In what it calls a ‘remarkable achievement’, the European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC) has revealed that Europe hit a paper recycling rate of 71.7% in 2012.

The organisation’s latest monitoring report showed that paper consumption in Europe is now down to 1998 levels – a drop of 13% – with recycled amounts of paper being 1.5 times higher than in that year.

The ERPC report also recorded that paper fibre  in Europe is recycled 3.5 times a year compared to the global average of 2.4 times.

Furthermore, the number of European countries with a recycling rate below 60% has decreased while there are 13 established countries where paper recycling rates exceed 70%.

ERPC secretary Jori Ringman-Beck said: “The figures in the report prove that paper recycling is truly an industry made in Europe.”

 

 

Another corporate giant is following the traditional post-crisis playbook. German conglomerate Siemens is planning to cut 15,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg. This is nearly double the company’s original target for layoffs, first announced last year as part of a broad cost-cutting exercise to put the venerable engineering group back on track after a series of missteps.

It’s no coincidence that the cuts come shortly after the arrival of Siemens’s new chief executive, Joe Kaeser, who took over in August after a long stint as the company’s chief financial officer. The previous CEO, Peter Löscher, was ousted after a rocky tenure that ended when a string of profit warnings angered investors and forced the board to act. The shares of the bellwether German industrial group have lagged the market for some time.

 

Promoting the chief financial officer to a company’s highest office is a tried and trusted move when the chips are down. The former finance chief, a Siemens lifer with 33 years of service at the group, is the quintessential safe pair of hands. Shortly after his appointment, an asset manager who owns Siemens shares told Bloombergas much: “I want less vision and more concentration on profit. Kaeser is a numbers man, which is a positive.”

The surprisingly large job cuts—a third of which will come in Germany, according to reports—are the upshot of putting a “numbers man” in charge. A streamlined management structure is another hallmark of an efficiency-seeking boss. Siemens’ shares have outperformed the German market since Kaeser was promoted from CFO.

For the new CEO, the challenge will be to develop a long-term vision for the company that goes beyond simply wielding a hatchet, even if that is what’s needed right now. Some aggressive financial engineering may steady the ship, but new ideas will be needed to propel it forward. In a recent interview, Kaeser admitted that Siemens “woefully underestimated the internet,” so that seems a good place to start.

From the back office to the front lines

Around a quarter of CEOs at large listed companies have CFO experience, according to recruiter Crist/Kolder. The share of former finance chiefs now running firms has risen, predictably, since the financial crisis put cost-cutting and cash preservation front of mind for directors. Some are promoted to CEO from CFO to lead a major restructuring, as was the case when Marcel Smits took over at Sara Lee, split the company in two, and sold off the parts. Others find it difficult to make the transition to the top job, such as Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo at Nokia, which lost ground to rivals on his watch. More positive examples include Paul Polman at Unilever andIndra Nooyi at PepsiCo, both of whom are lauded for striking a balance between long-term vision and short-term results.

It is never easy to cut jobs—much less 15,000 of them—but in some ways these things come naturally to a hardnosed CFO. Although Siemens shareholders may applaud the sprawling conglomerate’s newfound focus on efficiency, until Kaeser presents a path to profit beyond slashing costs, the optimism may prove short-lived.

 

By Jason Karaian @jkaraian September 30, 2013

 

City of Hope honours ACCO’s Keller

The US office products industry gathered in Chicago last night as ACCO Chairman Bob Keller collected the City of Hope’s 2013 Spirit of Life award.

Keller has been leading the office products industry’s fundraising efforts for City of Hope, helping to raise an amazing $11.7 million – a record – for the California-based clinic and medical research institute, a figure which included almost $500,000 from an ACCO Brands-sponsored golf outing held in August.

2013 is a special year as it marks the 100th anniversary of City of Hope, and this year’s Spirit of Life fundraising campaign has been called ‘A Century of Hope’. Last night’s Gala at Navy Pier included a number of former Spirit of Life honourees and ended with a spectacular fireworks display to mark the centenary.

During the evening, City of Hope also recognised the contributions and dedication of Nancy Doyle who is retiring this year. Doyle has been with City of Hope for over 20 years and was instrumental in expanding the institute’s collaboration with the office products industry in the 1990s.

Next year’s honouree will be the President of Office Depot’s International division, Steve Schmidt, and City of Hope has recently confirmed that the 2015 honouree will be Steve Sakumoto, VP/General Manager of US Supplies Sales at Hewlett-Packard.

The date and venue of the 2014 Spirit of Life Gala dinner will be confirmed shortly.

By Andy Braithwaite
Source: www.opi.net

New York—Seventy-four percent of responding business professionals reached by b-to-b media and live events are involved in purchasing decisions or supplier selections, according to American Business Media’s “Value of B-to-B” report, released Wednesday.

Of those, 87% use industry-related websites when researching such decisions; 65% use print magazines; 58% use industry conferences and trade shows; and 55% use e-newsletters.

The study also found that 74% of respondents used both digital and traditional media to learn best practices and gain information for their work, and 68% spend more time with industry-related print publications than with mainstream business or consumer publications.

Almost half of marketers surveyed expected to increase b-to-b advertising budgets over the next 12 months: 45% said budgets will increase somewhat while 3% said they will increase considerably.

The “Value of B-to-B” report was based on 6,682 responses from business professionals, 74 marketers and 111 business publishers. Three separate online surveys were conducted by Readex Research during March and April. The full report, with 30 pages of analysis and 380 pages of tabulated results, is now available for download at ABM’s website (abmassociation.com).

Originally posted on: 8/1/13

FILED UNDER:

American Business Media

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAGCC) conducted a 

survey of European enterprises in South Africa in the period February-June 2013. The 

survey includes member companies and other enterprises active in the South African 

market. The following participated in the survey:

 Austria : 13 companies,

 Denmark : 6 companies,

 Finland : 3 companies,

 France : 22 companies,

 Germany : 95 companies,

 Italy : 9 companies,

 Netherlands : 15 companies and

 Sweden : 1 company.

The total number of completed and returned surveys stands at 163. The below mentioned 

results refer to previous surveys, predominantly among members of the SAGCC, conducted 

biannually since 1993.

 The perception of the current economic climate has declined from +31 points in 2010 

to 

-35 points in 2013. About twice as many companies regard the climate as “bad” when 

compared to the previous survey. This has constrained decisions on new investments 

and job creations.

 The general political and economic climate is regarded as “continuously bad” or even 

“declining”.

 Concerns about Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment have increased since 

2010. More than 60% of the respondents view B-BBEE as a costly exercise with no 

tangible benefits for their day-to-day businesses. 

 Respondents underline the lack of competence of the civil service (78% of negative 

opinions) and about the excessively high level of corruption (seen by 87% as 

“pessimistic” or “very pessimistic”).

 Violence and crime, labour conditions, productivity levels and electricity prices have also 

been growingly affecting the investment and business climates lately.

The SAGCC Index is an important tool in the analysis and portrayal of the current economic 

situation, and is interpreted in a manner similar to the “IFO Business Climate Index”. 

Based on the current trend, the SAGCC index will soon reach the level of 1998 (-57, data of 

members of the SAGCC only), its lowest point in 14 years. 

It must be noted that the survey did not take place under any specific political or economic 

circumstances, which could have influenced the results

Opening its own brick-and-mortar retail stores could help Google sell more of its Chromebooks, Nexus tablets and other hardware, analysts said Friday, reacting to online reports that Google may soon be coming to the local shopping mall.

Google is in the process of building its own retail stores and hopes to have the first stores open in time for the holidays in major U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a report Friday in 9to5Google, which cited an unnamed, “extremely reliable” source.

“Google feels right now that many potential customers need to get hands-on experience with its products before they are willing to purchase,” the website reported.

Google’s Android is already the dominant mobile operating system for smartphones, but the company is trying to make greater inroads with its laptop computers, known as Chromebooks, and its Nexus tablets.

The company is also developing Google Glass, a head-mounted augmented reality system that people would wear to give them real-time information throughout the day. And Google now owns Motorola’s handset business.

Online, Google’s products are currently sold through its Play digital storefront and through Amazon and some other retailers. Some products can also be bought in pop-up or smaller stores within Best Buy and Staples.

But having its own retail stores could increase consumer awareness around its growing line of physical products and potentially increase sales, analysts say.

“I wouldn’t put it past Google to do this,” said Ben Bajarin, principal analyst with Silicon Valley-based Creative Strategies.

Regardless of whether the products are actually bought in the store, the strategy could help demonstrate their value, he said. Google’s mobile devices are not pushed in physical stores like Best Buy as effectively as they should be, he said. “The stores’ sales teams push different products different weeks,” he said.

“Google does not have as many products as Apple, but it has enough to justify a physical retail presence,” agreed Greg Sterling, senior analyst with Opus Research.

Even if consumers don’t buy the product on the spot, they could get a better feel for it in a physical store staffed by Google employees than they could by reading about it online, Sterling said, especially for a cutting-edge product like Glass.

But Google will have to think carefully about its approach. After all, Gateway went the retail route to sell its personal computers and accessories, “but that largely failed,” Sterling noted.

 

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/021613-google-retail-stores-could-be-266787.html

(Reuters) – Michael Dell struck a deal to take Dell Inc private for $24.4 billion in the biggest leveraged buyout since the financial crisis, partnering with the Silver Lake private equity firm and Microsoft Corp to try to turn around the struggling computer company without Wall Street scrutiny.

The deal, which requires approval from a majority of shareholders excluding Dell himself, would end a 24-year run on public markets for a company that was conceived in a college dorm room and quickly rose to the top of the global personal computer business – only to be rendered an also-ran over the past decade as PC prices crumbled and customers moved to tablets and smartphones.

Dell executives said on Tuesday that the company will stick to a strategy of expanding its software and services offerings for large companies, with the goal of becoming a full-service provider of corporate computing services in the mold of the highly profitable IBM. They played down speculation that Dell might spin off the low-margin PC business on which it made its name.

Dell did not give specifics on what it would do differently as a private entity, angering some shareholders who said they needed more information to determine whether the $13.65-a-share deal price – a 25 percent premium over Dell’s stock price before buyout talks leaked in January – was adequate.

“This feels like the ultimate insider trade. Why weren’t the plans and projections that Michael Dell has going forward been shared with me and other shareholders?” said Frederick “Shad” Rowe, general partner of Greenbrier Partners and a trustee of the $22 billion Texas Employees Retirement System. Rowe said he dumped about 400,000 shares of Dell on Tuesday, adding, “I was so irritated I didn’t want to think about it anymore.

Dell spokesman David Frink said the board had conducted an extensive review of strategic options before agreeing to the buyout to ensure that the best interests of all stockholders were served.

Although Dell shares were trading at more than $18 a year ago, many analysts said they believed the majority of shareholders will accept the buyout because of pessimism over the growth prospects of the PC business.

“A private Dell is likely to more aggressively cut costs, in our view. But we think merely restructuring only postpones the inevitable, creating a value trap,” said Discern Inc analyst Cindy Shaw. “Dell needs to do more than reduce its cost structure. It needs to innovate.”

Dell was regarded as a model of innovation as recently as the early 2000s, pioneering online ordering of custom-configured PCs and working closely with Asian component suppliers and manufacturers to assure rock-bottom production costs. But it missed the big industry shift to tablet computers, smartphones and high-powered consumer electronics such as music players and gaming consoles.

As of 2012’s fourth quarter, Dell’s share of the global PC market had slipped to just above 10 percent from 12.5 percent a year earlier as its shipments dived 20 percent, according to research house IDC.

Some of Dell’s rivals took pot shots at the deal, in unusually pointed comments that reflect how bitter the struggle is in a commoditized PC industry that has wrestled to reverse a decline in sales globally.

Hewlett-Packard Co, which itself has suffered years of turmoil in the face of challenges in the PC business, said in a statement that Dell’s deal would “leave existing customers and innovation at the curb,” and vowed to exploit the opportunity.

Lenovo, which consists largely of the former IBM PC unit, referred to the “distracting financial maneuvers and major strategic shifts” of its rival while emphasizing its own stability and strong financial position.

The deal will be financed with cash and equity from Michael Dell, $1 billion cash from private equity firm Silver Lake, a $2 billion loan from Microsoft Corp, and between $11 billion and $12 billion in debt financing from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Credit Suisse and RBC Capital Markets.

The company said Michael Dell will contribute his 16 percent stake in the company but did not say how much cash he would inject. The company will now conduct a 45-day “go-shop” process in which others might make higher offers.

“Though we were hoping for a higher price, we trust that the Dell board has properly done its job by conducting a process open to any third-party offers and reviewing all strategic options,” said Bill Nygren, who manages the $7.3 billion Oakmark Fund and $3.2 billion Oakmark Select Fund, which have a $250 million position in Dell.

“Should we hear evidence to the contrary, we’ll raise a ruckus.”

Sources with knowledge of the matter said Dell’s board, advised by the Boston Consulting Group, had considered everything from a leveraged recapitalization to a breakup of the company before agreeing to the LBO.

Although the deal will load Dell with more debt, some Wall Street analysts said that was relatively low compared to the cash the company generates.

Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi said that if Dell were to use 40 percent of its annual cash flow of about $2.5 billion to $3 billion to pay down debt, a sale of the company in about five years could net Silver Lake, Mike Dell and other investors close to $10 billion, or 5 times free cash flow at the time.

Helped by acquisitions, Dell has been building a business selling servers, IT services and other products for corporate clients that – while still dwarfed by IBM’s and HP’s – is growing at a near-10 percent clip. Critics say it will not be easy for Dell to beat IBM and HP in this area, no matter what its corporate structure.

Sales of PCs still make up the majority of Dell’s revenues. Dell said in a regulatory filing that no new job cuts were expected but it indicated more acquisitions down the road. The company has spent $13 billion since fiscal 2008 to acquire more than 20 companies including several large software and services companies as it seeks to reconfigure itself as a broad-based supplier of technology for big companies.

“We recognize this process will take more time,” Chief Financial Officer Brian Gladden told Reuters. “We will have to make investments, and we will have to be patient to implement the strategy. And under a new private company structure, we will have time and flexibility to really pursue and realize the end-to-end solutions strategy.”

Gladden said the company’s strategy would “generally remain the same” after the deal closed, but “we won’t have the scrutiny and limitations associated with operating as a public company.”

Shares of Dell closed 1.1 percent higher at $13.42.

FALL FROM GRACE

Michael Dell returned to the company as CEO in 2007 after a brief hiatus but has been unable to engineer a turnaround thus far. Analysts said Dell could be more nimble as a private company, but it will still have to deal with the same difficult market conditions.

There is little history to suggest whether going private makes such a transition easier. IBM’s famously successful transition from hardware vendor to corporate IT partner took place while it was trading on public markets.

Freescale, formerly the semiconductor division of Motorola, was taken private in 2006 for $17.6 billion by a group of private equity firms including Blackstone Group LP, Carlyle Group and TPG Capital LP. Analysts say the resulting debt load hurt its ability to compete in the capital-intensive chip business. Freescale cut just under 5 percent of its work force last year as it continued to restructure.

Microsoft’s involvement in the Dell deal piqued much speculation about a renewed strategic partnership, but the software company is providing only debt financing and Dell said there were no specific business terms attached to the transaction. Dell has long been loyal to Microsoft’s Windows operating system, which has been at the heart of its PC business since its inception.

Microsoft’s loan will take the form of a 10-year subordinated note with roughly 7 percent to 8 percent interest, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

The Dell deal would be the biggest private equity-backed leveraged buyout since Blackstone Group LP’s takeout of the Hilton Hotels Group in July 2007 for more than $20 billion and is the 11th-largest on record.

The parties expect the transaction to close before the end of Dell’s 2014 second quarter, which ends in July. News of the talks first emerged on January 14, although they reportedly started in the latter part of 2012. Michael Dell had previously acknowledged thinking about going private as far back as 2010.

J.P. Morgan and Evercore Partners were financial advisers, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP was the legal adviser to the special committee of Dell’s board. Goldman Sachs was financial adviser, and Hogan Lovells was legal adviser to Dell.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz was legal adviser to Michael Dell. BofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Credit Suisse and RBC Capital Markets were financial advisers to Silver Lake, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP was its legal adviser. Lazard Ltd advised Microsoft.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Pressman in Boston; Writing by Ben Berkowitz and Edwin Chan; Editing by Tiffany Wu, Leslie Gevirtz and Cynthia Osterman)

Hagen court rules that it must be made clear that clone cartridge products are not remanufactured.

CRN carries the IT Law Kanlai’s Felix Bart’s report on the LG Hagen court’s ruling that a differentiation between cloned and remanufactured cartridges being sold must be made following complaints that wording on clone products can be misleading for consumers and cartridge suppliers.

The court’s decision means that it is prohibited for clone cartridges to be sold or distributed “without pointing out that this is not a remanufactured cartridge but (possibly infringing) newly manufactured replicas of toner cartridges”, stating that any other wording would be “misleading and therefore anti-competitive”. Violation of the ruling could result in a fine of up to €250,000 ($340,000), detention or imprisonment for up to six months.

The court used an example of an ambiguously labelled product, namely “Reusable Toner for HP LaserJet P 2050 Series P 2055”, which it pointed out was misleading due to the mention of the original cartridge. It was noted that it would not be clear to the public whether it was an original or compatible product and would run the risk of the supplier unintentionally misleading their product. Instead, it would be dependant on “the understanding of a reasonably well informed and circumspect consumer and the overall impression of the advertisement”.

Commenting on the court’s ruling, Vincent van Dijk, Director of ETIRA, said: “ETIRA welcomes this decision. We think it’s good for remanufacturers because it again clarifies the difference between rebuilding of OEM cartridges on the one hand, and new-built non-OEM models on the other.

“The judge in Hagen has given a strong warning to companies who sell those polluting new-built patent-infringing cartridges. His message is clear: don’t mess around with the word “remanufacturing”. In Germany, remanufacturing respects OEM patents and does something good for the environment. The Asian new-built cartridges do neither. The judge tells sellers of these products that the public has the right to know that they are at risk when they buy infringing clones.”

Meanwhile, Christian Wernhart, CEO of Swiss remanufacturer Embatex AG, added: “New-built cartridges have often a poor quality because the plastic and the injection moulding is not as good as an empty OEM cartridge.

“We test clones continously and many of them are leaking in the printer or break in the printer while it is printing. That’s the reason why the consumer must know if they are using a high quality remanufactured cartridge or a clone, because most of the consumers do not know the difference, they only know there exists an OEM cartridge and an aftermarket cartridge and we remanufacturers are put in the same pot as the clone producer.”

After The Post Office

It seems like every day now, a new Web poll asks readers whether they think the US Postal Service can survive, now that the magnitude of its financial hole is becoming more obvious to everybody.  Everywhere, the signs of the post office’s demise are evident.  But the slide has been going on for years: the old crusty guys working their beat at a stately pace in town here, the high rates for shipping, the poor (and expensive) tracking, and now the cutbacks in service.

A lot of people blame the unions, with their generous pensions and benefits.  In truth, these guys don’t seem overly anxious to please, as they give you the fish-eye stare while you’re buying stamps, each gesture as measured as a bartender’s in a dusty Western ranch town.  I’ve witnessed arguments among personnel behind the counter while a half dozen people, resigned to their fate, wait patiently in line.

Nonetheless, I will miss the post office when it’s gone.  Whatever replaces it — and it’s likely to be a variety of things — will surely be more efficient.  But somehow, the incipient breakup of the bedrock bond between citizen and postal service makes me a bit sad.

To indulge in the inventory of memories here for a bit, I recall when people wrote letters.  Like many people, I still have most of mine — love letters from girls I once knew; the imposing, outsized brown stationary my father used for a few years when I was a teenager away at school; a record of steady solid notes from grandma, who always sent money with them; missives from crazy pals out roaming the world — but they trail off in the late 1990s and stop abruptly in the mid 2000s, victim to my leading-edge adoption of electronic communications. 

Now, full disclosure here, my grandmother once suggested that I join the post office. Well before I managed to publish anything, I told her I wanted to be a writer.  She was quite practical in her analysis.  Writers don’t get paid much, at least most of them.  So, get a day job that’s not too mentally challenging, and write in the morning before you go off to do your sorting, delivering, or what have you.  As a daughter of early Marxists, she saw nothing wrong with a soft government job for those lacking in ambition or otherwise focused. 

But a practical view of the situation requires traffic analysis.  What is it, exactly that we get in our mailboxes?

Well, first and foremost, it’s a way for the government and legal establishment to get a hold of you, a so-called “fixed address,” an infrastructure requirement of modern civilization.  When that jury summons, subpoena, tax document, or divorce paper is looking for someplace to go, that someplace is your mailbox. 

Except when it isn’t.  Some of these documents are so sensitive that they have to be delivered by hand.  A policemen may have to serve a warrant for someone’s arrest personally.  Certification of delivery is required in certain legal actions.  And subpoenas sent to reluctant witnesses may have to be conveyed directly.

It just so happens that the major package delivery services, UPS and FedEx, do that all the time every day: deliver things to people at their door personally.  It would take some institutional alternations, but these drivers could be empowered to deliver legal documents.  There remains a sticky issue about just how reluctant certain recipients might be, but some jobs could be left to the police, if the bulk were done through the services.  Call it a sweet government contract, it would still probably cost less than the post office, with all its pension obligations and other fixed costs.

And you should see these delivery folks rock on their rounds.  Unlike the post office truck, which I often see parked by the river during the mandatory one-hour lunch break, the UPS driver is literally trying to run me down if I’m merely hitting the speed limit on a local road.  They are all about getting to their next location, product of the difference in incentive systems.

Okay, so what about the love letters?  Not much an issue for me, long-time married guy that I am, but those personal missives that used to cause such longing, what happens to them?  People are still writing on those thin, blue aerogrammes that have been around forever, but that’s mostly back to Ouagadougou.  Here in the connected world, all that love is going through Facebook — or at least email —these days. 

Which brings us to email.  To what degree could the electronic form of mail replace the paper one?  My guess is about 100%.  Even most of those legal documents could go by email. 

Now, it’s true, both my lawyer and my accountant still want paper.  The thing about a paper document is that it came into existence at a particular time.  A stack of paper catalogs a history.  Arguably, archived email, handled the right way, could perform the same function, essentially, a certification that a document was created at a certain time and has not been altered.  But the Internet in general is a great place for history to get rewritten.  Take the updating of Wikipedia, or the mere fact that any arbitrary string of bits can be written, copied, and rewritten with full fidelity.  Electronic certification workarounds notwithstanding, the surety of a paper record is comforting.  Still, even paper documents get forged.

So, what else comes in the ol’ physical box? 

Paper spam?  No need to preserve this institution, although I do feel once in a while — when separating the sheets appropriate for fire starter from the heavily recycled and glossy stock — for the poor salesman who has to call on the actual local supermarket each week to get the specials for the Friday circular.  Yelp, foursquare, and AmazonLocal are all trying to reach the local advertising market, and could over time fill this gap.

Acceptances to college?  Email would do.  It’s probably fair to say that 99% of college applicants already have email addresses that they check every day during the season.

Invitations to events?  OpenTable and similar services, if not an email from the hosting party, could easily take care of that. 

Grandma’s notes?  A videoconference is so much better than letters in this case.  Kids are reluctant to write back to that smelly old person who keeps pestering them.  Old folks sometimes have difficulty seeing, much less holding a pencil and writing, let alone walking to the mailbox or the post office itself.  But a videoconference gives everyone, including the parents, an opportunity to chat for a bit, see non-verbal cues, and visit for a while.  A great improvement.

Still the mailbox can provide an excuse for the housebound to get outside at least once a day, unless that person lives in Manhattan, and then it’s not much of an outing.  Best just take a walk for its own sake.

Birthday cards?  A plethora of online services offer animated gizmos, these days with the sender’s voice, photos, and even video, all much faster than mail, a boon in particular to those inclined to forget these obligations until the last second.

Bill payment?  Set the $0.44 cost of a first class letter — and the potential of late payment — against online banking, which is cheap, reasonably safe, and secure these days, and it’s hard to see why anyone would clutch onto the former. 

Still, paying bills by hand has its charms.  Writing out physical checks keeps the hand muscle memory active.  Who knows when you might need to actually write something?  Like in cursive.  You might want to stay in shape.  And avoiding the electronic banking system does reduce one’s attack profile, something all Internet users should be thinking about.  But many individuals and businesses already use bill payment services provided by many merchants and financial institutions such as Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, and others.

Signing documents, contracts, and agreements?  Services such as DocuSign have already processed hundreds of millions of electronic signatures, and DocuSign’s Ink service, an easy-to-use, free, cloud-based version of its base offering, extends to anyone the ability to sign (with a legally binding signature) and return any document via email.

In home movies?  Netflix, Hulu Plus, and others deliver electronically the most recent movies and television shows for a monthly fee.  One can argue that Reed Hastings, the most hated CEO of the year, planned to deep six physical DVDs all along.

So, summing it up after a nice wander down memory lane, I think we could do without the post office. 

In some cases, high cost services will have to replace certain elements, but in the vast majority of instances, less expensive — and often better — alternatives will replace their current mail-friendly equivalents.  I predict that the shift will be a net benefit to the overall system, despite the loss of jobs for more than a half million postal workers.  I hope they don’t “go postal” on me for saying so.

Disclosure: Endpoint has a consulting relationship with DocuSign.

© 2011 Endpoint Technologies Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Twitter: RogerKay

Source:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerkay/2011/12/15/after-the-post-office/

As an M&A investment banker focused on the e-commerce sector, and creator of the Web-only RetailIndex, a diverse group of constituents have asked me to comment on the macro environment for the office products category and outlook for mobile commerce in particular.

Amazon Supply

On April 23rd Amazon (AMZN), the largest consumer e-commerce site, announced that it intends to shower attention on corporations and business with the launch of AmazonSupply.com, a business-to-business e-commerce site.  One product category targeted in particular is office products.

If stock returns over the past two years (StaplesOffice Depot and OfficeMax down by -35.0%, -62.4% and -73.2% respectively) are predictive of future performance, all eyes are focused on each competitors strategic plans.


Staples Goes all-in with Mobile Commerce

During his keynote address to the Mobile Workshop June 8 at the IRCE 2012, Brian Tilzer, Vice President of Global e-Commerce said, “Mobile is a constantly evolving space and you have to be continually thinking about your next move.”

“More and more shoppers are turning to their mobile devices as a way to research and shop whenever and wherever they want.  Staples is thinking ahead and anticipating customers’ needs, providing an offering that not only serves as an m-commerce tool but listens to, and solves, customers’ pain points.”

To these ends Staples focuses on saving time for small business owners, so they have more of it to dedicate to their businesses.  Time savers incorporated into the latest mobile app include an optimized ink & toner finder, access to Staples Rewards, list building functionality and batch scanning.

Moving forward Brian Tilzer says that, “Staples Velocity Lab in Cambridge, Mass will become home to some of the world’s best e-commerce talent with the goal of rapidly bringing breakthrough new ideas to market in emerging online technologies like mobile commerce and social media”.  Staples expects to the triple the size of its e-commerce team over the next three years.

In regard to why Staples’ strategic plans will set it apart from its competitors, Mr. Tilzer says, “If we focus on the customer good things should be in store (pun intended).”

Facebook’s Problem May be the Real Opportunity

More than half of Facebook’s (FB) users access the social network through a mobile device.  Since the vast majority of revenue currently comes from advertising, the company is focused on how to monetize its mobile offering.

In my opinion Facebook’s problem may be the real opportunity.  Companies that bet big on mobile commerce and don’t focus on helping Facebook make money in the process, may lose their 1st mover advantage to (Facebook’s market) and be forced to double down later.

What are your thoughts and how will this impact your investing decisions in the sector?

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