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May 10, 2021

May 10, 2021

Publishing News

Penske Aims to Make a Splash In Its First NewFront
Adweek: Penske Media, publisher of 24 brands, including Rolling Stone, Variety and ARTNews, gave its first Upfront presention. The company sought "to rebrand PMC as a more active, cohesive enterprise in the world of editorial. The last year has been an eventful one for PMC. Beginning in May 2020, it acquired events company LDJ Productions; launched Sportico in June; acquired The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe in September; announced the debut of its first-party data strategy, Atlas Data Studio, in March; and took a 50% ownership stake in South by Southwest in April. To complement this growing portfolio, PMC added a slew of key hires, including Mark Howard from Forbes as chief advertising and partnerships officer, Jacie Brandes from Time Inc. as VP, portfolio sales and Mike Monroe from Sundance as CMO. All of the initiatives have centered on one goal: Elevating the brand awareness of Penske Media and establishing an infrastructure that allows it to do business on the enterprise level, said PMC’s Monroe. “More than anything, we’re announcing Penske Media and our intention to work with marketing partners in new, different and bigger ways,” Monroe said. As publishers vie for advertising dollars, many have used acquisitions to boost the size of the readership they can offer to partners. While PMC did make a number of acquisitions in the last 12 months, by pooling its publications’ resources, it can offer advertisers 135M unique visitors per month, a number that dwarfs many of its more prominent peers. This reality prompted PMC to create an internal infrastructure that allows it to operate on both an enterprise level as Penske Media, as well as on an individual brand level. “When marketers hear ‘PMC,’ we want them to associate it with culture, whether that’s entertainment, fashion, music, or sports,” Monroe said... The publisher declined to share specifics on how it plans to incorporate the PMC brand into SXSW, but the parallels between the cultural bent of SXSW and PMC's arts and music brands offer a number of potential alignments, Monroe said. “There are opportunities on the ground in Austin, but our websites are not tied to any particular time or place,” Monroe said. “There is an opportunity to consider SXSW outside of the way we think of it as a fixed time in Austin.” During its NewFront, PMC gifted 50 non-fungible tokens to some of its key marketing partners. Mexican artist Moxarra Gonzalez designed the NFTs, and their inclusion highlights the new reputation of innovation that PMC hopes to grow"...
Adweek (paywalled)

Hearst Magazines U.K.: Layoffs, Frequency Cuts, Title Closure
Press Gazette (U.K.): "Redundancies have been announced at magazine publisher Hearst with up to a fifth of its UK staff finding their jobs at risk. The proposed cutbacks also include the closure of Town & Country UK magazine, which Hearst launched in 2014, plus the sale of the Net Doctor website and some other print titles being published less frequently. Hearst UK has got through the Covid-19 pandemic so far without making any staff redundant or using the Government furlough scheme. But staff were told on Thursday afternoon that one in five staff would see their roles closed or pooled under new proposals and that enhanced voluntary redundancy packages will be offered. Staff were told that although the company is in a strong position it needs to transform into a more modern organisation and invest in growth areas because of the way the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated consumer trends. A Hearst Magazines spokesperson said: “Our well-diversified and stable parent company has enabled us to stand by our employees through the worst of the health crisis by protecting jobs and benefits. “While our path to the future has not changed, the pandemic has accelerated trends in consumer behaviour and media consumption and we need to further transform our organisation to better serve our audience and advertisers and invest in growth areas.” Three key areas of growth over the past year have been digital advertising, e-commerce and print subscriptions, staff were told. The changes will include streamlining across all areas and levels of seniority including in editorial, commercial and consumer marketing. Many of the editorial teams will work and collaborate more closely with colleagues in the US, resulting in job cuts. Staff were told they would continue to ensure their magazines are “culturally relevant and distinctly British.” Commercial teams will be “repurposed” under an evolution of the advertising sales strategy. The company said in September it was preparing for Covid-19 losses to eat up a “large proportion” of its cash resources. The 2019 full-year accounts for National Magazine Company, of which Hearst UK is its subsidiary, revealed increased profitability pre-Covid. Pre-tax losses in 2019 were £2m, down from £6m the year before, and the company reported a 3.6% drop in revenue from £146m to £140.6m. Operating profit more than doubled from £0.7m to £2.2m.Hearst UK chief executive James Wildman said at the time: “Fluctuations in demand and increased online competition for advertising revenue could have a marked impact on profitability. “However, the positioning of our magazine brands and our mixed portfolio of magazines and diversification into digital publishing, events and other revenues helps to manage the exposure to this risk.” In November Hearst UK announced it was upping the frequency of Prima in print from 12 to 13 editions a year, citing a 68% subscriptions boost over the previous year and strong performance on the newsstand.

Conde's Consolidation Continues: Vogue India Editor Leaving
Peeping Moon: Priya Tanna, Vogue India's editor-in-chief of 15 years, is leaving amid continued consolidation at Condé Nast. She "joins a list of other international Vogue editors who have exited over the last six months after the company began consolidating its international operations. More top editors are expected to exit as the streamlining continues.

Forbes Reportedly Eyeing Sale to Investment Firm
NY Post: "Forbes Media, owned by Asian investors since 2014, is in exclusive talks to sell itself for $650M to an investment group led by Michael Moe, head of merchant bank GSV. Bloomberg on Thursday reported that Moe’s consortium has an exclusivity window for about one month. The report, which cited an anonymous source, followed earlier reports by Reuters that discussions about the sale were underway. Moe, a one-time research analyst at Merrill Lynch who earlier founded ThinkEquity Partners, has specialized in investments in education. His GSV firm runs an MBA program for entrepreneurs. He has also written several books including “Finding the Next Starbucks,” published by Penguin, and “Global Silicon Valley,” by Hachette. He did not return a call seeking comment. A Forbes spokesperson was quoted by Bloomberg as saying, “We have no comment, but investors have consistently shown interest in Forbes, which has produced three years of record results. 2021 is shaping up as a strong year as well.” The flagship money magazine founded by B.C. Forbes 104 years ago, which was once a fortnightly packed with thousands of ad pages a year, only appears six times a year now. But the company has diversified and digital now accounts for most of its income. It also hosts sponsored events such as the Forbes 30 under 30 confab. Still the high price surprised some observers coming after a year in which many advertisers halted ads and events and conferences were forced to go virtual. Forbes’ valuation was pegged at $475M in 2014 when two Asian investors formed Integrated Whale Media and bought a majority stake from the Forbes family and Elevation Partners, the investment group that counts U2 front man Bono as one of its principals. Steve Forbes, the oldest of four Forbes brothers who once rain the company, remained active as chairman after the sale to Integrated Whale Media. It’s unclear if Steve Forbes would stay involved if the current talks yield another ownership change."

Washingtonian Staff Revolts Over Threat From CEO
Mediaite: "Members of the Washingtonian’s editorial staff staged a protest on Friday after the publication’s CEO penned an op-ed that many saw as threatening employees with measures that included stripping them of their benefits if they did not return to work in the office. “Like many of my fellow small-business owners, I am excited about the prospect of returning to in-person work but am struggling with when and how to safely reopen our office,” CEO Cathy Merrill wrote in a Thursday op-ed for The Washington Post, before addressing her own employees directly. “But also like my peers, I am concerned about the unfortunately common office worker who wants to continue working at home and just go into the office on occasion.” Merrill then expounded on the complexities of remote work before suggesting she would turn employees who didn’t want to return to her office on a regular basis into independent contractors — a highly contentious move that would strip employees of insurance benefits and potentially pose significant legal challenges"...

Barnes & Noble Reshapes Its Publishing Division
PW: "When James Daunt took over as CEO of Barnes & Noble, he had plans to remake not only the company’s retail operation but its publishing business. In the U.K., Daunt is CEO of Waterstones and also owns an independent bookstore chain and a publishing business (both named Daunt Books). The pandemic altered much of his original blueprint, but he took the first step in overhauling B&N’s Sterling Publishing division in January, naming Emily Meehan publisher and chief creative officer... Meehan said her mandate from Daunt is to completely revamp (and rename) Sterling, which B&N bought in 2003, by the end of the year. Meehan... most recently served as VP, publisher of the Disney Book Group. Her initial objective is to change Sterling’s operating philosophy from working on books largely at the behest of B&N to being a publisher with its own point of view. That doesn’t mean Sterling won’t work with B&N, but that it will be more of a collaborative effort—one that will be driven by the overall objective of creating a dynamic trade list that will be sold not only by B&N but through other outlets, including independent bookstores"...


Retail News

Dollar Stores to Account for 45% of 2021 Retail Openings
MNB cites CNN report on a new study from Coresight Research "suggesting that Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar together will account for 45 percent of all large retail store openings this year.It is, the story says, a "reflection of the dollar store sector's outsized growth in the retail industry as other chains close shops or stop building new ones … These openings are a continuation of dollar stores' rapid growth even before the pandemic."According to CNN, "Economists and retail analysts say dollar stores are expanding in part because of growing wealth inequality in the United States and the hollowing out of the middle class. The share of American adults who live in middle-income households decreased from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019, according to Pew Research Center""...

Costco's April Sales Up More Than 30%
SN: "Costco Wholesale Corp. continued to build on strong pandemic-propelled gains a year ago, as April sales growth surpassed 30%. In the four weeks ended May 2, net sales jumped 33.5% to $15.2B from $11.4B a year earlier, Costco reported late Wednesday. For the 35-week year to date, Costco tallied net sales of $126.6B, up 17.6% over the prior-year period. Comp-club sales in April rose 32.5% overall and were up 24.2% excluding the impact of changes in fuel prices and foreign exchange (FX) rates. By business unit, comp sales rose 30.4% in the U.S., 44% in Canada and 33.5% internationally... Costco’s April ecommerce sales grew 20.5% on a comp basis and were up 17.3% excluding FX. The monthly results marked a big rebound from April 2020, when Costco saw decreases of 1.8% in net sales and 4.7% in comp-store sales, including a comp-sales decline of 3.3% in the U.S. At the time, the company said stay-at-home orders, social distancing restrictions and some mandatory closures reduced traffic and sales at clubs. Business also was negatively impacted by limited service in travel and food courts; the closing of most optical, hearing aid and photo departments; and lower volume and price deflation in fuel sales. This year's four-week April retail month also had one additional shopping day versus last year, positively impacting total and comp sales, as well as traffic, by 2.5%... Among comp sales in core merchandise categories, food and sundries were positive high single digits, tobacco, sundries and candy were the strongest departments, fresh foods were up high single digits. Nonfoods were positive in the high 40s. Better-performing departments included Among comp sales in core merchandise categories, “food and sundries were positive high single digits. Tobacco, sundries and candy were the strongest departments,” Sherwood reported. “Fresh foods were up high single digits, with better-performing departments including service deli and bakery. Nonfoods were positive in the high 40s, with better-performing departments including jewelry, apparel and home furnishings. Ancillary business sales were up more than 100%. Gas, hearing aids and optical were all significant drivers... U.S. regions and markets posting the strongest sales results in April were the Southeast, Los Angeles and the Midwest"...

Amazon One Palm Payment Tool Expands to East Coast
Grocery Dive: "Amazon One, which lets users pay with their palm prints, is now available in an Amazon Go store at 11 W. 42nd St. in New York City... This marks the payment technology's East Coast debut, Amazon confirmed to Grocery Dive. Amazon One is also available as a payment option at more than a dozen Amazon stores in the Seattle area, including Go Grocery, Books and 4-Star outlets as well as Whole Foods Market... Amazon announced on Wednesday that it is expanding Amazon One to Whole Foods Market stores. The payment technology is now available at Whole Foods' Madison Broadway location in Seattle and will expand to seven other area locations in the coming months, Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s VP of physical retail and technology, wrote in a blog post. Launched in September at two Amazon Go stores in Seattle, the bio-authentication tool uses computer vision technology to identify consumers based on the unique characteristics of their palms. The announcement resolves speculation around when the e-commerce company would add cutting-edge checkout technology to Whole Foods"...

Sprouts' Q1 ID Store Sales Down 9.4%
Grocery Dive: "Same-store sales at Sprouts Farmers Market declined 9.4% during the first quarter of 2021 as the pandemic-induced jolt it saw last year faded, the health-focused specialty grocer reported on Thursday. Net sales in Q1 came in at $1.6B, 4% below the level they hit during the same period in 2020.E-commerce sales were up 221% in Q1, accounting for 12.5% of Sprouts' sales during the period, driven by a significant increase in January, Chief Financial Officer Denise Paulonis said during the company's earnings call. Like other grocers, Sprouts is urging investors to discount its year-over-year performance and look instead to the period before the pandemic began. The chain recorded identical store sales growth of 2.2% compared with the first quarter of 2019, while net sales were up 11%. Although Sprouts saw its year-over-year financial results decline during the first quarter of 2021, the company's top executives said the company is positioned for growth during the months to come. Sprouts is poised to capitalize on the smaller store format it has been developing, which costs 20% less to build than its current stores but are designed to have similar sales, CEO Jack Sinclair said during the earnings call. As intended, Sprouts, which operates 362 stores in 23 states, did not open any new locations during Q1, which concluded April 4. The grocer intends to open about 20 new stores during the second half of 2021, Sinclair said. Sinclair said the recent opening of a new distribution center in Colorado and other logistical improvements designed to save money, such as inventory management systems and the addition of self-checkout stations in stores, bode well for the company's profitability going forward. "If I'm confident about anything, I'm confident about the fact that our margin growth is sustainable," he said"...

Natural Grocers CEO: Small-Basket Shopping Hasn't Resumed
Grocery Dive: "Natural Grocers CEO Kemper Isely said shoppers are still relying on the company’s stores to complete large-basket trips and are foregoing small-basket shops for meals, snacks and other impulse purchases. “Until the office workers come back in working at the office, I don't think we're going to see that impulse of smaller baskets come back to our stores,” Isely said during the company’s second quarter earnings call last Thursday, citing research the company performed in Q1. For the second quarter, which ended on March 31, Natural Grocers reported comparable store sales declined 7% but increased 10% on a two-year stack. Meanwhile, adjusted EBITDA was $14.1M compared to $21.1M last year. Shopping behaviors forged during the pandemic are holding fast at Natural Grocers even as vaccinations increase and more customers head to the company’s stores. Compared to last year’s Q2, which included the first few weeks of the pandemic that took hold in the U.S. in March, the company saw a slight increase in basket size (8%) while the transaction count plummeted 14% due to customers pulling back from store visits. Isely said the number of customers visiting stores has been slowly increasing, with trip count turning positive in the first few weeks of Q3, but that basket size has barely budged"...

Winn-Dixie Being Primed for Expansion
SN: "Southeastern Grocers (SEG) this week took the first step in its store upgrade and expansion plan for 2021. Jacksonville, Fla.-based last week opened a new Winn-Dixie supermarket in Viera, Fla., converted from one of four locations acquired last year from bankrupt Earth Fare. With the new store, SEG said it’s on track to have remodeled 70% of all its locations by the end of this year. Last year, eight new Winn-Dixies were opened in Florida, including stores in Boynton Beach, Fort Myers, Gainesville, Lakewood Ranch, Lake Mary and West Melbourne plus two locations in Jacksonville. Also in 2020, SEG upgraded 32 stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi — creating an enhanced shopping experience — and expanded its Fresco y Más banner into a new community in southwestern Florida"...

Opinion: Grocers Have One-Time Opp to Solidify Customer Relationships
Yair Goldfinger, CEO of customer retention system AppCard, writes in SN: "As pandemic concerns wane, shoppers will almost certainly gravitate back to visiting multiple food stores and frequenting restaurants again. Their lifestyles will get busier as they spend more time in public places. They may even ease up on using e-commerce. These changes will make it hard for grocers to retain the high shares of wallet of the pandemic period. That’s why food retailers need to take advantage of a one-time opportunity to solidify customer relationships before everything changes. There’s an opening to retain as much of each shopper’s pandemic-era business as possible. However, it won’t happen through traditional approaches that seek to permanently cement loyalty. Rather, the imperative is to enhance customer relationships to earn the shopper’s business every day." Key ways to achieve that, he says, include enabling timely and personalized messages and offers; embracing technology (including personalization and multi-channel selling, which requires seamless integration between different systems to create a flawless experience for shoppers in whichever ways they choose to engage, from online to in-store to curbside pickup); mastering outreach channels (retailers that don’t message in each shopper’s preferred communications channel, such as text or email, might as well not message at all); and prioritizing lifetime value (recognizing that that each transaction leads to the next one).



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