The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 29 June 2017

Retail

Image: Getty Images

Good sports

Under Armour, the US athleisure brand, is rallying in the face of a sales downturn.

It may be the world’s third-biggest sportswear brand but it has become a little sluggish of late – which is why Under Armour has just appointed a new president and COO in a bid to recapture momentum. The Baltimore-based label started out making American-football kits in the 1990s and has grown rapidly in the past decade. But this April it registered its first-ever quarterly loss of profits due to a downturn in US sales and increased competition from start-ups. It has tapped Patrik Frisk, formerly head of shoe brand Aldo, to steady the ship by homing in on footwear (which accounts for the majority of Nike’s and Adidas’s sales). A key goal, according to Mintel retail analyst Samantha Dover, should be to ramp up awareness of the brand outside the US via more bricks-and-mortar shops. “While Nike and Adidas benefit from exceptionally high brand awareness, Under Armour has struggled to gain the same momentum internationally,” she says.

Hospitality

Image: Getty Images

Second helping

A new Michelin Guide to Singapore could give the hawker businesses a tasty boost.

The second edition of Michelin Guide Singapore is being released today. When it first landed in Singapore last year, the guidebook made waves in awarding two hawker street-food stalls with stars. The effect on these humble hawker stalls serving dishes at less than S$5 (€3) a pop is both negative and positive. Hawker Chan Hong Meng, whose stall Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice picked up a star, was promptly inundated by crowds that the one-man operation could not handle. He’s since grown the business into a fast-food franchise called Hawker Chan – an outlet is set to open in Melbourne in October. With the growing overseas fascination with Singapore’s street food, the new international opportunities that are presented could pose a great attraction for a new generation of hawkers that the nation is hoping will step in to save a dying trade.

Urbanism

Image: Getty Images

Battling the sprawl

The US Department of Defense is waging war on unhealthy troops.

The US Department of Defense (DOD) is fighting on a new and unchartered front: suburban sprawl. The DOD has begun looking for the best way to keep its forces in tip-top shape by shaking up the military base environment. The government department, usually more concerned with munitions and tanks than quality of life, has begun to re-evaluate base layouts that make it hard for soldiers to find healthy food and discourage walking and cycling. Bases have started to feature better pavements, introduced food trucks with more nutritious rations, started farmers’ markets and – in the case of Fort Belvoir, Virginia – even installed a bike-share programme. With the DOD spending $3bn (€2.7bn) on obesity-related illness each year, creating more healthy and handsome military bases may be a battle worth fighting.

Health

Image: Taro Terassawa

Nicotine withdrawal?

Japan is lagging behind when it comes to introducing a smoking ban – but numbers are dropping, nonetheless.

Japan has long been seen as a last bastion for smokers, an image cemented by the health ministry’s recent shelving of legislation to ban smoking in enclosed spaces. A government survey of the nation’s smoking habits published this week, however, has revealed that fewer Japanese than ever – 19.8 per cent of the population – are smoking. This is the first time the figure has fallen below 20 per cent since records started. Japan’s lax controls on indoor smoking has put it out of step with many countries that have been guided by the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in banning smoking in eight categories of public places; Japan has yet to make any smoke-free. The health ministry was unable to agree with the ruling Liberal Democratic party on the terms of the ban and for now the discussion has been postponed until the autumn.

From Monocle 24

Clear vision

The Entrepreneurs

There are 2.5 billion people with uncorrected vision problems. James Chen is a Hong Kong-based venture philanthropist and entrepreneur who’s on a mission to help the world see better – and he’s marshalling start-ups, government and non-profits to make it happen. This week Chen explains how he’s doing it and what he’s learnt along the way.

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