By Mario Valdivieso for PSFK 

The gender pay gap, which sees women making less than men for the same work, is a problem all over the world.

New Zealand design company 485 design wanted to bring attention to it by inserting it into a line of Office Stationery for Women.

The stationary designs were made with the intention of conveying basic facts that surround gender inequality in the workplace.

The set includes a 13-hour clock to signify the uneven amount money a woman will make in the same amount of time compared to a man. The set also has stationery cards with facts on the issue, and a diary containing 13 months instead of 12. The design was even done in a “soft pink” to represent stereotypical female gender roles and ignorance of this particular problem.

By suggesting women work longer hours to receive equal pay, Office Stationery for Women hopes the absurdity of its solution will point out how little sense it makes for women to be paid less than men in the first place.

By Kristen Stephenson for Guinness World Records 

Julian Martinez was told by his own art class that crafting a mural using just pencils was impossible – but he’s proved them wrong by creating the largest pencil drawn mural.

While no one seemed to have confidence in his abilities, the 24-year-old never failed to believe in himself.

It was this doubt that motivated the Colombian artist to spread his talent across 84.86 m² (913 ft² 61 in²) of wall to earni his Guinness World Records title.

Julian wasn’t always interested in art, so this ambition was quite the mission to take on.

The teacher had previously been studying agriculture production, but realised after several years he had a passion for the arts and sought out to become a tattoo artist.

Thus, he began a 48-day project titled La Realidad Absoluta, which translates to Absolute Reality.

The idea behind his image is show that although others may be different from one another, we can adjust the human perspective to see eye to eye.

Although Julian began the illustration alone, his students and others in the community of Roldanillo came out to help him finish the massive piece upon seeing his intense commitment.

After going through 1 200 pencils, and sketching despite blisters and intense heat, the team of artists now have a detailed canvas exemplifying their hard work.

By Deena M. Amato-McCoy for ChainStoreAge 

The online giant had sales just shy of $3-billion across the office supplies segment, and these sales are growing at over 30% year-over-year.

Printers performed very well for Amazon in 2017, generating over $300-million in estimated sales last year. These sales also boosted high growth in ink, toner and paper (74%, 51%, and 56%, respectively). When researching the performance of ink and toner, the two largest office products categories, there was higher growth in sales of inkjet as compared to laser printers (26% and 15%, respectively), which correlated to higher growth in ink compared to toner, the study reported.

Office organisation is a broad category which includes file folders, binders, labellers and labelling tape, among other things. It is also the next largest category after ink and toner (both valued at an estimated $390 million in 2017 sales), with an estimated $330 million in sales, and a steady growth of 24%.

Bulk buying of consumables is also driving growth for a couple of Amazon’s office categories. Exceeding the high growth rates of ink and toner were casepack cut sheet paper (90% year-over-year growth) and glue and adhesives (76% growth annually), led by the brands Georgia-Pacific and Elmer’s, respectively.

Amazon also has a high-performing private label offering in the office supplies category. AmazonBasics is the category leader for shredders, with eight out of 10 bestsellers — and two of them rank in the top 20 office products of 2017. The top competitor, Fellowes, markets high-end shredders and holds the remaining two top 10 items, both of which sell for over $450 each.

By marketing a low-cost alternative (the top model sells for $30), AmazonBasics has become the largest shredder brand on its namesake platform, and earned more than 40% of the total category sales in 2017, the study explained.

“While leading retail chains struggle to stay afloat, Amazon is seeing strong growth across the board in sales of office appliances, like printers, scanners and shredders, as well as consumables and office accessories,” says Nathan Rigby, VP sales and marketing, One Click Retail.

“Amazon’s latest efforts in this area, including their upcoming credit card for small business owners, reveals the company’s commitment to finding the same success as a B2B marketplace as they have as a B2C retailer,” he added. “With more and more of the Office Product market moving away from brick-and- mortar in favor of Amazon, there’s no better time for brands to embrace it as their primary sales channel.”

Amazon is planning to offer a credit card to U.S. small-business customers, furthering its push to supply companies with everything from reams of paper to factory parts, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The e-commerce giant has been in talks with banks including JPMorgan Chase on a co-branded credit card for small-business owners who shop on its website, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private negotiations. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

Seattle-based Amazon (AMZN, -0.68%), the world’s largest online retailer, has been looking for a way to replicate in the workplace the success that’s made it a go-to shopping destination for households. In October, the company launched a Prime membership program offering fast free delivery for businesses, which was seen as a way to grab market share from factory-equipment providers such as WW Grainger and Fastenal and office-supply stores like Staples (SPLS, +0.00%) and Office Depot (ODP, -3.53%).

Amazon is hoping the new credit card, which will feature rewards points for purchases, will also let it eventually add offerings such as business insurance through a portal designed for its small-business customers, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Amazon could use customers’ transaction data to help tailor the rewards, this person said. The retailer has already lent $3 billion to more than 20,000 small businesses that sell via its marketplace in the U.S., U.K. and Japan, Amazon said last year.

Warring banks
The battle for small businesses’ spending has also been heating up among U.S. card issuers such as JPMorgan and American Express. Over the past few years, those lenders have debuted retooled proprietary small-business cards as well as new co-branded offerings for such customers.

A representative for JPMorgan (JPM, -1.24%) declined to comment.

AmEx (AXP, -2.33%) says it is the top card issuer for U.S. small businesses and that its portfolio is larger than its five nearest competitors combined, according to a presentation last week. The New York-based company doesn’t disclose total purchase volume for the category. In 2016, small businesses spent about $72.9 billion a year on JPMorgan’s credit cards, $46.7 billion on Capital One Financial’s and $15.6 billion on Citigroup’s, according to a June 2017 edition of the Nilson Report.

AmEx shares slipped on the news, declining 1.4% to $97.67 at the close of trading on Monday. The report also rattled stocks of AmEx credit-card rival Discover Financial Services and Amazon supply-chain competitors Grainger and Fastenal.

Amazon already offers two credit cards for consumers with JPMorgan and Synchrony Financial. Those cards come with as much as 5% cash back on purchases. The retailer is also in talks with JPMorgan and Capital One about a product similar to a checking account that could help it lower the amount it spends on card fees every year.

Source: Bloomberg / Fortune

Job cuts loom at Ricoh

Ricoh plans to cut about 4,000 jobs as early as fiscal year 2019 to streamline its struggling, core office-equipment business, the Nikkei reported on Thursday.

The company will let go off 3 000 employees through a sale of a logistics unit in Japan and trim management positions in Europe — reducing its global workforce by 4 percent, the Japanese daily said.

Ricoh and legacy companies that supply office printing equipment such as Xerox Corp have been looking to sell assets and focus on other areas of growth as paper printing increasingly gives way to digital alternatives.

Earlier this year, Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings said it would buy Xerox in a $6.1 billion deal to gain scale and cut costs. That proposal has, however, hit road blocks as two of Xerox’s top shareholders — Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason — opposed the deal.

Ricoh, meanwhile, has already cut over 5,000 jobs in North America since beginning of this year, the Nikkei said.

The 59-year old company has reported declining profits for the past four years. Its stock has shed nearly two-thirds of its market value since its peak in 2007.

Ricoh did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.

The Nikkei said last month that Ricoh was conducting impairment tests on its slumping North American business, and may have to take a related charge of about 100 billion yen ($943.04 million).

The company will sell a copier factory in the Chinese industrial hub Shenzhen and is planning to dispose of its equity stake in a Coca-Cola distributor for about 56 billion yen ($528.50 million), the Japanese business daily reported on Thursday.

Expenses related to the job cuts and other restructuring efforts are expected to weigh on the company’s fiscal 2018 performance, the Nikkei reported.

Ricoh will also set aside 200-billion yen for acquisitions of commercial and industrial printing companies as it looks to move away from office printing, according to the report.

Source: Japan Today

China is likely to see price rises for paper products this year on a shortage of raw materials and imported waste paper, according to Hong Kong-listed Nine Dragons, one of Asia’s largest packaging and paper producers.

Cheung Yan, the company’s chairwoman and one of China’s richest women, said at a press conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday that the company was likely to raise product prices in 2018, pressured by increased costs in raw materials, whose supply has been hit by Beijing’s tighter controls on imported waste paper, an important source for manufacturing paper products.

“The government’s tightened control on imported recovered paper has resulted in significant volatility in both imported and domestic recovered paper prices,” said Guangdong-based Nine Dragons in an interim results filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

In the six months ended December 31, the company saw its net profit more than doubled to 4.33 billion yuan (US$690 million), up from the previous 1.91 billion yuan.
Separately, Vinda International Holdings, China’s third-largest tissue manufacturer, said last month that it had raised tissue product prices by 4 to 5 per cent since last October in response to rising pulp prices.
China’s tissue giant Vinda expects further industry consolidation as Beijing tightens environmental controls
US pulp prices have risen more than 35 per cent in the past year, contributing to the hike in toilet-paper costs among other factors, according to Bloomberg.

The toilet paper price hike has sparked panic buying in Taiwan over the weekend after suppliers told local supermarkets they would raise prices by 10 to 30 per cent from next month.
Raw materials accounted for around 48 per cent of the costs for toilet paper products, and almost all of the pulp was imported from abroad, said Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Vinda has operations in Taiwan, but it is not immediately known the level of price increase they will put in place for their products on the island.

Source: BusinessLive

One of H&M’s largest shareholders has lost its patience.

Skandia’s actively managed funds have spent the past months selling off most of its stake in Hennes & Mauritz after watching the fashion retailer struggle with weakening sales in its physical stores and intensifying online competition. The Swedish savings and insurance giant says there is a raft of issues H&M would need to address before it will consider investing again.

“There’s so much they need to do that I don’t think they’ll solve this quickly,” Erik Sjostrom, who oversees more than $3bn as a senior portfolio manager at Skandia, told Bloomberg.

H&M, whose biggest shareholder is the billionaire Persson family that started the company in 1947, sank more than 30% last year. This year, the stock is down about 7%.

The world’s second-largest fashion chain by sales (after Zara-owner Inditex) needs to start prioritising profitability over growth and present a credible plan for tackling online competition, Sjostrom says.

It also needs to cut its dividend, reduce the number of stores in mature markets and focus on getting its product mix and price levels right, as well as reducing or writing off excess inventory that gets in the way of new trends hitting its shelves, he says.

H&M has said it feels confident it can fix its “disappointing” sales history. Management is working on building its online presence, creating new brands, improving its shops and fixing inventory issues with better technology.

H&M’s problems partly stem from its slowness to adapt to a digital age in which consumers increasingly shop online. As recently as a year ago, its main target was to grow its physical store network by between 10%-15% annually. As it became clear more shoppers wanted to make their purchases online, H&M changed that goal to aim instead for annual sales growth of between 10%-15%, including online commerce. Its digital sales have increased, but H&M still faces stiff competition from multi-brand and free shipping platforms like Zalando and Asos.

Analysts also appear to be losing their patience. Of those who provide their H&M ratings data to Bloomberg, 51% are now advising clients to sell the shares. That’s the most negative overall analyst view since at least early 2003, according to Bloomberg data. The average 12-month analyst price target has dropped to the lowest since early 2009.

Skandia’s funds, including its index-tracking funds, have sold a total of 1.26-million H&M shares in the past year and now hold 2.8-million shares, or 0.2% of the share capital (Skandia’s pension arm holds about additional H&M shares.)

Sjostrom says Skandia’s actively managed funds now have “almost nothing left” in H&M. The fund manager says he is unlikely to start buying again until H&M shows it understands the new market in which it operates, including the need to make products available at external online marketplaces.

“Why go to H&M, where you can only buy H&M? If you go to Zalando, you can buy a whole bunch of brands,” he said. “You need to be on these platforms.”

While H&M is working to address that issue in part by extending a co-operating agreement with Alibaba Group’s Tmall in China, Sjostrom says that is not enough. Even if the company is growing online, it is “still losing too much in stores,” he says.

The rise of low-cost retailers such as Associated British Foods’ Primark and Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo poses another problem. H&M virtually invented the business of low-cost, fast-fashion retail in the early 1990s, but is these days neither the fastest nor the cheapest brand.

“The market is changing very quickly, and H&M needs to figure out a new way to keep up with these developments,” Sjostrom said. “If they show how they’re going to fix it in a few years, then it could become an investment opportunity again.”

By Anna Molin for Business Day / Bloomberg

A new era of retail is coming

On October 25 of this year — on an otherwise quiet day in retail news — Nike chief executive Mark Parker fired a reverberating shot across the bow of the entire retail industry.

He announced that out of Nike’s global universe of more than 30,000 retail partners the brand would, going forward, focus its time, attention and capital on forty — FORTY — retailers that Nike calls “strategic wholesale partners.” Partners, he explained, which are willing and able to build out unique and dedicated Nike spaces within their store environments.

With this one brief announcement, Parker had not only given tens of thousands of merchants around the world a Tony Soprano-style kiss on the cheek, but he’d also made the same sweaty-palmed decision that thousands of other brand CEOs secretly wrestle with on a daily basis: whether to abandon the intoxicating volume of the mass market in a sober effort to save their brands from almost certain ruin.

Barely a quarter goes by that I don’t speak with at least one brand executive awakening to the reality that the reach, ubiquity and market penetration that hyper-retailers, department stores and discounters once offered is now the very thing that is siphoning equity from their precious trademarks. The power-merchants that made these brands household names were now the very things rendering them commoditised hostages in a high-speed chase to the bottom. Once the salvation of many a fledgling brand, mass merchants have increasingly become like kryptonite. In a world constantly seeking what’s next, new or special, mass retail has become toxic in its overexposure. For consumers, to whom shopping experiences matter as much, or more, than products, mass merchants are bringing nothing to the table.

Nike is merely one in a growing list of labels rethinking their distribution strategies. Earlier this year Coach announced it would leave the floors of over 250 department stores. Michael Kors also made a similar decision. And high-end outerwear brand Canada Goose, a brand that has traditionally been sold through wholesalers, now has a long-term goal of generating at least half its profits from its direct-to-consumer business. One by one, brands are fleeing the mass market and their absence will weigh heavily on all mass merchants.

However, more important in Nike’s announcement was the bold declaration that only one tenth of one percent of their retailer network — those retailers who could deliver on the brand promise and experience — were even worthy of the brand’s time and attention. The remainder of Nike’s resources, according to Parker, would be dedicated to growing the brand’s direct-to-consumer business through its owned stores and websites, which currently represent about 30 percent of Nike’s total sales.
In a world constantly seeking what’s next, new or special, mass retail has become toxic in its overexposure.

This is by no means a minor shift. In fact, what it portends is a complete reformation of the retail market and a breakdown of the wholesale-retail model for revenue.

Where today the retail market is largely divided by luxury, mid-tier, and discount, the coming decade will see the market more clearly bifurcate into two distinct retail approaches. The first will encompass an ever-swelling number of vertically-integrated brands that focus on serving individual consumers at scale and in a manner that best befits the brand. The second will be a new class of “experiential merchants” that use their physical stores and online assets to perfect the consumer experience across a category or categories of products. They will define the ideal experiential journey, employing expert “product ambassadors” and technology to deliver customer experiences that are truly unique, remarkable and memorable. So memorable that they leave a lasting, positive experiential imprint on the shopper’s psyche.

The solitary aim of these new-era retailers will be to drive significant sales for their brand partners. But unlike stores of today that are single-mindedly focused on four-wall sales, experiential stores of the future will position themselves as true any-channel hubs. They will serve customers through multiple means of fulfilment that will include their own channels as well as direct-to-consumer sales from their brand partners. Attribution for these sales will matter less than delivering the powerful shopping experience responsible for generating them. And for this, brands like Nike will reward experiential merchants handsomely — not simply with conventional product margin but also with upfront media and agency fees. These experiential merchants will, in essence, be media channels and will be earn revenue as such. Brands like Nike will not be their vendors but rather their clients.

Taken in this context, Nike’s announcement on October 25, 2017 was a profound harbinger of a tectonic shift in the industry. One of the world’s largest brands was not merely communicating a new brand strategy but more clearly than ever before, foreshadowing an entirely new and revolutionary era of retail.

Doug Stephens for Business of Fashion

Around 30% of Sappi shares are held by the Public Investment Corp, the Government Employees Pension Fund and the Industrial Development Corp — and that is a fat vote of confidence in the group from government.

This is, after all, a company that has struggled to appeal to the broader market in the years since the global financial crisis began. This is probably because it took seven years to more than double from below R20 to about R40 between 2009 and 2015. Now, having shot up to around R100 more recently, it’s been deemed a great-value share.

Sappi delivered “robust” full-year results to September 2017 on “strong growth” from speciality packaging and its dissolving wood pulp business. Full-year profit of $338m rose from $319m in 2016.

The group has further reduced debt in the period, as it continues to reorientate operations away from the core business of fine-coated paper used in upmarket advertising and publishing materials.

The focus now is on high-margin dissolving wood pulp, also called chemical cellulose, used in making clothing and textiles — and on specialised packaging products.

But the turnaround has been long and slow, and only the most optimistic supporters have stuck around. The recent upward rush may also have reached a peak for now, says Electus Fund Managers analyst Mish-al Emeran, as the “low-hanging fruit” has been picked.

“[There is a] need to strike a balance between growth and the risk of oversupplied markets. We think the share price reflects the turnaround, [but] key catalysts have played out,” he says.

Chemical cellulose is the key area of growth for Sappi, Emeran says. But there could be significant additional global supply in the medium term. In the past year there was strong demand for the product, Sappi says, growing at double digits.

This is why the group’s capital expenditure in 2018 is expected to increase to $450m as it continues to convert mills in SA, Europe and North America to produce greater amounts of its chemical cellulose and speciality packaging. The latter is a sector that has enormously benefited SA pulp, packaging and paper manufacturer Mondi, as the Internet cut into Sappi’s traditional fine-coated paper markets.

Mondi has built up world-class packaging production assets in emerging European markets, while Sappi has been hampered by more expensive output costs at its mills and factories in developed European countries. Mondi only really ever made office paper, so the Internet has not been as damaging to its paper business.

But with the move to chemical cellulose and also speciality packaging, Sappi is starting to reassert itself. Both Sappi and Mondi have significant facilities in SA, Europe and the US, which supply world markets. Meanwhile, with the rand remaining weak, SA is a good place for basic product inputs, including competitive forestry resources.
For Sappi, Europe is its biggest market at 41% of sales, followed by Asia at 26%, and the US 23%. SA accounts for 10% of the total. Coated paper is still Sappi’s biggest product segment, at 56% of all sales. Speciality paper makes up 11%, commodity paper 7% and chemical cellulose 20%. But with spending during 2018 focused on higher-margin growth segments, including chemical cellulose and speciality packaging, this will position Sappi for stronger profitability from 2019 onwards, says CEO Steve Binnie.

“We have been through a period of being very conservative,” Binnie says. “We halved debt over the past four years from $2.5bn to $1.3bn.

“Our success in bringing our debt levels to below our targeted leverage ratio of less than two times net debt to [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation] in [financial 2016] meant we could turn our attention to increased investments in growth projects.”

Markets for chemical cellulose are predicted to grow at about 5%/year.

Sappi supplies about 20% of the global market – much of this to China, India and Indonesia. The product is also widely used in cigarette filters, cellophane, pharmaceuticals and in making foodstuffs.

But Binnie says demand for textiles has been so good that Sappi has not yet had the opportunity to enter these other markets.

Emeran says management has done well to turn the business around. He says balance-sheet strength and flexibility have been restored, amid good cost control across divisions. Investors will also be pleased that Sappi’s dividend in 2017 leapt 36% to US$0.15 year-on-year.

Wade Napier, diversified resources analyst at Avior Capital Markets, says Sappi “is very comfortable” in terms of its balance sheet. He says it has never fully repaid its debt because debt is a useful means of enhancing equity returns in a low global interest-rate environment.

By Mark Allix for Business Live

While some retailers managed to draw crowds and lines on Thanksgiving Day with Black Friday sales, other stores remained almost eerily empty as the holiday-shopping season kicked off.

However, that may not necessarily be bad news for companies banking on a profitable holiday season. On Thanksgiving Day, people spent $2.9 billion online, according to Adobe Analytics.

Here’s a look inside the shockingly empty stores this Black Friday.

Quite a few Targets seemed surprisingly empty, The Street’s Brian Sozzi noted.

“Hmmm not what I expected,” the reality-TV star Tamra Judge posted on Instagram after visiting a Target in California. “First time ever Black Friday shopping. I was so excited to fight the crowds.”

Part of the reason for empty stores could be chalked up to Black Friday sales kicking off on Thanksgiving Day.

As one commenter on Judge’s Instagram post put it: “That ’cause that crowd was there yesterday at 6pm!!! They are all sleeping now.”

However, many shoppers may simply be shopping online instead of visiting physical stores.

Target said on Friday that it had received more than three times the number of orders through its Order Pickup service than it did on Thanksgiving last year — which could explain the empty stores.

Some Best Buys seem to be facing a similar situation.

Though crowds lined up outside the retailer on Thanksgiving, Black Friday seems more tranquil — at least at some stores.

There were also empty Walmart locations, as well as some empty Big Lots.

Shoppers spent $2.9 billion online on Thanksgiving — a 18% increase over last year, according to Adobe Analytics.

Shoppers are expected to spend $107.4 billion online this holiday season, which would represent an increase of nearly 14% over last year, according to Adobe.

By Kate Taylor for The Independent

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