January 17, 2013

New Demands

December 21st marked a global shift in consciousness and the beginning of a new era. This combined with the start of a fresh year calls for us to re-evaluate our lives, relationships with others and how we treat the world around us. We talk about this “shift” all the time and it’s here, as we establish a new set of demands. Our core values and beliefs are changing from young to old, east to west, as we begin to embrace lives full of meaning, passion and new experiences.

photo via NY Times

For some, this change starts at dinner as we bring manners back to the table. Chenery Park, a restaurant in San Francisco, hosts Tuesday "family nights" where children are expected to behave and practice basic etiquette. This restaurant is one of many etiquette based businesses who are trying to preserve and pass down the art of politeness to future generations who are too busy living in today's techno-crazed age. Even China is seeing a surge of interest in learning western etiquette in an effort to politely engage universally across many cultures.

photo via ft.com

Speaking of China, as double digit wage increases continue, many companies are shifting production out of the country to cheaper places like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and especially Cambodia, where productivity rates are rapidly improving. Look at Taiwan, who has built an entire high-tech fabric niche on behalf of companies exiting mainland China because of its terrible quality control measures. However, things seem to be finally getting better in China for employees as some plants begin to thoroughly re-evaluate workers' rights by regulating hours and upgrading their comfort standards by offering them chairs with more support.

photo via ft.com

Meanwhile, retailers push the limits ever so slightly as they test out high speed deliveries like Walmart, with its same day delivery service during the holidays. This initiative has developed as a response to companies who are entirely based online, like Amazon and Ebay's ability to speed up delivery times because of their more flexible business models. While the actual logistics of how many consumers prefer this method and how much costly it actually is remains under consideration, one thing is for sure, brick and mortar stores will not be able to compete with this pursuit for immediacy by e-commerce retailers.

photo via Chicago Tribune

We've discussed the importance of the "Made In America" initiative before on our blog and now it's really about to catch on as the largest retailer in the US, Walmart, seeks a more local approach to the way they do business. The retailer's plans include both buying an additional $50 billion in U.S. made goods over the next decade as well as hiring over 100,000 veterans over the next five years. Whether this is a response to their supposed low wages or merely a shift in business models, it is a monumental move that will hopefully unfold further for other retailers in the near future.

video via ecouterre.com

After major pressure from Greenpeace campaigns, Inditex, the parent company of Zara has pledged to eliminate all toxic and hormone disrupting chemicals from their supply chain by 2020. Other major commitments by Adidas, C&A, H&M, LI-Ning, Nike, Puma and Marks & Spencer are marking the beginning of healthier, cleaner and more transparent supply chains industry-wide. These instances reflect the changing demands of both the consumer and market to re-evaluate how we do things and figure out a more sustainable solution for this planet and its inhabitants.

photo via ft.com

No generation is more dedicated to a healthier lifestyle than Generation Y and the automotive industry is feeling the hit from it. Especially in more urbanized communities like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there is a decline in car usage because for many young people, the car no longer serves as a status symbol. Instead, over the past few years, biking has made a major comeback to not only represent our lifestyle choices but a more cost conscious alternative to rising gas and insurance prices. Just as more innovative technology has reinvented the fashion world, car companies are going to have to develop new features that appeal to Millennials in order to win over this market.

video via ecouterre.com

In the past, all theses changing needs may have triggered major stress but not anymore. Bandu, a wristwatch that monitors stress levels before you even realize you are getting worked up, offers calming alternatives like listening to music, calling a friend or simply taking a few breaths to help you deal. This is one of many gadgets out there that focuses on our well being and making our lives a little bit simpler. Other forward thinking concepts on the rise include online banking start-ups like Simple, which offer free checking and a data heavy way to observe your spending habits and Polaroid who has experimented with retail locations so consumers can turn their mobile photos (which typically remain in digital format), into real-life keepsakes. 

Our demands are changing and our attitudes shifting. We are at a point where we are re-evaluating how we do everything to make it better, faster and more convenient. However, it's a learning process and a balance between more traditional aspects and advancing technology still exists and it probably will forever. We need to evolve but still remember who we are and where we come from. So take a leap forward, make a difference by doing something nice for someone today and remember to stand by what you believe in. 

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