Category Archives: economy

Better eating trend a good economic story too

Empty McDonald's: a good thing?

Empty McDonald’s: a good thing?

I was walking through the Eaton Centre the other day and I couldn’t help but notice how much things have changed over the past few years when it comes to eating options. A new Richtree Natural Market restaurant recently opened in place of an old fast-food court at the southern end of the downtown Toronto shopping mall. That follows the $48 million refurbishment of the northern food court in 2011. In both cases, the respective options have moved decidedly upmarket. While the northern court still houses the likes of A&W and KFC, it also has a number of fancier eateries including gourmet burger and vegan options, while all customers get real plates, glasses and cutlery. Judging from the constant throngs that mob both areas, it’s safe to say that shoppers are generally spending more time and money eating at the mall.

This relates to a story recently sent my way on the “slow death of the microwave.” The author starts his thesis on shaky ground – that microwave sales have fallen 40 per cent since their peak in 2004, and that this means people are eating better – but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make a compelling case by the end of it.

The plateauing of microwave sales could be readily explained by the simple fact that it’s a mature technology. As with all such gadgets and devices, once everyone has one they don’t usually need another one for a while – and indeed, north of 90 per cent of households do have one. But the most telling statistic to back up the author’s claim is the corresponding flattening or small decline in frozen food sales, which has been happening since 2008 after 60 years of solid growth. That’s like if the current flattening of smartphone sales were to be accompanied by a corresponding drop-off in data usage – it’s not happening because the proliferation of the gadget often leads to the explosion of its usage. Such a strong correlation in microwave food consumption is difficult to ignore.

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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in economy, food, mcdonald's


Canadians big in online demand, poor on supply

ShoppingTwo numbers regarding Canadian e-commerce caught my eye the other day, given that they were almost perfectly complementary. The first was an item from the Business Development Bank of Canada, which notes that about 30 per cent of Canadian small businesses still don’t have a web presence. The second was a new report from trend tracker NPD Group, which finds that about 63 per cent of Canadians like to shop online in order to save money.

The two figures do much to illustrate that while Canadians are great on the demand side of online transactions, they’re not so good on the supply side. The reasons why are varied, but ultimately unknown.

The BDC findings are especially poignant, since they highlight a big problem. “It is critical for small business to get ahead of internet trends and manage their image, including managing online reviews,” said Pierre Cléroux, chief economist for the BDC. “And it’s not just having a website. They need more than that – they also need a strategy on the web.” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 24, 2013 in advertising, economy, Facebook, Google


Denmark’s secret labour sauce: flexicurity

How many more stereotypical viking photos can I get away with this week?

How many more stereotypical viking photos can I get away with this week?

Perhaps the most fascinating thing I learned about Denmark during my research trip there last week was how its labour market works. Hiring and employment is based on what’s called the flexicurity model which, it turns out, has big benefits for both companies and workers.

The system is based on strong unemployment benefits. People pay into this while working and, in the event that they find themselves unemployed, get a good chunk of their former salary – up to a whopping 90 per cent for the lowest-end jobs – paid out to them for a period of up to two years.

Sounds crazy, right? It’s the sort of socialist, welfare-state thinking that immediately kicks off that North American reflex of: “Why wouldn’t everyone just abuse this system?”

Well, the worker benefits are only one part of the equation. On the employer side, businesses have much more flexibility to fire people. They’re not able to axe people willy nilly, but they can sack underperforming workers or downsize labour forces when the economy turns sour, provided they follow strict guidelines. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 27, 2013 in denmark, economy, government