Source: Business Day

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament in a humiliating defeat, her plan for leaving the European Union all but dead. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn responded by proposing a vote of no confidence in her government.

The House of Commons voted 432 versus 202 against the divorce the UK government brokered with the European Union. A margin of less than 60 would have given grounds to hope that the deal was salvageable, with the EU poised to engage in ways to make it more palatable.

Sterling rebounded smartly from the day’s lows and rallied more than a cent to stand above $1.28 after the vote.

Corbyn’s motion will be debated and voted on Wednesday. If it is successful, there will be 14 days for a new government to be formed, or a general election will be scheduled.

Instead, the largest defeat in over a century prompted the Labour Party to pounce to try to force a general election.

“It is clear the House does not support this deal,” May told MPs following the vote. “But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support,” she said, pledging to talk to her Northern Irish allies and senior politicians across Parliament to try to reach a consensus. “The government will approach these meetings in a constructive spirit.”

She also acknowledged the “scale and importance” of the vote and said the first step must be to confirm that MPs still had confidence in her government.

It is likely that Tories and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government, would still stand by her — for now. Though one question is whether pro-Brexit Tories who wanted to oust her as leader last year would consider voting with the opposition just to get rid of her.

More than two years after the nation cast a die and voted to leave the 28-nation bloc, the UK is facing political paralysis over a decision that has divided the nation and its political class for decades.

May’s choices are limited by the fact that her Conservative party does not have a majority in Parliament and that there are competing interests between those who want a clean break from the EU those that want to preserve close ties and an opposition party eager to come power.

The UK was meant to leave on March 29 — two years after May triggered the process — but now that is also looking unlikely and an increasingly boxed-in prime minister could well decide to ask fellow EU leaders for an extension as she works out her next steps.

The chairman of EU leaders Donald Tusk said the only positive solution after the vote is for Britain to stay in the EU.

“If a deal is impossible, and no-one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” Tusk tweeted after the vote.

By Kim Abrahams for News24

They’ve just come through an exhausting festive season, complete with overcrowded stores, reckless spending and extended working hours.

But now retailers are in for another shopping frenzy – this time it’s to reverse all those sales that just weeks ago saw their profit skyrocket.

Research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research has found that one in every four gifts bought between last year’s Black Friday and Boxing Day will be returned in the new year, Mail Online writes.

The UK-based company says the returns are expected to amount to £4.8bn (about R85.2bn) out of total sales of £19bn (R337.3bn).

Iain Prince, supply chain director at KPMG, tells The Times the cost of having a product returned could be twice that of delivering it in the first place – but that’s done little to stop consumers.

Those who can’t return unwanted gifts simply flog the items on eBay, Gumtree or Facebook for extra cash.

By Suman Bhattacharyya for Digiday 

As a growing number of people go to Amazon to buy office supplies, Office Depot is trying to find another use for its nearly 1 400 physical stores. One it’s testing: Transforming them into co-working spaces.

The company is testing the concept through a Los Gatos, California-based “Workonomy Hub” it opened in August. Inside it, a 5 000 square-foot co-working space includes open “hot desks”, closed offices, a lounge with a Starbucks kiosk, and an online-order pickup and shipping area. It’s an effort to repurpose empty store space as a co-working and business-service hub — and a place businesses can learn about and take advantage of consulting services that cover marketing, business development and staffing.

“The traditional retail model is highly focused on convenience, and making one sale today; we have that as a component of our business, but we want that longer-term relationship with the customer,” said Kevin Moffitt, chief retail officer at Office Depot.”[Small-business] customers are already coming to us for marketing services, print services and tech services, and for us, it’s a natural adjacency to the products and services we already offer.”

The repurposing of vacant retail space for service and co-working offerings is a trend across the industry. Malls are opening up unused space to shared workspace providers and startup incubation programs. Meanwhile, traditional retailers are redesigning store spaces as service hubs. For example, Staples last year partnered with co-working startup Workbar to roll out co-working spaces with happy hours and slick modern designs.

The trend is also going another way, with industry heavyweights like WeWork adding ancillary services to support small businesses, including, most recently, ad agency-style marketing services.

Office Depot, which has seen services as a portion of its Business Services Division revenue grow 28 percent year over year, sees co-working spaces as a customer acquisition channel for its services offerings. It’s using its connections with community groups, along with its capacities to advise businesses on both strategy, as well as tech, as differentiators against businesses wholly dedicated to co-working.

“Our approach is that it’s everything you need under a single roof with support from dedicated specialists and associates,” Moffitt said.

Office Depot declined to comment on whether the Los Gatos Workonomy Hub is profitable, but the company said it’s considering other markets in which co-working spaces would meet demand. The company’s CEO Gerry Smith, however, recently told investors early results from the co-working space are encouraging, driving higher sales for services and products compared to the average store.

To help meet the demand for service offerings, Moffitt said Office Depot has access to thousands of trained service staff the company inherited from its CompuCom acquisition last year. Despite the fact that consulting staff can be expensive, he said Office Depot is making a longer-term play for customer loyalty, which can be underpinned through connections made at co-working hubs.

To industry watchers, Office Depot’s foray into co-working is illustrative of the growing demand for shared office spaces as gig economy workers seek flexible workspace in crowded, expensive metropolitan areas. Charlie Robinson, svp for the U.S. at Servcorp, a global provider for shared office space, said for shared workspace providers, the landlord model isn’t enough of a longer-term strategy for sustainability.

“You don’t want to only be in the rent arbitrage game — over 50 percent of our revenues come from other services,” he said.

Source: The Citizen

WhatsApp vice president Chris Daniels confirmed at an event in New Delhi, India earlier this week that the popular messaging app will start showing users ads in the app’s status feature come 2019.

The WhatsApp status feature was launched early last year to mimic Snapchat’s stories feature which was later co-opted by Instagram and Facebook and it allows users to share text, photos, videos and animated GIFs that disappear after 24 hours.

According to India’s Economic Times, Daniels told journalists “we are going to be putting ads in ‘Status’. That is going to be primary monetisation mode for the company as well as an opportunity for businesses to reach people on WhatsApp.”

The new feature will take effect in 2019 but Daniels could not lock down an exact date.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s goal to monetise WhatsApp has forced the social media messaging service’s co-founders to leave the company reports Economic Times.

On of the app’s co-founders Brian Acton told Forbes that the move would undermine elements of WHatsapp’s encryption technology and that Zuckerberg was in a rush to make money from the app after purchasing it for $19 billion four years ago.

By Hayley Richardson for The Sun

There’s an embarrassing typo in this Primark weekly planner. The awkward error was discovered by an eagle-eyed shopper, who tweeted a snap of the stationery item.

The silver slogan planner, emblazoned with the words “In case no one told you today… you rock” is listed on Primark’s website for £2.50 (R50).

The mistake is inside the diary, with Saturday harbouring a rogue letter “e” between the “r” and “d”.

Twitter user Grace, from Bristol, tweeted at the retailer, who was swift to reply to her tweet: “We’re sorry about that, Grace. Could you please send us a DM with the product details so we can pass this on to our Buying Team?”

A spokesperson for Primark said: “We identified a typing error on this weekly planner and the product has been removed from sale.

“Customers who purchased this product can return it to one of our stores for a full refund.”

By Gaby Del Valle for Vox 

Fall is, without a doubt, the best time to buy office supplies. Yes, office supplies are sold year-round, but fall’s back-to-school vibe spares no one, even those of us who haven’t been in school for years. Fall is when the planners come out to play.

For me, this is the happiest time of the year. I love buying useless little journals and covering my desk with piles of colorful sticky notes. Fall and its corresponding school-and-office-supply bonanzas are a sign of a fresh start: I love telling myself that these journals and sticky notes will make me more organized and therefore more productive and therefore better at my job and therefore happier. Is it true? Not exactly. Does it matter? Not at all.

There’s just one small problem: so many of the office supplies that are marketed toward women are incredibly condescending.

Allow me to give you a few examples. There’s this day planner, which reminds you that ”every day is a fresh start” in the bouncy, stylized cursive script that The Goods’ Eliza Brooke dubbed “bridesmaid font.” The hundreds of notebooks that have “She believed she could, so she did” written across the cover, often in that same font. This Kate Spade “planner companion set,” which you can use to fill your affirmation-emblazoned notebook with stickers that say “the world was hers for the reading.” (You are the “her” in this situation. The world is yours, baby!)

This pencil pouch, which lets everyone know that you are “very busy.” (We are all very busy, because capitalism stops for no one.) These pencils, which would like to remind you that “you got this.” Or these pencils, which announce to the world that you are not only a “boss lady” but also a “goal digger.” Or any of these boss lady name plaques.

These products are a far cry from the boring legal pads and other cubicle accoutrements of yore. They’re kind of fun and seemingly innocuous — after all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a notebook that dares to be anything other than black or navy blue.

The point of these various fancy desk accessories isn’t just to help you get your work done. It’s to help you get your work done while reminding everyone that you are a woman who works, just in case the labor you do on a daily basis isn’t enough of a reminder.

The issue isn’t that some office supplies are marketed toward women, but that there don’t seem to be any equivalent products for men. Of course, men already have structural power; they don’t need a notebook to remind them that they’re capable of achieving their professional goals.

These products are the logical extension of the genre of professional self-help books that seem to exist solely to tell women that if they stop apologizing in emails and learn to “power pose,” they, too will ascend to the ranks of the She-E-Os.

The point of these books is to blame women for their own professional shortcomings, or at the very least, to rationalize why women are paid less money and taken less seriously than their male co-workers. The accompanying office supplies are meant to give women a way to rectify those perceived shortcomings — for a price, of course.

It’s not enough to be inundated with this advice day in and day out; you have to carry it with you constantly, in your head and on your notebook.

Even if life is easier for working women than it was a few decades ago, the fact remains that most workplaces weren’t designed with women’s needs in mind.

A 2017 report by Lean In and McKinsey, which surveyed more than 70,000 employees at 222 companies, found that corporations hire women at lower rates than men at all levels. Once they are hired, entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male colleagues, which contributes to the oft-cited pay gap between men and women. They also receive less face time with managers and other senior-level staff and are given less advice on how to advance. All of these issues are compounded for women of color in general and for black women in particular, the report found.

Across industries, men are generally paid more than women, and women of color are paid less than both white men and white women. A 2017 report by the National Women’s Law Center found that black women who work full time, year-round are paid 63 cents for every dollar white men make. That figure is 57 cents for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, 54 cents for Latinas, and 87 percent for Asian women, though there’s also a wage gap between different groups of Asian women.

That’s just at the corporate level. A 2018 report by Fast Company found that women who freelance tend to receive lower rates than their male peers, and they’re less likely to receive payments on time. Minimum wage workers, most of whom are women, are rarely granted the same amount of paid leave as those who work at the corporate level. Women at all levels also experience sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting said harassment, which can have detrimental effects on not only their job performance and earnings but also their mental health.

Given these difficulties, it seems trivial to get annoyed about a planner that encourages me to treat every day as a gift or whatever. Honestly, buy whatever maniacally happy shit gets you through the day; the last thing any woman needs is yet another “don’t” on an endlessly long list of things they shouldn’t do at work.

But what infuriates me about these professional products geared toward women is that they seem to occupy a realm where structural issues are only alluded to through inspirational quotes about overcoming adversity and being a #girlboss. The world of women’s office supplies is pastel-colored and impossibly peppy. (I’m fine with the pastels, but I don’t love the pep.) This is a world where, given the right combination of planners and pencils, anything is possible. It is a world laden with positive affirmations, because reality is so bleak. It’s a world where she believes she can, so she does.

Then again, I doubt a planner that says “That ignoramus who sits next to you is going to get a promotion before you do because he’s a dude” would be a best-seller.

Scofex announces School & Office Expo dates

VIETNAM – School & Office Expo
Date: 9 – 11 Jan 2019
Venue: International Centre Of Exhibition (ICE), Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam

Show Schedule
9 Jan 2019, 10am – 6pm
10 Jan 2019, 10am – 6pm
11 Jan 2019, 10am – 5pm

Move In: 8 Jan 2019, 10am – 6pm
Move Out: 12 Jan 2019, 10am – 5pm

GHANA – School & Office Expo
Date: 16 – 18 Apr 2019
Venue: Kempinski Hotel, Accra

Show Schedule
16 Apr 2019, 10 Am – 6pm
17 Apr 2019, 10 Am – 6pm
18 Apr 2019, 10 Am – 4pm

Move In: 15 Apr 2019, 12 Pm – 6pm
Move Out: 18 Apr 2019, 4pm – 8pm

Source: August Free Press

There are many goods and services that are vital to businesses and one of the key ones is stationery. It is important for businesses of all sizes to be able to access the stationery products and printing services they need, as without access to the necessary stationery it can be difficult to maintain a professional image and difficult to operate on a day to day basis.

Fortunately, there are various options available when it comes to stationery providers, which makes it easier for businesses to find the right provider for their needs. There are many important factors that need to be considered when it comes to selecting the most suitable stationery for your business, and the one you choose can have a big impact both in terms of business finances and business operations.

How to make your selection
So, what do you need to consider when it comes to selecting the right stationer for your business? Well, there are a number of different factors that you need to take into account before you make your choice. Selecting the right provider can make a difference to the professional image of your company, to the outgoing costs you are faced with, and to the service you receive when it comes to your stationery deliveries and processes.

There are all sorts of products and services you can get from the right stationery and printing services provider. This includes everything from a simple rubber stamp through to high quality, low cost posters printing. Finding a stationer that offers a wide variety of services and products will make life far easier for you because it means you can get all the stationery and related services you need from the same place rather than having to shop around each time. This will save you time, hassle, and inconvenience, which means you can get on with running your business rather than getting tied up with stationery ordering.

Another thing that is very important for most businesses is finding a provider that offers affordability. All businesses have to be careful about their budgets and spending these days and without finding a competitive provider you could end up paying way over the odds for your stationery and services. You therefore need to make sure you check the cost of the services and that you find a provider that offers good deals and affordable pricing.

The service levels you receive are also important, as you need to ensure you get reliability and timely deliveries of your stationery. For businesses, things can grind to a halt when stationery runs out so you need to be able to get the items you need when you need them. Finding a provider that has a reputation for solid service and reliability will help you to benefit from peace of mind as well as reduce the risk of operations being affected. In addition, it means you can look forward to an excellent level of customer service from your provider.

By Rana Foroohar for The Financial Times

As Amazon heads for a $1-trillion valuation, the company usually speaks softly and carries a big stick. CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, has remained mostly silent as Donald Trump has accused his company of everything from tax evasion to gutting the US postal service.

But criticism from progressives such as Bernie Sanders is another story. Last week, Sanders said too many of the company’s workers are on public assistance, and he plans to introduce legislation to make big companies such as Amazon pay for offloading the cost of low wages to the state.

Amazon fired back in a blog post, saying the Vermont senator’s comments were “misleading”, and it encouraged employees to share their stories with him.

They should, because it would help open up the black box that is the online retailer.

The company is approaching the first anniversary of its HQ2 search, a highly publicised but opaque bake-off between cities seeking to host its second corporate headquarters. (Seattle, home to the first, cannot accommodate more growth, in part because housing prices have risen so much.)

Amazon says it plans to pick a city on the basis of metrics including the quality of infrastructure, human capital and transport. Yet it has rejected many cities that score well in such areas and required officials to sign nondisclosure agreements about the details of their bids.

The current short list seems to be heavy on locations with high-ranking US senators and those that included billions of dollars in tax credits and other subsidies in their bids.

Meanwhile, Amazon recently secured a very unusual procurement deal with American local governments. It will purchase all the office and classroom supplies for 1 500 public agencies, but will not have to guarantee them fixed prices for the goods. The purchasing will be done through “dynamic pricing”, in which the final charges depend on bids put forward by suppliers on Amazon’s platform.

It is a stunning corporate ju-jitsu, given that the whole point of a bulk purchasing contract is to guarantee the public sector competitive prices by bundling together demand.

While Amazon claims to offer discounts, a study conducted by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance concluded that one California school district would have paid 10%-12% more if it had bought from Amazon. And cities that want to keep on using existing suppliers must move that business to Amazon.

This adds up to three things. First, companies such as Amazon, which can leverage data and the network effect to not only play in the market but become the market, are like the house in a Las Vegas casino. They always win.

Communities that offer subsidies to lure big headquarters may see positive headlines and short-term gains but the end result is almost always negative. One recent study found that 70% of such subsidies fall into the category of property tax breaks and job creation tax credits. The big companies pay less for their real estate, but human capital is undermined, because property taxes often fund schools in the US.

State and city business subsidies have tripled since the 1990s, which leads to a snowball effect — employers that demand skilled workers and good infrastructure are degrading the tax base that creates them.

Amazon’s HQ2 competition is taking place at a time when states are less prepared for an economic downturn than they have been in years: it is the wrong moment for local leaders to starve their tax coffers to enrich such a wealthy company.

Second, I see parallels in Amazon’s behaviour to the lending practices of some financial groups before the 2008 crash. They used dynamic pricing, in the form of variable rate subprime mortgage loans, and exploited huge information asymmetries in their sale of mortgage-backed securities and complex debt deals to unwary investors including cities such as Detroit.
Amazon, for its part, has vastly more market data than the suppliers and public sector purchasers it plans to link.

Indeed, I see more and more parallels between online groups and large financial institutions. They each sit in the centre of an hourglass of information and commerce, taking a cut of whatever passes through. Like a big investment bank, Amazon can both make a market and participate in it.

Such companies need systemic regulation to prevent them from unfairly capitalising on those advantages. Senator Mark Warner’s recent white paper on platform technology regulation points to “diseconomies of scale — negative externalities borne by users and society as a result of the size of these platforms”. The comparison reminds me of the moral hazard problem posed by the “too big to fail” banks.

Finally, Amazon’s behaviour suggests that its leaders are living in a cognitive bubble. The company will inevitably reach a deal with a desperate politician in one of the HQ2 bid cities. But old local political machines are dying. There is no guarantee that the new generation of progressive candidates that look likely to win in November’s midterm elections will be as friendly to big business.

Amazon has a big stick. But the one wielded by populists in years ahead may be bigger.

By Daniela Forte for MultiChannel Merchant 

Back-to-school spending in the United States is projected to reach $27.6-billion this year or $510 per household, up slightly from $501 in 2017, according to data from Deloitte’s annual back-to-school survey.

The use of desktops and laptops is expected to lose share, with 49% of respondents this year saying they planned to do so, down from 53% in 2017, while mobile is projected to increase from 49% to 53%. In-store shopping is expected to be the preferred channel during back to school, representing $15.7 in total sales. The average spend for in-store purchases is projected at $292.

Clothing and accessories are expected to dominate at $15.1 billion in sales, followed by school supplies ($6 billion), computers and hardware ($3.7 billion) and electronic gadgets ($2.8 billion).

While demand and average spend is high for clothing and accessories at $286, the highest average planned spend for computers and hardware is slightly higher, at $299.

The survey revealed that children will likely influence over $21 billion in back-to-school spending, with 80% having a moderate-to-high influence in clothing and accessory purchases.

Online back-to-school shopping will be $6.3 billion, according to Deloitte, at an average spend of $115. Those undecided about which channel to shop in are expected to spend $5.5 billion, with an average spend of $104.

“The amount people plan to spend and tendency to shop in physical stores for back-to-school are consistent with last year, but retailers need to act fast for that $5.5 billion wild card,” says Rod Sides, VC for Deloitte LLP, and U.S. Retail, Wholesale and Distribution Leader, in a press release. “In just one year, previously undecided dollars have shifted dramatically by product category.”

Sides said, for example in 2017, 30% of people said they hadn’t decided if they would purchase computers online or in-store and that number shrunk 20% this year, most of it going online. In electronics, undecided spending dropped 10 percentage points, moving primarily into the stores.

Mass merchants are once again the most popular type of back-to-school retailer, cited by 83% of survey respondents, while price-based retailers (38%) and pure-play e-commerce sellers (36%) aren’t nearly as popular.

Shopping activity is expected to peak by early August, with about 90% of shoppers active from late July to early August, accounting for 66% of all sales. By period, shoppers are expected to spend $9.9 billion in the first two weeks of August and $8.1 billion in late July.

Parents who begin their shopping in July are likely to spend 20% more than late starters, Deloitte found. Early shoppers are more deal-seeking (40% vs. 27%) and mobile-savvy (55% vs. 50%) compared to late shoppers. They’re also bigger spenders, at an average outlay of $544, compared to $455 for later shoppers.

This year customers expect online and physical shopping experiences to be complementary. Fifty-six percent said they plan to research online before making in-store purchases, while 52% said they would purchase from online retailers who offer free shipping.

Less than 25% of respondents said they were likely to use social media during back-to-school season. Of those so inclined, finding promotions (cited by 63%) or coupons (59%) and browsing products (44%) were listed as their primary objectives.

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