Business

The Informer

Business

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From now on, we buy our smut from Rupert Murdoch: Torstar is selling Harlequin

(Image: Murdoch: David Shankbone)

(Image: Murdoch: David Shankbone)

Harlequin—international romance-novel publisher, ripper of a million bodices—is based in Toronto and owned by Torstar, the Toronto Star‘s parent company. Except now, if all goes according to plan, only one of those things will remain true.

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The Informer

Business

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PHOTO: The World’s Biggest Bookstore’s sign comes down

(Image: Kathy Vey)

(Image: Kathy Vey)

Earlier this afternoon, a crew was in the middle of removing the final “e” from the exterior of the former World’s Biggest Bookstore, at Yonge and Edward streets. It’s the final step in the closing process that began in 2012, when Indigo made it known that it wouldn’t be renewing the store’s lease. Toronto journalist Kathy Vey took this photo from a window in the Atrium on Bay, across the street.

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The Informer

Business

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Rogers to the CRTC: take pity on us

rogers-logo

Rogers is in hearings with the CRTC today, negotiating for renewals of 17 of its television broadcast licenses. Unsurprisingly, the media corporation is trying to make the case that some regulatory leniency would help put its TV stations on sound financial footing.

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The Informer

Politics

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Free campaign slogan for any mayoral candidates in need: “Toronto is lagging”

(Image: Benson Kua)

(Image: Benson Kua)

Rob Ford’s pitch to voters in the 2014 mayoral election is essentially this: “You can just ignore all the crack stuff, because my economic record makes up for it. I’m personally responsible for saving the city a billion dollars, and Toronto is booming.” (That’s a paraphrase.)

We already know that the “billion dollars” part is categorically false, and now the Toronto Region Board of Trade has given us some reason to doubt the “Toronto is Booming” part, as well.

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The Informer

Business

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BlackBerry’s new comeback plan? Stickers

(Image: langleyo)

(Image: langleyo)

Struggling Waterloo-based smartphone maker BlackBerry has spent the past two years churning through resurrection plan after resurrection plan in an attempt to regain market share lost to the likes of Apple and Samsung, and now it’s come to this: the company’s latest proposed moneymaker is…stickers. And not even real stickers.

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The Informer

Business

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Toronto to get lots more rich people (but not as many as London)

(Image: elPadawan)

(Image: elPadawan)

Global real-estate consultancy Knight Frank doesn’t use the phrase “rich people” in its annual report on worldwide wealth distribution; it prefers the politically correct term “ultra-high-net-worth individuals,” or UHNWIs, an acronym as big and unwieldy as the bank accounts of the people it describes. According to the report, Toronto can expect a 23 per cent increase in its supply of these super-wealthy types over the next decade.

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The Informer

Politics

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Cisco’s $100-million investment in Toronto is all Rob Ford’s doing, says Rob Ford

(Image: Ford: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Ford: Christopher Drost)

Regular guy and budding Los Angeles socialite Rob Ford appeared at city hall on Wednesday afternoon to make his weekly complaint to the media. The difference this time: his complaint wasn’t about the media, rather it was about a major technology firm’s decision to invest $100 million in Toronto over the course of the next decade.

Why would Rob Ford—the self-professed relentless advocate for business—be quibbling with Cisco Systems’ announcement that it will be locating one of its four new global innovation hubs in Toronto’s South Core? Because nobody bothered to thank him, of course.

“I’m the one that made the environment for these businesses to come here. My administration’s done it,” the mayor told reporters. “We have 150 cranes in the sky. We have the lowest tax rate, that was all my hard work.” Ford was responding to news that deputy mayor Norm Kelly, who has been the functional head of Toronto’s municipal government since Ford was stripped of most of his powers in November, had been invited to Cisco’s announcement on Wednesday in the mayor’s stead.

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The Informer

Politics

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UPDATED: federal Conservatives quash proposal to lower ATM fees to 50 cents

(Image: redspotted)

(Image: redspotted)

Anyone who has wasted precious minutes scouring downtown streets for a friendly, no-added-charge cash dispenser knows the pain of ATM withdrawal fees. On Monday, the NDP tried to resuscitate the issue of bank-machine price gouging, which hasn’t been discussed much on Parliament Hill since the late Jack Layton tried to drum up support for a federally mandated curb on the surcharges in 2008. The new proposal, advanced yesterday by NDP consumer affairs critic Glenn Thibeault, calls for ATM withdrawal fees to be capped at 50 cents per transaction.

A vote on Thibeault’s motion, which urges the feds to build fee limits into their 2014 budget, is scheduled for later this afternoon. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The vote on Thibeault’s motions happened on Tuesday afternoon, and was predictably defeated 146-130, with the majority Tories voting against the bill. Looks like this issue is moving off the legislative agenda and into the NDP’s election platform.

The Informer

Business

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BlackBerry is trying to prevent Ryan Seacrest from selling an iPhone accessory

(Image: Courtesy of Typo Products)

(Image: Courtesy of Typo Products)

BlackBerry has spent much of the past year trying desperately to make its phones seem more like iPhones, so one can only imagine how troubling it must be to executives at the company’s Waterloo headquarters that a start-up co-founded by Ryan Seacrest has managed to solve the problem by taking the opposite approach: instead of turning BlackBerries into iPhones, Typo Products LLC is selling a special snap-on case that endows an iPhone with a BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard.

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The Informer

Business

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How weather-driven flight delays feed Pearson Airport’s boredom economy

Stranded passengers aren't entirely bad for business at Pearson. (Image: Richard Hsu)

Stranded passengers aren’t entirely bad for business at Pearson. (Image: Richard Hsu)

There are few things more boring than waiting at an airport, the sterile doctor’s office of the travel industry. Considering their supreme blandness, it’s easy to forget that airports are big business. When Toronto’s Pearson Airport grounded hundreds of flights for several hours because of January 7’s polar-vortex-induced cold, there was a lot of concern, not just because of the thousands of stranded passengers, but also because Pearson is supposed to be a reliable economic machine. The eight-hour disruption has been under so much media scrutiny that it’s now the subject of an internal probe.

Pearson’s $11.5 billion GDP is double that of Prince Edward Island’s. In 2013, 36 million passengers went through its gates, and many of them shopped in the airport’s hundreds of stores, restaurants and art galleries. In all, Pearson directly or indirectly employs 114,000 people. (There are even dinosaur fossils on display in terminal one, so you know it has everything.) It, like other air-travel hubs around the world, is a micro-economy.

But what happens to that economy when people are stuck in the airport?

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The Informer

Business

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How the weakening loonie is about to make life more expensive

(Image: bgilliard)

(Image: bgilliard)

When this sentence was written, the value of the Canadian dollar was hovering around 92 cents U.S. That’s the lowest the loonie has sunk since the first year of the financial crisis. For people who happen to have a lot of U.S. dollars on hand, this is a godsend. (Canadian businesses that export to the U.S. are in for a particularly good time.) For everyone else, the prognosis isn’t as great. Here’s a quick tour of some of the probable consequences.

1. Uncertainty will reign

The general consensus among experts is the loonie’s decline will continue, at least for a little while, but nobody is sure where rock bottom lies. The price change is being driven by so many different factors—a stronger U.S. economy, a not-quite-as-strong market for Canadian resources—that all we really have to go on are the best guesses of investment bankers. As of November, Goldman Sachs was thinking we’d sink as low as 88 cents. At this rate, the loonie could be there before long.

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The Informer

Business

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WestJet makes a passive-agressive non-bid bid for access to the island airport

The island airport, from above. (Image: sean hill)

The island airport, from above. (Image: sean hill)

The island airport makes some people very, very angry, but for WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky, the feeling is probably more like mild despair, perhaps mixed with envy and a soupçon of frustration with Porter and Air Canada—the airlines that currently have exclusive dibs on the tiny but oh-so-convenient transportation hub.

WestJet has been angling for slots at the island airport for quite some time, but, with Porter’s jet proposal about to come to a vote at city hall, even the merest whisper about Saretsky’s situation is enough for the media to pile on, as they did yesterday when he told the Globe: “We would like to have the opportunity to fly jets ourselves from that airport.”

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The Goods

Stores

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POLL: Are you underwhelmed by Target Canada?

target-smallThe American retail giant’s dismal third-quarter earnings are yet more evidence that its ballyhooed Canadian expansion missed the, er, target, with local shoppers. Target brass and retail experts have identified a host of problems: it had trouble finding a balance between empty shelves and excess stock; the initial surge of customers hasn’t returned to stock up on household basics; and the Canadian market offers stronger competition than expected. The common perception that the discounter is more expensive than its chief rival Walmart—as well as Target’s own American stores—isn’t helping much either.

Did Target fall short of your expectations?

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The Informer

Business

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World’s Biggest Bookstore has been sold to the developer behind the Four Seasons Hotel

worlds-biggest-bookstore

(Image: Steve Harris)

First it was Sam the Record Man. Then Honest Eds. Now, yet another iconic local retailer is packing it in. Come February, the World’s Biggest Bookstore will be ceding its prime site near Yonge-Dundas Square to a property developer. Indigo Books and Music, which owns the 64,000-square-foot store, says it’s closing the store because the rent, as expected, was rising from the $1.5 million a year the company had been paying. The company purchasing the not-quite-accurately-named store (New York has a Barnes and Noble nearly twice the size) is Lifetime Developments, a residential and commercial developer responsible for the Liberty Market Lofts, WaterParkCity and the Four Seasons. Vice-president Brian Brown said the firm doesn’t “have any finalized plans or intention” for the site—but we’re willing to bet another bargain bookstore is not one of the options. [Toronto Star]

The Informer

Business

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Talk of mass layoffs at Blackberry completely upstage the company’s massive new phone

(Images: smart phone courtesy of BlackBerry; pink slip, pink slip Rick)

We knew things were really bad at BlackBerry. Now we know they’re really, really bad. Rumours are swirling that the faltering tech giant will cull up to 40 per cent of its workforce by Christmas, which would bring its employee count below 8,000. (To compare, two years ago, the company had more than 17,000 people.) BlackBerry wouldn’t comment on the story, but sources say the cuts will come in waves, affect all departments and hit BlackBerry’s Waterloo headquarters the hardest. The extra twist of the knife: news of the layoffs broke the same day that the company unveiled the BlackBerry Z30. It has the largest screen and longest battery life of any BlackBerry to date—not that anyone noticed. [Wall Street Journal]