CNA’s sales are up

Against all odds, Edcon looks set to mark its 90th anniversary in September, brought back from the brink by last-minute financial life support from banks, landlords and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

The group was set to run out of cash at the end of February, but the latest recapitalisation injects R2.7bn into the country’s largest nonfood retailer, its second in two years and third in total.

In the latest rescue plan, investors wanted certainty the group was well on its way to recovery before they would inject money.

The group has a five-year plan covering property, costs and contracts and there is early evidence it’s paying off.

CNA’s sales, with 18% less space, are up 10%-15% on last year, and so far Edcon has made more of a profit in the past four months than in the same period in the year before.

Stock, staff, fixtures and fittings will be moved from downsized and closed stores to others outlets, but the staff complement will be retained at current levels.

Landlords had four options: close stores, retain them, relocate or shrink. Melrose Arch was the largest loss-making store from day one, and it’s now closed. The Mall of Africa store has been reduced from two floors to one.

What can consumers expect?

Shoppers can expect refreshed stores, “but there’s no big bang coming”, said Pattison. The group’s private-label offering accounts for 55% of sales, and they’re looking to grow this to 60% over three years.

“It’s about needing to fix the fashion product and get service right. We’ve forgotten some of the retail disciplines,” said Pattison.


Videotape evidence is not always legal

By Ivan Israelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

At the CCMA it is the employer who has the full onus of proving that a dismissal was fair. For this reason, when employers are able to catch employees breaking rules on camera, they believe that they are guaranteed to win the case at the CCMA. This is not so for many reasons.

Videotaped evidence has been accepted as valid but, just as often it has been rejected. This is because certain circumstances can render video evidence unreliable or unacceptable.

In Afrox Ltd vs Laka & Others (1999, 20 ILJ 1732 the Labour Court found that the arbitrator’s decision to disallow video footage was grossly irregular as the evidence that the employer wanted to use was relevant to the case at hand.

However, in the case of Moloko vs Commissioner Diale & Others (2004 25 ILJ 1067) the arbitrator accepted into evidence video footage of an alleged assault by the employee. The Labour Court however, on review, decided that the video evidence was inadmissible as it was of very bad quality and could not be relied upon.

It is clear that, if the circumstances are right, the CCMA may well accept the admissibility of videotaped evidence at hearings. Some of the circumstances that may persuade arbitrators to accept video evidence include:

* The accused employee, having viewed the video, confirms that is indeed he or she who is shown in the video and that what the employer alleges is being revealed by the video is indeed what happened.

* The videotape should be clear. This means that visuals and audio must be sharp

* The video should be authenticated. In addition to the tape being clear it must be shown not to have been tampered with in any way. It must also be proved that the visuals and audio accurately reflected the incident in question and not some other incident

* The evidence provided by the videotape must be relevant to the case at hand

* The video should not be part of an illegal entrapment exercise. In my understanding illegal entrapment occurs where the employer purposely lures

or entices the employee into a situation where he commits an infraction that he otherwise would not necessarily committed.

Many employers, by the nature of their enterprises, are extremely vulnerable to losses due to employee misconduct. Such employers include, amongst others, security firms, retailers, factories, casinos, retailers, financial institutions, jewellers and goods transporters. While videotaped evidence can be extremely useful to such employers as means of catching perpetrators this advantage will only apply where the employer knows how to ensure that all the requirements for validating the video evidence are adhered to.

This requires a full understanding of the laws of evidence and of privacy as well as substantial expertise in applying the law. Such understanding and expertise should be provided by labour law experts.

Boost sales by using our quick and simple guide to punches and staplers 

The first known stapler was made in the 1700sforKing Louis XV. Each staple was inscribed with the insignia of the royal court. As paper use increased, so too did the need for the stapler. These days a stapler is an essential piece of office equipment. Helping your customers choose the right one involves looking at the key aspects of size, capacity and use.

Hand-held staplers are an essential retail and office supply item and come in compact sizes and shapes for everyday use. 
Staple guns, suited to packaging tasks and DIY projects in and around the office or home, feature a high tension spring which enables tacking to a range of base materials and is an ideal tool for decoration and repairs. Long reach staplers should be considered if you need to make up booklets, since they allow the teeth to reach the centre fold.

On average, a standard desktop stapler can fasten up to 20 sheets at a time, while a heavy-duty stapler is suitable for stapling 100-sheet office documents comfortably. Small, pocketsize staplers can fit into a student bag or backpack and some feature a handy, built-in staple remover too. They can staple up to 12 sheets of paper.

Electric staplers feature an automatic arm that triggers when paper is inserted. For security purposes, always ensure you purchase a model with a safety switch to prevent accidental operationFor customers in busy environs, buying a stapler with a security loop is advisable. This ensures that the stapler won’t be stolen or misplaced.

Portable staplers offer a keyring attachment allowing them to be clipped to a work bag or mobile work station. The larger sizes have higher stapling capabilities and an integrated staple storage compartment in order to keep extra staples handy. 
Portable electric staplers operate on battery power or AC adapters and come with an display to indicate when to add new staples. 

Staples are supplied or available to purchase with the stapler model of choice. Remember that the higher capacity staplers also need larger or high-capacity staples to reach through the larger stacks of paper. Heavy-duty staples come in a variety of leg lengths, and usually feature sharper teeth. The thicker the stack of papers to be stapled, the longer the vertical legs of the staple must be to ensure it is correctly clinched. They also come in staple cartridges for easier loading. For the office professional, colour co-ordinated staples ensure aesthetic continuity in printed reports. 

When loading staples, there are many options to consider: a bottom loader, where the base of the stapler is removed and staples are inserted; a top-load stapler which allows you to open the top of the stapler; front-load staplers that have a staple magazine that pops open from the front; and back-load models which have a staple tray that extends from the rear of the stapler. To avoid jams, advise your customers to use only the recommended staple type and size for the model in question. They should not staple above the stated sheet capacity. If the stapler will be used by multiple users, customers should consider purchasing one with a jam-free mechanism. 

Staplers come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Customers can further personalise their choices by buying a stapler with a name plate on which to engrave their details. Customers who are environmentally conscious might be interested in purchasing a staple manufactured from 100% post-industrial recycled plastic. They often come in recycled cardboard packaging printed with petroleum-free, soy-based inks.

As with any purchase, advise your customers to look for a product guarantee that suits their needs.

Aside from the stapler itself and additional staples, another point on which to upsell is a staple removerIn claw, scissor, pen and easy-glide remover shapes, they quickly and effortlessly remove staples without damaging the documentation. 

Selling points of staplers

Stapler size
Half strip staplers are smaller and compact and hold a half strip of staples (approximately 105 staples). Half-strip staplers are sold to students or to home office users where desk or briefcase space is a consideration. 
Fullstrip staplers can be loaded with a full strip of staples (approximately 210 staples), which is better for the customer as they will have to refill or reload less often. Full-strip staplers are more popular for high-volume office use. 

Stapler type
In South Africa we tend to categorise staplers as being plastic or metal. This categorisation refers to the outer cladding of the stapler, as the working parts in both cases are made of metal. It is generally accepted that metal staplers are more durable and therefore better suited to highvolume office use. 

Stapler usage
Light-use staplers are typically simple machines made of lightweight materials. They have basic features and are intended for occasional use, such as for home usestudy and infrequent filing.
Regular-use staplers are reliable machines made from more durable materials, mostly metal. Added value features include: flat clinch staple finishlow force mechanisms which reduce effort by up to 50%; an ergonomic design; and soft-feel touch points for comfort. 
Heavy-duty staplers are designed to be strong and sturdy, and are built to work with highcapacity paper documents. These staplers are made from hard-wearing, durable materials and are designed to staple more than 60 sheets of 80gsm paper. 
Staplers for specialist use give consumers the ability to complete the more unusual jobs, such as booklet stapling and tacking. 

 Stapling mechanism types
Permanent clinch is the most popular stapling mechanism. This mechanism delivers a long lasting, closed staple clinch. Opening the staple requires a staple remover. Flat clinch is a value added stapling mechanism which lays the staple legs flat against the paper, thereby cutting filing space by as much as 30%.
Pinning is available on staplers whose anvil can be swivelled. Paperwork is then temporarily secured in a pinning fashion, making it easy to release the documents by hand. 
Tacking is a form of stapling used for fastening paper or textiles to bulletin boards or wooden surfaces. The ends of the staple are not bent over, but sunk vertically into the backing material.

The first hole puncher was patented in 1886. Since then, punches have been a common form of office equipment. Early hole punchers were manual and handheld, and could only cut a single hole at a time. Now consumers are spoiled for choice, with a wide range of modern models to choose fromKnowing your punches will help you to help your customers make the right choice. 

A punch is ideal for binding presentations in a file or folder. It allows for organisation, filing and retrieval of all paper and cardboard related projects, reports and documentation. 

The number of holes that your consumers require will depend entirely on their filing system. Punches with one-, two- and three-hole capabilities are perfect for organising papers within an individual book ring, three-ring binder or standard file. 
Single hole punches are also used at events to punch tickets to prevent them being redeemed twice. They are also used within loyalty programmes, where a customer is issued a card and each time a purchase is made, a hole is punched to mark the progression of purchase and reward stages. 
Two-hole punches are used for two-ringed files, as seen in small offices and learning institutions. 
Three-hole punches make it easy to use the standard printer paper required to be filed in three-ringed notebook files. 

Another important aspect of a punch is its sheet capacity. Heavy duty punches are capable of taking up to 160 sheets at a time. They are suited to large scale projects, such as those found in the corporate and manufacturing industries. These models require virtually no effort when punching stacks of sheets, getting the job finished faster and more accurately.

Electric punches offer ease of use, as no physical exertion is required by your customer to punch holes accurately and quickly. Portable electric versions are also available for use at events or exhibitions or when moving between departments within a large enterprise. Electric punches are automatic and effortless, and are ideal for frequent use on large jobs when speed and accuracy are critical.
Electric binding machines also offer a punching capability as part of the binding process.

Lever handle punches are adjustable to punch anywhere from two to seven holes. They feature a heavy base for stability, a calibrated position guide and a removable paper pan to dispose of offcuts.  

Selling points of punches 

There is no standard in South Africa with regards to the accurate categorisation of paper punches. One would think that punches with a sheet capacity of about eight would be described as student punches. Light duty punches would have a 10 to 12 sheet capacity. Medium duty punches would be in the region of 20 to 35 sheets, while heavy-duty punches would be in 40+ sheet capacity.  

No such logical luck. Where one manufacturer may describe a 30 sheet capacity punch as being medium duty, another brand may describe their punch of similar capacity as heavy-duty 

Rexel has attempted to address this anomaly in the way that it names its paper punches. A Rexel V210 is a value two hole, 10-sheet capacity punch. A Rexel P265 is a premium two hole, 65-sheet capacity punch. A Rexel P425 is a premium four hole, 25-sheet capacity punch. 

So why the names: value and premium? Value punches are all metal, standard specification, strong and robust. They will get the job done. They offer no value-added features as entry level price points are important to maintain. Premium punches are as strong and robust and they offer value-adds such as ergonomic design and soft touch points for comfort; attractive silver black or silver blue colours for aesthetic appeal; patented paper alignment indicators that ensure accurate punching; a confetti release gate which obviates the need to remove the plastic base to throw away punched paper chads; and an angled base for easy paper insertion. The paper guide has a visible window for ease of setting. The premium punch handle has a lock down feature for easy desk drawer storage. These premium punches are so good you will want to hide them from potential punch pinchers.

With contributions by Bill Bayley, MD of Rexel Office Products 

Bic opens East African facility

BIC has officially inaugurated its East Africa facility in Kasarani, Nairobi. This new venture comes as BIC transferred its manufacturing in Kenya and distribution in the East African region from HACO Industries Kenya Ltd earlier this year.

After four decades of presence in the region through a local distributor and under a licensed manufacturing model, BIC established its East Africa subsidiary in Kenya to implement its proximity strategy and expand its brand presence. The subsidiary will act as a development engine for the domestic market and an export hub servicing Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Commenting on the inauguration, BIC’s Chief Executive Officer, Gonzalve Bich said: “Today marks an important milestone for us as we strengthen our presence in Kenya. We thank Dr. Chris Kirubi & HACO Industries for their stewardship in helping BIC to become the country’s leading writing instrument brand. Our focus now is on expanding our footprint in the African
continent and providing high‐quality, affordable products to our consumers. With a population of 300-million inhabitants, 45% of whom are under 14 years of age; East Africa is a key market for our stationery business.”

He added: “In line with our “Writing the Future, Together” sustainable development program, BIC will be investing in driving social impact. We stand committed to growing our current business and developing the local talent base, starting with our own employees, by providing additional opportunity for career growth and the building of new skills and competencies as part
of our global enterprise operation. Also, the BIC Corporate Foundation will be focusing on driving education in the country, as we look to support projects that improve learning conditions for children in Kenya and East Africa.”

The revamped manufacturing facility will produce BIC ballpoint pens and include the assembly of BIC Shavers. The factory benefits from the introduction of new technologies, smart solutions, and environmental management systems that help to drive efficiency and reduce the factory’s footprint in line with the company’s “Writing The Future” Sustainable Development
Commitments for 2025.

Costs headache for Massmart

Source: BusinessLive

Big-box retailer Massmart is in a difficult position: its costs are growing faster than its revenue.

It has made efforts to cut costs, but for a low-margin, high-volume retailer to grow, it needs some economic activity.

The problem for it and the entire retail sector is that over the past year, there has not been much activity to speak of. The Christmas season was one of the most dismal on record. Rival Shoprite noted that parents spent more on school supplies than on toys.

In a sense, Massmart is also a victim of its own success. When times were good, it grew rapidly, but now that it has such a large retail footprint — with the overheads to match — it has to come up with a way to run this infrastructure in a more affordable manner while demand tapers off.

There are no easy answers.

It can only cut costs so far. Rolling out new stores as a way to drive growth is an option, but this has to done carefully, as there is the danger that they will not generate enough revenue to justify the increase in expenses they bring.

The only thing Massmart can do is wait for the economic winds to change in its favour. But the forecast doesn’t look promising. Retailers are looking to some kind of unspecified government action to spark a rise in activity after the May election.

Chances are that whatever the government comes up with, it will not provide the sharp impetus Massmart and the rest of the sector are looking for.

Five myths about the future of work

Source: Investec

About 50% of all jobs that exist today could already be automated with existing technology. This sobering statistic from global management consulting firm McKinsey raises a number of questions about job security against the backdrop of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But fear not: mass unemployment is just one of the myths associated with the future of work.

In this article, Investec dispels five myths about the future of work – but first, also listen to two recent podcasts on how companies and employees are adapting to the digital era.

In part one, Investec’s head of organisational development and human resources, Marc Kahn, and a host of other experts talk about what the workplace of the future could look like.

Myth 1: Automation will take away our jobs

Tech replacing jobs is nothing new; it has been a major cause for concern in all of the previous industrial revolutions. But, as history shows, new technology has the power to create as much work as it displaces.

“If you look at any 10-year period, in most economies, developed and developing, something like 10% of the occupations are ones that didn’t exist in the previous 10-year period,” says James Manyika, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, the firm’s business and economics research arm.

On a macro level, technology grows the number of jobs because it increases productivity, which drives economic growth and creates new jobs and entire new industries like online shopping.

Uber drivers, web designers, 3D printing technicians, social media managers – these are all completely new jobs we didn’t dream of when we were growing up.

“Some occupations decline, but many others actually grow and rise, and quite often, many that grow and rise are ones we could never imagine,” says Manyika.

What is changing in this new era is that the kinds of jobs we’re automating are no longer only physical work but also what Manyika calls “knowledge work” – cognitive tasks such as image recognition and data analysis.

Myth 2: Your industry won’t be disrupted

Unicorns – start-ups valued at $1bn or more – are no longer rare. There are more than 300 unicorns disrupting everything from healthcare to financial services, manufacturing, food and travel, and the number is growing rapidly.

“You might think that in your industry you’re safe; that there’s no way that digital technology or exponential technology is going to disrupt you. But I’ll tell you, people in food thought that, and people in taxis thought there’s no way they’d be disrupted by cellphones; but of course, they have been. So, you might be too.”

Sage words from renowned futurist Ramez Naam, who spoke at the recent SingularityU South Africa Summit. History is littered with examples of companies and industries caught unawares by technologically advanced challengers. Don’t let your company be one of them.

Myth 3: You need an innovation hub to innovate

While individuals may be concerned about their own prospects, companies are grappling with how they can keep up with the explosion of technology that is already disrupting industries globally. The response from corporates has been a proliferation of innovation hubs and incubators on the periphery of the company.

Investec’s Marc Kahn believes innovation doesn’t happen in the confines of a hub.

“You want to create a total and holistic environmental shift for the entire organisation … that innovation is the primary task of the normal course of work on a day-to-day basis, and that’s the real challenge. You don’t do that by stripping out innovation and putting it in a separate place, because that means the innovation doesn’t happen in the main and it de-authorises the ability to innovate if you aren’t in that box.”

To make the whole company a hotbed of innovation, Kahn believes failure needs to be tolerated and hierarchy demolished.

“Rule number one for future workplaces is that failure is an option. So, you need to create an environment that tolerates risk more, not unlike a start-up, and that has in place mechanisms to manage failure and encourage experimentation,” he says.

“Hierarchy is death to innovation,” adds Kahn, because it stifles bottom-up innovation. Instead, ideas from all areas of the business should be encouraged and rewarded.

Myth 4: The gig economy is a threat to employers

Far from being a threat to companies, employers themselves could become the biggest beneficiaries of the gig economy – a labour market made up of freelance, short-term, flexible, on-demand work. More than a third (36%) of US workers are foregoing the nine-to-five workday to perform more lucrative “gigs” and about 15.6% of the UK’s workforce are giggers. This challenges the notions of employer loyalty, company culture and institutional memory, but it also opens up possibilities for businesses to save money on benefits, office space and training, and makes getting the best talent more affordable.

Kahn believes the gig economy is fuelling a revolution in the definition of what a company is. A business is real by virtue of its people and assets, he says, “but what if all the people employed in the company are employed as gigs? Where is the company?

“We start thinking about capability, and capability becomes detached from an individual and it becomes a commodity that’s moving around in a free-flowing environment. People cluster together in sensible ways and then uncluster and reconnect in various gigs to deliver a very agile value chain,” explains Kahn.

This, he says, is all “loosely coordinated by a leadership function without too much management control, but enough to manage the risk in a very fluid environment”.

Myth 5: You will have one career your entire life

Job-hopping will become the new normal. Millennials today will hold four jobs by the time they are 30 years old – twice the number of job changes than Generation Xers, says a report from LinkedIn.

Investec spoke to 25-year-old Stacey Ferreira, a San Francisco-based tech entrepreneur who has held four different jobs since she was 18. She says continuous learning is the best way to prepare yourself for the future of work. “We need to continue to learn about new things, so that 20 years from now, we aren’t saying, ‘Oh, I don’t know anything about this new technology that exists.’ We’ve actually kept up with it.”

Kahn says: “Instead of thinking about a career in a particular craft that you have for 30 years, you need to think about being multi-skilled, independent and massively flexible in as many different working environments as possible.”

February: Message from the Chairman

We are happy to report that the first monthly edition of shop-sa news was received positively, judging by the number of reads.

To maintain the momentum and provide the industry with relevant information, we again appeal to all players to send us news, either from your company or general items you feel should be shared with our members. We also welcome any comments, constructive criticism and suggestions!

The “big news” this month was of course the Budget, and as always one can’t please everyone.
Comments like “a Lipstick Budget” and “same old, same old”, not to mention Eskom and more bail-out funds, illustrate the difficulties faced by Mr. Mboweni and company.

The huge portion of funds allocated to education and the stance on corruption could bode well for our industry.

The next chapter in the SA story is the elections, and these will hopefully bring more stability and certainty, giving businesses big or small the confidence needed to grow and be prepared tor the “fourth industrial relvolution”.

Sharing information is, in my view, a key factor to manage what lies ahead. Shop-sa, your association, aims to play its part in this regard.

Our industry has shown resilience in the past and will do so going forward.

Hans Servas


Victimising employees is risky

By Ivan Israelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting 

One of the legal terms and concepts that appear to confuse employers and employees is ‘victimisation’. This is partially because the labour statutes do not deal fully with the concept of ‘workplace victimisation’.

The LRA does appear to deal with the issue of victimisation in a partial and indirect way. For example, sections 5, 185 and 186(2) of the LRA deal with certain unfair practices (short of dismissal) that could amount to victimisation. Also, chapter 2 of the EEA also alludes to practices that could constitute victimisation. These sections attempt to define and prohibit the following acts on the part of employers:

• Interfering with the rights of employees or job applicants relating to trade union membership or or activities;

• Prejudicing an employee or job applicant due to his/her legitimate disclosure of information or exercising of any right conferred by the LRA;

• Unfair promotion, demotion, suspension, discipline, training or provision of benefits

• Unfair conduct on the employer’s part relation to probation or contravention of the Protection of Disclosures Act.

• Unfair discrimination and harassment.

While labour law does, as outlined above, deal with many types of employee mistreatment that could constitute ‘victimisation’ there are a number of large gaps in the LRA and EEA. For instance, these acts do not specifically or directly prohibit an employer from shouting at assaulting or making unfair threats against an employee. The acts also do not specifically prohibit the employer from moving the employee out of his/her office into a draughty passage or from transferring the employee from location to location as a means of victimising the employee. Section 186(e) does consider a forced resignation as a dismissal but this does not help an employee who cannot afford to resign in order to escape victimisation. Employees are also not sure how to go about exercising their legal rights in this regard. For example, in the case of NEHAWU obo Mashigo & Others vs Department of Health (2004, 11 BALR 1362) the employees lodged a grievance against the employer due to unhappiness with their employment benefits. They were later dismissed and referred a dispute for unfair dismissal to their bargaining council. The arbitrator ruled that:

The bargaining council had no jurisdiction to deal with such a dispute of unfair discrimination. Despite having ruled itself to have no jurisdiction the bargaining council nevertheless issued an award to the effect that the dismissal was not unfair. This case illustrates that arbitration awards can be made which ignore victimisation allegations. However, employers should not make the mistake of believing that they are free to victimise their employees, as this is not the case.

For example, in the case of OCGAWU obo Fex & Others vs Highway Motors (2004,3 BALR 369) three employees raised a number of complaints with the employer. Thereafter, the employer reduced their working hours to 24 per month and hired new employees to perform the work on a full-time basis. The three employees referred this to the CCMA as an unfair labour practice (suspension). The CCMA held that the employer had unfairly victimised the three employees and ordered the company to pay each one the equivalent of 12 months’ remuneration.

This case illustrates that, before employers act against employees in any way, they need to get expert advice from a reputable labour specialist.

SA helps Sappi offset tough European market

By Robert Laing for Business Live

Sappi’s SA business contributed “excellent results” during its December quarter, the paper maker said on Wednesday morning in the results statement for the first quarter of its financial year.

The group’s net profit grew 29% to $81m in the three months to end-December from $63m in the matching period in 2017, boosted by healthy demand for its dissolving wood pulp from Chinese clothes makers.
It achieved this jump in profit on 6.6% revenue growth to $1.4bn from $1.3bn.
Europe contributed 51% of the group’s sales, North America 25%, and Southern Africa 24%.
Split by product categories, coated paper contributed 54% of Sappi’s sales, dissolving wood pulp 19%, speciality paper 15%, and uncoated paper and commodity paper 6% each.

Regarding its historical home market, Sappi said increased pulp and packaging sales volumes combined with higher rand selling prices across the board more than offset higher energy and wood fibre costs.

Its North American business benefited from higher dissolving wood pulp prices.

“Our dissolving wood pulp products are used worldwide mainly by converters to create viscose fibre for fashionable clothing and textiles, as well as other consumer products,” the results statement said.

Dissolving wood pulp sales prices remained stable throughout most of the quarter, and declined slightly in December
due to pressure from lower Chinese viscose staple fibre prices and a weak Chinese paper pulp market, Sappi said.
Its European business suffered from “sluggish demand for coated graphic and packaging papers along with ongoing high paper pulp input costs”.

The future is bright for print books

Source: Two Sides

With sales figures on the rise around the world, it seems that print books are making a comeback.

As well as being the start of Big Garden Birdwatch in the UK and a week that includes Australia Day and National Croissant Day in the US, January 26 – February 2 is National Storytelling Week. Now in its 19th year, the annual festival of the story will see a range of events up and down the country, celebrating writers and readers and the tales that connect them.

Of course, central to all stories is the book, which appears to be going through another transition. After years of having their sales steadily eroded by digital formats, the print book is back on the rise, with sales across a number of European and international markets increasing.

According to the latest figures from Nielsen Bookscan, the UK’s print book market has grown by 2.1%, which represents an increase of £34m in sales and an additional 627,000 books being bought. Such print success is repeated in countries such as Italy, where print book sales were up by 1% in 2017, and Germany, where ebook sales only account for 4.6% of the entire book market.

At the same time, the sales of ebooks have plummeted. According to figures from the Publishers Association, consumer ebook sales in the UK fell by 17%, in 2016 from a high in 2014. Arnaud Nourry, Chief Executive of French publisher Hachette Livre has described the ebook as a “stupid product”, saying that the decline in ebook sales is “not going to reverse”.

“The demand for physical books is back,” adds Stephen Clarke, Chief Executive of WH Smith. “The physical books market is in much better health than the ebooks market and we see that continuing.”

Stora Enso survey
A key indication that the bounce-back of print books can be found in a new survey from Stora Enso, which concludes that “printed books will continue to be important, relevant and interesting, and still very much appreciated compared to ebooks and audiobooks.”

The survey asked a series of publishers, retailers, printers and booksellers, as well as audio and ebook publishers, a number of questions about the print and ebook market, and found that print books are very much on the rise. “One of the main findings was that there is a positive future for printed books,” says Essi Lauri, VP, Head of Segment Newsprint & Book, in Stora Enso’s Paper division. “Holding a physical book gives you a different feeling than holding an ebook. It’s an experience.”

That positive future can be put down to a number of factors, such as the increase in price of the average ebook and the actual ereaders themselves. But one of the main factors is ‘screen fatigue’, where people are looking towards physical books to provide a break from the many digital screens they look at during the day. Indeed, one respondent in the Stora Enso survey remarked: “The more things go digital, the more value there is in the printed product.”

A physical connection
Print gives the reader a physical connection to the book, a welcome combination of touch, sight and engagement that allows you to switch off from the normal world and lose yourself in a great story. In a world dominated by digital media that has a tendency to carry content that’s more negative than positive, they provide a refreshing sense of control and a deep emotional connection.

“The tangibility of printed books and the ability to experience them through multiple senses – sound, smell, sight – is often cited,” said Charles Jarrold, CEO if the BPIF, “and evokes far more of an emotional attachment. In addition, physical books can be seen as an expression of identity. The simple fact is that there’s nothing quite like a physical book to really engage with.”

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