In case you needed another reminder that girls really do run the world, it turns out the Women’s March caused a huge spike in office supply sales in the United States during the week before the protest took place.

With an estimated 4,2-million attendees nationwide, the march for gender equality is widely regarded as the largest demonstration in American history, and judging from poster board and marker sales, it also involved an astronomical amount of clever signage.

Fortune reported that the NDP Group, a market research company, looked at the January sales figures for office supplies like posters, scissors, and tape — the stuff you would need to make, say, a homemade “Love Trumps Hate” sign. According to the report, more than 6.5 million poster boards were sold over the course of the month, with nearly one-third sold during the week before the Women’s March. Poster board sales were up 33 percent overall compared to the same time last year, and foam boards were up a whopping 42%.

Writing and crafting tools were up as well. Glue and tape sales spiked 27% and 12%, respectively, and marker sales went up by up to 35%.

The result? Millions of feminist signs demonstrating for gender equality on 21 January 2017.

Clearly, the Women’s March didn’t just provide an outlet for the frustration and anxiety felt by many Americans after the results of the presidential election. It gathered together millions of women and men, and as the sales figures demonstrate, the members of the Women’s March wield substantial financial power.

In fact, although women’s economic power is often downplayed or outright ignored, past research has suggested that they will become “financial powerhouses” by 2020, and they drive around three-quarters of consumer purchasing.

Activists have harnessed economic power for political good in campaigns like #GrabYourWallet, which boycotted retailers carrying Trump products, and the Bodega strike led by Yemeni business owners in protest of the first immigration ban. More recently, the Day Without a Woman — organized by the leaders of the Women’s March — called for women to take the day off from work, unpaid labor, and shopping, demonstrating women’s vital contributions to the economy and society as a whole.

In conclusion? Women are an economic force to be reckoned with, and it’s long past time businesses took note. In the meantime, be sure to spend your own money wisely and ethically.

By Claire Warner for www.bustle.com

The death of retail as we now know it is greatly exaggerated. Retail isn’t dying; it’s evolving. Just like it has done before. There has always been disruption in the retail sector. A major disruption occurred in the late 1800s when Sears introduced the catalog and brought the entire store into the homes of U.S. consumers. This gave Sears the same advantage over brick and mortar stores that ecommerce sites have today. Sears was simply responding to the needs of its customer since 60 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas at the time and didn’t have convenient access to stores. Sears would bring the store right to them.

The same principle of meeting customer needs holds true for the current retail evolution, which is being driven by a confluence of change. Changing consumer attitudes, behaviors, and demographics; ongoing channel and digital disruptions; and increasing competition for consumer mindshare and dollars are forcing a shift in long-held paradigms – continuing the status quo is no longer an option.

It’s now about customer engagement, not customer acquisition. Rather than a multichannel strategy, the strategy now needs to focus on the customer and finding new ways to deliver the products they want, when they want them, whether online or at a physical location. It’s no longer about brands, big logos, and price promotions, it’s about engaging consumers with experiences, personalization, quality, service, and value.

The traditional retail business model that has stood the test of time over the decades is now transforming at the speed of light. Retailers competing to stay in the game are turning their ecosystems on end, breaking down old-school beliefs, and reinventing themselves. Amidst all of this change, however, is one constant that has been a guiding principle of retail since it began and that is: know thy customer. Those retailers and brands that survive and thrive are those that base their decisions on the needs and wants of their customers; those that know their customers best and act on that knowledge.

Knowing Thy Retail Customer

Consumer Economy:

More than eight years after the Great Recession, the U.S. economy is improving at a slow and steady pace, but the consumer landscape has been fundamentally reshaped. Consumers entered 2017 with more confidence in their financial situation than they have had in years, but their attitudes and behaviors around spending have changed.

Even though incomes are improving, real income is still comparable to where it was in 2007, and that is impacting consumer spending decisions. The growth in single-person households has also decreased the number of dual-income households. Healthcare costs are growing exponentially and will continue to erode disposable income. National student loan debt is at an all-time high-and is expected to double in 10 years, causing Millennials to delay marrying, purchasing cars, buying homes, and making other major purchases. Retail sales and overall consumer spending, key drivers of economic growth, are suffering as a result of lackluster income growth and increased expenses. Looking at sales across the broad set of industries tracked by NPD, we see spending slowing in many categories, particularly in traditional bricks-and-mortar channels.

When consumers do spend, they have a variety of options vying for their dollars, including many that are not tangible products. Consumers are exhibiting an interesting shift in spending to the experiential, demonstrating their desire for something more, and something different – like activities, travel, and entertainment. For example, the U.S. government reports that from 2010 to 2015 consumer spending on sports and recreational vehicles increased by 45 percent, spending on foreign travel by 36 percent, and on hotels and motels by 43 percent. Spending outside of measured consumer goods categories is typically increasing faster than total consumer spending on average.

A Multicultural/Multigenerational Mosaic:

Today’s retail consumers collectively represent a multicultural, multigenerational mosaic. By 2044, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that more than half of all Americans will belong to a minority group, which is any group other than non-Hispanic White alone. By 2060, nearly one in five of the nation’s total population is projected to be foreign born. Overall, Millennials are more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group. Even more diverse than Millennials are the youngest Americans: those younger than 5 years old. In 2014, this group became majority-minority for the first time, with 50.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group.

Millennials and Boomers are still the sweet spot demos for many retailers. Millennials have now surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation and they are coming of age, working, developing careers, and raising families. Some 1.3 million Millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2015, and they now account for the vast majority of annual U.S. births, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Baby Boomers are refusing to be pushed aside by the younger generation or ignored by retail, and still account for the bulk of consumer spending growth in major products and goods categories. As Boomers age, over the next 10 years we will see dramatic growth in the population of consumers over age 65, influencing spending in new ways. As consumers retire, they have less disposable income and spend less. More than half of households over the age of 65 are in the bottom 40 percent of income. Also, older consumers tend to spend disproportionally more on services and experiences instead of products.

To know thy consumer is to also understand that within each of these demographic groups are sub- segments that think and behave differently from others in the same group. The needs and wants also vary. Fortunately with the use of data, insights, and analytic solutions, like consumer segmentations, retailers can get to know their customers up close and personal.

Onward and Forward

Whether driven by want or need, consumers will always be in the market for goods and services. Retail, in whatever format —physical or virtual — will continue to exist. Retailers and brands that are in it to win it will recognize the need to rethink the retail experience they provide. They will build business models that offer experience, service, and value to their customers and reflect the diversity of generations, life stages, and other influences that make up our world today.

By Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst – Retail, The NPD Group

Packaging and paper group Mondi has confirmed that the European Commission is conducting an inspection at its Vienna office.

“Mondi understands the investigation is focused on kraft paper and industrial bags,” the group said, and that it was co-operating with the investigation.

“Mondi is committed to complying with all applicable competition laws and is not aware of any wrongdoing or contravention of the relevant legislation,” the group said.

The European Commission announced about a year ago that its antitrust officials were performing unannounced inspections of the premises of several companies in the kraft paper and industrial sack segment.

It said at the time it was concerned that the companies in question might have violated article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits anticompetitive practices such as price fixing and customer allocation.

Source: www.businesslive.co.za

Walmart in decline

The “Oracle of Omaha”, Warren Buffet, has dropped Walmart from his portfolio like a ton of bricks, pronouncing ominously that a retailer in decline is difficult to turn around.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle sold off $900-million of Walmart stock in the last quarter, or about 90% of what he had left after years of slowly reducing his holding in the biggest big-box of all.

Pundits the globe over are seeing Warren Buffett’s rejection of Walmart as symptomatic of a broader malaise in traditional retail, embattled as it is by rocketing online sales.

“It is a big, big force,” he pronounces in doom-laden tones, “and it has already disrupted plenty of people and it will disrupt more.”

He avers that many businesses have worked out neither how to cash in nor how to counter it, a view which no doubt informed his Walmart decision.

Brick and mortar retailers had better figure out, and fast, how to compete with the online version or the carnage will continue.

Source: www.tradeintelligence.co.za

Staples’ 106 UK stores are being renamed Office Outlet by new-owner Hilco Capital, which snapped up the retailer last year for a nominal sum.

The restructuring firm, which also owns entertainment specialist HMV, said the Staples estate would be transformed in “record time”.

The entire rebadging process, along with the installation of a new EPOS system, is due to be completed by the end of this week.

“The reality is we’re kicking everything off very quickly and then we’ll be refining the proposition in the weeks to come with an improved product mix and much better pricing and promotions,” Hilco Capital marketing director Matt Bone told Retail Week.

The fresh branding on the newly named Office Outlet stores – which are largely located in out-of-town retail parks – is in keeping with Staples’ traditional red and white colour scheme.

The US-based stationery specialist agreed to sell its UK retail business and operations, which employs 1 100 people, to Hilco Capital last November.

Staples Inc says the decision was taken in order to place greater focus on its North American and mid-market divisions.

Last year, the business was pushed into exploring “strategic alternatives” for its European operations after it was forced to shelve a $6bn (£4.53bn) merger with rival Office Depot by America’s competition authorities.

Staples Inc consequently assessed the future of its European arm as it sought to wipe $300m (£226m) from its annual cost base.

When the deal to sell its British business to Hilco completed last November, its new owners unveiled plans to “phase out” the Staples brand in the UK, but provided no further details as to what that strategy looked like.

At the time, Hilco Capital chairman Paul McGowan said: “While retail in the UK has been challenged recently, a team led by retail veteran Alan Gaynor will work alongside the existing management team to build a plan for success for the business.”

By Emily Hardy and Luke Tugby for www.retail-week.com

Plush is one of the strongest growth categories for news agencies.

Stationery sales at news agencies dropped markedly in the pre-Christmas period according to the latest “benchmark survey” by news agency owner and commentator Mark Fletcher.

Fletcher, a director of franchise group newsXpress and software company Tower Systems, says the December 2016 quarter for traditional news agencies was “dreadful” with 85% of surveyed businesses reporting a decline in stationery sales with the average decrease being 2,7%.

The latest survey covered 171 news agencies – large and small, city and country, shopping centre and high street and from all Newspower, the various versions of Nextra and newsXpress as well as independents.

The overall results:

  • Customer traffic – 67% of news agents report average decline of 2.6%;
  • Overall sales – 63% reported an average revenue decline of 3.6%;
  • Basket depth – 65% report a 1.2% decrease in basket size;
  • Basket dollar value – 67% report a decrease in basket value of 2.1%; and
  • Discounting – 27% of respondents use a structured loyalty offer such as points or some other discount.

Benchmark results by key departments:

  • Magazines – 78% report an average decline in unit sales of 11.7%;
  • Newspapers – 81% report average decline in over the counter unit sales of 11.6%;
  • Greeting cards – 52% of report average revenue increase of 2%;
  • Lotteries – 58% of those with lotteries report average decline of 2% in transactions;
  • Stationery – 85% of news agents report a decline, with an average of 2.7%;
  • Ink – 22% of stores report ink separately. Of these, 51% reported increase of 2%;
  • Gifts – of the 72% with gifts, 74% report average growth of 6.9%;
  • Tobacco – pf the 44% with tobacco, 85% report an average decline of 11%;
  • Confectionery – of the 51% with confectionery, 60% report an average decline of 4%; and
  • Toys – of the 16% with toys, 80% report growth of 6.7%.

On a brighter note, Fletcher says a third of participating news agency businesses doubled gift sales in the December 2016 quarter compared to 2015.

“The most successful news agency in gifts did over $100 000 in gift sales the quarter. This is a regional news agency in a high street situation,” he says. “The most successful news agency in the plush category did over $70 000 in plush revenue in the quarter.”

Source: www.stationerynews.com.au

From Silicon Valley to staplers

Office Depot has named a successor to CEO Roland Smith, who previously announced his intention to retire from the company. The company also named a new chairman.

The retailer has appointed Gerry P. Smith as CEO, effective 27 February. Smith currently serves as executive VP and COO of Lenovo Group, a $45 billion global technology company.

Smith joined Lenovo in 2006 and was instrumental in the company’s growth to become the largest personal computer company, according to a statement by Office Depot. Prior to Lenovo, Smith held executive positions at Dell, from 1994 until 2006.

“Gerry possesses significant operating expertise, having successfully led business units across Lenovo’s entire product portfolio, including an industry recognized supply chain organisation,” says Warren Bryant, lead director of the board of directors and chair of the CEO search committee. “His long-standing relationships with some of Office Depot’s largest suppliers will enable him to quickly transition into the role.”

Although Smith previously announced his intention to continue as chairman, Office Depot is replacing him with director Joseph Vassalluzzo as chairman, effective 27 February, according to the news release. Vassalluzzo joined Office Depot’s board in August 2013 and is now Chair of the Finance and Integration Committee. He was previously the vice chairman at Staples.

Smith joined Office Depot as CEO in 2013, just after the company completed its merger with OfficeMax. The chain has been struggling to reposition itself since its merger with Staples was called off amid antitrust concerns.

“Roland has been an outstanding CEO and, on behalf of the entire board, I’d like to express our sincere appreciation for his leadership,” says Bryant. “He has consistently delivered positive results, led the successful integration of Office Depot and OfficeMax to achieve synergies and efficiencies significantly exceeding original expectations, and he created and implemented a new three-year strategic plan. As a result of his contributions, the company is well positioned for continued future success.”

By Marianne Wilson for www.chainstoreage.com

While the sale of Staples and OfficeMax in Australia and New Zealand remains unresolved, there are some interesting observations to be made in respect of the confirmed sell-off of both companies’ European businesses.

In 2016, OfficeMax’s parent company Office Depot Inc. announced the completion of the sale of its European business to The Aurelius Group. This transaction is part of the company’s previously announced international divestiture strategy to focus on opportunities in its North American business.

In December last year, Staples announced the sale of a controlling interest in its European operations to Cerberus Capital Management.

Staples will retain a 15 per cent interest in the business and will be represented on its board of directors.

Staples said that one of its top strategic priorities has been to narrow its geographic focus on North America, and the sale was a step towards “simplifying its operations and better positioning Staples for sustainable long-term growth”.

The agreement with Cerberus follows Staples’ sale of its UK retail business to Hilco Capital Limited.

The simultaneous retreat from the international marketplace underlines the challenge for large contract office supplies businesses and retailers to turn a profit in the digital age, where margins are extremely thin for middlemen who are caught in a pricing trap of their own making.

The office products industry in Europe now has three investment companies in its midst and, as we all know, private investment companies have one thing on their collective mind when they take over an ailing or under-performing business – and that is to make a relatively quick profit.

So who are Aurelius, Cerberus and Hilco and how do they intend to make a quid out of traditional office and education supplies businesses?

Munich-based Aurelius has revenues of around EUR4.5 billion and the Office Depot deal is its largest to date in terms of revenues.

The company said its plan is to continue implementing the measures that have already been initiated to revitalise Office Depot Europe directly and partly through local partners and the management on the ground.

The aim is to expand on growth initiatives involving new product and service offerings and the pan-European distribution and logistics network and to push the e-commerce side of the business.

Established in 1992, Cerberus has more than US$30 billion under management invested in four primary strategies: operational private equity, both control and non-control; distressed securities and assets; commercial mid-market lending; and real estate-related investments. From its headquarters in New York, the company has a network of affiliate and advisory offices in the US, Europe and Asia.

According to Cerberus’ senior managing director Steven Mayer, the company aims to enhance Staples’ competitive position across its European markets and channels, and return the business to growth by “capitalising on its many assets, including its well-recognised brands, strong customer relationships, dedicated sales force, advanced distribution and IT infrastructure, comprehensive pan-European footprint, and talented management and associates”.

Staples European business will be separated into a privately-held company controlled by an affiliate of Cerberus. The new company will enter into a licensing agreement with Staples for the use of certain Staples intellectual property, including its brand, a global accounts agreement, and transition services agreement governing a variety of services for defined periods. The company will operate under the Staples banner name and other sub-brands in European markets, and its associates will continue to be employees of Staples Europe, which will maintain its headquarters in Amsterdam.

London-based Hilco Capital (part of US-based Hilco Global which also operates in Australia) currently owns, among other retailers, HMV and was responsible for the successful turnaround of the business over the course of the last four years.

Hilco Capital’s Paul McGowan said the comp[any was looking forward to working with the Staples UK team and while retail in the UK has been challenged recently, a Hilco team led by a retail veteran will work alongside the existing management team to build a plan for success for the business.

The use of the Staples brand will be phased out by the UK retail business over the coming months.

What will happen to the Staples and ‘Max brands in Australia remains to be seen.

By Barrie Parsons, editor at www.stationerynews.com.au

The event, including the Remanexpo product group, will take place in Dubai from 14 to 16 March 2017, with global stationery and office suppliers targeting the “emerging” market.

In a press release, show organisers Messe Frankfurt Middle East reported that the “emerging Middle East and African” markets are making “leading international brands turn to” the event to “boost regional exports”. The event will take place from 14 to 16 March at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre in the UAE, and the company added that international suppliers “are turning to the Middle East and Africa (MEA) for future business growth”.

The UAE is also “presenting itself as the ideal gateway to access hard-to-reach markets”, with growth globally in stationery and office supplies “expected to come from emerging markets” including the MEA. The organisers cited data from analysts Technavio, who predict that there will be an “annual market increase” in the MEA of 15 percent, as well as fellow analysts Conlumino, who estimate the MEA market for “paper, stationery and office supplies” will be worth $12 billion (€11.3 billion) by 2019.

Over 300 exhibitors from over 36 countries will be taking part in the show, with Messe Frankfurt Middle East noting that “while some suppliers are now just testing the waters, other have been in the market for many years”. The seventh edition of the show will make it the “region’s largest B2B trade show covering the entire range of stationery and office supplies”, with a “strong European presence” seeing exhibitors from the UK, Portugal, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Other “key exporting exhibitor countries” with exhibitors present include China, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and Turkey, while Messe Frankfurt Middle East pointed out that last year’s show saw a “record turnout of exhibitors and visitors” which “firmly cement[ed]” the show’s position as the “must-attend trade show” for the region’s paper, office supplies and stationery markets. In total, last year saw 6,774 visitors from 101 countries, an 11 percent increase on 2015, with 304 exhibitors.

Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, commented: “Shifting tides in international trade and economic uncertainty over the last 12 months has meant global manufacturers have had to refocus their export outlook, and the MEA is grabbing their attention. Paperworld Middle East provides unmatched access to market representatives from the fast-growing Middle East, Africa, Central and South Asia regions, and has seen increasing numbers of leading international brands and players participating from across the world.”

Source: www.therecycler.com

The US Postal Service has terminated an agreement that allowed Staples employees to operate post office desks inside the retailer’s stores, union and postal officials said Thursday.

“The programme is over,” Augustine Ruiz, a Bay Area spokesman for the USPS, confirmed Thursday. Ruiz didn’t know how many Staples stores in the Bay Area provide postal services.

More than 500 Staples retail outlets around the country have been offering postal services.

“A National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge issued an order on 8 November 2016, which requires the Postal Service to discontinue its retail relationship with Staples,” said Darlene Casey, a spokeswoman for the USPS.

“The Postal Service intends to comply with that order.”

Massachusetts-based Staples believes the program benefits its patrons.

“Through our contract with the US Postal Service, Staples’ customers enjoy the US Postal Service’s Approved Shipper Program with convenient locations and extended hours,” Staples says.

The programme will officially end by sometime in March, according to the American Postal Workers Union. The labor union has staged regular protests at selected Staples outlets since the effort began as a pilot programme in 2014.

“The Bay Area was one of the major markets for this, and particularly San Jose,” says Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the American Postal Workers Union.

For three years, the union has challenged the USPS efforts to privatize postal retail operations and shift some postal services from neighborhood post offices to Staples locations.

“The public Postal Service is a national treasure that was treated like a cheap trinket by the former postmaster general,” says Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union.

The USPS-Staples venture began in the Bay Area, Boston, Pittsburgh and Alabama, Horwitz says.

Staples will retain a relationship with UPS to help customers with their shipping needs, Staples says.

“Our members take great pride in their training and their responsibilities,” Dimondstein says. “They swear an oath, they perform a public service. The quality of service at a Staples store isn’t comparable.”

By George Avalos for www.mercurynews.com

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