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February 24, 2021

Publishing News

Meredith to Offer Pro Bono Consulting to Minority-Owned Small Food, Beauty Businesses
Release: Meredith Corp. is launching Good Impressions, "a pro bono media and marketing consultation program created to help BIPOC and LGBTQIA-majority owned small businesses succeed by driving awareness, supporting sales efforts and providing mentorship. Awarded to a select group of five to 10 businesses at various stages of growth and development, individual awards will be valued around $100K and offer access to Meredith's marketing and advertising capabilities. Good Impressions will exclusively work with food and beauty companies, including those in the consumer package goods products space. The program, including its application process and the naming of the winning businesses, is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year. "Good Impressions is a meaningful way for Meredith to help bridge the economic gap for minority-owned businesses and to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the communities we serve," said Catherine Levene, president, Meredith's National Media Group and executive sponsor of :Blackprint, an employee resource group representing Black voices at Meredith"...

Real Simple, Fidelity Launching Podcast, Online Events
Release: Meredith Corp. is launching a weekly "Money Confidential" podcast on March 1 and "The New Rules of Retirement" virtual event series on March 25. Sponsored by Fidelity Investments, the content is designed to help women of all ages navigate the retirement planning process, sharing actionable and attainable solutions for their long-term and short-term financial goals.

NYT Columnist Bashes Conde Nast's 'Woke' Practices
NY Times columnist Brett Stephens bashes "woke" culture, including Bon Appétit's "Archive Repair Project,” which was described in HuffPost as an effort to scour “55 years’ worth of recipes from a variety of Condé Nast magazines in search of objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens"... What Bon Appétit — which saw its editor depart last year after a 16-year-old Halloween photo of him trying to look like a Puerto Rican stereotype resurfaced on the internet — is doing with its recipe archive may seem like a farce. But it’s a telling one. If a major media company like Condé Nast can choose to erase and rewrite its food archives for the sake of current Woke sensibilities, why stop there? In the summer of 2008, The New Yorker ran cover art of Barack and Michelle Obama giving each other a fist bump in the Oval Office. He was dressed in Middle Eastern garb. She had a machine gun slung over her shoulder and wore her hair in a big Afro. A portrait of Osama bin Laden hung over the mantel, and an American flag was burning in the fire. Even by the comparatively liberal standards of 2008, the cover was considered egregious. At the time, The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, defended the art by saying that it was satirical. But in the humorless world of Woke, the satire is never funny, the statute of limitations never expires, Remnick’s intentions are irrelevant and his judgments inherently biased. If Condé Nast is serious about “repairing” its archives for the sake of rectifying past sins, there’s no good reason not to erase that cover, too. What comes next? In January, Jason Kilborn, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was placed on indefinite administrative leave, barred from campus and kicked off his committee assignments after students protested that he had included “n____” and “b_____” as part of his semester exam on civil procedure. No, he didn’t use the slurs themselves. He just wrote the first letter followed by a line. It still didn’t spare him... every professor in America has now been put on notice: In the game of Woke, the goal posts can be moved at any moment, the penalties will apply retroactively and claims of fairness will always lose out to the perpetual right to claim offense. A friend of mine, a lifelong liberal whose patience is running thin with the new ethos of moral bullying, likes to joke, “Woke me when it’s over.” To which I say: Get comfortable." (See item below for an example of the kind of pressures faced by Condé and other publishers.)

Some Deem New VF Cover Insufficiently Inclusive
The L.A. Times reports that Vanity Fair's attempt to produce an inclusive Hollywood issue cover won a good deal of praise on social media, but fell afoul of critics who pointed out that it lacked Latinx stars. "Where are the Latinos?," they asked...
L.A. Times (paywall)


Why Media SPACs Are Hot (Adweek, paywall)

Retail News

Gelson's Acquired by Japanese Retailer PPIH
SN: "Southern California grocer Gelson’s Markets is being acquired from owner TPG Capital by Tokyo-based Pan Pacific International Holdings (PPIH), the parent company of Japanese retailers Don Quijote Co. Ltd. and Marukai Corp. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Encino, Calif.-based Gelson’s operates 27 upscale supermarkets from Santa Barbara to San Diego, mostly along the Southern California coast and in the Los Angeles area, but with one location in Rancho Mirage. The chain is slated to mark its 70th anniversary in July. Private equity firm TPG Capital and PPIH are expected to finalize the deal in Q2... San Francisco- and Fort Worth, Texas-based TPG acquired Gelson’s in February 2014 as part of its purchase of the grocer’s then-parent company Arden Group. The $394M cash deal with L.A.-based Arden was announced in December 2013... Grocery Dive: Gelson’s has made significant market share gains as of late and operates stores in fast-growing population centers... Gelson’s, which had $872M in net sales in 2020, built 10 new locations under TPG’s ownership. PPIH said it plans to fund more new stores for the chain, which is popular with affluent Californians who appreciate its gourmet selection and pampering services like wine bars and personal shopping. PPIH brings added scale, retail experience and a drive to expand its overseas operations. PPIH said it intends for overseas retail operations to become a “third pillar of earnings” for the company, along with its discount stores and general merchandise outlets — indicating the company sees Gelson’s as a growth vehicle in a U.S. market where PPIH has made gradual inroads over the past 15 years. PPIH began acquiring local U.S. retailers in 2006 and now operates Marukai and Tokyo Central stores in California along with Times, Big Save and Marukai stores in Hawaii. The Don Quijote chain [which is]... famous for its overflowing assortment of festive and eclectic products, has three stores in Hawaii"...

59% Of U.S. Shoppers See Amazon Go As A Threat to Walmart, Kroger
Grocery Dive: "Amazon Go stores are a fraction of the size of a Walmart Supercenter or Kroger, but 59% of U.S. shoppers see them as a “threat” to major grocers, according to new survey findings from research platform Piplsay. The nationwide survey, which was conducted Feb. 19-21, garnered more than 30,000 responses. While only 28% said they had gone to an Amazon Go, most who had said their visit was a positive experience, with 54% saying it was “excellent” and 35% calling it “good.” Based on consumer responses, Amazon Go-like cashierless convenience stores are likely to meet strong shopper demand. 57% said they would like to see an Amazon Go or similar tech-enabled store near them and 54% believe those types of stores will succeed even as grocery e-commerce continues to grow. Even for shoppers who haven’t gone to an Amazon Go store, cashierless grocery shopping demand is high among consumers, according to Piplsay. While the survey results did not delve into which aspects of Amazon Go stores made a positive or negative impression on shoppers, the tech-enabled shopping experience appears to be the main attraction"...

L.A. County Mandates Supermarket Hazard Pay; Retailers Pushing Back
MNB cites an LA Times report that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to mandate that publicly traded supermarkets and drug store chains must pay their store employees $5 per hour in extra hazard pay for the next 120 days. The mandate will apply to some 2,500 workers. The bump also applies to "companies that have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per store site. The measure applies only to unincorporated areas … which includes portions of South L.A. and much of northern L.A. County. Many of the 88 cities in the county do not have measures, meaning a worker can live in one city with a mandate but work in another without it"... WSJ: As more cities [7 to date, before LA County] impose temporary bonus pay for supermarket employees, some grocers say the increases expenses are forcing them to boost food prices, cut back on services like checkouts, or even close stores (as Kroger has done in some cases). "Although the pandemic has driven higher sales and profits for grocery chains, companies say the cost of doing business has risen, too, and their most profitable sections, such as buffets and salad bars, remain closed in many locations. 'We’re not in a nonprofit organization,' said Rob McDougall, CEO of California chain Gelson’s Markets. The company raised prices for thousands of products in its Long Beach store after mandated bonus pay increased expenses by about 25% in recent weeks. McDougall said the higher prices cover only half the new costs, and he expects nearly a 13% decline in overall profits"...

Merchants Hit by More and Higher Swipe Fees
WSJ: "Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are planning to raise swipe fees for some types of credit-card purchases in April, adding to the squeeze felt by restaurants, retailers and other merchants already struggling through the Covid-19 pandemic. What’s more, customers’ switch to online shopping during the pandemic--a trend heralded for keeping businesses afloat when people are reluctant to venture inside stores--is also creating extra costs for merchants. Swipe fees, which merchants pay when a customer pays by card, are often higher on online purchases"...
Wall St Journal (paywall)

Instacart Expanding Beyond Groceries
CNN Business: "Instacart started as a grocery delivery service. But it's increasingly moving into delivering office supplies, sporting goods, televisions, makeup and drug store essentials. Its latest move: a partnership with Walgreens for same-day delivery on OTC medications, beauty items and other drug store purchases from nearly 8,000 Walgreens stores... Since the pandemic began in March, Instacart has added hundreds of thousands of new contract workers, and struck partnerships with Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods, Sephora and Staples... In August, Instacart partnered with Walmart to deliver groceries, home decor and electronics items. CEO Apoorva Mehta told CNN Business in 2019 that an IPO for Instacart is "on the horizon"...


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