AMI Cleared to Finalize US Weekly Buy; Replaces Top Editor
NY Post: "The Feds finally cleared American Media Inc. to take over US Weekly. [The federal regulatory review period closed.] James Heindenry will be the new editor-in-chief, replacing Michael Steele, AMI CEO David Pecker revealed Tuesday. Heindenry and AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard appeared in the Us Weekly offices on Sixth Avenue as the anxious staff was prepared to start moving to AMI’s downtown offices on Water Street by the end of the week. Sources say Heindenry is going to do triple duty--keeping the editor-in-chief responsibilities of Star and OK!." MediaWireDaily, which includes the full release, points out that as EIC of Star, Heindenry called US Weekly "the biggest culprit of hypocrisy." [He also knocked People in that 2013 interview--see Adweek link below.] AMI's release also states that Victoria Lasdon Rose will remain VP and chief revenue officer for US Weekly. "The acquisition of a powerful brand like Us Weekly underscores our commitment to an aggressive growth strategy and to delivering advertisers an engaged, passionate audience and star-studded marketing platforms," Pecker states in the release.
How the Hoffman Family Built a Million-Dollar Media Business
Speaking at the Act 7 Experience conference, Hoffman Media founder Phyllis Hoffman DePaino related how the now multi-title company started with her focusing on the need for a magazine for needleworkers, and that serving that audience well resulted in rapid success, despite her total lack of knowledge about the business of publishing. Brian Hofffman, now co-president of the company (with twin brother Eric), noted that while creativity and innovation are important, readers also value consistency. "The gimmicks built into the magazine business have caused a lot of problems,” observed Eric Hoffman. “We don’t give stuff away. Not to our subscribers, not to our advertisers. We work with our advertisers and prospects—the ones we believe belong in the mags. Just because they spend money doesn’t mean they belong with us. It keeps our business focused.”
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Playboy Interviews Vox's Ezra Klein
Excerpts from Playboy's just-released Q&A with 32-year-old Ezra Klein, founder of Vox.com, who has turned the concept of “explanatory journalism” into a winning formula, writes the interviewer, David Hochman: "I think the media actually has a lot of mojo right now. Vox and many of our colleagues elsewhere are doing incredible work. Never before in my lifetime have people been as focused as they are now on what is being reported in The Washington Post and The New York Times and on CNN. It’s clear what the media’s role is in a democracy, and I think as an institution the media is living up to it... The fight between Trump and the media is like a WWE fight. In some ways, that’s good for the media. It drives eyeballs. It drives subscriptions. It drives a backlash among people who don’t like Trump. But it can distract from the work of actually figuring out what’s in Trump’s policies, what’s in his regulations, who he’s appointing to key offices. What is going on in his White House? Every day that the conversation is about the media versus Trump is a day that it’s not about Trump and what he’s doing... It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of news coming at everyone right now. A lot of traditional media is not built to promote understanding; it’s built to offer new pieces of information. But the benefit of the internet and digital media is the ability to put things into a visual context. Vox has found a foothold in bringing to bear a body of knowledge, as well as context, reporting and research, so people leave a story feeling like experts themselves... From what I see over and over again at Vox and before that at Wonkblog, the media is just wrong about what millennials and news consumers in general are interested in. People didn’t think writing about policy would be a great traffic strategy. It turns out it is, and not because it’s some kind of cynical ploy but because people want to know more—even those people between the ages of 18 and 35." On what worries him about journalism now: "The president has a lot of power and a lot of information, and a president who wanted to use that power and information for vengeance, if he had control of the bureaucracy and the bureaucracy was willing to do what he wanted, could do tremendous damage... If some kind of terrorist attack or moment of opportunity happens, he can all of a sudden make a lot of change. If you ask what keeps me up at night, lately it’s the question 'What does Donald Trump’s version of the Patriot Act look like?'"...
Trump Skips Time 100 Gala
NY Post reports that President Trump was among some "A-list" politicians not in attendance at the Time 100 black-tie gala Tuesday night, "but politics was still very much front and center on a night that saw entertainment by John Legend and Demi Lovato... The dinner did...draw Robert Mercer, the reclusive hedge fund titan and co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies and one of the biggest behind-the-scenes Trump supporters. Despite his bona fides, Mercer was seated in the third tier at Table 12 with daughter Rebekah--an honoree and a director of the Mercer Family Foundation. [The Mercers have also poured millions into Breitbart News, and pushed to have Steve Bannon, now a Trump senior advisor, run the Trump campaign, according to NPR.] Post also notes other high-profile politicians, business execs and celebrities at the event (including Academy Award winner Viola Davis, at the table with Time magazine managing editor Nancy Gibbs).
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Supervalu Eyes Divestitures Amid Retail Struggles
SN: In a financials call, Supervalu reported that identical-store sales in the retail division were down 5.8% in Q4, including a 4.3% decrease in customer counts and a 1.5% decline in average basket size. In addition, product price deflation was about 1%. President/CEO Mark Gross said the company is seeking to sell its weaker retail locations. 'We are in the process of marketing a number of underperforming stores, where disposition would allow us to focus on a core base of stronger stores,' he said. In January, Supervalu hired Target veteran Anne Dament as SVP of retail, merchandising and marketing to oversee Supervalu’s retail division, and she has been spearheading a range of initiatives to improve the performance of the stores, Gross said. These include accelerating the rollout of category management to better match product assortments to customer preferences and customize offerings by store location, adding more meal solutions and grab-and-go offerings, and expanding the variety in the produce and deli departments. Bruce Besanko, EVP, COO and CFO, said Supervalu plans to continue to open new stores in the Hornbacher’s and Cub Foods regions. He also said the 22 Food Lion stores that Supervalu acquired from Delhaize in the Mid-Atlantic region last year Have performed “a little below expectations, particularly on the sales line.” Those stores have been converted to Supervalu’s Shop ‘n Save banner and plans call for them to be marketed for sale to Supervalu’s wholesale customers, he said. Overall retail sales were down 3.2% for the fourth quarter, to $1.07B. The company reported an operating loss of $27M for the quarter in the retail division, including a $41M asset impairment charge. Excluding the charge, retail operating earnings were $14M, vs. $30M in the year-ago Q4... However, overall performance for the year exceeded expectations. Overall sales (including the wholesale business) were $12.5B, down about 3.3%. Net income was $650M, including $627M from discontinued operations, vs. net income of $178M last year...The wholesale division showed gains in the recently ended fourth quarter and fiscal year from both new customers and expanded sales to existing customers."
Costco Announces $3.1B Dividend
Seattle Times: Costco "plans to return $3.1B to shareholders through the payment of a special dividend. The $7-a-share distribution will be funded primarily from additional borrowings, the company said Tuesday. The special dividend will be paid on May 26 and comes in addition to a regular quarterly dividend of 50 cents a share that was also declared Tuesday. The investor windfall underscores Costco’s status as a standout in U.S. retail, which is suffering from the acceleration of online shopping and a glut of physical stores. Excluding fuel, the company’s U.S. same-store sales jumped 6 percent in March, topping the 3.1% gain that analysts had projected... The special dividend is the first such payment since the Issaquah-based retailer handed back $2.2 billion in January 2015. Costco’s regular quarterly dividend, meanwhile, was boosted 11% from 45 cents a share..."
Target Remodeling Dallas-Fort Worth Stores; Adding Self-Checkouts
Dallas News: "Target is planning to spend $220M to remodel more than half of its Dallas-Fort Worth stores this year. The changes include new fixtures and self-checkouts. Addison, Irving and Rockwall stores will add Starbucks... Target CEO Brian Cornell told analysts in New York in February that plans for remodels, more private label brands, lower prices and smaller stores would be accelerated. The plan is to remodel 600 stores by 2019. Many of Target's stores in North Texas are older and haven't had much work done to them in recent years. Dallas-Fort Worth is one of Target's oldest markets. The Minneapolis retailer has operated stores here since 1969 and its 47 Dallas-Fort Worth stores employ 5,000 people. The 28 stores that are getting remodeled will stay open during the work which will take 12-to-16 weeks for each store, the company said. In addition to new lighting, paint, floors and fixtures, stores will get self-checkout lanes and new order pick-up counters. Apparel, home and beauty merchandise will have updated displays with new mannequins and displays..."
NY Post Accuses Amazon of Being Job Killer
NY Post writes in part: " Amazon will add another 100,000 full-time jobs over the next 18 months, [CEO Jeff] Bezos proudly announced this year. The new jobs are great, but a closer inspection shows Amazon may simply be adding back jobs it helped kill off. For example, Amazon played a large role in eliminating more than 50,000 jobs in recent years from just three companies--Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy, public filings show. In March, MarketWatch estimated that Amazon will destroy 1.5M retail jobs in the next five years. And with its push into self-driving trucks, drone delivery, automated grocery stores and more, the site said the total number of lost jobs would likely be more than 2M, concluding, 'Could Amazon actually kill more American jobs than China did? It’s quite likely'... Critics are beginning to wonder if Amazon--with such control over retail sales, jobs, ad dollars and more--is good for America... One thing is for sure: Bezos isn’t ready to slow down--he wants Amazon to control even more of Americans’ lifestyles... Bezos wants the [big CPG] brands to be sold direct to consumers through Amazon. The company also is spreading its wings deeper into media with its $50M deal last week to stream 10 Thursday night NFL games next season. Bezos paid five times what Twitter paid for the streaming rights in 2016. There is also chatter that Amazon will soon add freighters to its retail arsenal, which already includes trucks, plans for drones and some planes..."
Peapod Seeks Expansion in New York Metro Market
Ad Age: Peapod, the oldest grocery delivery service (founded 1989), owned by Ahold Delhaize, "lacks the brand awareness of its trendier new competition. Beginning this week, the company plans to change that with a new marketing campaign designed to expand its presence in the New York City regional market, which currently accounts for about a quarter of sales. Later this year, Peapod will debut a more universal campaign to boost its brand... The Big Apple push, tagged 'The Grocery Store at Your Front Door,' will include print and digital display advertising, as well as subway takeovers at two Brooklyn locations in May and a delivery truck design contest challenging artists. Peapod, which doubled its business in Brooklyn last year and recently opened a Jersey City warehouse, tapped Southfield, Mich.-based Doner for the campaign. 360 handled PR, social and digital. "We wanted to talk to New Yorkers like New Yorkers—be relatable and touch on the frustrations of everyday lives," said Karen Cathel, exec creative director at Doner, noting that the resulting campaign touches on the hardships of urban life, like how much groceries weigh..."
Quantifying Ecommerce's Banner 2016; Internet Retailer Top 1000 Insights
DigitalCommerce360: "Online retail sales to consumers in the U.S. reached nearly $400 billion in 2016 by the U.S. Commerce Department’s measure—a 15.6% jump compared with 2015. That’s the biggest jump in three years and far eclipses the growth in retail sales in physical stores, which barely reached 2.6% last year. It means e-commerce now comprises 11.7% of total retail sales when factoring out the sale of items not normally purchased online, such as fuel, automobiles and sales in restaurants. It also means that in only a decade the web has more than doubled its share of retail sales. Ten short years ago, e-commerce was at 5.1% of total retail sales. What’s more, the leaders in online retail—those ranked in the just-released 2017 edition of the Internet Retailer Top 1000—are driving the bulk of those sales. Top 1000 retailers collectively sold roughly $341.75 billion online to U.S. consumers last year, or 86.5% of total U.S. e-commerce sales. Globally, the Top 1000 sold $401.1B online last year—up 15.5% from $347.4B in 2015... But increasingly, the e-commerce picture is a lopsided one, as Amazon grows its market share at a breakneck pace. Meanwhile, the operators of chains of retail stores—after two years of above-market online growth in 2013 and 2014—have struggled to grow web sales in 2015 and 2016. In many cases, the overall picture for store-based retailers is so dire that we’re at the point now of talking about which of the big chains are going to survive, and which will not... Since collectively they represent nearly 87% of total U.S. e-commerce sales, it can easily be said that what happens in the Top 1000 dictates the direction of the online retail market in the U.S.And 2016 was a year of big highs and big lows. That is made abundantly clear by looking at the companies new to the Top 1000 rankings this year, as well as those that fell off the list. For one, the sheer number of retailers added to the ranks this year—81 versus 53 last year and 78 the year before—and the same number that dropped off, speaks to the volatility of the market. At least 12 companies no longer appear in this year’s rankings because they were acquired by another Top 1000 e-retailer. In the case of Wal-Mart’s $3.3B acquisition of fast-growing startup marketplace operator Jet.com (as well as Hayneedle.com, which Jet acquired before being bought by Wal-Mart), the deal generally was taken as a sign of the health of the e-commerce industry because the deal valued Jet at more than four times the sales taking place on its online shopping portal... 81 retailers made the top 1000 for the first time this year..." Article offers more specifics.
5 Ways the New Whole Foods Investment Is Already Causing Havoc
SN's Jon Springer lays out the ways that in the two weeks since activist investor group Jana Partners disclosed a stake in Whole Foods, WF has seen it’s market value rocket by $1.7B, analysts argue for takeovers by conventional rivals and one rumored deal (Albertsons-Sprouts) replaced by an even bigger combination (Albertsons-Whole Foods). In slide format, he outlines five big ways this scenario has already impacted the supermarket industry. They include: Inspiring deja vu about the results back in 2013, when Jana disclosed it had acuired 6.2% of Safeway (ultimately, its merger with Albertsons); it's trampled bystanders (like supplier United Natural Foods); it's assembled a "dream team" as WF board candidates; it appears to have pressured WF into engaging an investment bank to explore alternatives (rumored outreach to Evercore); and Jana's stake news will likely set off a bidding war for WF, "if only to drive the winner's price up."
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: