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London, 1966. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty
When we ask U.S. retailers why they haven't kept pace with Chinese rivals, they say the countries can't be compared. China is dominated by small specialty shops, not malls, they point out, and its people are accustomed to ubiquitous surveillance — which Americans reject as creepy.
Why it matters: The digital sluggishness of U.S. retail has victimized Main Street — the mom and pop shops that have been left behind in the Amazon revolution, one culprit in the blight of American downtowns.
Abroad, the trend is to save Main Street.
China's Alibaba and Israel's Trax are following the digitalization-in-a-box model: selling their tech know-how in the form of off-the-shelf software and equipment that make it easy to upgrade mom and pop stores in one fell swoop.
"A lot of the things we talk about here, like frictionless checkout, they've had in China for a few years already."— Rod Sides, Deloitte
Now, there are the first inklings of the revolution reaching U.S. shores.
Last year, Kroger spun out Sunrise Technologies, its in-house innovation lab, which debuted wireless shelves and sensors at two Kroger stores this month. Now, Sunrise — partnering with Microsoft — has plans to sell its tech to other stores, including mom and pops.
The bottom line: Brick and mortar is not going anywhere — it still commands 90 cents of every dollar spent in retail. But stores are being turned into hybrids that include a heavy e-commerce element.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
In a new episode of protectionism, Beijing looks likely to shut out foreign-made driverless cars.
Why it matters: The move — conceived by the architect of Beijing's controversial strategy for dominating the technologies of the future — is likely to increase U.S. tensions with China, where foreign carmakers are looking for the bulk of their sales growth.
What's happening: A commission headed by Miao Wei, minister of industry and information and chief architect of Made in China 2025, released the new policy on Dec. 27, writes Patrick Lozada, a China expert at Albright Stonebridge.
The garden maze, Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, the U.K., July 1940. Photo: Fox/Getty
What do we call this? Photo: Katherine Frey/WP/Getty
The European Union has canceled McDonald's trademark for the Big Mac in Europe, reports Slate's Charles Star.
Its infraction: The global fast-food chain could not prove that it sells Big Macs.
Yep, that's right. McDonald's could not convince the European Union Intellectual Property Office that it sells the food item for which it is most famous. (The Washington Examiner published an incredulous takedown of this absurdity — and then had to retract it.)
Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes: The American giant fell to Irish upstart Supermac's, which, after twice drawing the enormous chain's ire for its similar branding, hit back with a claim that McDonald's wasn't using its trademark for "Big Mac," Star reports.
What's next: You better believe McDonald's will appeal.