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October 26, 2020

Publishing News

Bloomberg Offers Staff Returning to Offices $75-Per-Day Stipend
TalkingBizNews: "Bloomberg is providing a $75-per-day stipend to its workers as they start returning to the office. The stipend is to help pay for items such as care services, tolls, parking or public transportation. Anything above $75 per day will be considered personal costs. “We’re excited to offer this additional benefit, which will help those coming back select the commuting option with which they’re most comfortable,” said Ken Cooper, head of human resources at Bloomberg, in an email to staff. Bloomberg News has approximately 2,700 journalists worldwide. In the United States, its main newsroom is in New York but it also has major newsrooms in Washington and San Francisco. “We’ve been taking many steps to prepare our offices for our employees’ return, including enhancing our ventilation systems and cleaning procedures, as well as implementing social distancing and mask wearing protocols,” said Cooper in the email."

Penske Media, MRC Merging Databases
WWD: Penske Media, the publisher of WWD, Variety and Rolling Stone, among others, and MRC are merging their respective data businesses. The deal will bring together PMC’s Variety Business Intelligence and Alpha Data with MRC Data (formerly Nielsen Music) and the two companies will share equal ownership and control. The announcement was made by MRC CEO Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk and PMC CEO Jay Penske. “As we compete with industry titans who have an arsenal of data at their fingertips, we’re proud our businesses represent the trusted independent source known for delivering comprehensive, timely, and accurate data in entertainment,” they said. “Data transparency must be a critical component of our industry and our society’s future, and this new company will leverage our collective data products, people, and expertise to provide solutions for the global entertainment community""...

Time Replaces Logo With Word 'Vote' On Nov. 2 Issue
USA Today: "For the first time in its 97-year history, Time magazine is removing its logo from its cover. In its place, a directive: “Vote.” Edward Felsenthal, Time’s editor-in-chief and chief executive, wrote in a note that the upcoming Nov. 3 elections are “arguably as consequential a decision as any of us has ever made at the ballot box.” The issue, dated Nov. 2, features artwork by the artist Shepard Fairey of a person wearing a bandana with a ballot box printed on it, along with the aforementioned "Vote" logo. Neither presidential candidate is mentioned or featured in the design.

Events Contractor Accuses Town & Country of Racism
In The Daily Beast, Verneda Adele White, whose company has worked as a contracted supplier for Town & Country's Philanthropy Summit, writes in part: "In the past few years, the 174-year-old Hearst publication has made it a point to assert itself as an important voice in our country’s national reckoning with race, equity, and social justice. The “advancing conversations” featured at the affluent heritage brand’s annual event, the Town & Country Philanthropy Summit, for example, have tackled issues from mass incarceration to police violence, and have featured a who’s who of Black powerhouses... Behind the scenes, however, in the company’s offices and hiring practices, a very different story emerges—one that has all the hallmarks of deep-seated systemic racism and bias... Despite an outward commitment to “upholding a diverse and inclusive point of view,” as outlined in a recent company statement, there are exactly zero people of color, including no Black/African Americans, on the Town & Country top executive team. Under that team, the virtually all-white full-time staff, contractors, and suppliers are perpetuated by biased recruitment, hiring, and procurement processes that suppress opportunities for Black/African American people. I know this first-hand, as a Black woman, because I was denied opportunities for advancement at Town & Country. (“While there are current full-time Town & Country staffers with diverse underrepresented identities on both the editorial and sales and marketing teams, we are actively working to have more proportionate race and ethnic representatives supporting our brands,” a Hearst Magazines spokesperson said in a statement.)"...

Has Anna Wintour's Diversity Push Come Too Late?
Long NY Times piece explores the issues surrounding the recent push to diversify the staff and content of Vogue and Condé Nast’s other publications. Excerpt: "Black journalists who have worked with [Anna] Wintour [editor of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast], speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution, said they had not gotten over their experiences at a magazine whose workplace mirrored its exclusive pages. Under Ms. Wintour, 18 people said, Vogue welcomed a certain type of employee — someone who is thin and white, typically from a wealthy family and educated at elite schools. Of the 18, 11 people said that, in their view, Ms. Wintour should no longer be in charge of Vogue and should give up her post as Condé Nast’s editorial leader"...

Vice Media Squeezed
Airmail: Shane Smith convinced Rupert Murdoch and Disney that his company would pay off, bigtime. But it hasn't. How did Vice blow it—and trash billions in valuation? "The company is a complete zero," says one source. "If and when TPG seizes control of the asset, they’re going to have to do a complete overhaul of the leadership.” (paid sub req.)

NYC's Strand Book Store Asks for Help
PW: "On Friday at noon, Nancy Bass Wyden, owner of Strand Book Store, with two locations in Manhattan, posted an open letter on social media asking for help from the local community and asking them to buy books. Reaction was swift: Shortly after the letter was posted, the store's website was inundated with traffic and crashed. Throughout the weekend, long lines of customers were seen at the store. Social media reaction to Wyden's letter was mixed between advocates expressing support for the store and a vocal contingency blaming Wyden, who is perceived as wealthy, for fiscal irresponsibility and failing to hire back unionized workers. "Our sales were down 70% through September, compared to last year," Wyden told PW on Friday. "In September, I had been optimistic that with the return of New York University students it would help, but it didn't happen." She blames the near total absence of tourists and significantly reduced foot traffic at the store's flagship location at Broadway and 12th Street for lower sales. The company's other location at Columbus and 82nd Street opened in July and traffic there has been "good, but could be better," Wyden said. She also blamed the lack of events, both on and off site, for having further impact on sales. "Previously, we have done some 400 events a year, with many happening simultaneously on different floors, and served as the bookstore for large events, like ComicCon"... She said that her family has been supporting the store to some extent over this period of difficulty, and some $1 million in government PPP support was a help, "but only went so far." Wyden was personally criticized when it was revealed she had bought some $115,000 of Amazon shares, and more on a second occasion, while also not being able to return all previous employees to work. Wyden said the city of New York bears responsibility for the long lockdown and has to do much more to help businesses. "If they don't, only the big chain stores with massive cash reserves are going to survive and end up the winners." she said. As for the future, Wyden refused to speculate. She said her hope is that the store will remain open until there is a vaccine available. "It all depends on how sales go through the Christmas season," she said. "That will show us what moves we will make next."

Internal Report: WSJ Struggling With Aging Readers, Covering Race
BuzzFeed: "A brutal internal Wall Street Journal report obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals how the 130-year-old broadsheet is struggling mightily in the current digital and cultural age — such as not covering racial issues because reporters are afraid to mention them to editors, playing to the limited interests of its aging core audience, at times losing more subscribers than it takes in, and favoring “a print edition that lands in the recycling bin"... [Last] week, the Journal’s news division ran a reported piece that knocked down claims published in an opinion section piece just hours earlier. The opinion piece was trying to connect the dots on a smear alleging corruption by former vice president Joe Biden just days before the presidential election... The report...argues that many of WSJ’s editors do not understand the internet and its readers — focusing its content instead on its long-term older male subscribers, rather than on a growing younger audience key to its survival... “Here’s the bottom line: if we want to grow to 5.5M digital subscribers, and if we continue with churn, traffic and digital growth about where they are today — it will take us on the order of 22 years,” the report reads.


Retail News

Report: Food Prices Surpass Virus as Consumers' Top Worry
Grocery Dive: "The cost of food has overtaken worry about getting sickened by the novel coronavirus as a chief concern for U.S. consumers as they struggle with sagging personal finances, according to the results of Dunnhumby’s latest Consumer Pulse Survey, released Monday. Asked which grocery retailer in their area provides the best value, 34% cited Walmart, with Aldi garnering 12% of responses and Kroger 9%... Consumers are gravitating to supermarkets where they can find low prices, with 58% reporting that they shop in stores where prices are low and 43% saying they choose the lowest-priced products when filling their baskets. Of the 400 respondents who participated in the research, which was part of a multi-phase global study and conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, 36% said they use coupons, 34% search online for sales and 21% have increased their purchases of private label items... 49% rated their personal financial circumstances as poor, 68% said the economy is not good, and 91% said they are keeping a close eye on prices when shopping for groceries... While shoppers generally reported grocers taking steps to reduce health risks are necessary, only about 28% felt those price hikes were necessary... Dunnhumby’s gauge of concern about COVID, which it calls a Worry Index, rose to 29% in July, but had declined to 24% by the time the new research was conducted. The survey also found that U.S. grocery shoppers turned to e-commerce for 30% of their trips. Half continue to shop at a smaller number of stores, while 25% said their spending per trip is higher than it was before"...

Walmart, Amazon Have 55%, 40% of Online Grocery Market
PG: "A new grocery consumer research study finds there are 18% more online grocery users now compared with pre-COVID times. The survey of 615 American shoppers was released by digital shopper marketing platform Chicory and has a margin of error of plus/minus 5.3%.The results of Chicory's fourth quarterly survey quantify the impact of COVID-19 on online grocery usage by comparing current results with past quarterly studies throughout 2020. The latest survey, conducted in early October, found that Walmart (55%) and Amazon (40%) are front-runners in the online grocery wars, but other retailers are gaining ground. While Walmart and Amazon lost 12% and 30%, respectively, of online grocery market share from January to April, Amazon regained 18% more share at an even higher level than all other quarters in the latest period. Although Walmart lost a little over 1% of share compared with January, the retailer still commands the majority of the online grocery market, according to Chicory, with 55% consumers reporting that they use this retailer for their online grocery shopping. While Seattle-based Amazon gained share, this was at Walmart’s expense and not at the expense of other retailers, as more consumers reported using smaller retailers at higher levels, the survey found. Today, Target, Kroger and Instacart command nearly the same market share at 23%, 22% and 21%, respectively"...

Aldi to Open First Arizona Stores
Grocery Dive: German discount grocery chain Aldi "will open its first Arizona stores on Nov. 5, according to reports by Arizona news outlets... The stores, located in Chandler and Goodyear, near Phoenix, mark the brand’s continued expansion into the Southwest as it aims to grow into the third-largest grocer in the U.S., with 2,500 stores, by the end of 2022. At least nine Aldi stores are reportedly planned for the Phoenix metro area. The footprints of the stores are smaller than competitors' Fry’s Food Stores and Safeway, and its stock is around 90% private label, which accounts for the grocer's heavily discounted prices. Aldi is rapidly making its entrance into the American Southwest. Aldi also purchased land for a distribution center and a regional office in Goodyear. In July, the brand said it would have four open stores in the Phoenix area by the end of this year as part of its 2020 goal of 70 new stores open across the country. Aldi hit the 2,000-store mark in the U.S. earlier this year. Phoenix has witnessed a real diversification of its grocery offerings in the last year, with new Trader Joe’s, Fry’s and Costco locations"...

Americans Stockpile Military Gear Before Election
Fortune: "Conflict is on America’s streets in 2020, and “tactical apparel” has become a lifestyle industry serving militarized law-enforcement agents and the freelance gunmen who emulate them. Less than two weeks before Election Day, orders are rolling in. Since last year, online purchases have driven a 20-fold jump in sales of goods like the $220 CM-6M gas mask -- resistant to bean-bag rounds -- for Mira Safety of Austin, Texas. “It doesn’t matter who gets elected,” founder Roman Zrazhevskiy said of his new customers. “They think that no matter who wins, Biden or Trump, there are going to be people who are upset about the result"... A retail chain called 5.11 Tactical, which traces its roots to a friend of President Donald Trump’s adult sons, is even trying to turn the survivalist look into a fashionable national brand. It’s racking up annual sales of almost $400M with stores in places including Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. Across the country, gun and ammunition sales have surged as well"...

Fresh Thyme Market Shelf Tags to Use QR Codes for Product Info
SN: "Fresh Thyme Market is leveraging QR code-based technology to enable shoppers in the aisles to call up product information using their smartphones. Starting in early November, Fresh Thyme plans to add ELI Codes from business management software provider Cornerstone for Natural to shelf tags in its stores’ Natural Living department. When scanned, the codes display key product information — including content from the IX-ONE product data and image exchange — on their mobile phones. “By adding ELI Codes to our shelf tags, we will be helping our shoppers make better informed buying decisions in-store while allowing our supplier partners to provide digital content to best present their products to our shoppers,” according to Jonathan Lawrence, senior director of grocery and natural living at Fresh Thyme. In addition, Fresh Thyme’s staff plans to use ELI Codes to learn more about the products they sell and better explain the items and their benefits to shoppers"...

Wakefern Sales Up Nearly 10% for Fiscal 2020
SN: Changing shopper behavior amid the coronavirus crisis fueled an almost 10% YoY sales increase at grocery retail cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. for fiscal 2020, the company reported at its virtual annual shareholder meeting. "Wakefern posted retail sales of $18.3B in for the 53 weeks ended Oct. 3, up 9.75% from a year earlier. The year saw the emergence of a new customer with new expectations, including cooking at home and shopping online more often, according to Wakefern President and COO Joe Sheridan. That led Wakefern to boost capacity for its online shopping services, such as ShopRite from Home, as well as improve and expand the digital shopping experience, he said... Wakefern and its independently owned and operated supermarkets rose to the challenge with COVID-19 outbreak, keeping stores stocked and running smoothly while implementing the latest safety protocols at all stores... Key initiatives in 2020 included the expansion and continued rollout of the Bowl & Basket and Paperbird private brands, the rebranding and expansion of its Wholesome Pantry “free from” and organic brands, and the pilot launch of Fresh to Table meal solutions... Announced earlier this month, Fresh to Table is a store-within-a-store concept that spotlights meal solutions and healthy, on-trend foods in a variety of grab-and-go formats, also available for order online"...

Walmart Sues DOJ Over Pharmacists' Role in Opiod Prescriptions
SN: "Walmart has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over the responsibility of the company and its pharmacists in flagging suspicious opioid prescriptions. In the suit, Walmart Inc. v. DOJ, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant asks the court to clarify the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). At issue is a dilemma faced by pharmacists when dispensing opioid painkiller medications: Deciding whether not filling potentially illicit opioid prescriptions — i.e. those suspected of drug abuse or diversion by the patient — interferes with the medical decisions of doctors licensed the prescribe controlled substances. Walmart said it filed suit in response to threatened litigation by the DOJ, which the company claims seeks civil penalties against the retailer for not going far enough in blocking doctors by refusing to fill opioid prescriptions"...

Last-Mile Fulfillment Paying Off for C Stores
RetailWire: A study from NACS Research based on 140 independent and chain convenience store operators finds that 57% percent of all convenience retailers offer some form of last mile fulfillment and, when done correctly, it can pay off for stores in significant ways... One retailer that has been aggressive in its pursuit of last mile fulfillment is 7-Eleven.... which announced that it has added UberEats, Grubhub and Instacart as firms making deliveries for company-owned and franchised locations. “When 7-Eleven began offering delivery in 2017, we certainly didn’t foresee a pandemic accelerating on-demand ordering platforms from convenient to essential,” said 7-Eleven COO Chris Tanco. “This year we’ve doubled our delivery footprint and quadrupled our daily delivery orders because customers know they can count on us for their necessities in about 30 minutes""...


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