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.

Source: Business Wire 

Staples, the back-to-school specialty store, commissioned a recent survey, with parenting authority Fatherly, that discovered 85 percent of parents and 83 percent of children prefer to shop in-store during the back-to-school season. To help accommodate shoppers, most of whom find it important to interact with products before purchasing, Staples’ dedicated in-store specialists make the annual shopping trip as convenient, efficient and fun as possible.

“Staples plays a proud role in millions of families and teachers’ annual back-to-school shopping trips and we are excited to deliver a one-of-a-kind Staples in-store shopping experience,” says Amy Lang, Vice President, Store Experience, Staples. “As the Back to School authority, our store associates are eager to help parents get their children everything they need on their school lists to ensure a successful school year.”

The survey also revealed that the back-to-school shopping season is a way for parents to spend quality time with their children. More than 90 percent of parents surveyed said they allow their children to get involved in the aisles by having them read the lists aloud, and encouraging them to pick out their favorite colors and designs for the supplies they need.

Source: eMarketer Retail 

When it comes to the US e-commerce market, Amazon is leaving the competition in the dust. This year, the online shopping juggernaut will capture 49.1% of the market, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast on the top 10 US e-commerce retailers, up from a 43.5% share last year. Amazon now controls nearly 5% of the total US retail market (online and offline).

Amazon will generate $258.22 billion in US retail e-commerce sales this year, up 29.2% over last year. Amazon’s Marketplace sales will represent an increasingly dominant portion of its e-commerce business—68.0% this year, compared with 32.0% for Amazon direct sales. By the end of 2018, sales generated from Amazon’s Marketplace will be more than double that of Amazon’s direct sales in the US.

“The continued growth of Amazon’s Marketplace makes sense on a number of levels,” eMarketer principal analyst Andrew Lipsman said. “More buyers transacting more often on Amazon will naturally attract third-party sellers. But because third-party transactions are also more profitable, Amazon has every incentive to make the process as seamless as possible for those selling on the platform.”

Computer and consumer electronics is the leading product category for Amazon, with sales of $65.82 billion in the US this year, representing more than a quarter of its retail e-commerce business.

In 2017, apparel and accessories surpassed books and music to become the second largest category. Apparel sales will grow more than 38% this year to reach $39.88 billion in the US. This category will represent 15.4% of Amazon’s e-commerce business, and 38.5% of all online apparel sales in the US.

But Amazon’s private-label push is being met with apprehension by several brands and retailers.

“While they are dependent on Amazon as a selling channel, they also recognize the threat to their brands should Amazon decide to compete by introducing its own private labels,” Lipsman said.

Other fast-growing categories for Amazon are food and beverage* and health, personal care and beauty. Food and beverage will grow more than 40% this year, while health and beauty will jump nearly 38%. Still, both categories represent just a small portion of Amazon’s US retail ecommerce sales.

“Amazon’s strategy for food and beverage is no different, in some respects, than it was for books—dominate the category,” eMarketer senior analyst Patricia Orsini said. “However, e-commerce in the grocery sector is a challenge. Share of online sales in this category is low because most people, for a host of reasons, prefer to buy food in brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon has an advantage because its shopper base is comfortable with shopping online. Along with insights gathered about Whole Foods shoppers, Amazon probably has the best chance of converting in-store grocery buyers to online grocery buyers.”

By Louisa Hallett for RetailLeader

Staples is acquiring HiTouch Business Services to enhance the customer experience when it comes to technology, product assortment and services capabilities.

Staples is following the lead of rival Office Depot in enhancing its business services.

Staples is acquiring HiTouch Business Services to enhance the customer experience when it comes to technology, product assortment and services capabilities.

“We think Staples can bring tremendous value to HiTouch Business Services in the form of more robust capabilities and the scale that comes with being the industry leader for workplace solutions,” says Sandy Douglas, CEO of Staples.

“The combination of HiTouch’s sales organization and the strength of Staples will allow us to give customers an even higher level of service. We will continue to look for strategic opportunities like this one where we feel we can help create better options for businesses in the marketplace.”

HiTouch Business Services is a company that provides everything a business needs to operate, according to their company description. They will be a part of the Staples Business Advantage delivery organization, as well as supplying an expanded assortment of products and up-to-date e-commerce tools. HiTouch’s marketplace will still serve as its own independent platform.

“For the past 15 years, HiTouch Business Services has served its customers with pride and we look forward to the next chapter with Staples,” says John Frisk, president and CEO of HiTouch Business Services.

“We will continue to support businesses as we always have, but now with enhanced solutions from a best-in-class service provider. Together, we can create a new business model which leverages the size of a company like Staples, with the local touch HiTouch is known for, to create a truly differentiated offering.”

Staples is the world’s largest office solutions provider to date and is headquartered near Boston, with 1 255 stores located across the U.S. and 304 located throughout Canada.

By Adam Liptak and Michael D. Shear for The New York Times

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from mostly-Muslim nations, delivering a robust endorsement of Trump’s power to control the flow of immigration into America at a time of political upheaval about the treatment of migrants at the Mexican border.

In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservatives said the president’s statutory power over immigration was not undermined by his history of incendiary statements about the dangers he said Muslims pose to Americans.

Trump, who has battled court challenges to the travel ban since the first days of his administration, hailed the decision to uphold his third version of an executive order as a “tremendous victory” and promised to continue using his office to defend the country against terrorism and extremism.

“This ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country,” the president said in a statement issued by the White House soon after the ruling.

The vindication came even as Trump is reeling from weeks of controversy over his decision to impose “zero tolerance” at America’s southern border, leading to politically searing images of children being separated from their parents as families cross into the United States without proper documentation.

Trump and his advisers have long argued that presidents are given vast authority to reshape the way America controls its borders. The president’s attempts to do that began with the travel ban and continues today with his demand for an end to “catch and release” of illegal immigrants.

“We want strong borders and we want no crime,” Trump said Monday. “Strong borders. We want no crime.”

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that Trump had ample statutory authority to make national security judgments in the realm of immigration. And he rejected a constitutional challenge to Trump’s latest executive order on the matter, his third, this one issued as a proclamation in September.

But the court’s liberals decried the decision. In a passionate and searing dissent from the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was no better than Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 decision that endorsed the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

By upholding the travel ban, she said, the court “merely replaces one gravely wrong decision with another.”

The countries affected include:

  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Libya
  • Yemen
  • Somalia
  • Sudan

By Anne Quito for Quartzy

Patented in the US over a century ago as a manuscript binding solution, the humble plastic and metal fold-over fastener (a.k.a. banker’s clip) has been extolled as one of the world’s best design objects in the compendium Phaidon Design Classics. Writers, office workers and neatniks of all shades cherish the binder clip’s versatility. There’s even a popular life hack video highlighting its many uses. As celebrated designer Naoto Fukasawa told Quartz, the office supplies favorite is fine as it is.

But the original binder clip’s iconic status hasn’t deterred the stationery-obsessed Japanese from improving the original. A new binder clip model that requires half the strength to use has been named among the top products at this year’s International Stationery & Office Products Fair in Tokyo. Developed by office supplies company Plus Corporation, the so-called “Air Karu Airy Light Touch Binder Clip” features a longer, flatter finger lever and repositions the fulcrum higher up the triangular spring.

These small engineering tweaks make the clip easier to use and reduces finger pain, as its name suggests.

If Plus’s efforts to retool a perfectly fine apparatus seems frivolous, consider its effect on the billions of binder clips used each day. Air Karu’s designers estimate that a worker conserves as much as 50% energy (or “labor saving rate”) when using the largest of the three available new sizes.

Reviews on Amazon have been positive, with many saying how surprised they were with the clip’s efficiency and ease of use.

“If you frequently use double [large] clips, you know that double clips of this size are too much for women,” writes one five star reviewer. “The double clip seems to be patented in 1910…it is surprising that products that have been invented for more than 100 years now will come up with such ingenuity. Once a patent is registered, a new one page will be added to the patent application textbook.”

Another satisfied customer points out how the new design could benefit Japan’s aging population. “I think that elderly people can use it without inconvenience because of the easy-to-hold lever.” And one customer who sampled the largest Air Karu 32 mm model even had a philosophical take: “it’s a gem when you realize that evolution of technology makes life more convenient.”

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24 

The rand came under “massive pressure” on Tuesday morning, having weakened from R13.63 to R13.90, following news that US President Donald Trump is threatening new tariffs on Chinese imports.

TreasuryONE’s lead dealer Wichard Cilliers said in a snap note that all eyes would now be on the trade spat.

By 09:14 the local currency was trading 1.92% weaker at R13.90 against the US dollar after breaching this level for the first time since November 27 last year when the rand traded at R14.00/$.

“The trade wars are heating up with US president Trump to identify $200bn in Chinese imports for additional tariffs of 10% and on another $200bn after that if Beijing retaliates,” said Cilliers.

Trump reportedly said that the United States will no longer be taken advantage of on trade by China and other countries in the world. “We will continue using all available tools to create a better and fairer trading system for all Americans,” Trump said.

The IMF noted that this could place global growth at risk.

Bloomberg reports the tariffs could be the latest round of punitive measures in an escalating dispute over the large trade imbalance between the two countries. Trump recently ordered tariffs on $50bn (R692.77bn) in Chinese goods in retaliation for intellectual properly theft. The tariffs were quickly matched by China on US exports.

Apart from the trade wars, locally load shedding is also adding to currency weakness, commented NKC Africa Economics.

NKC expects the rand to trade within a range of R13.65/$ to R13.95/$.

RMB economist Mpho Tsebe noted that the rand was among Monday’s worst-performing emerging market currencies, along with the Colombian peso and the Thai baht.

“Given the fragile growth outlook and inflation contained within the 3%-6% target band, the SARB (South African Reserve Bank) is unlikely to increase interest rates to support the currency,” she said.

Peregrine Treasury Solutions’ Bianca Botes said investors are dumping emerging markets for safe haven assets, including US treasury bonds. “South Africa, due to the liquidity that our local market offers, often leads the losing streak, she said.

“Should these tensions elevate and strong data from the US keeps making its way to market, emerging market currencies will remain under pressure and one could very well see the rand target R14/$,” Botes warned.

However, Andre Botha, senior currency dealer at TreasuryONE was optimistic that the rand could recover.

“We still believe that the rand is overdone at these levels and should the tide turn and risk-taking behaviour start taking precedent again the rand could stage a comeback.” He echoed views that the rand’s performance largely depends on global events rather than local factors.

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