Over the past few years much has been said about the demise of print and the perception that the traditional printed word is no longer the force it used to be. However, it seems that we may be coming full circle as once again the written word is being used to entertain, promote and educate.

This is particularly evident when companies that are primarily focussed on visual media are opting to make use of published media. Take Netflix for example, the streaming service is using a tactic far removed from the nature of its service to make the best of its movies and TV series stand out. Netflix has announced that it will be publishing its own magazine to, called Wide, to promote their own stars and programmes ahead of the 2019 Emmy Awards. The first issue of Wide is set to launch in June this year.

“As the world of publishing is constantly evolving, we are seeing more innovative uses of the written word to encourage more reading,” says Josephine Buys, CEO at The Publisher Research Council (PRC). “These examples are by no means a once off, but rather a demonstration of the power of reading matter.”

A prime example of encouraging more reading takes place in London where tube commuters are able to read short stories, printed on eco-friendly paper and dispensed free by vending machines installed at Canary Wharf. Author of the short stories, Anthony Horowitz, notes: “What appealed to me was that I travel on the tube every single day and I see everybody buried in apps and games.” These same vending machines have also been installed in locations across France, in Hong Kong and the US.

“The written word provides a depth that is extremely difficult to replicate on other media platforms,” says Buys. “The Publisher Research Council has made great strides in conducting research that promotes the value of reading versus listening, viewing or glancing.”

Many global studies reaffirm this with statistics proving time and time again that time spent with print media is more focused. A Newsworks survey, conducted by PwC discovered that for 60% and 58% of the time spent reading newspapers and magazines respectively, readers are focussed solely on that medium, concluding that a trusted medium, that people choose to pay attention to is more important than ever. *

Insights from the South African Establishment Survey (ES) show that people who read earn more than their non-reading counterparts, across the entire spectrum of society. According to the ES only half of South Africans read newspapers and magazines monthly. However, this percentage grows the higher one moves up the SEM (Socio-Economic Measure) scale. In SEM SuperGroup (SG) 5, the top 10% of the population, 77% read. This same SG also has the highest household income, demonstrating that reading is the key to success and a better life. **

Anyone who has ever studied for an exam or test, knows that reading is the best way to learn, and that the longer one studies the more familiar one becomes with the course material. Reading media, whether newspapers, magazines or online provides a depth of information unlike any other media. The ability to put it down, pick it up and assimilate information at your own pace is all too often overlooked.

“The PRC’s online library is a rich repository of information that marketers, advertisers and media agencies can draw from,” concludes Buys.

Zimbabwe begins loadshedding

By Crecey Kuyedzwa for Fin24

Zimbabwe has started to institute planned rotational power cuts to reduce stress on its national grid, following low water levels at Kariba Dam, generation constraints at Hwange Power Station and limited imports from Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique.

Power utility Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission & Distribution Company on Sunday published load shedding schedules for the whole of the country.

“The power shortfall is being managed through load shedding in order to balance the power supply available and the demand,” it said in a weekend statement.

While Eskom in South Africa has eight stages of load shedding, Zimbabwe has announced only two stages for now.

The power supplier divided the country into seven regions, and then further into districts or suburbs. It has given each district or suburb a numerical code.

This code is then checked against a regional table which has two time periods: Morning peak – between 05:00 and 10:00, and evening peak, between 17:00 and 22:00.

When power is cut, suburbs that fall within the time period lose power.

The same suburbs or districts will not generally have power cuts over the same day’s morning and evening peaks. When load shedding moves to Stage 2 and “increases beyond the planned limit” power to additional suburbs will be cut. The power cuts will be in five or eight hour blocks in different areas of the region or district.

Zimbabwe has had to implement power cuts, in part, due to poor rainfall in 2018 and 2019 that led to reduced inflows into Kariba Dam. The dam’s hydroelectric power stations supply electricity to both Zimbabwe and Zambia

Over the years Zimbabwe has been topping up its power supply by importing an average 100MW of power from Eskom and Mozambique, but will be forced to look for more given the current crisis.

Power imports from South Africa’s Eskom also cannot be guaranteed, with the power utility facing a fair share of its own challenges.

Analysts say the impact of the power cuts will be significant to industry, which cannot easily turn to the use of generators amid limited availability of fuel.

Death by Amazon

By Rebecca Ungarino for Market Insider

A new “Death by Amazon” index released by the investment-research firm CFRA tracks the stocks its analysts believe could be short-seller targets given their vulnerabilities to competition from Amazon.

The index is full of home goods and electronics retailers like Party City and Bed Bath & Beyond, some of which have seen their entire market value wiped out in recent years.

Investors are familiar with the Amazon effect by now.

The e-commerce juggernaut announces that it is preparing to enter into an industry – be it medication, brick-and-mortar grocery, entertainment, or others – and the stocks of companies in the new target market fall as jittery investors are struck with the fear that irreversible disruption is coming.

So the investment-research firm CFRA created a new index, “Death By Amazon,” that tracks the stocks its analysts think are particularly vulnerable to Amazon’s expansion and offerings.

“The equally weighted index serves as a retail performance benchmark and short-selling idea generation tool for our clients,” CFRA analysts Camilla Yanushevsky and Todd Rosenbluth wrote in a report to clients earlier this month.

To pinpoint the 20 constituents the analysts believe are poorly positioned to compete against Amazon’s efforts in various industries, they evaluated the companies’ “Share of Voice” data that comes from web-traffic analytics company Alexa Internet (which is owned by Amazon as its other Alexa-named product).

That measure shows the percentage of searches for a keyword across major search engines in the past six months “that sent organic traffic to the respective site.”

For example, the analysts compared how much traffic was going to a national jewelry retailer’s website when consumers search for the term “jewelry” versus how much traffic was going to Amazon for the same search term.
With this kind of analysis, you get an index full of brick-and-mortar retailers whose products are available on Amazon – and apparently less popular through online searches – from floor tiles to party supplies.

To be fair, it’s not the first Death by Amazon index. Bespoke Investment Group had already created its Death by Amazon index, tracking the same theme.

Here are all the stocks listed, in alphabetical order, with how their “Share of Voice” scores for various products stack up against Amazon:

  1. At Home Group
    1-year performance: -40%
    % below all-time high: -46%
    Share of Voice score for “seasonal decor”: 4.2%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “seasonal decor: 19.6%
  2. Barnes & Noble Education
    1-year performance: -38%
    % below all-time high: -74%
    Share of Voice score for “textbook”: 1.3%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “textbook”: 6.9%
  3. Barnes & Noble
    1-year performance: -0.1%
    % below all-time high: -84%
    Share of Voice score for “books”: 23.2%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “books”: 12.2%
  4. Bed Bath & Beyond
    1-year performance: -16%
    % below all-time high: -80%
    Share of Voice score for “cookware”: 2.4%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “cookware”: 23.3%
  5. Best Buy
    1-year performance: -14%
    % below all-time high: -19%
    Share of Voice score for “electronics”: 1%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “electronics”: 8.1%
  6. Big 5 Sporting Goods
    1-year performance: -71%
    % below all-time high: -88%
    Share of Voice score for “fitness equipment”: 0%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “fitness equipment”: 11%
  7. Big Lots
    1-year performance: -6.5%
    % below all-time high: -41%
    Share of Voice score for “cookware”: 0%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “cookware”: 23.3%
  8. Dick’s Sporting Goods
    1-year performance: +15%
    % below all-time high: -43%
    Share of Voice score for “sports deals”: 18.7%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “sports deals”: 24.5%
  9. GameStop
    1-year performance: -31%
    % below all-time high: -87%
    Share of Voice score for “video games”: 7%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “video games”: 17.1%
  10. Kirkland’s
    1-year performance: -49%
    % below all-time high: -81%
    Share of Voice score for “home decor”: 5.4%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “home decor”: 10.8%
  11. Office Depot
    1-year performance: -19%
    % below all-time high: -95%
    Share of Voice score for “office supplies”: 33.1%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “office supplies”: 9.8%
  12. Overstock.com
    1-year performance: -67%
    % below all-time high: -86%
    Share of Voice score for “dresser”: 1.3%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “dresser”: 9.9%
  13. Party City
    1-year performance: -49%
    % below all-time high: -65%
    Share of Voice score for “party supplies”: 22.5%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “party supplies”: 13.2%
  14. PetMed Express
    1-year performance: -40%
    % below all-time high: -60%
    Share of Voice score for “pet supplies”: 5.1%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “pet supplies”: 13.7%
  15. Pier 1 Imports
    1-year performance: -65%
    % below all-time high: -97%
    Share of Voice score for “home decor”: 8.3%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “home decor”: 10.8%
  16. Signet Jewelers
    1-year performance: -49%
    % below all-time high: -87%
    Share of Voice score for “jewelry”: 3.8% for kay.com, 2.9% for jared.com, and 0.12% for zales.com
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “jewelry”: 10.7%
  17. The Michael’s Companies
    1-year performance: -43%
    % below all-time high: -67%
    Share of Voice score for “drawing supplies”: 13.1%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “drawing supplies”: 24.5%
  18. Tiffany & Co.
    1-year performance: -5%
    % below all-time high: -31%
    Share of Voice score for “jewelry”: 6%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “jewelry”: 10.7%
  19. Tile Shop Holdings
    1-year performance: -36%
    % below all-time high: -85%
    Share of Voice score for “tile”: 2.1%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “tile”: 22%
  20. Williams Sonoma
    1-year performance: +7%
    % below all-time high: -42%
    Share of Voice score for “cookware”: 16.7%
    Amazon’s Share of Voice score for “cookware”: 23.3%

3M to cut 2 000 jobs

By Nathaniel Meyersohn for CNN

3M, which makes Post-It notes and Scotch tape, is cutting 2 000 jobs around the world.

The industrial manufacturer made the announcement Thursday as it reported weak sales during its most recent quarter and darkened its outlook for the year ahead.

Sales slid 5% to $7.9 billion last quarter compared to the same time period a year ago. Although sales ticked up in the United States, 3M’s largest region, sales dropped more than 9% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Those areas make up 3M’s second largest region. Sales in Asia also fell more than 7% compared to a year ago.

“The first quarter was a disappointing start to the year for 3M,” said Mike Roman, 3M chief executive officer, in a statement. “We continued to face slowing conditions in key end markets.”

In addition, 3M slashed its full-year guidance.

3M said the job cuts, which represent around 2% of its global workforce, will save the company up to $250 million annually. 3M will spread out the cuts across different business divisions and geographies “with emphasis on corporate structure and underperforming areas.”

The stock sank more than 10% in early trading Thursday, which drove down the Dow.

Weak pen, lighter sales knock Bic

By Myles McCormick for Financial Times

Flagging sales of pens in India and lighters in North America knocked revenues at French stationery maker Bic at the beginning of 2019.

The company, known for its ubiquitous biros and razors, said sales had fallen 2 per cent on a comparative basis to €415m in the first quarter of the year as its overall trading environment remained “challenging”.

Pre tax income dropped 18 per cent to €55m as South American exchange rates and rising raw material costs weighed on its margins.

Shares in Bic fell as much as 10 per cent in early Thursday trading, making it one of the worst performers on the Stoxx 600 index — second only to Finnish electronics group Nokia, whose shares plunged after an unexpected first-quarter loss.

“After a strong 2018 fourth quarter, and while the overall trading environment remains challenging, 2019 started with soft results impacted by stationery in India and lighters in the US,” said Gonzalve Bich, Bic chief executive.

“However, we maintained or grew market share in our three categories, and regained momentum in shavers,” he added.

In India, Cello Pens, which Bic bought in 2015, saw a double digit drop off in sales as it sought to reduce shipments to so-called “superstockists”. Global stationery sales fell 6 per cent on a comparative basis, stripping out the impact of acquisitions and divestments.

Lighter sales fell 10 per cent in North America on the back of inventory adjustments by wholesalers and a declining market. Globally, lighter sales were down 6 per cent on a comparative basis.

Its shaver business did better, with strong eastern European and Russian performance driving a 10 per cent rise on a comparative basis.

The company expects first quarter “headwinds” to lessen over the year and retained its full year financial outlook of a slight growth in sales.

By Suman Bhattacharyya for DigiDay

Staples no longer wants to be thought of as a place to buy office supplies.

In a brand revamp, Staples this week repositioned itself as “the Worklife Fulfillment Company,” or a place where it says workers can feel happy and productive, reminiscent of WeWork. Staples wouldn’t say if this means it’s going to launch co-working spaces of its own (it ended a co-working trial with startup Workbar earlier this year), but it’s rolling out new private-label technology and office products and yet-to-be-announced business services. It’s also launching a business-focused content-marketing platform called The Loop.

“The focus on Worklife means providing services, products and solutions and an improved digital experience that allows our customers to work wherever, whenever and however they want,” a Staples spokeswoman told Digiday.

Among office supplies companies, a services focus isn’t unique to Staples. Office Depot’s Los Gatos, California location, for example, includes 5,000 square feet of co-working space. Called the Workonomy Hub, it has flexible hot desks, a Starbucks kiosk and a dedicated area for shipping. Any business or worker can sign on for subscriptions or à la carte services.

The pivot to services, including shared-office space, along with agency-style marketing, advertising and other business services, is a way retailers can monetize unused space, generate additional revenue from co-working customers, and build an ongoing relationship beyond one-off interactions or purchases. The co-working market, however, is highly competitive. Beyond industry heavyweights like WeWork and Regis, there are an estimated 200 co-working companies across the U.S. that have at least one location that’s 5,000 square feet, according to real estate company Cushman & Wakefield. Retailers, particularly office-supplies companies, are betting on services and co-working as a means to lock in regular revenue from clients already in their ecosystems.

“We have a very large physical footprint across the country as you can imagine with almost 1,400 locations; we’re always looking for new ways to reimagine how we can get more value out of that square footage,” said Kevin Moffitt, Office Depot’s chief retail officer. “It’s also is a way for us to continue to develop our communities. With our business customers, we have very strong relationships.”

Relationships, in turn, make way for additional service offerings and product purchasing opportunities. It’s a follow-on effect that resulted in increased sales, Office Depot CEO Gerry Smith told investors last November. After opening the initial co-working space and office services center in Los Gatos in August 2018, Office Depot added new locations in Irving, Texas, and Lake Zurich, Illinois. Meanwhile, Staples rolled out a new line of private-label brands associated with its new mission, including office supplies products line Tru Red, Nxt Technologies, a tech product line, CoastWide Professional, a facility supplies brand, and breakroom essentials label Perk.

While the growth of co-working and service arms are natural areas for expansion for office-supplies companies, one disadvantage they may have when compared to pure-play co-working companies is a physical space that looks and feels more boxy and less niche.

“I’m not sure that office supply stores are that attractive as destinations,” said Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Kodali. “Part of the appeal of WeWork is that they are in interesting locations and have attractive layouts that make the space appealing to members.”

Meanwhile, companies that specialize in setting up co-working spaces are seeing increased inquiries from big-box retailers. Industrious, which runs its own co-working spaces and designs them, said it’s seen an increase in the number of big-box retailers that want help redesigning their spaces, and Kettle, a subscription-based service that allows restaurants to be used as co-working spaces, also said it’s also seeing an uptick in interest from retailers.

“It lowers the barriers to entry to allow people to come and stay, they’re surrounded by your branding and it offers opportunities for new customers,” said Kettle co-founder Daniel Rosenzweig.

Compared to co-working companies, office-supplies companies say they’re uniquely positioned to cater to businesses and mobile workers because they offer on-site services on demand which other companies could be challenged to provide at scale.

“You go to other competitors, and they may have a single printer available for 300 folks who are working there, while we have end-to-end marketing services available within a 20-foot walk from your dedicated office, and you can get your laptop fixed right there,” said Moffitt.

Source: Study International

Move aside standard-shaped erasers and scentless highlighters and welcome to the stationery of today’s generation.

With its extra glitz and glamour, school apparatus that stands out like this is referred to as fashion stationery.

Taking the school market by storm, educators and companies are desperate to the get their hands on global market reports that sum up the trends, forecasts and analysis of the global stationery scene so they can gain the upper hand.

The demand for fashionable stationary is so huge that even the premium brand, Louis Vuitton, has cashed in on the trends with a stylish set of monogrammed pencils and portable cases.

Are these flashy stationery items distracting students from their work?

Let’s be honest – if you’re at your desk and you’re not paying attention to the teacher, then of course your set of animal-shaped erasers or yummy smelly scented ink pens are going to provide the perfect distraction.

That’s why two years ago, this British teacher requested a ban on fashion stationery.

In his opinion, “Some of this stationery should not be allowed in the classroom because it’s really only a distraction. Nobody really needs a pencil sharpener that’s shaped like a nail varnish pot and nobody really needs a pencil case with six different compartments.”

However, some students may disagree.

With so many fluffy and fun school items to choose from, how can young learners resist?

At the age where anything seems possible, it makes sense that kids want to take abstract backpacks and glow-in-the-dark apparatus to school – especially if ‘show and tell’ is a regular occurrence.

Distraction or not, wouldn’t it be odd to ban a student’s personal stationery in an age where K12 education is being steered towards conducive and creative learning environments?

It’s easy to see how the eyes of young learners move away from the whiteboard and onto kitsch stationery items, but there are ways of integrating both.

For instance, matching the scented highlighter up to the picture of the fruit on the page and asking elementary students to join the two together by colouring it in, or using fashion stationery as a prize for the weekly quiz.

There are many ways for teachers to engage with this trend – go ahead and even embrace it.

By Raymond Brown for Cambridge News

A secretary sold £48 000 of office supplies bought on a company credit card on eBay and told police she “got a buzz from treating her family and friends to nice things they could not afford”.

Jessica Prince, 35, of North Brink, Wisbech, was suspected of fraud after her employer’s accountant received an invoice from an unregistered supplier.

Prince had been selling ink cartridges and other office supplies purchased on her company credit card for a profit using her personal eBay account.

She has been jailed for 20 months.

How Prince’s scheme worked
Her scheme was discovered after it was found that the company had spent more than £48,000 on ink cartridges and other office equipment in the space of seven months, with invoices being doctored to conceal what was actually being ordered.

Prince had been employed as the company director’s personal secretary and was responsible for the smooth running and administration of the company office, including ordering stationery, office furniture, booking taxis, flights and hotels.

An internal investigation revealed Prince had been abusing her position to make large purchases but hiding it from the company director and accountant.

Prince was arrested on July 26 last year and in interview admitted having used her company’s credit card to purchase items and then sell them on for profit.

Officers were told it started off as a mistake after she accidentally purchased the wrong printer toner and was told it was non-refundable. She claimed she was told to sell it through eBay and give the money back to her company. She used her own personal eBay account to sell the toner but kept the money.

This was the first of many instances, placing bigger orders worth thousands of pounds on the company credit card, selling them on for a profit using her personal eBay account.

Prince told officers she “got a buzz from treating her family and friends to nice things they could not afford” but “felt like scum at work because she knew she was committing fraud”.

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.

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