By Anneken Tappe for CNN

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have thrown the world economy in turmoil. Even as countries are reopening, the World Bank predicts this year, the globe will have its deepest global recession in 80 years.

The pandemic, which has infected some seven million people worldwide, led countries to order citizens to stay at home and business to grind to a halt.

Worldwide gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic growth — will contract 5.2% in 2020, according to a report by the World Bank. That’s despite the unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy support governments around the world have been rolling out. Trillions of dollars have been deployed to help companies stay in business, keep cash in consumers wallets and let financial markets function properly.

Still, advanced economies, such as the United States or Europe, are projected to shrink by 7%. America’s economy is expected to contract by 6.1% before rebounding in 2021.
This quarter will almost certainly be the worst for the Western world, but most of Asia felt the brunt of the outbreak in the first months of the year.

China, the world’s second largest economy, is projected to grow 1% this year, down from 6.1% in 2019, before bouncing back.
The pandemic recession will probably leave deep scars: Investments will stay lower in the near term, and global trade and supply chains will erode to some extent. On top of that, millions of people have been laid off, causing the biggest blow to America’s labor market since the Great Depression. The US Federal Reserve has stressed its concern about laid-off workers getting detached from the labor force as a result of the crisis.

The recession would be even worse if it took longer than expected to bring the pandemic under control, or if financial stress forced a number of companies into bankruptcy.

On Monday, a monthly survey from the American National Association of Business Economics found that a second wave of infections was the biggest risk to the US economy.

Emerging economies are in particular danger, because their health care systems are less resilient and they are more exposed to woes in the global economy through supply chains, tourism and reliance on commodity and financial markets, the World Bank report said.

At the same time, low oil prices, which collapsed in April, could help jump starting the economy in the initial stages of reopening, the World Bank acknowledged.

By Oli Ballard for Business Leader

Global car rental firm Hertz has announced that it and several of its US and Canadian subsidiaries have filed bankruptcy protection, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The impact of COVID-19 on travel demand was sudden and dramatic, causing an abrupt decline in the company’s revenue and future bookings.

Hertz took immediate actions following the outbreak to eliminate all non-essential spending and preserve liquidity, however, due to the ongoing uncertainty as to when revenue will return and when the used-car market will fully re-open for sales, the company has taken action.

All of Hertz’s businesses globally, including its Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Firefly, Hertz Car Sales, and Donlen subsidiaries, are still open and serving customers. All reservations, promotional offers, vouchers, and customer and loyalty programs, including rewards points, are expected to continue as usual.

Hertz President and CEO Paul Stone said: “Hertz has over a century of industry leadership and we entered 2020 with strong revenue and earnings momentum.

“With the severity of the COVID-19 impact on our business, and the uncertainty of when travel and the economy will rebound, we need to take further steps to weather a potentially prolonged recovery. Today’s action will protect the value of our business, allow us to continue our operations and serve our customers, and provide the time to put in place a new, stronger financial foundation to move successfully through this pandemic and to better position us for the future. Our loyal customers have made us one of the world’s most iconic brands, and we look forward to serving them now and on their future journeys.”

By Mikael Holter for Bloomberg

Norway plans to draw a record 382-billion kroner (R685-billion) from its wealth fund, forcing the world’s biggest sovereign investor to embark on an historic asset sale to generate cash.

The unprecedented withdrawal, revealed in Norway’s revised budget for 2020, is more than four times the previous record set in 2016. The development exposes the scale of the economic damage done by the twin crises of Covid-19 and a collapse in global oil markets, with western Europe’s biggest crude exporter now facing its worst economic slump since World War II.

For the first time, Norway’s government is set to withdraw considerably more than the $1 trillion fund generates in cash flow from dividends and interest payments. That income is assumed in the budget to be 258 billion kroner this year, meaning asset sales could reach 124 billion kroner, or around R222 billion.

“It’s obviously an historic event,” SEB Chief Strategist Erica Dalsto said. “But we’re also in a crisis that lacks historical parallels. This illustrates the double-whammy that’s hit the Norwegian economy, with repercussions from both containment measures and the oil-price collapse.”

Bond sales

With asset liquidation now an inevitability, the fund is likely to focus sales on its bond portfolio. That’s because it needs to increase its holding of stocks after the equity portfolio fell below a required 70% target of the total portfolio.

Norway’s government uses its oil wealth to plug budget deficits every year. Until 2016, the so-called structural oil-corrected deficit was covered by the state’s income from petroleum, namely taxes, stakes in offshore fields and dividends from Equinor ASA. As long as the government was generating a surplus, it could deposit money into the fund. In 2016 and 2017, deposits were replaced by withdrawals, as petroleum revenue dwindled due to a slump in prices. But the fund was still able to cover that easily with its cash flow.

In 2020, everything changed. The government now expects to spend a record 420 billion kroner of oil money on crisis packages to prop up its economy, with the collapse in petroleum revenue compounding the shock. The government predicts its net cash flow from petroleum activities will drop by 62% to 98 billion kroner, the lowest since 1999.

Norway has a self-imposed fiscal rule stating it should use no more than 3% of the fund’s value each year to plug budget holes. But it’s allowed to stray from that limit to help the economy during downturns. At 4.2% this year, spending will exceed the cap for the first time since the financial crisis in 2009.

There’s probably no reason to ditch your old creative because of coronavirus, but if you do, your new ad needs to be distinctive and avoid the bland clichés brands are currently churning out.

By Mark Ritson for Marketing Week

With no signal that our global lockdown is going to unlock itself any time soon, the attention of most marketing departments is moving from ‘should we advertise?’ to ‘how should we advertise?’. Even if a brand is lucky enough to find itself with some surviving top-line revenue and the remnants of an advertising budget, there is still the significant issue of what tone the subsequent creative should adopt.

As usual, most marketers are convinced that they need to dump everything, set fire to their previous campaign and start all over again. Maybe their original campaign features a formerly innocent shot of a dozen people crowded around the product in a very socially un-distant manner. Perhaps an otherwise excellent ad ends with a firm handshake or, God forbid, a hug that now sets off societal alarm bells.

Most likely, the marketer in charge simply thinks the world has changed so much that every aspect of the brand’s communications must now reflect lockdown. Unshaven fathers holding babies and mothers in jogging bottoms getting emotional on Skype.

It’s a new manifestation of an age-old problem in marketing. Even during more regular times, most brand managers lose interest in their advertising and want to change it long before the campaign has even bedded in, let alone achieved an enduring impact on the target audience.

Marketers forget that the four-month-long, eight-hour-a-day journey to create the new campaign was theirs and theirs alone. Most consumers never notice the ad before it is pulled and replaced with an equally transient successor.

A flood of generic messages

With the onset of Covid-19 the metabolism of tactical impatience has only increased further. Desperate to ‘pivot’ and be ‘agile’, most marketing teams are binning their current comms and looking for a new, Covid-appropriate way to talk to customers. You already know the formula.

A tinkling piano. Monochrome deserted streets. An old newspaper blows past. Empty chairs. Gloomy skies. Concerned faces. “We’ve been there for you since 19-something something,” says a comforting, homespun voice.

The tempo of the piano increases. The sun rises. “But in these unprecedented times,” the voice continues, “we can still be there for each other and our families.”

Product shot. Slow motion video of employees interacting in a friendly yet socially isolated manner. Children play at home on the sofa. An old person waves through a web cam. “Together with you.” Logo.

It’s wank. Clichéd wank. And it’s an enormous and embarrassing waste of money on the part of some of the world’s biggest brands. Just because we are in a strange and ‘unprecedented’ time does not mean that the usual rules of branding are deferred.

You still need to be distinctive. You still need to have an actual message. The fact that ‘Microsoft Sam’ was able to slice and dice a brilliant montage of all these ads into a seamless three-minute combination on YouTube (see video at the top) illustrates just how generic these campaigns really are.

There is no message behind all these drearily similar creative efforts other than that there is too much money and not enough marketing talent on hand. Brands like Uber, Samsung, Kia and Budweiser are superbly distinctive. They have clear brand codes. So why have they been displaced by identikit images of sunsets and empty streets?

Genericism, a lack of distinction or differentiation, and an overstated view of a brand’s cultural importance are now all on display.

These brands also have clear product positioning and brand associations they could be communicating. Where is the attempt to build brand associations? How about a good old-fashioned link to a product benefit? Has the virus killed off basic marketing too?

The blame lies with the inane and insipid marketers running many of the world’s biggest brands. While our economy boomed, they got away with their vacuous brand purpose nonsense. Formerly great brands threw away decades of heritage and turned to generic, woke-washed nonsense that made marketers feel better about their jobs at dinner parties and made consumers shrug, scratch their heads and get on with their day, none the wiser. Those same marketers are now clearly in charge of the initial slew of Covid-19 advertising.

Remember how all that brand purpose nonsense was incredibly generic? Remember how brand purpose climbed the benefit ladder past features, benefits and emotional associations and leapt from the top into a sea of pointless bullshit below? And remember how every purpose-driven marketer thought their brand had a big influence on consumers and society? All those traits – genericism, a lack of distinction or differentiation, and an overstated view of a brand’s cultural importance – are now all on display in these fumbling attempts at brand communication.

No need to switch creative

And is the new advertising really necessary at all? Orlando Wood at research company System1 would challenge the need for new creative. Wood, who once left me shitfaced and mumbling, drinking on my own in a dodgy bar in Toronto, has redeemed himself with his most recent research paper.

‘What Should Ads Look Like in the Time of Recession?’ is a fresh and insightful report commissioned by LinkedIn’s B2B Institute. Wood examines the degree to which TV ads can attract attention and garner an emotional response from consumers in the UK and US. Crucially, his data covers the first three months of 2020, therefore including the lockdown period that began in March.

Counter to what many marketers have been saying about a ‘new normal’ and changed responses from target consumers in lockdown, Wood uses the data to show that “there has been no appreciable change in the ability of ads to connect with audiences”.

That’s important because most of the ads that were seen during the coronavirus lockdown were designed long before Covid-19 had started its deadly assault on the global populace. Old ads are still performing just as well in the new normal.

Everything will change forever after coronavirus … won’t it?

To confirm this finding, Wood took a random selection of ads that were originally shown in January and February, and tested their responses among audiences at the end of March. Sure enough, as his chart below demonstrates, a pre-Covid ad’s performance among a pre-Covid audience (the X axis) is broadly analogous to its performance once lockdown had begun (Y axis).

There is a significant probability that your existing advertising will work just fine in the current crazy Covid period. And given how generic and cloying most of the new ‘agile’ advertising responses to coronavirus have turned out, it’s probably the correct tactical decision for most organisations.

It’s a less sexy finding than ‘everything you know about advertising must change, starting with your existing campaign strategy – burn your underpants and jump out of the window’. But that does not stop it from being the smarter, more effective and more economical recommendation.

Effective creative themes

If you really do want a new campaign in this strange context of coronavirus, Wood is also on hand to suggest some evidence-based direction for that advertising too. By identifying the ads that have performed better with consumers since the onset of coronavirus, Wood is able to suggest some key creative themes that seem to resonate more with Covid-hit consumers.

Fluent devices like Specsavers’ myopia or ‘Compare the Meerkat’ always pay back the brands that create them. But in times of great trouble, the fact that these characters inhabit a fictional universe a long way from coronavirus only adds further to their appeal and impact. The Jolly Green Giant will work better this month than he did at the start of the year. Ads that reference the past are also working better for Covid audiences. Sadly, the recent and more distant past were more pleasant places than the current period for most people, and that positivity appears to help as ads with a sense of history score higher in Wood’s analysis.

Finally, ads that celebrate ‘betweenness’, particularly among smaller groups or families, or which have a strong sense of place or community, are also impacting Covid audiences better now than before.

It’s too easy to just pick on the shit, clichéd failures. Who is actually on top of their game right now? Which brands have managed to reflect the new normal of a Covid-19 lockdown without completely losing their point of view or their ability to sell?

It was early in the crisis – so early that hitting a bar was still possible – but Guinness earned early line honours for its hastily altered St Patrick’s Day ad. With the big parades all cancelled on 17 March, Guinness was still building salience and brand associations, and reflecting the spirit of the times.

And the ad ticks a lot of Orlando Wood’s boxes too. It’s an ad steeped in history (tick), in a distinct place (tick), among a strong community (tick), and one that promotes a message of betweenness with every pixel (tick). And, in contrast to those woke watery Covid ads that followed it, this ad is distinctively Guinness in appearance, is redolent with the brand associations and – amazingly enough – has a product benefit attached to boot. Déanta go maith agat!

On a lesser note, Colgate also deserves plaudits for #Smilestrong. The tinkling pianos at the start might have been a portent of genericism but, in contrast with much of the crap now being released, this is an ad that again ticks all the right boxes.

We have community, family and betweenness and, because it has been created entirely from consumers’ own webcam conversations, there is a genuineness and an emotional payoff missing from bigger budget attempts to do the same thing. Best of all, this, like Guinness’s, is an ad that has actually attempted a direct link to a product benefit and up the ladder to an emotional impact too.

Advertising that actually advertises the product! What an amazing idea. That must be why it, almost, moved me to tears.

Source: BBC

The price of US oil has turned negative for the first time in history.

That means oil producers are paying buyers to take the commodity off their hands over fears that storage capacity could run out in May.

Demand for oil has all but dried up as lockdowns across the world have kept people inside.

As a result, oil firms have resorted to renting tankers to store the surplus supply and that has forced the price of US oil into negative territory.

The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the benchmark for US oil, fell as low as minus $37.63 a barrel.

“This is off-the-charts wacky,” said Stewart Glickman, an energy equity analyst at CFRA Research. “The demand shock was so massive that it’s overwhelmed anything that people could have expected.”

The severe drop on Monday was driven in part by a technicality of the global oil market. Oil is traded on its future price and May futures contracts are due to expire on Tuesday. Traders were keen to offload those holdings to avoid having to take delivery of the oil and incur storage costs.

June prices for WTI were also down, but trading at above $20 per barrel. Meanwhile, Brent Crude – the benchmark used by Europe and the rest of the world, which is already trading based on June contracts – was also weaker, down 8.9% at less than $26 a barrel.

Mr Glickman said the historic reversal in pricing was a reminder of the strains facing the oil market and warned that June prices could also fall, if lockdowns remain in place. “I’m really not optimistic about the prospects for oil companies or oil prices,” he said.

OGUK, the business lobby for the UK’s offshore oil and gas sector, said the negative price of US oil would affect firms operating in the North Sea.

“The dynamics of this US market are different from those directly driving UK produced Brent but we will not escape the impact,” said OGUK boss Deirdre Michie.

“Ours is not just a trading market; every penny lost spells more uncertainty over jobs,” she said.

The oil industry has been struggling with both tumbling demand and in-fighting among producers about reducing output.

Earlier this month, Opec members and its allies finally agreed a record deal to slash global output by about 10%. The deal was the largest cut in oil production ever to have been agreed.

But many analysts say the cuts were not big enough to make a difference.

“It hasn’t taken long for the market to recognise that the Opec+ deal will not, in its present form, be enough to balance oil markets,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axicorp.

The leading exporters – Opec and allies such as Russia – have already agreed to cut production by a record amount.

In the United States and elsewhere, oil-producing businesses have made commercial decisions to cut output. But still the world has more crude oil than it can use.

And it’s not just about whether we can use it. It’s also about whether we can store it until the lockdowns are eased enough to generate some additional demand for oil products.

Capacity is filling fast on land and at sea. As that process continues it’s likely to bear down further on prices.

It will take a recovery in demand to really turn the market round and that will depend on how the health crisis unfolds.

There will be further supply cuts as private sector producers respond to the low prices, but it’s hard to see that being on a sufficient scale to have a fundamental impact on the market.

For US drivers, the decline in oil prices – which have fallen by about two-thirds since the start of the year – has had an impact at the pumps, albeit not as dramatic as Monday’s decline might suggest.

“The silver lining is, if you for various reason actually need to be on the roads, you’re filling up for far less than you would have been even four months ago,” Mr Glickman said. “The problem for most of us is even if you could fill up, where are you going to go?”

US President Donald Trump has said the government will buy oil for the country’s national reserve. But concern continues to mount that storage facilities in the US will run out of capacity, with stockpiles at Cushing, the main delivery point in the US for oil, rising almost 50% since the start of March, according to ANZ Bank.

Mr Innes said: “It’s a dump at all cost as no one, and I mean no one, wants delivery of oil with Cushing storage facilities filling by the minute.”

Price gouging a global problem

According to a recent Fin24 article, 11 firms are being investigated for selling products such as face masks and hand sanitisers at inflated prices amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced strict regulations to prevent businesses from hiking prices excessively for certain products – such as basic foods, personal care and hygiene products, as well as key medical supplies like surgical masks and gloves.

The firms will be investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted.

Penalties for flouting the regulations include:

  • R1 million in fine;
  • A fine of up to 10% of a company’s turnover; or
  • One year in jail.

An international problem

The problem of price gouging amid the Covid-19 crisis isn’t just a local one. The LA Times has reported that  Amazon has suspended more than 3 900 selling accounts in the US for violating its fair pricing policies.

This amounts to well over half a million offers, according to the online marketplace.
Amazon has subsequently deployed a team to identify and investigate “unfairly priced” products that are in high demand, such as protective masks and hand sanitiser.

Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody has issued more than 40 subpoenas because of alleged price gouging on “essential commodities” through accounts on Amazon.

By Fergal O’Brien for Bloomberg

The global economy is taking a hammering the likes of which has not been seen for years. With factories, stores and restaurants shut, aircraft grounded and travel restricted, the monthly Purchasing Managers Indexes from IHS Markit laid out the scale of the challenge. The US PMI, due later on Tuesday, is forecast to show sharp contractions.

The euro-area measure for manufacturing and services dropped to the lowest since the series began in 1998, as did the gauges for the UK and Australia. Japan’s composite index fell to the weakest since 2011, while measures for Germany and France also plunged.

“The near-term economic outlook is terrible,” said Stephen King, senior economic adviser at HSBC Holdings. “There should be no surprise about these numbers given what is going on and that they confirm what we knew from China earlier.”

The PMI may not even capture the full extent of the downturn, because of the way the hit to supply chains is distorting the results. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned on Monday that the global economy is facing a slump “at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse”.

In the UK, separate figures added to the bleak picture. The Confederation of British Industry said manufacturers’ orders books fell sharply, and companies anticipate a drop in output in the coming months.

Investor concern has sparked a panicked selloff in equity markets. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index has fallen more than 30% in the past month, effectively wiping out almost seven years of gains. The S&P 500 is at the lowest since 2016.

The airline industry is among the worst hit, and companies including Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa have been forced to ground thousands of planes. Countless jobs are at risk because of closures, while manufacturing has also been disrupted by national lockdowns.

Warnings about the depth of the slump having been coming almost daily.

At the weekend, Morgan Stanley said that US gross domestic product could fall at an annual rate of 30% in the second quarter, driving up unemployment to average 12.8%. Federal Reserve policy maker James Bullard offered an even worse prediction that the jobless rate could rise to 30%.

Bloomberg Economics says the global economy will shrink almost 2% year-on-year in the first half, with the euro-area suffering the worst back to back quarterly contractions in its history. While a pickup is expected later this year, “a lot needs to go right” for that to happen, according to Tom Orlik, BE chief economist.

Just hours before the euro-area PMI, Goldman Sachs Group said the region’s economy could shrink more than 11% quarter-on-quarter in the three months through June.

Central banks are continuing their firefight, with almost 40 interest-rate cuts last week alone.

The Fed unexpectedly announced more huge measures on Monday, saying it will buy unlimited amounts of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to keep borrowing costs at rock-bottom levels. Both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank have also announced huge expansions of their asset-purchase programmes.

By Phillip Inman for The Guardian

The coronavirus could cost the global economy more than $1tn in lost output if it turns into a pandemic, according to a leading economic forecaster.

Oxford Economics warned that the spread of the virus to regions outside Asia would knock 1.3% off global growth this year, the equivalent of $1.1tn in lost income.

The consultancy said its model of the global economy showed the virus was already having a “chilling effect” as factory closures in China spilled over to neighbouring countries and major companies struggled to source components and finished goods from the far east.

Apple told investors earlier this week that it would fail to meet its quarterly revenue target because of the “temporarily constrained” supply of iPhones and a dramatic drop in Chinese spending during the virus crisis.

Carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, adding its voice to a chorus of companies complaining about supply problems, said it could run out of car parts at its British factories by the end of next week if the coronavirus continued to prevent parts arriving from China.

Oxford Economics said it expected China’s GDP growth to fall from 6% last year to 5.4% in 2020 following the spread of the virus so far. But if it spreads more widely in Asia, world GDP would fall by $400bn in 2020, or 0.5%.

If the virus spreads beyond Asia and becomes a global pandemic, world GDP would drop $1.1tn, or 1.3% compared to the current projection. A $1.1tn decline would be the same as losing the entire annual output of Indonesia, the world’s 16th largest economy.

“Our scenarios see world GDP hit as a result of declines in discretionary consumption and travel and tourism, with some knock-on financial market effects and weaker investment,” it said.

Rival consultancy Capital Economics said the situation in China was still developing and it remained unclear how long before the quarantine rules across much of China’s central belt would lead to mass job layoffs and wage cuts becoming more widespread.

It said 85% of larger stock market-listed firms had enough funds to meet their liabilities and wage bills formore than six months without any further revenue.

But thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, which are responsible for half of urban jobs, “may not heed government orders not to shed jobs”.

A survey of 1,000 SMEs conducted by two Chinese universities found that unless conditions improved, one-third of the firms would run out of cash within a month, the consultancy said.

Another survey of 700 companies found that 40% of private firms would run out of cash within three months.

The firm’s Asia analyst, Julian Evans Pritchard, said: “Our best guess is that there is still a window of another week or so during which, if economic activity rebounds, the bulk of employees including at vulnerable SMEs would probably keep their jobs.

“And with large-scale layoffs avoided, consumer spending would bounce back quickly due to pent-up demand, which in turn would help the self-employed and family-run businesses to recoup much of their recent loss of income.

“But with each day that the disruption drags on, the risk of a protracted slump in output rises. If activity is not clearly rebounding by the end of next week, we will revisit our annual growth forecasts.

Oxford Economics said it still expected the impact of the virus to be limited to China and have a significant, but short-term impact, bringing world GDP growth just 0.2% lower than January at 2.3%.

But a pandemic would cause a deeper and more profound shock over the next six months, possibly equal to a $1.1tn loss, followed by a recovery that would make up some of the ground lost earlier in the year.

By Michael Grothaus for Fast Company

If you’ve stepped into a mall recently you might find it not too surprising that malls are dying. There’s plenty of blame to go around for that too: Amazon, the changing shopping habits of internet-savvy consumers, and major brick-and-mortar retailers offering free shipping—just to name a few.

As a result, malls are becoming ghost towns, looking more fit for the setting of a zombie apocalypse movie than a setting where people congregate to shop. Matter of fact, as Business Insider points out, 25% of malls will shut their doors by 2022, and more than 9,300 retail stores are expected to have closed in 2019–many of them in malls.

That’s why it’s no surprise that mall owners are taking rather drastic steps to keep retailers from leaving. Matter of fact, popular fashion chain – and mall stalwart – Forever 21 just reached an agreement to sell its beleaguered business for $81-million. The buyers? A group that includes Simon Property Group, Brookfield Property Partners and Authentic Brands, reports CNBC. Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners are large owners of malls.

In other words, the two groups are buying their former tenant, in part at least, to keep that tenant in their malls. The groups’ fear is that if a large, popular chain like Forever 21 leaves those malls, overall foot traffic to those malls will drop, resulting in lower sales for all stores—and potentially more of those stores shuttering.

Simply put: Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners buying Forever 21 is an attempt to stop more of their malls from becoming ghost towns. Simon Property Group’s malls have more than 100 Forever 21 stores in them alone.

This isn’t the first time Simon and Brookfield have bought a struggling retailer to keep their malls from becoming vacant, CNBC notes. In 2016 Simon and General Growth Properties (now owned by Brookfield) rescued Aeropostale from bankruptcy, keeping the retailer in its malls. As mall traffic continues to decline, it’s possible more mall owners could take similar steps in the coming years to ensure the death of malls isn’t a foregone conclusion—or at least that their demise is slowed.

The revival of personalised stationery

By Anne Quito for Quartzy

It can be argued that dread of receiving another unsolicited e-mail conjures the opposite feeling from the delight of getting a handwritten letter. Escaping our cluttered inboxes is one factor fuelling a renewed interest in paper goods and the range of analogue props used in handwritten correspondence. Analysts report that the global market for stationery is growing and expected to reach the $128-billion mark by 2025.

Apart from traditional stationers like Crane & Co and Smythson, a slew of e-commerce startups like Sugar Paper, Minted, Moglea, and StudioSarah are helping spread the love for paper beyond wedding planning and socialite circles. The choices for personal stationery are so plentiful these days that it can be intimidating. Letterpress or offset? Baskerville or Copperplate? To emboss or deboss, that is the question.

A Canadian startup called Maurèle wants to simplify the task of specifying tasteful personalized paper goods. Founded by husband and wife duo Nick D’Urbano and architect Cece de la Montagne, its e-commerce platform offers obsessively designed templates inspired by the beautiful letterheads of historical figures like Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, and Frank Lloyd Wright (some of which are documented in the addictive site Letterheady).

De la Montagne, whose family is in the printing business, says they labored over Maurèle’s six minimalist templates to appeal to discerning customers, choosing just the right paper stocks, sourcing eco-friendly vegetable inks, and working with independent type foundries to select the fonts. “From a business standpoint, we feel that the design-conscious customer just wasn’t being spoken to,” adds D’Urbano. They believe that type nerds in particular will appreciate the proper kerning and letter spacing for each of the 13 font options on the site. Custom notecards start at $28 for eight and $34 for 16 sheets of letter paper.

Beyond stationery fanatics, De la Montagne adds that Maurèle’s quiet luxury aesthetic might appeal to acolytes of the thriving mindfulness movement seeking to disconnect from the chaos of technology. Writing by hand, she explains, is fundamentally seizing a moment to gather your thoughts without distraction. Maurèle reflects a similar sensibility to her line of minimalist work bags for creative types, produced under the label Atelier YUL.

Stationery is just the start, D’Urbano explains. A week into their launch, they’re already planning a line of pens, leather goods, and reprints of books in the public domain, leveraging their connection with type and graphic designers. Their ultimate dream is to erect physical stores where one can sit down to write or read in an unhurried manner, says De la Montagne, who worked at a boutique architecture firm in New York until last year. “What would a library-cafe look like in the 21st century?” she muses.

If it’s an alternative to co-working coffee shops populated by caffeinated zombies on their laptops, we’re all for it.

Image credit: Cerulean Press

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