Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Santa Won’t Visit China’s Toymakers Much This Year

December 1, 2008

Dongguan, China, produces a vast amount of the toys that will end up under Christmas trees around the world. Or it did, until all the factories there started to close because of the global economy….. leaving thousands of workers out of work and out of luck….

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At about six o’clock Thursday evening, around what used to be quitting time for the day shift at the He Jun toy factory in Dongguan, China, 40-year-old Wei Dong Li made his way to the factory’s front entrance, his three-year-old son Qian Jie tugging at his sleeve. The factory is now closed; a few security guards stand inside the locked gate. Posted each evening at the front entrance is a sheaf of documents: the latest rulings from a local court on compensation claims filed by many of He Jun’s 4,000 workers, Wei included. “They process a few of them a day, so I come back every other day to check and see if my case is on the list,” Wei says. He has no luck again. “I’ll just wait some more,” he says. “I have nothing else to do at this point.”

By Bill Powell
Time Magazine

Dongguan, along with a handful of similar, nearby towns, is the real Santa’s factory at the North Pole. A sprawling, charmless city of 7.5 million that sits 80 km southeast of Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong in southern China, Dongguan produces a vast amount of the toys that will end up under Christmas trees around the world. Toys were one of the critical, low-wage, low-tech industries on which China built its economic ascent over the past 30 years. But as workers such as Wei know better than anyone, 2008 is the year that that part of China’s miracle has come to an end.

It’s been six weeks since He Jun, a Hong Kong-listed company, shuttered two of its biggest factories in China — suddenly and without any warning, former workers say. They were among the latest and largest factory closures in China’s battered low-end industries: toy manufacturers, textile companies and shoe makers most prominent among them. China’s steadily appreciating renminbi currency — which makes Chinese goods more expensive in key exports markets like the U.S. — as well as higher costs embedded in a new labor law enacted last year were already wreaking havoc with companies that survived even in the best of times on the thinnest of profit margins. Now, with a global recession gathering pace, the best of times are gone, and the pain in what had been booming areas in southern China is spreading quickly. Fully half of China’s toy exporters, which sent nearly $8 billion worth of Barbies and Thomas the Tank Engines to export markets in 2007, were driven out of business in the first seven months of this year, Beijing’s General Administration of Customs said in a recent report. In the city of Shenzhen, the other major manufacturing center in Guangdong province, 50,000 people have already lost their jobs this year. And in Beijing last week, Zhang Ping, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the nation’s key economic policy-making body, bluntly warned that “excessive production cuts and business closures will cause massive unemployment and that will lead to instability.”

In Dongguan, it already has. Earlier last week, on the evening of November 25, another large toy manufacturer here, Kai Da Manufacturing, laid off more than 600 of its workers because of slowing production. According to participants and eyewitnesses to what followed, a large group of the workers gathered in the front courtyard of the factory demanding to know what compensation they would receive. At first, a company manager told them that anyone with a good work record and less than five years service would receive less than 10,000 RMB—less than $1,500 at today’s exchange rates. Anyone with over seven years on the line and a good record would get 12,300 RMB or about $1,800.

Read the rest:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,
1862717,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

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Meltdown fallout: some parents rethink toy-buying

November 29, 2008

In a season that inspires earnest letters about toys, one notable batch is being sent not by kids to Santa’s workshop but by parents to the executive suites of real-world toy makers.

The message: Please, in these days of economic angst, cut back on marketing your products directly to our children.

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

The letter-writing initiative was launched by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which says roughly 1,400 of its members and supporters have contacted 24 leading toy companies and retailers to express concern about ads aimed at kids.

Jessica Luu, left, looks for deals as her friend's baby, Kaylee ... 
Jessica Luu, left, looks for deals as her friend’s baby, Kaylee Oliver, inspects a toy in the shopping cart, as shoppers at Toys ‘R’ Us at The Forum at Olympia Parkway in Selma, Texas look for the best savings on Black Friday, Nov. 28, 2008.(AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen)

“Unfortunately, I will not be able to purchase many of the toys that my sons have asked for; we simply don’t have the money,” wrote Todd Helmkamp of Hudson, Ind. “By bombarding them with advertisements … you are placing parents like me in the unenviable position of having to tell our children that we can’t afford the toys you promote.”

The Toy Industry Association has responded with a firm defense of current marketing practices, asserting that children “are a vital part of the gift selection process.”

“If children are not aware of what is new and available, how will they be able to tell their families what their preferences are?” an industry statement said. “While there is certainly greater economic disturbance going on now, families have always faced different levels of economic well-being and have managed to tailor their spending to their means.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081129/ap_
on_bi_ge/toy_worries;_ylt=AoWMb0EDdgDf8
Q0n2j_5kxGs0NUE

Wall-Mart Turns Into Hell-Mart As Shoppers Stampede

November 29, 2008

Eye witnesses called the stampeders “savages.”  Police called the scene “chaos.”
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A rampaging mob of bargain hunters trampled a Long Island Wal-Mart employee to death early yesterday as he opened the store for the post-Thanksgiving sale – unleashing a stampede that blew the doors off the hinges.

By KIERAN CROWLEY and LUKAS I. ALPERT
The New York Post

A crowd of about 2,000 people eager to snatch up steeply discounted electronics had lined up outside the store at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, police said. When the doors were not opened exactly at 5 a.m. as advertised, the crowd became unruly.

The front of a Wal-Mart store is seen in 2006 in Clearwater, ...

Black Friday Shoppers: Wal-Mart worker dies after customers knock him down

November 28, 2008

A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday after an “out of control” throng of shoppers eager for post-Thanksgiving bargains broke down the doors at a suburban store and knocked him to the ground, police said.

At least four other people, including a woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.

Nassau police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the store doors at the mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the man to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.

By Colleen Long, Associated Press Writer

“This crowd was out of control,” said Nassau police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming. He described the scene as “utter chaos.”

Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help the man were also getting trampled by the crowd, Fleming said. Witnesses said that even as the worker lay on the ground, shoppers streamed into the store, stepping over him.

Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like “savages.”

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,'” she said. “They kept shopping.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081128/ap_on_re_us/wal_mart_
death;_ylt=Av2tIlmfml8YC68rRMCejHOs0NUE

War Hardly Possible for Australia: Navy On Two Month Holiday

November 18, 2008

Most of Australia’s navy is to be given two months off over Christmas as part of a new strategy to cope with crew shortages, the defence minister says.

Joel Fitzgibbon said the extended break was a way of encouraging sailors to stay in the service.

From the BBC

The number of sailors who stay aboard docked ships will be reduced, to make sailors’ duties more family-friendly.

Mr Fitzgibbon rejected claims by the opposition that the move would affect national security.

The opposition said the venture was an admission that the government had failed to recruit enough sailors.

‘Innovative ways’

Mr Fitzgibbon said: “We’re doing a lot of work trying to find new and innovative ways both to retain skilled people and recruit new people.”


Above: HMAS Darwin

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7734770.stm

In India, The Shopping Spree is Over?

November 1, 2008

By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 1, 2008; Page A10

GURGAON, India — When Moshumee Jha moved to a luxurious suburban condominium called Belvedere Towers four years ago, she had never shopped in a mall before.
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But within months, her home was surrounded by six new, gleaming, glass-fronted malls, and a whole new world of air-conditioned shopping opened up for her. Like millions of Indians, she grew to love weekends browsing the shops as soothing elevator music played in the background.
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That was before the slowdown. In recent weeks, she has cut back on her visits because of her concerns about the economy.
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On Sunday, when she went to buy the ritual piece of gold for this week’s Diwali festival, she was shocked.
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“It was almost empty, there was no crowd. ‘Is it just me here?’ I wondered,” said Jha, 41, a portrait photographer and mother of two. “What has happened? Where is everybody? Where is the festival shopping rush?”

A man window-shops outside a store at Forum Mall, the oldest shopping mall in Bangalore. A retail survey taken at malls across the country this month reported a 22 percent decrease in buying compared with the previous three months.

A man window-shops outside a store at Forum Mall, the oldest shopping mall in Bangalore. A retail survey taken at malls across the country this month reported a 22 percent decrease in buying compared with the previous three months. (By Aijaz Rahi — Associated Press)

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For the first time since Indian malls began to boom seven years ago, shopping has dropped sharply. For merchants, the timing could not be worse: In the midst of India’s most important month for retail, worries triggered by the worldwide financial meltdown are scaring away customers.
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Much like the Christmas season in the United States, the Hindu holiday of Diwali, which was Tuesday, is traditionally a time of consumption-driven celebration. It is considered an auspicious season to buy clothes, jewelry and home appliances, and to decorate homes.
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An extensive retail survey by Bangalore-based Harish Bijoor Consults taken this month in 38 malls across 10 cities has reported a drop in mall visits and buying. The survey showed a 22 percent decrease in buying and a decline of 14 percent in people visiting stores, compared with the average for the previous three months.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/10/31
/AR2008103103412.html?hpid=sec-world

Make-or-Break Holiday Season Looms Large for Retailers Amid Global Financial Crisis

October 9, 2008

By Ylan Q. Mui and Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 9, 2008; Page A01

Each day of financial tumult is bringing more pressure to bear on the nation’s retailers — and time is growing short.
Yesterday, as the clock ticked ominously down to the critical holiday season, department stores and clothing retailers reported a sharp drop in sales while Target said its shoppers are delinquent in their store credit card payments. Port traffic, meanwhile, has been plummeting as retailers cut back on inventory.

“I don’t think anyone predicted a crisis of this magnitude that couldn’t be fixed quickly,” said Bob Carbonell, chief credit officer for Bernard Sands, a retail rating and credit services agency. “If the American housewife puts the money under the mattress, we’re in deep trouble.”

In a year that seems to be defying all economic expectations, retailers are struggling to plot a course through the make-or-break holiday season, which accounts for nearly 20 percent of their sales each year. Will they have access to credit? How much merchandise should they order? Will anyone buy it? The moves they make now could determine where they stand in January.

The past three months were expected to bring the deepest cuts in consumer spending since the 1991 recession. September’s dire economic news — from the collapse of Lehman Brothers to the freefall in the financial markets to the government’s $700 billion rescue plan — have spooked shoppers and eroded confidence. On the day that the House of Representatives rejected the rescue plan, mall traffic plunged 12 percent, according to research firm ShopperTrak.

Scott and Elaine Bourdeau feel the ripples. The couple, who live in Herndon, had planned to travel to Italy for their 10th anniversary but opted instead to save money with a short trip to the San Francisco Bay area. They’re postponing remodeling their bathroom and focusing on necessities — clothes for their two daughters.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/10/08
/AR2008100804024.html?hpid=topnews

Religious freedom still a distant dream for Montagnards

January 7, 2008

By Nguyen Hung
Asia News
January 5, 2008

During the Christmas season there were persecutions threats and arrests in the North of the country. Many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, do not dare declare their faith because they are discriminated against in the workplace and threatened by police.

Lang Son (AsiaNews) – In a globalised Vietnam which boasts increased foreign investment, ethnic minorities are being discriminated against also because of their religious views.  “Oppression, threats and terror” are still being waged against Catholics (and Protestants) in many of the nation’s mountain regions.

The Vietnamese Constitution (dated 1982) states that “Vietnamese citizens have the right to religious freedom.  Each person has the right to follow or not follow a religion”.  But this article is barely enacted in the large residential areas.  In the rural and mountain areas of Lang Son, however, local authorities are threatening Montagnards who dare participate in religious service with prison.

Lang Son diocese was established in 1659 and is located in the North of Vietnam on the border with China. The total population is over 1, 15 million, with just 6 thousand Catholics, almost all from ethnic minorities.  But only about half of the number of Catholics living here are able to attend church on Sunday or pastoral activities. The rest do not even have the courage to declare themselves Catholics because of continuous discrimination.  A Catholic of the H’mong ethnic group tells AsiaNews: “We do not dare to affirm that we are Catholics because the local authority suspects us and threat that they will bring us to the prison”.

A young man reveals that “It is difficult to look for a job in the province if your curriculum vitae or your religious back ground are Catholic or Protestant. Of course you are not able to work for government offices or state organizations. So your future or your children’s future remains bleak and uncertain”.

“Though the government has said that the law of religions will be renovated and reformed, – adds another young Catholic – it still hasn’t been implemented. Especially in rural and mountainous areas, if the minority people enter any “religions’ activities”, it means that the person will be confronted with serious difficulties and obstacles in their daily lives. Local authorities still see religion as a taboo”.

During the Christmas period there were a series of attacks on religious communities in the North.  On 24th December, police raided a gathering in the village in Son La province, North Vietnam, where people were praying together on the occasion of Christmas. A young man from the nearby Phu Tho province attending the meeting was brutally beaten and taken away. Police falsely accused him as a criminal for whom they were hunting. However, he was set free later after a protest led by the villagers.

On Christmas day, Father Joseph Nguyen Trung Thoai, Chancellor of Son Tay Bishop’s office, was arrested on the way to Co Noi to celebrate Christmas Mass. He was held in police custody to prevent him celebrating mass. Again, he was only set free after a protest of the villagers.

In the village of Muong La, police did not dismiss a Christmas prayer gathering held in a private house. However, they did prevent anyone outside the village from joining the gathering. A group of people who had to walk 40 km to attend Christmas Mass were forced to go back to their tribe.

For decades now groups of Montagnards, be they Catholic or Protestant, have been subjected to persecution at the hands of the Vietnamese government.  They have long been suspected of having collaborated with the United States during the Vietnamese war,  Often the persecution is exacerbated by the expansion of Vietnamese towards Montagnard territory, expropriating lands and leading to mass arrests,

 “Local authorities – a young H’mong explains – have always been prejudice towards us.  They think that our religious activities are a cover for complotting or conspiracy.   But we Catholics, just like so many other Vietnamese, only want to contribute to the development of our nation”.

U.S. Economy: Desperate Stores Slash Prices

December 29, 2007

By BusinessWeekChristmas has passed, but Elizabeth Milner is getting busier. The shoe associate at Macy’s in Overland Park, Kan., says she’s seeing even more customers now than during the Christmas rush.

That’s because the store is offering an extra 30% off merchandise already reduced by half. Shave off 10% more with a pass from the newspaper and you reap a deeper discount than last year, says Milner, when the store offered 20% off items already reduced by 40%.

After the most disappointing holiday sales season in five years, retailers are turning to “desperation discounting” to rescue bleak holiday sales. From early-bird specials to new “power hours” and savings of up to 80%, chain stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s are trying a variety of tricks to resuscitate spending.

Read the rest:
http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Extra/
DesperateStoresSlashPrices.aspx

Major Retailers Feel the Squeeze From Consumers

December 27, 2007
December 27, 2007
As the nation’s merchants began poring — or weeping — over holiday sales receipts Wednesday, a surprising pattern emerged: even brands that for years have inspired the undying devotion of shoppers felt the pinch of tightening wallets.Once seemingly invincible marquee chains like Coach, Target, Starbucks and Abercrombie & Fitch are settling for ho-hum growth this winter, after surpassing even the most rosy expectations season after season.Though they sell very different products, at very different prices, these companies all shared the same bragging rights. Their customers considered them indispensable, even expressions of who they were.

But in this turbulent economy, the indispensable is becoming disposable…..

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/27/business/27shopping.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin