the shares were changing hands at just $14.00.
In 2002, William T Dillard II (Chariman and CEO), began to turn the company around. The shares got back to $50 in May of 2011, and have been a juggernaut since hitting rock bottom at $2.50 in November of 2008.
There was more going on than accusations of racism. The store was also slow to discount or update its look, but I think their reputation hurt them for a long time.
Fast forward to 2013, when two of the hottest retail brands dissed consumers:
Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF)
-CEO Mike Jeffries
"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids."
"Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends."
"A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU)
CEO Chip Wilson, Nov 2013, explaining why their yoga pants could cause chafing, leading to a recall in March.
"Quite frankly, some women's bodies just actually don't work for it."
I am not surprised LULU has warned on guidance for the fourth time in the last five quarters. I think it is time management tries to figure out a way to get back into the good graces of their lost customers. Wall Street continues to like Abercrombie at lower levels, but I think it is too early to tell if ANF will make a strong turn around. In fact, there is no telling how long it may take; after all, it has taken ten years for Dillard's shares to recover after its fall.
To every business, the message is clear...
People love people and interact with a variety of races through school, work, friends, and even within their extended families. Everyone has overweight friends and family members, and others that some may not think are attractive. A willingness to hurt the feelings of, and to alienate one group can alienate everyone.
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
Just about every single day, one of the big tech companies releases news about another acquisition, initiative, or plan that when pieced together, it seems like a plot to take over the world. In fact, it is a plot to take over the world. The question is: how does the desire for global domination not eventually take a sinister turn?
I wish I could say this is all tongue-in-cheek, but I cannot.
Perhaps I have seen too many movies where organized crime syndicates grow in sophistication, and eventually into rival sovereign governments. In the movies, the only thing they are missing is a nuclear warhead or a way to deliver a nuclear warhead. Or they have such a weapon, and demand a ransom.
|Know Your Evil Mega-Corporation?|
|Scrooge & Markey|
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Ian Fleming created SPECTRE (Special Execution for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) as a foe for the super-secret agent James Bond. There have been many factious mega-corporations eager to unleash their voracious intentions on mankind, and each has a farfetched reach, manpower, and know-how.
There is no way a private corporation could have the kind of tentacles around the world featured in the SPECTRE logo. That was then and this is now, and there is not just one company with an ever-growing ability to know all facets of our lives, but together they can disrupt or destroy our lives, if they so desired.
The race is on and there is no place people can hide.
Don't Be Evil
I think thou protest too much. Why would a company have to state, right out of the gate of their existence that they plan to do no evil? What is that all about? Did they know all along that the goal would be to gather more personal information on people, than even the federal government possess? There are so many questions and very few answers. Instead, each day, we are greeted with more news of yet another tentacle and pathway into our lives.
The latest weapon in the Google arsenal is 'Skybox.' Google paid $500 million for a start-up, which uses low-cost satellites that can take high-resolution photos and videos from as far away as 500 miles. I have to say that the Google street van creeps me out. So, 'Skybox' will peek at me, while I peek out my window at those ominous vans, while filming the neighborhood. Officially, Google says it will use 'Skybox,' (not to be confused with Skynet) to beef-up its Maps and spread Internet access to remote areas.
Then there is Facebook, which seems to match Google step-by- step in acquisitions and questionable motives.
How about the websites microphone feature, when activated on smart phones, it picks up stuff in the background and logs the information. It could be noise from a television or a radio, or a conversation, which is swiftly logged into a status update. Facebook says they are not recording or storing conversations, but many are suspicious. Why create such a feature in the first place? Then again, Facebook has done a lot of unusual things. Perhaps I am just a bit paranoid, but I think I would feel better if the company would adopt a new motto.
How about: "Don't Be Evil."