An Update From MBR's Board
Recently, MBR announced that Jerry Lynch has decided to retire, after more than 15 years of outstanding service to the industry as the association’s president. Now, we would like to update you on how MBR will fulfill its mission going forward. What’s MBR’s mission? MBR serves as a catalyst for supply channel partners to create innovative growth for the sale of books and magazines at retail.
(A more in-depth mission statement, along with a host of other information, is available at www.mymbr.org
.) Jose Cancio — who has been critical to the success of MBR and its predecessor, PBAA — will continue as associate director, and take on additional responsibilities. Matt Herman will continue to provide technical guidance as chairman of technical services, as he has done expertly for many years. Our board consists of Christi Crowley of Trusted Media Brands; Ben Harris of Centennial Media; Scott Hill of PWX Solutions; Jim Miller of Hearst Magazines; Bruce Sherbow of Penny Publications; and Eric Szegda of Bauer Media. We will look to hire an executive director to ensure that MBR continues to be a strong advocate with a powerful voice within the supply chain, as well as with our work with Syndigo to enable publishers to sell print magazine issues on retailers' ecommerce sites. We will continue efforts to grow MBR’s membership, and our industry meetings and educational awareness programs. With your help, we will proceed with the MBR Category Advocacy Initiative
to provide fresh consumer shopping insights and category sales and profit information to senior executives at retail, as well as with our work with Syndigo to enable publishers to sell print magazine issues on retailers' ecommerce sites. Despite the many challenges retail has faced in recent years, through the industry’s collective hard work and creativity, we have seen magazine and book sales increase in year-over-year dollars. We are committed to continued collaboration and innovation among publishers, retailers, wholesalers and distributors in the service of delivering compelling information to readers today and into the future. We will keep you up to date as changes progress.
IAC's Dotdash Closes Acquisition of Meredith Magazines
MediaPost: "It’s official. Dotdash... a media business that toiled in relative obscurity since its founding in 1997 — is now the largest digital and print magazine publisher in America. Dotdash, a unit of Barry Diller’s Interactive Corp/IAC, announced Wednesday that it has closed its acquisition of Meredith Corp’s magazine business. Dotdash is now the owner of some of the most iconic media brands in the world, including People, Better Homes & Gardens, Food & Wine, Allrecipes, Southern Living, InStyle and Real Simple. The deal was an all-cash transaction at a purchase price of $42.18 per share, or $2.7B. The new Dotdash Meredith combines those celebrated brands with Dotdash’s digital DNA to create a top-10 internet property able to deliver intent-driven content and experiences at scale. Prior to the Meredith acquisition, Dotdash had 14 digital brands in food, beauty, advice, financial services and other vertical categories. The company, headquartered in New York City, will be led by CEO Neil Vogel, who has been with Dotdash and its predecessor company, About.com, since 2013... “Dotdash Meredith’s future has begun,” Vogel said. “No other media company in the world combines this kind of heritage with the scale, speed and power of a digital-first business. Dotdash Meredith will deliver intent-driven media at a scale never seen before.” It’s worth noting that similar hyperbolic predictions were made about these same brands recently, when Meredith acquired Time Inc. in 2018, making it a magazine media colossus. "We are creating a premier media company serving nearly 200 million American consumers across industry-leading digital, television, print, video, mobile, and social platforms," then-Meredith CEO Stephen M. Lacy said at the time. “We are creating a powerful digital media business with 170 million monthly unique visitors in the U.S. and over 10 billion annual video views, enhancing Meredith's leadership position in reaching Millennials.” Dotdash began life as a topic directory, a series of digital guides clustered around enthusiast markets and DIY information. It changed its name to About.com in 1999. It was acquired by Primedia in 2000, and by The New York Times Company in 2005. IAC acquired the company in 2012. The company has been acquisitive in recent years, acquiring Byrdie (beauty), MyDomaine (women's lifestyle), Brides (from Conde Nast) and Liquor.com in 2019. Last year it acquired TreeHugger and Mother Nature Network in one deal, and Simply Recipes and Serious Eats in another."
Architectural Digest to Publish 1st Global Print Issue
Digiday: "After experimenting with rolling out feature stories and videos globally this year, Architectural Digest will publish its first global magazine issue — its annual AD100 edition that lists the top design and architecture talents of the year — on Dec. 14. Editors from AD’s U.S. and nine international editions came together to work on the brand’s biggest issue of the year, as parent company Condé Nast continues to shift to a consolidated global content strategy that has editorial teams around the world working more closely together. The editorial collaboration spawned the debut of a new franchise in the AD100 issue called The WOW List, which names the world’s 20 “Works of Wonder” projects created by architects and designers around the world. The WOW List will publish across all 10 markets online (including editions in Italy, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Latin America) on Nov. 30, as well as appear in the print editions of AD. Through 2021, AD has been wading into worldwide launches, which help to raise site traffic and amortize content costs. AD’s international editions have re-published some U.S. content in the past, but now the effort is coordinated among editors to share the same content at roughly the same time. Global editorial directors were tapped for many Condé Nast brands in December 2020, including Condé Nast Traveler, GQ and Vogue, to centralize oversight of U.S. and international editorial teams, as well as manage content for local and international audiences. “We saw huge success digitally by working together as a group to launch key stories simultaneously all over the world, and now we’re expanding that global expertise for print as well,” said AD global editorial director Amy Astley. “This year we saw it as a natural opportunity to collaborate on our first formal editorial initiative as a global brand in each of the 10 markets.” Just under one in five (17%, to be exact) members to AD’s paid membership program for design industry professionals, AD PRO, lives outside the US, according to Astley. Condé Nast declined to share how many AD PRO members there are in total. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Van Cleef & Arpels are sponsoring the AD100 digital package and have ads running in the January AD100 print issue, along with other advertisers. Condé Nast declined to share how much money those brands were spending with the publisher. Publishing across the world wide web, AD has tested coordinating global “drops” of feature stories that were translated into local languages and published on U.S. and international websites this year, and those pieces helped increase traffic to its sites. Editors work together to “identify stories that will have immediate global appeal, and work together as a group to launch them simultaneously all over the world,” said AD global digital director David Kaufman. “It’s really exciting to learn what content is resonating with audiences in different markets, so we can continuously refine our approach.” Digital growth has been especially strong in Mexico, India and Italy, where October monthly unique visitors to those sites were up 152%, 83% and 23% YoY, respectively, according to Condé. In January, AD tested its first global launch for an AD.com story with “The One.” The piece debuted simultaneously on AD’s French, German, Indian, Spanish and Italian sites. It became the most-read story of the day in most of those markets... AD will also expand its popular “Open Door” video series to more markets, after a successful launch in India... “Reorg-ing so that [Condé Nast] is a global brand with global stories saves money, it’s less of a lift, and advertisers are happy as well,” said Ava Seave, principal at consulting firm Quantum Media. Most of Condé’s brands produce “luxury content with luxury advertising, [which] has for a long time been international,” Seave added... The challenge with a global rollout strategy, she noted, is finding “enough of an audience that is interested in this international view.”
Laid-Off Meredith Staff Claim Foul Over Sweet July Work
NY Post: "Laid-off Meredith staffers have soured on the publishing company’s new Sweet July magazine — helmed by Food Network star Ayesha Curry. Insiders tell Page Six employees of Shape magazine — for which Meredith shuttered print operations last month — had been pulling double duty working overtime on Curry’s lifestyle mag, but without receiving additional pay. The employees received the ultimate slap in the face when they were let go from Shape a few weeks ago, we’re told... Meredith announced the launch of the new quarterly magazine last year despite industry-wide ad woes. The Shape team produced five issues of Sweet July — a total of “roughly 375 hours from each worker” — according to a spokesperson from the News Guild labor union. Meredith is now desperate for the team to return to work to finish. “They were laid off without notice, but it seemed the company forgot the team that had been fired was also working on Curry’s magazine on top of Shape,” an insider explained. “There is still a sixth issue to produce, and the company knows it can’t make the magazine, so they’re asking the workers to return to work on the magazine as temporary employees and on a truncated production schedule that will be near to impossible to accomplish,” the spokesperson said... On Wednesday, staffers and the NewsGuild made noise on social media by asking supporters to repost messages and memes such as: “Pay workers what they’re owed. I stand with the union.” They’d hoped Curry would use her platform to stand up for the workers, but she has so far remained silent... Reps for Curry and Meredith did not immediately get back to us."
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Kroger Ups Forecast, Stock Jumps
Grocery Dive: "Kroger reported a 3.1% increase in YoY identical sales for the third quarter — its first increase in the key metric this fiscal year — as at-home consumption trends continue nearly two years into the pandemic. The grocer also reported total sales ($31.9B) and net earnings ($589M) that beat analysts’ expectations, causing the company’s stock price to jump more than 10% by midday Thursday. Kroger executives said they’re using extra warehouse space to help manage supply chain strains and strategically holding back price increases amid record inflation in order to boost customer loyalty. Kroger’s return to positive comps this most recent quarter indicates that the company is building off its elevated sales last year to achieve higher long-term growth. It also underscores the ongoing strength of supermarket shopping as consumers continue to work and cook from home — trends that are becoming “structural, and not temporary,” chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said during the company’s earnings call. McMullen pointed to the strength of Kroger’s fresh product categories, which are outpacing sales growth across the company. He noted that shoppers are continuing to favor larger pack sizes and are shifting toward premium products like its Murray’s Cheese brand and the natural and organic products it sells. Like other retailers, Kroger’s gross margins declined year-over-year due to higher costs related to widespread supply chain disruption. But the 41-basis-point decline was an improvement over the 60-point decline it experienced in Q2, indicating the company is doing a better job of managing through shortages"...
Rising Food Prices Hitting Grocery Workers Hard
RetailWire: "One of the groups being hit hardest by the spike in grocery prices... consists of people who spend their work days surrounded by groceries. Grocery store employees are having a hard time affording basic grocery staples in the face of inflationary grocery prices, according to an NBC News report. Beef prices, for instance, have skyrocketed 19%, and the wave of base wage increases major grocers have rolled out recently has not necessarily made up for such a dramatic rise in food costs. As of last year, the median hourly wage of a grocery worker in the U.S. was $13.02. Anecdotes tell of full-time grocery employees who are unable to afford a cart of groceries and whose near-zero budgets only allow them to purchase fast food. While recent inflation has made the issue more severe, food insecurity for low-wage employees and grocery workers in particular, was a known problem in the U.S. well before the pandemic. In August of 2020, amid a discussion of low morale and burnout among grocery workers, Janice Fine, professor of labor studies at Rutgers University told the Washington Post that grocery jobs failed to pay sufficiently to allow people to support themselves and their families. This existing state of affairs was then compounded by pandemic factors. A study from that same month said that many frontline workers in the food system were among the working poor who are unable to afford basic nutritional needs. A report from late 2020 on the dramatic rise in food insecurity in the U.S. by Means and Matters numbers supermarket clerks among those most impacted. In 2021, grocery prices were hit by inflation at a rate not seen in the previous 20 years, according to MarketWatch. The cost of groceries increased 5.4% this year. Staples such as meat, chicken, dairy, eggs, sugar and coffee are some of the products most impacted. Beyond groceries, the cost of living as a whole increased 6.2% in the U.S. in 2021."
Costco Previews Q1 in November Sales Report
SN: "Costco Wholesale topped prior-year sales gains in November and reported robust preliminary net sales growth for its fiscal 2022 Q1. In the four weeks ended Nov. 28, net sales climbed 15.7% to $18.13B from $15.67B a year earlier, when sales rose 15.1%, Costco reported yesterday after the market close. November comparable-club sales advanced 14.1% overall and were up 9.2% excluding the impact of changes in fuel prices and foreign exchange (FX) rates, exceeding year-ago comp-sales growth of 13.4% (14.6% excluding fuel and FX). By business unit, last month’s comp sales increased 14.3% in the U.S. (9.1% excluding fuel and FX), 15.7% in Canada (7.6% excluding fuel and FX) and 11% internationally (11.3% excluding fuel and FX). Costco’s November e-commerce sales grew 12.2% on a comparable basis and were up 11.7% excluding FX. The November results continued double-digit sales growth from October, when Costco posted gains of 19.2% in net sales and 17.5% in comp sales, the latter including 17% growth in the U.S. “Traffic, or frequency, for November was up 5.5% worldwide and 3.3% in the U.S.,” David Sherwood, assistant VP of finance and investor relations at Costco, said Wednesday. “Worldwide, the average transaction for November was up 8.1%, which included the positive impacts from gasoline inflation and FX.” A jump in fuel prices gave November comp sales a sizable lift. “Gasoline price inflation positively impacted total reported comp sales by approximately 4.6%,” he said. “The average selling price was 57% higher year over year at $3.62 per gallon this year compared to $2.30 per gallon last year""...
Dollar General Plans 1,000 Popshelf Stores by Fiscal 2025
CNBC: "Dollar General debuted a new store called Popshelf about a year ago, aimed at wealthier, suburban shoppers who enjoy the hunt for a good deal. The Tennessee-based discounter said Thursday that it now plans to have approximately 1,000 of the stores by the end of the 2025 fiscal year — including about 100 more locations that will open next fiscal year. It has 30 Popshelf stores in six states as of Oct. 29. It plans to open its first stores in Texas in the early spring. News of the ambitious expansion plan comes as the retailer said it will test its first international market by opening up to 10 stores in Mexico by the end of fiscal 2022. Dollar General said it expects open 1,110 new stores in the coming fiscal year, including Popshelf, Dollar General and the international locations. But shares fell more than 3% early Thursday, after the company said it anticipates same-store sales will decline this fiscal year. Dollar General Chief Merchandising Officer Emily Taylor said in an interview that the retailer is speeding up expansion plans for the new store concept because of its popularity with customers. She said its average basket size and value is higher than at Dollar General’s namesake stores, though she declined to share numbers. For the dollar store chain, Popshelf is a way to attract new customers and drive up profits. Its target customers are women who live in suburban areas and have an annual household income that ranges from $50,000 to $125,000, the company said. The stores are roughly 9,000 square feet and carry items such as home goods, seasonal decor and party supplies, including items from Dollar General’s private brands. Over 90% of the merchandise sold by Popshelf costs $5 or less, the company said. Dollar General customers tend to live in rural areas, have a tighter budget and skew slightly older, Taylor said. Its customers have an annual household income of $40,000 or less. Sales at the dollar stores also have a heavier mix of grocery and snack items, which tend to be less profitable for the retailer. Dollar General has more than 18,000 stores across 46 states. To drive growth, the retailer has been opening additional locations at a rapid clip. It is also adding fresh fruits and vegetables to more of its stores and expanding into health care. It hired its first chief medical officer in July"...
Giant Eagle to Deploy Hearing-Screening Kiosks
SN: "Giant Eagle and InnerScope Hearing Technologies have partnered to deploy InnerScope's automated self-check hearing screening kiosk in selected Giant Eagle supermarkets in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The partnership with Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle extends InnerScope's reach to help the 48 million Americans who have hearing loss and millions more who have undetected hearing loss due to not having convenient, free access to having their hearing tested... The Hearing Kiosks are prominently located within the Giant Eagle Pharmacy Department, where guests can easily and quickly self-check their hearing (typically within 3 to 5 minutes), instantly see their results and have the results emailed to place with their records. In addition, the Hearing Kiosk's 32-inch digital display monitor provides important information about hearing loss and the multiple health and cognitive risks due to untreated hearing loss... InnerScope and Giant Eagle will continue to strategically deploy InnerScope's Hearing Kiosks within Giant Eagle's more than 470 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana. In addition, Giant Eagle will be launching InnerScope's Direct-to-Consumer Hearing Aids and its other hearing health-related products for Giant Eagle customers to purchase in-store right off the shelf or purchase the Hearing Products online to be shipped directly to their home"...
7-Eleven Piloting Delivery Via Robotics-Powered Vehicles
SN: "Convenience store giant 7-Eleven plans to test online order delivery in California using Nuro autonomous vehicles. Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven said Wednesday said the pilot in Mountain View, Calif., will mark the first autonomous commercial delivery in the state. Customers in the service area will be able to place orders through the 7NOW delivery app and have their products delivered by bot-powered vehicles. The test initially will use Nuro’s self-driving Toyota Prius car, which carries a human operator for supervision, and later include Nuro’s R2 unmanned vehicle, the companies said. Vehicles from Nuro, a Mountain View-based provider of robotics and artificial intelligence technology, are custom-built to transport products and goods without any occupants. “Our first foray into autonomous delivery was in 2016, when 7-Eleven became the first retailer in the U.S. to make a drone delivery to a customer’s house. Since then, we haven’t stopped looking for ways to redefine convenience for our customers inside and outside the four walls of our stores,” Raghu Mahadevan, chief digital officer at 7-Eleven, said in a statement. “Fast forward to 2021, and we are pushing the boundaries of innovation even further to provide customers with the first commercial autonomous delivery service in California.” To order through the autonomous delivery service, customers download the 7NOW delivery app (available at Google Play, the Apple App Store and 7NOW.com) and begin shopping by adding items to their virtual cart. At checkout, they choose autonomous delivery, and the app will send updates as the order is processed. 7-Eleven said orders arrive in about 30 minutes. Customers retrieve their order by going outside and taking their items from the back of the vehicle"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: