New Year’s Resolutions for 8 big companies
Wal-Mart: Pay workers more
In 2013, Wal-Mart (WMT) found itself at the center of the debate about raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to figures as high as $15. The government has not raised the wage floor since 2009, and many full-time minimum wage workers find themselves living below the poverty threshold. As the largest private employer in the U.S., the retail chain employs 1.3 million Americans, and many of them earn less than $25,000 per year. Conventional wisdom may say that increasing worker wages would hurt Wal-Mart’s bottom line, but a Fortune analysis discovered that this is simply not the case.
Abercrombie & Fitch: Keep CEO Mike Jeffries quiet
After a banner year of negative press for discriminatory comments against larger shoppers and “not-so-cool” customers, Mike Jeffries is staying on as Abercrombie & Fitch’s chief executive. Investors desperately wanted him to leave given the company’s tanking stock, but the teen retailer has decided to stay the course with Jeffries at the helm. This means Abercrombie (ANF) is willing to take the risk of dealing with more outlandish comments from its chief executive. Our advice is simple: Keep him away from the microphone.
Apple: Cut the hyperbole
Apple (AAPL) would do well to eliminate from its vocabulary all the over-hyped, non-factual puffery that has been part of its lexicon since the Steve Jobs era. Apple products are: incredible, powerful, radical, innovative, amazing, and groundbreaking, to name just a few words chosen from recent company news releases. Apple, we get it. You’re awesome. We agree. Just describe your products to us for now. And when you’re ready to release something that equals the iPod, iPhone, or iPad, then it will be time to trot out the adjectives again. –Adam Lashinsky
J.C. Penney: Get back to basics
Named by Fortune’s Allan Sloan as one of the biggest turkeys of 2013, J.C. Penney (JCP) leaves 2013 with hardly any noteworthy successes. Former Apple exec Ron Johnson took over in 2012 as CEO of the retailer and tried to make it trendy by drastically changing its brand. The plan backfired, and the retailer lost some of its loyal customer base as a result. Moving into 2014, we suggest the retailer gets back to basics and continues to try to earn back the trust it lost last year.
Twitter: Don’t burden users with too many ads
After a largely successful initial public offering, Twitter’s (TWTR) investors are anxious for the social media platform to turn a decent profit. Without question, advertising in the form of promoted tweets will be a key component of the microblogging site’s monetization strategy. But with Twitter still battling to convert its large base of inactive users into active ones, it’s important that the company does not isolate more users in 2014 with too many feed-cluttering ads.
Lululemon: Keep your customers covered
Lululemon (LULU) was stung in 2013 by an unfortunate yoga pant recall that made customers not only question the quality of the fitness retailer’s expensive products but also the integrity of its leadership team. Rather than take responsibility for selling a large quantity of see-through pants, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson said, “some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” with the brand’s clothes. Many customers interpreted this comment as Wilson blaming them for the product issues. As former TOMS president Laurent Potdevin takes over as CEO, we suggest he keep his customers completely covered — no ifs, ands, or butts about it.
Coca-Cola: Step away from the soda
Last year largely confirmed what Coke drinkers have feared for years: Soda (even diet soda) is most likely not good for your health. Some researchers now purport that artificial sweeteners may negatively affect the metabolism and lead people to gain weight. Roughly 60% of Coca-Cola’s (KO) U.S. revenue comes from soda, but that may not be the case for very long as sales continue to plunge in America. In December, the president of Coca-Cola Americas decided to leave the company. A new team of leadership should spend a large part of 2014 creating new products that will keep an increasingly health-conscious customer base interested.
Google: Work on Glass’ reputation
Google Glass is one of the more exciting tech innovations of 2013, and fans are looking forward to testing it out next year. That said, Google (GOOG) is still struggling to educate consumers about the capabilities of the technology. Many people remain wary of the device because of privacy concerns and a perception that the device is a form of invasive surveillance that is always capturing the world around it. The truth is Google Glass differs very minimally from a smartphone and the tech giant needs to make sure people know that.