Category Archives: Business

Zurich to sell student insurer Endsleigh

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The Swiss insurance giant Zurich is to seek a buyer for Endsleigh, the UK subsidiary which features prominently on university campuses around the country.

Sky News has learnt that Zurich has hired investment bankers at Evercore to explore a sale of Endsleigh, which is best-known for its sponsorship of the English Football League during the 1990s.

Sources said on Thursday that the process was at an early stage, and that a deal was uncertain.

If concluded, it would be the latest disposal by Zurich in the UK, following the sale earlier this month of £19bn of pensions and savings assets to Lloyds Banking Group.

Endsleigh is the only insurance brand to be officially endorsed by the National Union of Students, offering home, motor and travel cover.

The brand has been owned by Zurich since 2007, and it was unclear on Thursday why the Swiss company was now exploring a sale process.

Zurich is one of the world’s largest insurance groups, and has a major presence in the UK market through its parent brand.

In total, the company employs about 55,000 people in more than 170 countries.

On Thursday, it said it expected to receive roughly $700m in claims related to the recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“While significant, these events have demonstrated the effectiveness of our underwriting and the improvements made in our reinsurance programmes over the past year, which have ensured that the overall losses remain well within our overall risk tolerance,” Mario Greco, Zurich’s chief executive, said.

Zurich’s UK media relations department could not be reached for comment on the Endsleigh sale discussions.

What would happen if Amazon brought 50,000 workers to your city? Ask Seattle.

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David Ryder for The Washington Post

A worker cleans the exterior of one of three glass spheres at Amazon headquarters in Seattle on Sept. 27.

SEATTLE — Amazon.com has driven an economic boom in Seattle, bestowing more than 40,000 jobs upon a city known for Starbucks coffee and Seahawks fandom. Its growth remade a neglected industrial swath north of downtown into a hub of young workers and fixed the region, along with Microsoft before it, as a premier locale for the Internet economy outside Silicon Valley.

Seattle is the fastest-growing big city in the United States, a company town with construction cranes busily erecting new apartments for newly arriving tech workers. Google and Facebook have joined Amazon in putting large offices here.

When Amazon made a surprise announcement last month that it planned to open a second headquarters with even more jobs, it set off an unprecedented race among cities to lure the tech giant their way. Amazon said it will need 8 million square feet in a second region, making it the biggest economic development target in decades, experts say.

But as Seattleites will say, keeping up with the Internet juggernaut has not always been easy, providing a word of caution for officials from other cities willing to pursue the company at great expense.

Over the past decade, Amazon and founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, have added new products and business units at a breakneck speed and expected public partners to keep pace.

In Seattle, that meant rehabbing an area of more than 350 acres at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing transportation and infrastructure upgrades expanding public transit, road networks, parks and utilities.

David Ryder for The Washington Post

People walk next to the Day 1 building at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

It also put new strains on housing. Seattle is one of the most expensive places in the United States to live, forcing lower-income residents to move to far-off suburbs. The city and surrounding King County declared a state of emergency in 2015 over homelessness.

Since then, the problem has worsened. Rents in King County have more than doubled in the past 20 years and gone up 65 percent since 2009. Seattle spends more than $60 million annually to address homelessness, up from $39 million four years ago.

“We started seeing apartment listings that would say, ‘No deposit needed and priority for Amazon, Microsoft and Google employees,’ ” said Rachael Myers, executive director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, a Seattle-based advocacy group. She said the area is “in the midst of the greatest affordable-housing and homelessness crisis that our state has ever seen.”

How much of Seattle’s evolution is attributable to Amazon is a matter of debate. In the past decade, millennial workers have poured into other big cities — Washington, San Francisco, Boston — exacerbating housing costs and homelessness there.

But few buildups are so linked to the prospects of one company. Amazon has contributed $30 billion to the local economy and as much as $55 billion more in spinoff benefits. Unemployment in the Seattle area is 3.7 percent, below the national rate of 4.4 percent.

Much of that progress is the result of Amazon’s decision to open its first headquarters downtown a decade ago. John Schoettler, who oversees real estate for the online giant, thought it simplest and least expensive to plan a suburban headquarters campus east of Lake Washington in Bellevue, Wash., near Microsoft.

Bezos had a different idea. He wanted to stay in Seattle.

“Jeff said the type of employees we want to hire and retain will want to live in an urban environment. They are going to want to work, live and play in the urban core,” Schoettler said.

The decision helped usher in a new era, one in which top employers abandon suburban office parks for lively, urban neighborhoods integrated into the cities around them. Only seven Fortune 500 companies had research or engineering hubs in Seattle in 2010; now 31 do.

[As companies relocate to big cities, suburban towns are left scrambling]

“Their growth has just been so positive to lots of other companies, big and small and medium and in between,” said Jon Scholes, president and chief executive of the Downtown Seattle Association, where Schoettler is a board member.

It’s a boom that has shown little sign of slowing. Seattle added 57 people a day for a year through the summer of 2016, according to census data. How best to accommodate that growth provokes regular debate in Seattle and could well shape whatever city Amazon comes to next.

Such details spark little discussion as mayors and governors from coast to coast have embarked upon a sweepstakes fit for a reality show, touting their cities in online videos and dangling taxpayer-funded subsidies of as much as $7 billion, even if their jurisdictions don’t have the workforce or transportation network Amazon said it requires.

The company set Thursday as the deadline to receive proposals.

David Ryder for The Washington Post

The view from the 29th floor at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

Tucson officials, with an airport one-tenth as busy as Seattle’s, mailed the company a 21-foot cactus to get its attention. Stonecrest, Ga., with a population barely larger than Amazon’s Seattle workforce, offered to de-annex 345 acres of its land and rename it the “City of Amazon.” Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 items on Amazon and rated them all five stars.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to light up several landmarks and venues in orange to show support for his city’s bid.

“So will all the mayors go to compete on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’ Kelly Ripa or Anderson Cooper?” asked Greg LeRoy, president of the policy group Good Jobs First, which regularly warns that public incentives rarely pay off. “That’s the spectrum of the debate right now.”

Before Amazon, ‘a wasteland’

Seattle won its economic beauty contest in 1962, when it hosted the World’s Fair. To serve the crowds, the city built acres of parking and low-slung motels in an area known as South Lake Union.

The bet paid few dividends. Three decades later, the area was probably best known for a printing plant, struggling motels and a Hooters restaurant. Only 677 people lived there in 1990.

Then Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, launched a real estate firm called Vulcan and bought 60 acres in the area. Vulcan executive Ada Healey recalls the early skeptics. During a 2002 pitch meeting, she said, a representative from a prospective company turned to her and asked: “Why would I want to move to South Lake Union? It is a wasteland.”

Bezos, though, saw promise in the urban locale. He had started Amazon in his garage in nearby Bellevue, then opened an early office in a former military hospital now called Pacific Tower. Before long, he was searching for more space to accommodate his fast-growing company.

[For Amazon, D.C. pitches four of its trendiest neighborhoods]

Schoettler initially secured about 1.7 million square feet in 10 buildings. It was enough, he thought, to contain the company through 2016, when it was projected to have 9,300 employees.

Instead, Amazon grew five times as fast. It now has more than 40,000 employees in 33 Seattle buildings totaling 8.1 million square feet. It occupies 19 percent of the high-end office space in the city, according to an analysis by the Seattle Times, as many square feet as the city’s next 40 biggest employers combined.

Next year, Amazon will complete its most prominent addition — three glass biospheres featuring about 40,000 plants, “a unique environment for employees to come and collaborate and innovate,” Schoettler said.

David Ryder for The Washington Post

A drawing of the Space Needle on a window at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

Seattle officials have raced to keep up, approving $480.5 million in improvements over more than a decade for South Lake Union. Amazon and Vulcan, in need of approval to take over city alleys for its development, chipped in funding.

A $190.5 million road-realignment program included $31.4 million from property owners led by Vulcan. A new, 1.3-mile streetcar line cost $56.4 million and benefited from $5.5 million from Amazon, including the donation of a fourth car. Now the city has embarked on a $201.5 million electrical substation, work that includes burying electrical wires.

On weekdays, South Lake Union teems with young workers sporting Amazon name tags and eating bananas that the company offers free to passersby. Many are walking their dogs — 4,000 employee-owned pups are registered with headquarters access, helping Seattle earn notoriety recently for having more dogs than children.

The campus has produced spillover benefits for the city. Amazon’s buildings are home to 34 restaurants, including a culinary job-training program called FareStart. More than 20 percent of employees walk to work, and fewer than half drive.

The company’s longtime support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights — including a $2.5 million donation that Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, made in support of same-sex marriage — dovetail with the city’s progressive politics. In June, the company flew a rainbow flag above its headquarters for LGBT Pride Month. It has more than 40 “GLAmazon” chapters for LGBT affinity around the world.

“We could have gone to the suburbs, and we could have built a campus, and we would have had an entry gate where everybody would come and go so you would be very inward- looking and very exclusive,” Schoettler said, “as opposed to being in a very urban environment where you have to look outward, so you’re very inclusive, and everyone is your neighbor — and everyone is welcome.”

The housing struggle

Maybe no city could have built housing fast enough to keep prices from spiraling upward during Amazon’s growth, but Seattle — despite nearly leading the nation in new apartment construction — hasn’t come close.

On the sidewalks, alongside rentable neon bikes, people subsist in tents and sleeping bags in places locals say they did not congregate at 10 years ago — a warning sign for cities nationwide trying to capture a version of Seattle’s glory.

“We don’t have enough housing for low-income people especially, but we also just don’t have enough housing,” said Myers, a longtime Seattle housing advocate. “And Amazon obviously impacts both of those things.”

Officials at Bellwether Housing, the city’s largest nonprofit manager of affordable housing, at 2,000 units, report a vacancy rate of 1 percent. “It’s very rare that someone moves out, because they have nowhere else to go,” said chief executive Susan Boyd.

A state analysis of evictions found they were driven not by social problems but by economics. As Amazon’s boom has continued, the city approved a rule this year requiring landlords to accept the first viable renter who applies — rather than cherry-picking a tech worker. The government also adopted an inclusionary zoning policy requiring developers to set aside some new units at below-market rates or pay into a fund to develop other affordable units.

Myers suggested other jurisdictions pay heed: “If you’re going to get an Amazon that’s going to create a ton of high-paying jobs and a ton of pressure on the housing market, what are the things you can do before rents really skyrocket?”

[Tell us where Amazon’s second headquarters should go]

Ask 10 experts where the company will put its next headquarters, and you may get 10 different answers. The company prides itself on zigging when others zag, making it more difficult to read the tea leaves. Still, many in Seattle say the company probably has a good idea of its options. “I suspect they have a shortlist,” said Healey, the Vulcan executive.

Landing the second headquarters would be a legacy-defining achievement for nearly any governor or mayor, but lessons from Seattle’s Amazon experience have bidders scrambling to show how they can meet Amazon’s insistence on speed, low costs, transportation and inclusion — particularly if they didn’t focus on them ahead of time.

East Coast cities such as Boston, New York and Washington may need to answer for their own runaway real estate and housing prices. Governors, including Republicans Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Larry Hogan of Maryland, may have to explain why they canceled major transit projects. Charlotte and Indianapolis are bidding, but Amazon may want to know the effect of state laws there affecting the rights of gay or transgender employees.

Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution said the Amazon competition will hopefully serve as a chance for elected leaders to take the temperature of how prepared their neighborhoods and infrastructure are to drive growth, whether from Amazon or elsewhere.

“These are things every city should be doing anyway,” she said.

What would happen if Amazon brought 50,000 workers to your city? Ask Seattle.

Published by:

David Ryder for The Washington Post

A worker cleans the exterior of one of three glass spheres at Amazon headquarters in Seattle on Sept. 27.

SEATTLE — Amazon.com has driven an economic boom in Seattle, bestowing more than 40,000 jobs upon a city known for Starbucks coffee and Seahawks fandom. Its growth remade a neglected industrial swath north of downtown into a hub of young workers and fixed the region, along with Microsoft before it, as a premier locale for the Internet economy outside Silicon Valley.

Seattle is the fastest-growing big city in the United States, a company town with construction cranes busily erecting new apartments for newly arriving tech workers. Google and Facebook have joined Amazon in putting large offices here.

When Amazon made a surprise announcement last month that it planned to open a second headquarters with even more jobs, it set off an unprecedented race among cities to lure the tech giant their way. Amazon said it will need 8 million square feet in a second region, making it the biggest economic development target in decades, experts say.

But as Seattleites will say, keeping up with the Internet juggernaut has not always been easy, providing a word of caution for officials from other cities willing to pursue the company at great expense.

Over the past decade, Amazon and founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, have added new products and business units at a breakneck speed and expected public partners to keep pace.

In Seattle, that meant rehabbing an area of more than 350 acres at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing transportation and infrastructure upgrades expanding public transit, road networks, parks and utilities.

David Ryder for The Washington Post

People walk next to the Day 1 building at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

It also put new strains on housing. Seattle is one of the most expensive places in the United States to live, forcing lower-income residents to move to far-off suburbs. The city and surrounding King County declared a state of emergency in 2015 over homelessness.

Since then, the problem has worsened. Rents in King County have more than doubled in the past 20 years and gone up 65 percent since 2009. Seattle spends more than $60 million annually to address homelessness, up from $39 million four years ago.

“We started seeing apartment listings that would say, ‘No deposit needed and priority for Amazon, Microsoft and Google employees,’ ” said Rachael Myers, executive director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, a Seattle-based advocacy group. She said the area is “in the midst of the greatest affordable-housing and homelessness crisis that our state has ever seen.”

How much of Seattle’s evolution is attributable to Amazon is a matter of debate. In the past decade, millennial workers have poured into other big cities — Washington, San Francisco, Boston — exacerbating housing costs and homelessness there.

But few buildups are so linked to the prospects of one company. Amazon has contributed $30 billion to the local economy and as much as $55 billion more in spinoff benefits. Unemployment in the Seattle area is 3.7 percent, below the national rate of 4.4 percent.

Much of that progress is the result of Amazon’s decision to open its first headquarters downtown a decade ago. John Schoettler, who oversees real estate for the online giant, thought it simplest and least expensive to plan a suburban headquarters campus east of Lake Washington in Bellevue, Wash., near Microsoft.

Bezos had a different idea. He wanted to stay in Seattle.

“Jeff said the type of employees we want to hire and retain will want to live in an urban environment. They are going to want to work, live and play in the urban core,” Schoettler said.

The decision helped usher in a new era, one in which top employers abandon suburban office parks for lively, urban neighborhoods integrated into the cities around them. Only seven Fortune 500 companies had research or engineering hubs in Seattle in 2010; now 31 do.

[As companies relocate to big cities, suburban towns are left scrambling]

“Their growth has just been so positive to lots of other companies, big and small and medium and in between,” said Jon Scholes, president and chief executive of the Downtown Seattle Association, where Schoettler is a board member.

It’s a boom that has shown little sign of slowing. Seattle added 57 people a day for a year through the summer of 2016, according to census data. How best to accommodate that growth provokes regular debate in Seattle and could well shape whatever city Amazon comes to next.

Such details spark little discussion as mayors and governors from coast to coast have embarked upon a sweepstakes fit for a reality show, touting their cities in online videos and dangling taxpayer-funded subsidies of as much as $7 billion, even if their jurisdictions don’t have the workforce or transportation network Amazon said it requires.

The company set Thursday as the deadline to receive proposals.

David Ryder for The Washington Post

The view from the 29th floor at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

Tucson officials, with an airport one-tenth as busy as Seattle’s, mailed the company a 21-foot cactus to get its attention. Stonecrest, Ga., with a population barely larger than Amazon’s Seattle workforce, offered to de-annex 345 acres of its land and rename it the “City of Amazon.” Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 items on Amazon and rated them all five stars.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to light up several landmarks and venues in orange to show support for his city’s bid.

“So will all the mayors go to compete on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show,’ Kelly Ripa or Anderson Cooper?” asked Greg LeRoy, president of the policy group Good Jobs First, which regularly warns that public incentives rarely pay off. “That’s the spectrum of the debate right now.”

Before Amazon, ‘a wasteland’

Seattle won its economic beauty contest in 1962, when it hosted the World’s Fair. To serve the crowds, the city built acres of parking and low-slung motels in an area known as South Lake Union.

The bet paid few dividends. Three decades later, the area was probably best known for a printing plant, struggling motels and a Hooters restaurant. Only 677 people lived there in 1990.

Then Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, launched a real estate firm called Vulcan and bought 60 acres in the area. Vulcan executive Ada Healey recalls the early skeptics. During a 2002 pitch meeting, she said, a representative from a prospective company turned to her and asked: “Why would I want to move to South Lake Union? It is a wasteland.”

Bezos, though, saw promise in the urban locale. He had started Amazon in his garage in nearby Bellevue, then opened an early office in a former military hospital now called Pacific Tower. Before long, he was searching for more space to accommodate his fast-growing company.

[For Amazon, D.C. pitches four of its trendiest neighborhoods]

Schoettler initially secured about 1.7 million square feet in 10 buildings. It was enough, he thought, to contain the company through 2016, when it was projected to have 9,300 employees.

Instead, Amazon grew five times as fast. It now has more than 40,000 employees in 33 Seattle buildings totaling 8.1 million square feet. It occupies 19 percent of the high-end office space in the city, according to an analysis by the Seattle Times, as many square feet as the city’s next 40 biggest employers combined.

Next year, Amazon will complete its most prominent addition — three glass biospheres featuring about 40,000 plants, “a unique environment for employees to come and collaborate and innovate,” Schoettler said.

David Ryder for The Washington Post

A drawing of the Space Needle on a window at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

Seattle officials have raced to keep up, approving $480.5 million in improvements over more than a decade for South Lake Union. Amazon and Vulcan, in need of approval to take over city alleys for its development, chipped in funding.

A $190.5 million road-realignment program included $31.4 million from property owners led by Vulcan. A new, 1.3-mile streetcar line cost $56.4 million and benefited from $5.5 million from Amazon, including the donation of a fourth car. Now the city has embarked on a $201.5 million electrical substation, work that includes burying electrical wires.

On weekdays, South Lake Union teems with young workers sporting Amazon name tags and eating bananas that the company offers free to passersby. Many are walking their dogs — 4,000 employee-owned pups are registered with headquarters access, helping Seattle earn notoriety recently for having more dogs than children.

The campus has produced spillover benefits for the city. Amazon’s buildings are home to 34 restaurants, including a culinary job-training program called FareStart. More than 20 percent of employees walk to work, and fewer than half drive.

The company’s longtime support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights — including a $2.5 million donation that Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, made in support of same-sex marriage — dovetail with the city’s progressive politics. In June, the company flew a rainbow flag above its headquarters for LGBT Pride Month. It has more than 40 “GLAmazon” chapters for LGBT affinity around the world.

“We could have gone to the suburbs, and we could have built a campus, and we would have had an entry gate where everybody would come and go so you would be very inward- looking and very exclusive,” Schoettler said, “as opposed to being in a very urban environment where you have to look outward, so you’re very inclusive, and everyone is your neighbor — and everyone is welcome.”

The housing struggle

Maybe no city could have built housing fast enough to keep prices from spiraling upward during Amazon’s growth, but Seattle — despite nearly leading the nation in new apartment construction — hasn’t come close.

On the sidewalks, alongside rentable neon bikes, people subsist in tents and sleeping bags in places locals say they did not congregate at 10 years ago — a warning sign for cities nationwide trying to capture a version of Seattle’s glory.

“We don’t have enough housing for low-income people especially, but we also just don’t have enough housing,” said Myers, a longtime Seattle housing advocate. “And Amazon obviously impacts both of those things.”

Officials at Bellwether Housing, the city’s largest nonprofit manager of affordable housing, at 2,000 units, report a vacancy rate of 1 percent. “It’s very rare that someone moves out, because they have nowhere else to go,” said chief executive Susan Boyd.

A state analysis of evictions found they were driven not by social problems but by economics. As Amazon’s boom has continued, the city approved a rule this year requiring landlords to accept the first viable renter who applies — rather than cherry-picking a tech worker. The government also adopted an inclusionary zoning policy requiring developers to set aside some new units at below-market rates or pay into a fund to develop other affordable units.

Myers suggested other jurisdictions pay heed: “If you’re going to get an Amazon that’s going to create a ton of high-paying jobs and a ton of pressure on the housing market, what are the things you can do before rents really skyrocket?”

[Tell us where Amazon’s second headquarters should go]

Ask 10 experts where the company will put its next headquarters, and you may get 10 different answers. The company prides itself on zigging when others zag, making it more difficult to read the tea leaves. Still, many in Seattle say the company probably has a good idea of its options. “I suspect they have a shortlist,” said Healey, the Vulcan executive.

Landing the second headquarters would be a legacy-defining achievement for nearly any governor or mayor, but lessons from Seattle’s Amazon experience have bidders scrambling to show how they can meet Amazon’s insistence on speed, low costs, transportation and inclusion — particularly if they didn’t focus on them ahead of time.

East Coast cities such as Boston, New York and Washington may need to answer for their own runaway real estate and housing prices. Governors, including Republicans Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Larry Hogan of Maryland, may have to explain why they canceled major transit projects. Charlotte and Indianapolis are bidding, but Amazon may want to know the effect of state laws there affecting the rights of gay or transgender employees.

Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution said the Amazon competition will hopefully serve as a chance for elected leaders to take the temperature of how prepared their neighborhoods and infrastructure are to drive growth, whether from Amazon or elsewhere.

“These are things every city should be doing anyway,” she said.

Parliament investigates report of falling masonry

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Part of the Parliamentary estate was cordoned off on Thursday after reports that masonry had fallen from part of a building, smashing a car window.

Conservative MP Will Quince tweeted a picture of the car, parked outside Norman Shaw North building, near the Palace of Westminster, on Thursday.

“Evidence of why Parliament needs urgent repair,” he tweeted. “Imagine if this had hit someone. Unthinkable.”

A Commons spokesman said they were investigating “as a matter of urgency”.

The main entrance to Grade I listed Norman Shaw North – a red brick building near the Palace of Westminster – has been closed for the time being while the parliamentary authorities try to find out what happened.

Mr Quince’s fellow Conservative MP Mims Davies tweeted: “Absolutely shocking! Very glad nobody was very seriously injured.”

But he later removed the picture from his Twitter feed, saying he had been instructed to do so by the Serjeant-at-Arms “for security reasons”, despite him cropping out the background.

Repair work is currently being carried out on the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben and various other parts of Parliament.

Walmart looks to see if virtual shopping is better than the real thing

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A man wears virtual reality goggles during a product demo in Switzerland. Walmart is looking to incorporate virtual reality in its stores and websites. (Valentin Flauraud/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Walmart has spent billions buying up websites like Jet.com and ModCloth, and is investing in new technology as it goes head-to-head with Amazon.com. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.) Now, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is setting its sights on virtual reality.

Imagine this, says Katie Finnegan, who heads Walmart’s tech incubator: You need a tent for your next camping trip. If all goes to plan, you could one day virtually swoop in to your campsite and see any given tent in action. “You could unzip it, lay down, look left and right and say, ‘Oh, this is supposed to be a two-person tent? It’s kind of tight,’ ” she said.

And then you could move on to the next tent — without leaving your couch.

“There is a lot of technology we’re excited about,” Finnegan said, “but virtual reality in particular offers an opportunity to actually experience products and items in an immersive way.”

The technology has yet to catch on with the mainstream, so such concepts are still in the gee-whiz stage with no guarantee of boosting sales. But this summer, the company put out an open call for technology firms, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs to submit their ideas. A panel of five judges — including Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global; and Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce operations — whittled the 200 applicants to five winners. They then spent about two months at Walmart’s technology incubator, called Store No 8, coming up with new shopping-centric applications for virtual reality.

Walmart has been experimenting with virtual reality to help train its employees for busy shopping days like Black Friday. It is also testing a program that would allow delivery drivers to walk into customers’ homes and deliver groceries straight to their refrigerators.

Here are the five ideas the Bentonville, Ark.-based company says could be making their way online as early as next year:

  1. 3-D holograms at Bonobos.com, the male clothing site Walmart acquired this year for $310 million, that would make it possible for shoppers to try on virtual clothing for fit and style. According to Walmart, the technology would allow customers “to view how the fabric moves and get a sense of sizing, allowing for more realistic shopping previews and reviews.” (The idea was proposed by 8i, a New Zealand-based maker of virtual reality software.)
  2. At ModCloth, the women’s clothing site Walmart took over in March, customers may one day be able to take 3-D photos of themselves using their smartphones, and use those images to get an idea of how something might look on. That way, executives say, shoppers could “experience the realistic feel of an item before they purchase without having to physically go in-store.” (A concept offered by Fyusion, a San Francisco-based company that develops technology for processing 3-D scans.)
  3. An “interactive virtual store” for designer Rebecca Minkoff, whose items are sold at Walmart.com, would allow customers to sit in on fashion shows and shop directly from the runway. The technology, the company said, would effectively allow it to create a virtual store-within-a-store. (Developed by Obsess VR, a New York-based technology firm that specializes in 360-degree shopping sites.)
  4. Tired of shopping online alone? If Walmart gets its way, you may soon be interacting with other shoppers and experts as you pick out items for your virtual cart. Need help picking a pair of jeans? A virtual fashion assistant may be able to help. Trying to figure out why your nightstand is lopsided? An employee could tell you which screws are loose. (A concept from Nurulize, a Los Angeles-based virtual reality software developer.)
  5. Electric outlets, stove tops and door handles can all be child safety hazards — and soon, an online tool could peek inside your home and tell you where the biggest risks are lurking. The site could also give product recommendations and allow customers to test items virtually before buying them. (Piloted by Specular Theory, a Venice Beach, Calif., company that specializes in immersive content.)

Read more:

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Americans love shopping online, but they want to return things in person

Amazon is making it easier for teens to use their parents’ credit cards

Walmart’s holiday gift to employees: Longer hours

30 years on: How Black Monday stunned markets

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On this day, 30 years ago, stock markets around the world suffered a collective heart attack.

There have been plenty of grim times for markets since, such as the three years during which the FTSE 100 fell after the dot-com bubble burst, or the precipitous fall between late 2007 and early 2009 as the global financial crisis struck.

Yet “Black Monday”, on the 19th October 1987, remains ingrained on the folk memory.

The 10.84% fall that the FTSE-100 suffered that day and the 12.22% fall it endured the following day remain the biggest one-day falls, in percentage terms, that the index has suffered in its 33-year history – far worse than any of the murderous one-day declines that the index suffered at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

There are other reasons why the crash that day still looms large.

Image:Equity values fell worldwide on the perception stocks were overvalued

Many of the most senior people now working in financial markets were office juniors on Black Monday and had never seen anything like it, even though some of their older colleagues at the time would have remembered the brutal bear market of 1973-74 , during which the old FT-30 index lost almost three-quarters of its value after rampant oil prices tipped much of the world into recession.

The backdrop was also important in 1987.

Popular capitalism was enjoying its heyday, with share ownership soaring among ordinary Britons, following the privatisation of British Telecom, British Gas, Rolls-Royce and British Airways.

Interest in the stock market had never been higher and, for many first-time shareholders, Black Monday came as a considerable shock.

Then, of course, there was the weather.

The global market declines had actually begun the previous Friday 16 October, when Wall Street had sold off sharply.

However, due to the great storm, the London market had closed early as – with widespread road and rail stoppages due to fallen trees – many market participants had not been able to reach their offices in the City.

So Monday 19 October was the first opportunity for London to react to what had happened in New York the previous Friday and, with Far East markets also having sold off overnight, the sell-off was violent.

When Wall Street reopened, it too suffered another sharp decline, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 22% in a single session.

What caused Black Monday remains a matter of debate.

Image:Black Monday took place in the aftermath of 1987’s great storm

One of the big long-term factors that had supported the markets over the previous two years had been co-ordinated action by the world’s biggest governments, the US, Japan, West Germany, Britain and France – this was before the collapse of Communism and the rise of China, of course – to bring down the value of the US dollar and then stabilise it.

This had sparked a US export boom and had been generally good for global growth.

However, by October 1987, co-ordinated action was coming to an end.

West Germany raised interest rates – this, of course, was a time before the euro – and Jim Baker, the US treasury secretary, had started to murmur that the dollar was again becoming over-valued.

All that led to unease.

On Wall Street, with the Dow having risen by 40% since the beginning of 1987, the ingredients were in place for a correction.

Many market professionals worry about the parallels between then and now.

As in 1987, stock markets have been buoyant for a number of years.

The bull market in US and UK equities has been running for more than eight years.

From the post-crisis low of 3,460.71 that it hit on 9 March 2009, the Footsie has risen by 117%, hitting a new all-time high several times this year.

The big three US stock indices – the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq – have set numerous records this year.

So, too, has the Dax in Germany, while the Nikkei in Japan recently hit its highest level for 21 years.

Image:Black Monday triggered weeks of volatility in global markets

There are also signs that the post-crisis co-ordinated action among central banks is coming to an end.

The US Federal Reserve raised its main policy rate in December 2015 and has since done so on three more occasions.

The Bank of England looks set to raise interest rates here for the first time since July 2007.

And even the European Central Bank, amid signs of a recovery in the Eurozone, may begin to tighten monetary policy.

The era of ultra-cheap money appears to be coming to an end.

At the same time, valuations – as measured by the traditional yardstick of the price-earnings (P/E) ratio – are high.

The S&P 500 is trading on a P/E of 25 – that is to say, if you bought the index today, it would take 25 years for you to get that money back through the earnings it pays out.

For most of the last half-century or so, the average has been closer to 15.

The FTSE 100, similarly, is trading on a higher than average P/E.

All of that makes investors uneasy.

To justify that kind of rating, company earnings have to be consistently high, yet there have been a number of companies that have recently disappointed investors with earnings that have come in below expectations.

These include Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser, the consumer goods giants, both of which have generated excellent returns for investors in recent years – partly due to the globalisation phenomenon and the growth of the middle classes in emerging markets – but who are now finding the going somewhat tougher.

Image:London Eye owner Merlin saw shares slump this week

During the last week, no fewer than three FTSE 100 companies – the engineer GKN, the medical equipment supplier Convatec and the theme parks operator Merlin Entertainments – have seen their shares fall by at least 10% in a single session after letting down investors.

And there is reason to suppose that, if there was another violent correction like Black Monday, it could be worse this time.

In 1987, most trading was still done by real people.

A lot of business was not done in 1987 because market-makers refused to pick up the phone to clients.

So people couldn’t trade and so panic-selling was, to an extent, limited.

Now, in an era of high-speed trading and algorithms, there will always be a counter-party on the other side of a trade, should you wish to exit a position at whatever price you can.

That could exacerbate any panic-selling.

Moreover, there is less visibility in markets now, thanks to the rise of “dark pools” that allow large investors to trade in confidence and away from the prying eyes of the wider investment community.

That is not especially conducive to a transparent market.

But not everyone is worried.

The presence of circuit-breakers should, in theory, mean that any damage done by automated trading can be curtailed.

Nor is there as much leverage in the system as in 1987.

Investors are not trading using as much borrowed money as they were then.

Nor is there as much “euphoria” among investors as there was in 1987 or, for that matter, as there was in 1999 before the dot-com bubble burst.

This has been called the least-trusted bull market of all time, with many investors uneasy that it has gone on for so long, yet the market has had plenty of opportunities to sell off – the election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote and so on – and has always subsequently rallied.

Yet, at some point in the future, there will be another stock market crash.

The law of averages tells you that.

Health insurers’ most pressing concern right now? Consumer confusion.

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Health insurers heading into the 2018 Affordable Care Act enrollment season say they’re staying laser focused on maximizing sign-ups, even as Republicans remain in disarray and even denial over the seven-year-old health-care law.

A big funding infusion that could help lower Obamacare premiums is in flux just 12 days before enrollment starts. President Trump sent mixed signals this week about whether he’d support legislation funding subsidies for lower-income Americans to get coverage. A compromise measure crafted by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was embraced by two dozen Senate Democrats and Republicans on Thursday afternoon.

[Trump is totally clueless on health care. The last 24 hours proved it.]

Adding to the array of possible outcomes, a federal judge could rule next week that the Trump administration is required by law to resume the payments known as cost-sharing reductions, in a court challenge filed by 19 states. The Department of Health and Human Services had cut them off last week, saying it didn’t have constitutional authority to pay them without an appropriation from Congress.

[The Health 202: Obamacare’s 2018 rates are already baked]

Yet most insurers have already finalized plan offerings for the six-week enrollment period starting Nov. 1, when 11 million or so Americans are expected to shop on Healthcare.gov and state-run marketplaces. Insurers are more immediately worried about consumer confusion stemming from the debate over halting the CSRs, especially given the administration’s recent cuts to outreach and advertising.

“They’re focused on open enrollment and how do we ensure in this environment, where we’ve had so much uncertainty, that consumers know where to get their plans,” said Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans. “That’s kind of job No.1 as we’re standing here today.”

Marketplace insurers, already struggling over the past several years with heavy losses, have been forced to operate in a deeply uncertain environment even after Republicans abandoned — for now — their efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. Republicans are now polarized over how to approach the health-care law as it remains standing. But they’re still trying to attract customers.

[Want to understand the health-care debate? Read The Health 202]

Senate Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Chair Alexander has been trying to stack up enough support to pass a bipartisan measure hammered out with Murray, the panel’s ranking Democrat. Their agreement would fund CSRs for two years and provide more flexibility to states seeking alternative marketplace approaches. But Trump appeared to tout an alternative reality this week, insisting on multiple occasions that Obamacare no longer even exists.

“It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer — you shouldn’t even mention. It’s gone,” Trump said in the Rose Garden on Monday.

At a Tuesday White House news conference, Trump called the ACA “virtually dead” and “in its final legs.” “There’s no such thing as Obamacare anymore,” the president said.

The marketplaces certainly aren’t dead, as Trump has claimed. But they’re not as healthy as in prior years, either. Almost all of the big, publicly traded insurers have bailed under heavy losses, leaving the not-for-profit plans remaining, some of which are the only insurer in the more rural U.S. counties.

When the marketplaces first opened in 2014, three out of four shoppers had access to at least three plans, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Just six percent had only one plan to choose from. This year, just 58 percent of shoppers had at least three plans to choose from. More than one in five (21 percent) had only one option.

Trump’s claims that Obamacare has collapsed — coupled with months of headlines about dismantling the ACA and the possibility the administration would cut off the CSRs — mean insurers are encountering even more consumer confusion than usual about their coverage options.

“Whenever our members hear in the media that these things are going away, their immediate thought is ‘Oh my gosh, does this affect me now?’” said Melanie Coons, a spokeswoman for Premera Blue Cross, which participates in Alaska and Washington state’s marketplaces.

“So we try to think from that perspective: what are our members going to do when all they hear is their subsidies are going away and their costs are going up?” Coons said.

Fortunately for Premera, it had already submitted to regulators a set of premium rates assuming the CSR payments would be cut off. Insurers have said they’re generally raising premiums by 15 to 20 percent to account for the loss of the subsidies, which compensate them for discounting costs for the lowest-income marketplace enrollees.

So had many other insurers – including Piedmont Community Health Plan, which covers about 5,000 marketplace customers in Virginia. Neil Heller, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, acknowledged the possibility the payments could be restored, either through court order or congressional action. But present reality must govern the company’s actions, given the political volatility, he said.

“Until we hear differently, that’s really the only course of action that we can undertake,” Heller said. “In the absence of any new information, we are executing on what has been approved and what are the current requirements.”

The Trump administration has yet to release final rates and insurer participation for Healthcare.gov. So far, no insurers have decided to exit the marketplaces last-minute, even though they now appear to be losing the subsidies. But all the uncertainty could take its toll in 2019, said Ben Isgur, head of PwC’s Health Research Institute.

“You’re really kind of sitting there with a lot of uncertainty,” Isgur said. “For some insurers who are sitting on the bubble, maybe they haven’t been doing very well in the exchanges, this may be the last door for them to exit.”

The situation could further worsen after the 2018 enrollment period, which some have described as a perfect storm, with fewer enrollment dollars, a halved timeframe and heightened uncertainty. That’s why insurers say for now, they’re just focusing on the next two months.

“I think the truest answer from any insurer is we can only approach this a year at a time,” Heller said.

Trump’s pick for a top consumer watchdog once represented Microsoft and MasterCard

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(Susan Walsh/AP)

The White House said Thursday that President Trump intends to nominate Joseph Simons, a longtime expert in competition law, to head the Federal Trade Commission, America’s top privacy and consumer protection agency.

The announcement ends months of speculation over who might lead the FTC and its efforts to regulate perceived monopolies and unfair business practices, at a time when many policymakers have raised questions about the growing consolidation of industries, including retail and media.

But one industry that may be breathing a sigh of relief? Silicon Valley.

Simons serves as a co-chair of the antitrust practice at the law firm Paul Weiss. His previous clients include many tech or tech-related firms, such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Sharp and Sony. He has also represented companies in the defense, music, software, telecom and transportation industries.

His selection by Trump is notable in who Simons is not: Earlier this year, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes was widely rumored to be Trump’s favored candidate for the FTC job. Reyes, who would have been a relative newcomer to Washington, had previously called for reopening a federal antitrust probe into Google over the company’s practices in the online search business. Many policy analysts took that to imply that Trump wanted the FTC to take a harder line toward Silicon Valley.

But Trump’s move this week to nominate someone else instead suggests a shift away from that approach.

A more establishment candidate with decades of experience, Simons served under George W. Bush as the director of the FTC’s competition bureau. The White House’s decision to side with a Beltway-insider type for FTC chair is consistent with Trump’s appointment of another longtime expert to head antitrust enforcement at the Justice Department, Makan Delrahim. Delrahim is said to be a straight shooter who is unlikely to be swayed by Trump’s public rhetoric on such issues as the AT&T/Time-Warner acquisition.

Similarly, by siding with Simons over Reyes, the White House appears to be prioritizing the mainstream over the unconventional.

Some policy analysts said Simons’s first task should be to clarify how the FTC communicates its expectations to businesses involved in the sprawling world of data security. Currently, said Berin Szoka, president of the think tank TechFreedom, the agency simply provides nonbinding guidance reports and, in some cases, uses settlements reached with companies that it sues as a way to nudge industries toward a vague approximation of a standard.

“The resulting arbitrary enforcement is unfair to businesses, and potentially fatal to tech start-ups,” Szoka said. “Even worse, it also makes consumers worse off, since companies don’t know how to comply with the law.”

Also on Thursday, the White House said that Trump would be nominating Rohit Chopra, a former top official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to fill a Democratic slot at the FTC. Chopra is known as a tough fighter who took on the private student loan industry and is close with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“The thing to know about Joe and Rohit is that they both play well with others, and that’ll be good for the commission executing its mission,” said Jon Leibowitz, a former FTC chair who is now a partner at the law firm Davis Polk.

Chopra and Simons — should they be confirmed by the Senate — would flesh out a short-handed agency that is currently led by Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, who is a Republican commissioner, and Democratic commissioner Terrell McSweeny. One additional Republican seat remains for Trump to fill; policy analysts say that Noah Phillips, a legal aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), is a leading contender for the role.

Low pay ‘endemic’ among UK workers, says study

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Low pay is “endemic” in the UK with few workers managing to progress into better paid jobs, according to a new study.

Just one in six (17%) of those on low pay managed to move permanently up the salary scale over the last decade, the report from the Social Mobility Commission said.

It also said that a quarter remained permanently stuck on low pay while 48% fluctuated in and out of this category.

On average, people stuck in this group have seen their hourly wages rise by just 40p in real terms – stripping out the effects of inflation – over the last ten years.

That compares to a £4.83 rise for those who have “escaped”, said the study, which was carried out by the Resolution Foundation think-tank.

:: Four million consumers ‘in difficulty’ – study

Women are more likely to be low paid than men and are far more likely to be stuck at this level, the report found – with the lack of flexible work to fit around childcare responsibilities seen as a key barrier to progress.

The report comes a day after official figures showed for the six month in a row that wage rises are lagging behind the increase in the cost of living.

Former Labour minister Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility Commission, said: “Britain has an endemic low pay problem.

“While record numbers of people are in employment, too many jobs are low skill and low paid.

“Millions of workers – particularly women – are being trapped in low pay with little chance of escape. The consequences for social mobility are dire.”

Conor D’Arcy, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain has one of the highest proportions of low paid work in the developed world.

“And while three-quarters of low-paid workers did manage to move into higher-paying roles at some point over the last decade, the vast majority couldn’t sustain that progress.”

The report acknowledged the impact of the National Living Wage, which saw the biggest fall in the number of people in low paid work in 40 years last year.

But it said there would still be around four million low paid employees in 2020.

The analysis defined low pay as hourly earnings below two-thirds of the median hourly wage – excluding tips, commissions or other payments.

The low pay threshold was estimated at £8.25 for 2017.

A Business Department spokesman said more people were in work than ever before but said the Government wanted to go further “by creating good quality jobs for all through our modern industrial strategy, boosting earning power and improving living standards across the country”.

The race to save coffee

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America’s favorite beverage is under attack from climate change and other woes. Science may offer a solution.

Centroamericano, a new variety of coffee plant, hasn’t sparked the buzz of, say, Starbucks’s latest novelty latte. But it may be the coolest thing in brewing: a tree that can withstand the effects of climate change.

Climate change could spell disaster for coffee, a crop that requires specific temperatures to flourish and that is highly sensitive to a range of pests. So scientists are racing to develop more tenacious strains of one of the world’s most beloved beverages.

In addition to Centroamericano, seven other new hybrid varieties are gradually trickling onto the market. And this summer, World Coffee Research ­— an industry-funded nonprofit group — kicked off field tests of 46 new varieties that it says will change coffee-growing as the world knows it.

“Coffee is not ready to adapt to climate change without help,” said Doug Welsh, the vice president and roastmaster of Peet’s Coffee, which has invested in WCR’s research.

Climate scientists say few coffee-growing regions will be spared the effects of climate change. Most of the world’s crop is cultivated around the equator, with the bulk coming from Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Rising temperatures are expected to shrink the available growing land in many of these countries, said Christian Bunn, a postdoctoral fellow at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture who has analyzed the shift in coffee regions. Warmer air essentially “chases” coffee up to cooler, higher altitudes — which are scarce in Brazil and Zimbabwe, among other coffee-growing countries.

Temperature is not climate change’s only projected impact in coffee-growing regions. Portions of Central America are expected to see greater rainfall and shorter dry seasons, which are needed to harvest and dry beans. In Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, rainfall is projected to decrease, potentially sparking dry periods.

These sorts of changes will pose problems for many crops. But coffee is particularly vulnerable, scientists say, because it has an unusually shallow gene pool. Only two species of coffee, arabica and robusta, are currently grown for human consumption. And farmers traditionally haven’t selected for diversity when breeding either plant— instead, essentially, they’ve been marrying generations of coffee with its close cousins.

As a result, there are precious few varieties of arabica that can grow in warmer or wetter conditions. In addition, diseases and pests that might be exacerbated under climate change could knock out entire fields of plants.

A disease of particular concern — coffee leaf rust, or “la roya” in Spanish — devastated coffee plantations across Central America in 2011. It effectively halved El Salvador’s coffee output and cost the region an estimated 1.7 million jobs.

Coffee farmers could see their livelihoods threatened, noted Aaron Davis, a British coffee researcher, because coffee trees are perennials with a 20- to 30-year life span: If a field is damaged by a bad season, farmers aren’t necessarily in a position to immediately replant it. And because coffee takes three years to mature, farmers face several years without income after new trees are planted.

“Under all these scenarios, farmers pay the biggest price,” Davis added.

While few experts expect these factors to drive coffee to extinction, they could severely reduce the global supply — and increase the hardship for coffee farmers.

“The major concern of the industry is that the quantity, and even the future, of good coffee is threatened by climate change,” said Benoit Bertrand, an agronomist with the French agricultural research group CIRAD and one of the world’s most respected coffee breeders. “So the question becomes: How can we address this with new technology and new innovations?”

Despite coffee’s global popularity, few growers have risen to the challenge. There has historically been no real market for improved coffee plants, Bertrand and Davis said: Unlike such major commodity crops as corn or soybeans, coffee is grown primarily by small farmers with low margins who can’t shell out for the latest seed or growing system.

As a result, coffee is coming late to the intensive breeding programs that have revolutionized other crops. But in the past 10 years, interest around plant improvement has exploded, driven in part by the growth of the specialty coffee market.

Plant breeders have begun cataloguing the hundreds of strains of arabica in existence and cultivating them in different growing areas. They’ve also begun to experiment with robusta, which grows in higher temperatures and fares better against diseases but often tastes bitter. There is some hope that new varieties of robusta, or robusta/arabica crosses, could capture that resilience without the bad flavor.

Lately, there has been a particular surge of interest in a type of plant called an F1 hybrid, which crossbreeds two different strains of arabica to produce a unique “child” plant. They can be made from any of the hundreds of varieties of arabica and bred for qualities such as taste, disease resistance and drought tolerance.

Because they are the first generation, F1 hybrids also demonstrate something scientists call “hybrid vigor” — they produce unusually high yields, like a sort of super plant.

Since 2010, eight such F1 hybrids have been released to the commercial market. Bertrand is currently testing a class of an additional 60 crosses with the support of World Coffee Research.

The researchers say that the top two or three — which are expected to become available to farmers as soon as 2022 — will offer good taste, high yields and resilience to a range of coffee’s current and future woes, from higher temperatures to nematodes.

“These hybrids deliver a combination of traits that were never before possible in coffee,” said Hanna Neuschwander, the communications director at World Coffee Research. “It’s the traits that farmers need with the traits that markets demand. People used to think the two were mutually exclusive.”

But the hybrids’ success remains largely untested at scale. Of the eight F1 hybrids on the market at present, only one — Centroamericano — has been planted in any significant volume, Neuschwander said. The variety is currently growing on an estimated 2,500 acres in Central America; for context, the U.S. Agriculture Department reports that Honduras alone grows coffee on more than 800,000 acres.

Farmers who have planted the new trees are seeing success. Starbucks has sold coffee made from F1 hybrids as part of its small-lot premium brand. Last spring, a batch of Centroamericano grown on a Nicaraguan family farm scored 90 out of 100 points in that country’s prestigious tasting competition, which some in the industry heralded as a major victory.

But the path to adoption will be steep. Breeders have developed these plants, Neuschwander said, but many areas of the world don’t have the seed industries and infrastructure in place to actually distribute them. That’s particularly true in the case of F1 hybrids, which — thanks to their particular genetics — can only be grown from tissue samples.

F1 hybrids are also expensive — as much as 2½ times the cost of conventional plants. That puts them well outside the range of most smallholder farmers, said Kraig Kraft, an agroecologist and technical adviser with Catholic Relief Services’ Latin America division.

Kraft, who has worked with World Coffee Research to test F1 hybrids in Nicaragua, said that in his region, at least, only midsize and large plantations have switched to them.

“I think our position is that we need to really understand the requirements for all farmers to be able to use these new technologies,” Kraft said. “My concern is that small farmers don’t have access to the capital to pay for these investments.”

Even if they did, however, some experts caution that the new coffee varieties are only a piece of a much larger adaptation process. To cope with the effects of climate change, farmers may need to adopt other agricultural practices, such as shade-farming, cover-cropping and terracing, said Bunn, the researcher.

In some regions, those practices won’t be economical. And in that case, policymakers should focus on helping farmers transition to other crops or other livelihoods altogether, researchers stress.

“People sell [F1 hybrids] as a silver bullet,” Bunn said. “To be clear, those plants are indispensable, and I don’t question the value of the work . . . but we need more to adapt to climate change. And we need to accept the hard reality that some places will need to move out of coffee production.”