B&N CEO: Stores All Open, Things 'Much Better' Than A Year Ago
PW: "On Thursday, James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble, gave the keynote at the Independent Book Publishers Association's annual IBPA Publishing University... Daunt began by reporting that as of today, all B&N stores are open. He emphasized that when the stores were closed last year the chain began to return the company's focus to stocking and selling books. He said the mix of books and non-book products is 65% to 35%, something he wants to change. "I would like the percentage of books [as stock] to be 75%," Daunt said... Though Daunt did not volunteer specific data about last year's sales, he did say that the company's larger stores in urban downtowns were the most negatively impacted by the pandemic. "With offices effectively empty and the reduction in travel and tourism, we have seen a reduction in sales in downtown bookstores. That is a step back that may be relatively permanent," Daunt said. He added, "Given the sense of total crisis we were in a year ago, we can all feel things are much better now"... Questioned whether the boom in online bookselling in 2020 impacted B&N in any material way, Daunt said that the relevance of shopping in physical stores is "intact" and any shift to online sales has been "relatively minor." He said: "I do truly believe that the bookstore remains relevant in this world. I don't think the book you get in your mailbox delivers the same pleasure as the book you selected by interacting with a knowledgeable bookseller." As far as B&N.com is concerned, Daunt implied he was aware there were problems. "I think we are getting better at [online bookselling]," he said, and suggested the company was going to put more effort into communicating to customers that the online store was a viable alternative to shopping at Amazon. Looking ahead, Daunt emphasized that a key to B&N's success will be ensuring that its staff sees bookselling as a true vocation and the employees get the support they need to grow. That will ultimately be what will help a conscientious consumer choose shopping at B&N over Amazon"... Last year's retail pause also gave the company an opportunity to ""tear the stores apart," including throwing out old furniture and rethinking the merchandising, especially how the books are presented... "We trust booksellers to know what books will sell in their store, they can make their own decisions about what to buy and how to display it," he said. As a direct consequence of this decision, B&N is no longer taking co-op advertising from publishers. "You cannot do what we have done, giving so much responsibility to stores and charge for co-op, unfortunately. [The booksellers] will choose what they want to sell and where it will be on display. Nobody's paying for it to be there"... Individual stores will also be responsible for their own stock replenishment. The hope is that this move will help reduce returns, which are hovering at a 25% rate... He said the goal is to get the percentage of returns down to 10%, before "we will drive it down into the single digits"...
Kalmbach Launches Railroading Membership 'Portal'
MediaPost: "Train lovers have a new online resource: A paid membership site launched on Thursday by Kalmbach Media, publisher of Trains, Classic Trains, Model Railroader, Classic Toy Trains and the digital subscription brand Model Railroader Video Plus. The new site, Trains.com, features videos, blogs, photo galleries and articles designed for rail enthusiasts, while serving as an umbrella for the individual brands. Trains.com initially was announced in 2019, with a projected launch in 2020. The cost per month is $6.99, and the site is offering a 30-day free trial. Kalmbach hopes to provide “an engaging, friendly, community environment, where members can share their own experiences and get their questions answered by each other, as well as by experts,” David Popp, executive producer for Trains.com. One special benefit for history-minded rail fans is access to the archives, going back 80 years for Trains and Model Railroader. In addition, the site will feature daily updates, premium video programming and breaking news from the railroad and hobby fields. The platform will also feature distinct sections for each of the brands. However, Kalmbach is not reverting to an all-digital model. “Our magazines aren’t going away,” states Dan Hickey, Kalmbach CEO. “We want to serve enthusiasts on every platform they enjoy.” Besides its “tracks” titles, Kalmbach Media offers titles such as Astronomy, Discover and FineScale Modeler. In 2019, it added a paywall for Discover. Kalmbach claims to reach more than 35 million consumers with its various sites, including the ecommerce sites My Science Shop and Kalmbach Hobby Store."
Magazines That Thrived During the Pandemic
WWD: Categories that have thrived during the pandemic include home decor According to data from the Alliance for Audited Media, Architectural Digest, a bright spot for Condé Nast, saw its total audience increase by 18 percent to a monthly average of 14.2 million in 2020. Hearst's Veranda, House Beautiful and Elle Decor were up 33% to 1.4M, 18% to 14.1M and 6% to 4.8M, respectively. The last saw a 15 increase in readers of its print and digital issues. Dwell, owned by Dwell Media, was up 35% to 2.41M, while Hearst’s Good Housekeeping, which is more general interest, witnessed 30% growth to 59.7M... Bookazines: Meredith Corp. recently launched People Royals, adding to its existing lineup of Sweet July with Ayesha Curry and Reveal with Drew and Jonathan Scott, among others. A tribute bookazine to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will also be released shortly. Doug Olson, president of Meredith Magazines, which has roughly 325 bookazine releases every year, said: “If you look at our calendar 2019 versus calendar 2020, our bookazine business is actually up 3 percent, which — when you think about all the airport traffic that was virtually nonexistent, Barnes & Noble was closed for a good five or six months during the pandemic and all the different retailers that were focused on selling food and essential items and de-emphasizing things like magazines — that’s a spectacular performance. We sold 19.5 million copies of our bookazines at a price point of $9.99 or higher in the calendar 2020"... News & analysis: "The Atlantic, majority owned by Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, saw its total audience jump by a third to 32.6M...it gained nearly 400,000 subscribers in 2020 alone, pushing the total number up to more than 750,000... Condé Nast’s The New Yorker, meanwhile, was up 15% to 23M and also saw a record number of new subscribers in 2020. Its popularity certainly doesn’t appear to waning in 2021, with 24M unique visitors to its website in January 2021... The Economist was up 21% to almost 6M, Fast Company, owned by Mansueto Ventures, 21.5% to 11.8M, and Condé Nast’s Wired 7.5% to close to 28M... Food: Trusted Media Brands’ Taste of Home saw its total audience jump 21% in 2020 to 42.7M, while Meredith’s Food & Wine and Allrecipes were up by 15% to 17M and 18.5% to 68.7M respectively. Condé's Bon Appétit grew by 3.7% to 30.6M. While readership of its print and digital issues slid 3.5% and video was down 4.3 percent%, web traffic was up 25% and mobile visits almost 20%... Health: Women’s Health’s total audience grew 17.4% to 26.3M; Bicycling by 13.7% to almost 3.5M; Prevention by 15.9% to 11M; and Men’s Health by 8% to 24.7M. All are owned by Hearst"...
Worth Magazine Returns to Print
TalkingBizNews: "Worth magazine, which has been online during the past year because of the pandemic, is returning to print with its June issue. James Ledbetter, chief content officer of Clarim Media, the parent company of Worth magazine and Techonomy, writes, “Yet print retains an enduring power. Some of that power may in fact derive from the fact that print has been around for so long; it’s as if holding a physical book or magazine ties us into the history of human knowledge. And print has an iconic allure that is unmatched by anything in the digital realm; I know from many years of working in financial media that there is nothing that can be done with a laptop or a phone that holds as much appeal to many a CEO as putting him or her on a magazine cover. In addition, there are advertisers who feel that their products simply look better with the texture and luster that print alone provides. It’s a great pleasure, then, to announce that Worth is returning to print. In June, we are producing a special single-topic issue devoted to travel in the post-COVID era.” Clarim acquired Worth in 2018. The company is backed by Jim McCann, founder and chairman of 1-800-Flowers.com."
Condé Nast to Incorporate Virtual In Nearly All Events Going Forward
Condé Nast.com: Last year, Condé Nast hosted over 400 virtual and in-person events globally, reaching more than 700,000 sought-after consumers. The newly announced 2021 event slate includes more than 500 online, hybrid, or in-person events, though the majority will feature a mixed model. The new hybrid events combine the high-touch personalization of an in-person experience alongside embedded shoppable technology that shortens the path to purchase for consumers participating remotely. During the company's events upfront presentation to potential sponsors, it also announced the launch of ENCORE, an event capability that provides end-to-end measurement solutions [and is] customized to each client, with insights including scale, engagement and attendee behaviors analyzed throughout the entire event lifecycle." Article lists the events lined up for 2021.
Print Book Sales Surged Through Q1
PW: "Print unit sales jumped 29% in 2021’s first quarter. Most of the increase was due to the surge in book-buying that began last spring and carried over into 2021"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Amazon Warehouse Workers Reject Union
NPR: "Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will not be forming a union. The vast majority of votes cast by Amazon's workers in Bessemer, Ala., were against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in a stinging defeat of the union drive. The final tally showed 1,798 votes against unionizing and 738 votes in favor of the union. That means Amazon has withstood the largest union push yet among its U.S. workers despite celebrity endorsements, including implied solidarity from President Biden. Building on years of successfully fighting off labor organizing, the company avoided the prospect of its first unionized warehouse in America. The retail union is now filing a legal challenge to the election and charges of unfair labor practices against Amazon. It's requesting a hearing by the National Labor Relations Board "to determine if the results of the election should be set aside because conduct by the employer created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees' freedom of choice." Amazon rejected the allegations Friday, adding in a statement: "Amazon didn't win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union." Nearly 5,900 people work at Amazon's Bessemer facility, and more than half cast ballots in the election"... Fox News: "Amazon employees in Alabama who sided against unionization said they had broad concerns about job security and grew convinced that their pay and benefits might not markedly increase with the help of a union...Some workers said Amazon helped steer their vote against unionization. Other employees said they didn't need convincing by Amazon and were against unionizing from the start. Amazon pointed to its minimum wage of $15 an hour, double the state's minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is also the federal minimum. The company also highlighted its healthcare and retirement benefits. Workers said they were wary of the cost of union dues and not persuaded that the union would be able to add significantly to their pay or improve benefits... In company meetings, which some employees described as mandatory, Amazon gave them details about other contracts the RWDSU had negotiated on behalf of employees in other industries. The bargaining agreements that Amazon showed employees didn't seem to indicate that there would be a substantial difference, said Cori Jennings, 40, another worker who voted against unionization. The union has cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show union members on average earning more than nonunion members... Also playing a role were fears about possible repercussions of forming a union, including the possibility that Amazon would shut down the facility if they decided to unionize, some employees said. Others worried the company would nix plans for two other facilities it had announced last year that it plans to open in a nearby area. Amazon declined to comment. Pro-union workers said they wanted more say over break times, how they are monitored by the company and the rate at which they are expected to sort and move packages. The union is expected to appeal the vote"... NY Times: "In interviews, labor leaders said they would step up their informal efforts to highlight and resist the company’s business and labor practices rather than seek elections at individual job sites... The approach includes everything from walkouts and protests to public relations campaigns that draw attention to Amazon’s leverage over its customers and competitors"...
Amazon to Open 4 East Coast Stores
CNBC: "Amazon is opening its first grocery stores on the East Coast, the company confirmed Thursday, in the latest sign of its efforts to upend traditional supermarkets.The company plans to open two grocery stores in the Washington, D.C., area. One will be in the city’s Logan Circle neighborhood and the other will be in the northern Virginia town of Franconia, not far from Amazon’s second headquarters, dubbed HQ2, which is in the Crystal City section of Arlington.Two other grocery stores are planned for the Philadelphia suburb of Warrington, Pennsylvania, and for Chevy Chase, Maryland, Amazon confirmed Thursday.The company declined to comment on whether the four stores will be Fresh stores or when the locations will open"...
UFCW Condemns Amazon's Use of Cashierless Tech
Grocery Dive: "The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is pushing back on Amazon's expanding use of cashierless systems in grocery stores, calling the technology a threat to "good-paying jobs of essential workers." The UFCW also demanded an "independent investigation" after a federally overseen vote count that concluded Friday showed that workers at an Amazon plant in Bessemer, Alabama, had rejected an effort to get them to unionize.The union is pushing back on Amazon amid reports that the company is expanding its fleet of Fresh and Go grocery stores and testing its "Just Walk Out" cashierless system in a conventional-format Fresh store in London. The UFCW's already-contentious relationship with Amazon appears to be deteriorating further as the e-commerce giant continues to step up its efforts to disrupt the grocery industry. "At a time when millions of Americans are already struggling, when most Americans are one paycheck away from disaster, what does it say that Amazon wants to create stores that serve food and groceries and eliminate the jobs real people need?" Perrone said. In a statement issued late Thursday, UFCW International President Marc Perrone linked the company's use of camera-based technology that allows shoppers to leave stores without encountering a cashier or self-checkout station to its treatment of workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The UFCW also said the expansion of Amazon's cashierless technology would discriminate against underbanked people and raise privacy concerns"...
How Kroger Plans to Gain Greater Share of $1.4T Market
PG: "Leading with fresh and accelerating with digital” is a phrase that the food retailing industry will be hearing a lot from The Kroger Co. this year and beyond. It’s a simple message that works equally well when communicating with investors or associates to describe how Kroger is thinking about its potential to grow and gain market share in an industry that it values at $1.4 trillion... The combination of a growing network of CFCs, blended with a store base of more than 2,700 locations, is setting up Kroger to be a more disruptive force than it already is in the markets where it operates, as well as new ones. For example, according to Gabriel Arreaga, the grocer’s SVP of supply chain, 45% of the U.S. population is within reach of a Kroger store, most within a few miles, but that situation will change. “We’re rolling out our new CFCs, which will enable even more customers to access more products even faster and in more markets,” Arreaga says. “Our customer fulfillment centers will create an opportunity to serve 75% of the U.S. population within a 90-mile radius.” This is where Kroger’s approach to digital grocery differs from other retailers that have opted for a micro-fulfillment approach, with smaller automated facilities adjacent to stores or integrated into existing footprints by repurposing space. The combination of a growing network of CFCs, blended with a store base of more than 2,700 locations, is setting up Kroger to be a more disruptive force than it already is in the markets where it operates, as well as new ones. For example, according to Gabriel Arreaga, the grocer’s SVP of supply chain, 45% of the U.S. population is within reach of a Kroger store, most within a few miles, but that situation will change. “We’re rolling out our new CFCs, which will enable even more customers to access more products even faster and in more markets,” Arreaga says. “Our customer fulfillment centers will create an opportunity to serve 75% of the U.S. population within a 90-mile radius.” This is where Kroger’s approach to digital grocery differs from other retailers that have opted for a micro-fulfillment approach, with smaller automated facilities adjacent to stores or integrated into existing footprints by repurposing space"...
New Rules: Using Pricing to Build Grocery Loyalty
SN: "According to Ketchum, 62% of people who have shifted their brand preferences will make that change permanent before the pandemic is over... While consumer behavior continues to evolve, one thing remains the same: the importance of price. In fact, McKinsey found that given consumers’ pricing sensitivity, value remains the primary reason for consumers to try new brands as well as new places to shop...With COVID-19 shifting brand loyalties, how can grocers use pricing to adjust to consumer preferences and capitalize on evolving trends? First, grocers should determine the right prices that will satisfy customers while protecting margins. As shoppers gravitate toward adding new products and brands to their assortments, it’ll become even more important to dynamically adjust pricing as brand preferences evolve. To account for changing brand loyalties, grocers can collect advanced analytics and real-time data to modify pricing decisions based on shifts in customer behavior and expectations. For example, if one brand becomes increasingly popular due to an inventory shortage of another brand, grocers can quickly reevaluate their assortments and maximize the performance of their pricing strategy. Grocers can also use this data to determine which products to index their private label prices against, setting a competitive strategy structure that doesn’t cut into demand. Having this information in order to understand key swings in brand loyalties will allow grocers to quickly react and respond to the most recent customer brand preferences, driving sales and improving the bottom line. building customer loyalty in an omnichannel world can be challenging, especially when preferences can change rapidly between online and in-store shopping. That’s why grocers must develop a strong omnichannel strategy by leveraging superior analytics that determine shopping behavior by channels, identifying patterns and accounting for shifts in channel behavior. Grocers should also refine their channel strategy to align with consumers’ omnichannel expectations. Otherwise, disconnected prices and promotions between online and in-store can create a disjointed shopping experience for consumers, lowering shopper satisfaction and profitability... As shoppers identify new products and brands to try, it’s more important than ever for grocers to align their promotional calendar and strategies with shopper behaviors. This can be done by finding ways to deliver innovative promotions for items that resonate with this shifting demand, which will engage consumers with their newfound preferences and encourage sales. Grocers can also determine affinities that have emerged because of changing brand preferences. And because grocery promotions are often heavily funded by vendors, maximizing promotional outcomes can also maximize vendor funding, leading to strong, effective relationships with vendors. The same traditional promotions that worked one or two years ago won’t work again this year. By determining winners, eliminating underperformers and identifying opportunities for brands to stand out, grocers can maximize promotional performance"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: