David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The corporate earnings season is still young, but the latest reports are already revealing some striking trends. Troubles in toyland are among them.
Mattel’s report reveals that weak Barbie sales are one reason for its unexpected first-quarter loss. Toymakers are facing problems globally, largely because of fierce competition from tablets and other electronic gadgets.
Mattel, the largest U.S. toymaker, says it lost $11.2 million in the first quarter of this year. Sales dropped 5 percent.
Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels cars and Disney Princess dolls are among the best known of hundreds of Mattel toy brands.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For so many of QVC’s viewers, Lisa Robertson is the host with the most.
Robertson, 48, is one of the shopping channel’s most popular personalities. Every week, the former Miss Tennessee sells the latest in beauty and fashion, drawing an estimated 20 million viewers a week.
That prominence has brought her a lot of attention, some of it unwanted.
In court documents obtained by the Daily Local Newsof Chester County, Pa., Robertson, who lives in Chester County, alleges that she has secretly lived in constant fear of one of a number of men who have reportedly been obsessed with her during her time with the network.
In a recent victim’s impact statement, Robertson reportedly wrote: “I lock myself in my house every day. I check my alarm constantly…I watch my rearview mirror when I go home at night…if there is a sound at night, I lay awake wondering.”
In December, 50-year-old Peter Ferriera was sentenced to 7 years’ probation for violating a court order from a previous stalking conviction. He is appealing.
Ferriera was first arrested for stalking Robertson 10 years ago. He allegedly went to Robertson’s home and followed her to a movie theater, where he was, according to a police affidavit, “close enough to Robertson that he could smell the popcorn she was eating.”
In that case, he pleaded guilty to stalking, and served 132 days in jail.
Robertson’s tenure at QVC was marked by more terror, as other men were also obsessed with her. In one case, according to the Los Angeles Times, one of those men reportedly traveled to the home of another QVC host, hoping to meet Robertson there. Police reportedly said that strapped to the man’s chest were engagement and wedding rings.
In a statement to ABC News, Robertson said, in part: “…We enjoy the connection we have with our audience from being open and sharing our personal stories. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to this is that people can take these connections too far and cross personal boundaries.”
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many consumers may not know this, but the largest cost of owning a car is depreciation.
According to new research from the auto price valuation firm ALG, the process begins on day one.
Consider a new car or SUV that sells for $30,000: “On average you lose almost $5,000 literally driving it off the dealer lot,” ALG President Larry Dominique says. “Typically, after three years, the vehicle is worth about half what it was when you first purchased the car.”
Most motorists pay attention to gas and insurance costs but, as Dominique notes, “the number one thing we see with cars over time is the depreciation whether you own that car three years, four years, seven years.”
A nearly new car loses value at a much faster rate than an older vehicle.
Allison Shelley/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Center for Auto Safety says according to its analysis of documents General Motors turned over to Congress, GM designed an adequate ignition switch but rejected it in favor of a cheaper, less safe option in 2001.
In a timeline submitted weeks ago to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GM acknowledged that the company knew of problems with the ignition switch in 2001. It had also been revealed that the automaker changed the ignition switch without changing the part number.
While this information has already become public knowledge, the Center for Auto Safety claims its analysis reveals new information not previously evident to the public: 1) GM had a safer switch in 2001 and did not use it, and 2) The company did return to that safer switch many years later under the same part number "in a silent remedy that went undiscovered until 2013."
The auto safety lobbyist group said "smoking gun" documents submitted to Congress prior to Barra's testimony included an engineering drawing that shows GM's return to the safer design in 2006.
On Wednesday, the Center for Auto Safety revealed its findings in a letter sent to GM CEO Mary Barra:
“Were you briefed on these internal General Motors documents prior to your testimony before Congress? Since they were submitted to Congress before you testified, surely your engineering staff should have told you about the shocking contents of these documents. They paint a tragic picture of the cost culture and cover up at General Motors. The conclusion we draw from examining the two different designs of the ignition switches under consideration in 2001 is that General Motors picked a smaller and cheaper ignition switch that cost consumers their lives and saved General Motors money. The documents show that when General Motors changed the ignition switch in 2006, it did not have to develop a new more robust design because GM engineers had already designed the safer switch that GM previously rejected in 2001.”
GM is not making any definitive statements on these matters until their internal investigation is complete. The results of that investigation will not be released for at least another month.
Sandra Mu/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- This is not a drill: KFC plans to bring back its infamous Double Down starting April 21, reports USA Today. In case you forgot what this glorious creation includes, it’s a bunless “sandwich” that uses breaded and fried chicken breasts instead of bread, which enclose melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheeses, two slices of bacon and the Colonel’s sauce.
“The Double Down launched originally in April 2010. It was a huge hit with fans, with more than 10 million sold in the first month, so it stayed on the menu past its original late May 2010 promotion-end date,” the company told Eater. “Many restaurants continued selling Double Downs throughout 2010. It has not been nationally promoted in four years.”
The company will reportedly be rolling out a media campaign for the official announcement called the “Double Down Dare.” Stay tuned for details on that one.
Google(NEW YORK) -- Google's "Project Ara," an affordable smartphone with swappable and customizable hardware, could be the next big thing to shake up the mobile market.
Details of the phone were unveiled at the first Ara developer's conference on Tuesday, when leader Paul Eremenko announced it would go on sale early next year and retail for about $50.
"It’s about getting exactly what you want in a phone,” Patrick Moorhead, principal technology analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy told ABC News. "For a lot of people, their primary reason for buying a phone could be social media. For another person it could be taking pictures. For other people it may be gaming. It’s all about customization."
According to Google's "Project Ara" module developer's kit, users will be able to build on to a basic structural framework to customize their phone with different modules to design a phone with the look, capability and price that they want.
As new technology comes to market, users won't have to wait for a new phone and can instead just swap in the modules, empowering users to customize their technology.
Essentially, it's an a la carte phone and consumers are allowed to choose the extra bells and whistles they want to use or swap out on any given day.
While the lower price point could make the phone more accessible to the developing world, Moorhead predicts "Project Ara" will have an impact in tech-hungry markets where individuals' smartphones "mean everything to them."
"Some people will want modular and others will go thinner," he said. "I think the market will decide where it goes from there."
Dominos(NEW YORK) -- In a world of crazy food mash-ups with one chef outdoing the next, Dominos has officially entered the arena.
Let us introduce what the brand calls its new “specialty chicken,” which is fried chicken covered with traditional pie toppings for a new take on “pizza.”
The new chicken comes in four varieties: Crispy Bacon & Tomato, Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple, Classic Hot Buffalo and Sweet BBQ Bacon. The toppings come over 12 pieces of breaded and fried boneless white meat chicken for $5.99.
“The CEO said they sell almost as much chicken as they do pizza -- more than anything else -- so this is a way of combining. They say they already have all the pizza ingredients in the stores,” ABC’s Lara Spencer reported on Good Morning America. “So why not? Starts on Monday and they say if it goes well, they’ll do more.”
Google(NEW YORK) -- The hot item at Tuesday’s one-day-only Google Glass public sale was the “cotton” colored frames, which sold out in a matter of hours once the wearable tech devices became available.
The sale was part of an expansion of Google’s Explorer program, in which they allow a small pool of users to wear Glass and help experiment with different capabilities before it becomes widely available.
The company said Wednesday that all of the new spots in their Explorer program had been filled up during the one-day sale.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon Google announced that it had sold out of white frames.
“Wow, what a morning! We’re happy to see so many new faces (and frames) in the Explorer Program. Just a quick update that – ack – we’ve sold out of Cotton (white), so things are moving really fast,” the company said on Google .
The frames also come in colors like charcoal, shale, tangerine, and sky. The cost of the device and joining the program is $1,500.
Google declined to say how many devices were sold during the sale.
“All spots in the Explorer Program have been claimed for now,” the company wrote shortly after midnight, “but if you missed it this time, don’t worry. We’ll be trying new ways to expand the Explorer program in the future.”
Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Not too many convenient stores are popular enough to have their own fan clubs, but Wawa is.
Most people from Philadelphia, where Wawa originated, will argue that it’s more than a place to buy a pack of gum or get gas -- Wawa is a one-stop shop for made-to-order meals, gourmet coffee and clean bathrooms.
Why are people so fanatical about what appears, to the rest of the country, to be a glorified service station?
Fans brag that the brand is family-owned and began as a dairy business in Wawa, Pennsylvania. Wawa’s Facebook page has more than 1 million likes with countless comments from customers begging it to expand beyond current locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and central Florida.
And Wednesday, Wawa is offering free coffee at all of its 645 locations in honor of its 50th birthday. One customer promised he would stop by on the way to his wedding. Dozens posted grateful thank you notes.
Even Mitt Romney has chowed down on a hoagie from Wawa.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What are the best places to work in the U.S.? There's no lack of lists claiming to answer this question. Earlier Wednesday, Business Insider released its list of the 50 best places to work. It has little in common with Fortune's annual list of 100 best companies, released in January.
The lists have very few similarities and different methodologies. Fortune utilizes company surveys collected by the Great Place to Work Institute. Business Insider's methodology ranked companies in the Fortune 500 using PayScale's salary and survey database, looking at six criteria factors: high job satisfaction, low job stress, high work-schedule flexibility, high job meaning, experienced median pay, and salary delta.
Meanwhile, Outside Magazine compiled its own list of 100 best places to work with the help of the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade group, and the Best Companies Group. For that list, companies with at least 15 employees in the U.S. filled out confidential employee satisfaction surveys about benefits, compensation, job satisfaction, environmental initiatives and community outreach. Companies in Outside Magazine's list are smaller and tend to lean toward employees with a penchant for the outdoors.
Here are the four firms that show up in more than one of the three lists:
Google, Inc. -- Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.
Tech giant Google has repeatedly appeared at the top of Fortune's list, but was only number eight in Business Insider's rankings. Though Google has dropped from the number two spot last year, Business Insider noted employees' high rates of work-schedule flexibility (83 percent) and job satisfaction (81 percent)" and median pay is $127,000 after five years, which is "very high compared to industry peers."
Qualcomm -- Headquarters: San Diego
Semiconductor company Qualcomm was 32nd in Fortune's list but 13th in Business Insider's. Business Insider pointed out that Qualcomm employees report "high rates of work-schedule flexibility (93 percent) and job satisfaction (80 percent)" while median pay is $113,000 after five years, which is "very high compared to industry peers."
NetApp -- Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.
Data and cloud storage company NetApp ranked 33rd in Fortune's list and 16th in Business Insider's. Fortune wrote, "Employees at this data-management and -protection company enjoy five paid days off a year to volunteer within their community."
Chesapeake Energy -- Headquarters: Oklahoma City
Chesapeake Energy, which calls itself the second-largest producer of natural gas and the 10th largest producer of oil and natural gas liquids in the U.S., came in at 51 in Fortune's list and 75 in Outside's rankings. Outside Magazine wrote back in August: "Chesapeake has the largest corporate mentoring program in Oklahoma. Now starting its 19th year, mentors meet weekly one-on-one with more than 500 students to help with homework and serve as positive role models."
moodboard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After the brutal winter weather of January and February, people who use oil to heat their homes saw costs fall a bit in March along with dropping prices at the pump. However, other homeowners weren't so lucky as the price of natural gas and electricity were higher than during the comparable period in 2013.
Meanwhile, the persistent drought in the West also drove up costs of meat, produce and dairy at the supermarket. Renters were also hit harder in March as were people who tried to escape winter by vacationing in a nicer climate. High demand also pushed up hotel room prices.
Nevertheless, inflation remains at about 1.5 percent, a half-percent lower than what's acceptable to the government.
While most people can deal with this inflation rate, it's those who live from paycheck-to-paycheck who were most affected by the various higher prices in March.
Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Lumberjacks aren’t cutting it.
That’s according to CareerCast.com, which says being a tree-feller is the absolute worst, most going-nowhere job of any in the U.S. It’s also dangerous and underpaid.
The site’s annual ranking of 200 different vocations across North America was released on Wednesday.
CareerCast’s publisher, Tony Lee, tells ABC News the next-worst job after lumberjack is being a reporter. Other loathsome vocations among the 10-worst include prison guard, military personnel, broadcaster, garbage collector, firefighter and taxi-driver.
Coming in at sixth-worst, “head cook” is a category new to the list this year, says Lee. He explains it does not refer to chefs (celebrity or otherwise), but to hourly workers “at Denny’s or your high school cafeteria.”
Each vocation on the 10-worst list includes the job’s median annual salary, its projected growth between now and 2022, and a brief blurb explaining why it earned itself a circle in Career Hell.
Some bad jobs, Lee says, are crucial to society. The reason they rank among CareerCast’s worst is because they expose workers to extraordinary stress or physical risk. He includes, for example, fire-fighters (ninth-worst).
“Broadcaster” ranks fifth-worst. The broadcast industry, says Lee, has seen its job growth “evaporate,” meaning there are fewer opportunities for young, aspiring broadcasters. Competition is high; so is stress.
With the U.S. prison population exploding, you might think “corrections officer” would be a promising career. It’s not, says Lee, owing to the ongoing privatization of prisons.
“They’re not well paid,” he says of corrections officers, whose median salary CareerCast gives as a little under $40,000. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities. In terms of danger, it’s a pretty tough.”
As far as the best job in the country: Mathematician, says Lee.
A complete explanation of CareerCast’s methodology can be found on its website. To see the entire list, click here.
LouieBaxter/iStock Editorial/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Could it be time for another New Coke?
Although the 1985 attempt at introducing a new, improved Coca-Cola fizzled, the soft-drink giant may now be wondering if it's time to shake things up again with overall global sales of its carbonated beverage line falling by 1 percent during the first three months of 2014.
It marks the first decline in worldwide sales of carbonated sodas in 15 years for Coke.
One of the low spots for the company was in Great Britain with sales down by more than 10 percent compared to last year.
However, it might not have been people in the U.K. losing their taste for the beverage as much as it was the bottle getting smaller with prices staying the same, according to the BBC.