WASHINGTON — LaTonya Story is every retailer’s worst fear.
With the viral pandemic re-surging through the country and the economy under threat, Story has decided to slash her holiday shopping budget. She’ll spend less than $2,000 this season, down from several thousand dollars in 2019. Worried about entering stores, she’s buying gifts online and going out only for groceries.
“I want to be conservative,” said Story, a 47-year-old Atlanta resident. “I’m not a scientist, but the best precaution is to stay in place.”
The acceleration of coronavirus cases is causing an existential crisis for America’s retailers and spooking their customers just as the critically important holiday shopping season nears. It’s also raising the risk that the economy could slide into a “double-dip” recession this winter as states and cities re-impose restrictions on businesses and consumers stay at home to avoid contracting the disease.
An anxious consumer is a frightening prospect for retailers as well as for the overall economy. Any sustained recovery from the pandemic recession hinges on consumers, whose spending fuels about 70% of economic growth.
So as the virus rampages across the nation and with holiday sales expected to be weak and heavily dependent on online shopping, retailers are considering extraordinary steps to draw customers.
Some, like Giftery, a small shop in Nashville, Tennessee, are adopting their own safety restrictions. To reduce respiratory particles that could spread the virus, Giftery is asking shoppers to refrain from talking on cellphones.
“It is vital for us to stay open,” said William Smithson, the owner of Giftery, which generates about 35% of its annual sales from the holiday season.
At the same time, some high-end retailers are giving customers extra coddling. Neiman Marcus is letting shoppers book appointments to take virtual tours of its holiday trees and other decorations if they’re too fearful to enter a store. In doing so, the retailer hopes its customers will also get into the spirit of buying gifts.
“Business restrictions are increasing, and there will be some economic fallout from that,” said Jim O’Sullivan, an economist at TD Securities. But “even without authorities announcing new restrictions, individuals are likely to pull back from activity on their own.”
O’Sullivan predicts that the economy won’t grow at all in the final three months of the year — down from his earlier forecast of a 3% annual growth rate in that quarter — and will shrink 2% in the first three months of 2021. He, like most economists, expects a rebound starting in the second quarter once a vaccine is widely distributed.
O’Sullivan’s forecasts assume that Congress will agree on roughly $1 trillion in new stimulus for the economy by early 2021. Yet so far, there’s no sign of progress toward an agreement. More than 9 million people will lose their unemployment aid at year’s end, when two jobless aid programs are set to expire, unless Congress extends them. Consumer spending will likely fall further.
New viral cases doubled in just three weeks, O’Sullivan noted, after the previous doubling had taken six weeks. And as a consequence, many states are adopting or considering new restrictions on businesses. Maryland has limited stores and restaurants to 50% capacity. Retailers in most of California are now capped at just 25%; gyms, restaurants and movie theatres are closed to indoor customers. Illinois and Washington have limited stores to 25% capacity.
Sales at restaurants and bars fell in October for the first time in six months. Restaurant traffic declined further in November, according to the reservations provider OpenTable. Hotel occupancy is down from a month ago. Consumer spending on credit cards dropped in the first week of November from a month earlier, according to data compiled by Opportunity Insights.
After the deep recession that erupted in early spring, the economy did rebound faster over the summer and fall than most economists had expected. And some industries are still faring well. Home sales rose to a 14-year high last month. Manufacturing output, too, is still growing, though it remains below pre-pandemic levels.
But those positive signs reflect an unequal recovery. While lower-paid employees in face-to-face industries have lost jobs or fear losing them, higher-paid Americans have mainly been able to keep working from home. These consumers have shifted much of their spending away from services, like eating out, going to movies and hitting the gym, to buying goods — from computers and home and garden supplies to appliances and fitness equipment.
Yet many of those purchases have occurred online, with e-commerce sales having jumped 29% in the past year. By contrast, sales at physical retail stores, excluding autos, are essentially flat over the past 12 months.
As Story, the Atlanta consumer, and other Americans cut back and as colder weather ends outdoor dining in much of the country, consumer spending will likely weaken and hiring slow. Layoffs could rise. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 742,000 — a historically high number and the first increase since early October.
Small businesses are particularly worried about being forced to shut down again.
“If we close, it will be a devastation,” said Paulette Garafalo, CEO of Paul Stuart, a high-end clothing retailer that operates five stores in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.
The stores previously closed for four months while the company pivoted to online sales. But that shift generated only about 25% of pre-COVID business. Sales have since improved. But Garafalo doesn’t envision a boost from the holiday season. She just hopes sales won’t fall.
Out of a sense of urgency, Garafalo’s stores have called in their most seasoned sales people to alert customers to new merchandise and aggressively marketing a gift guide.
Likewise, Elonka Perez, who co-owns two restaurants in Washington state, says she’s “scared out of my mind” after Gov. Jay Inslee banned indoor dining again. Perez doesn’t know if her Taco Street restaurant in Seattle will earn enough money from takeout to survive colder weather.
“Winter is typically the slowest time for restaurants,” Perez says.
Taco Street was open for indoor dining for only a few weeks before having to shut down again. Perez and her husband have been pouring their savings into the business. They don’t know how long that can continue.
Macy’s, long an iconic symbol of the holiday shopping season, had to temporarily close its store in El Paso, Texas, because of a viral surge there. The chain is studying how the surge in viral cases is affecting the willingness of shoppers to enter its stores. In the meantime, Macy’s has sped up its checkout service for curbside delivery.
Other chains, particularly Target and Walmart, have benefited from changing habits. Customers are increasingly spending more when they visit the two chains, because they can combine shopping trips and buy food, clothes and other household goods — all at one location. That additional spending has come at the expense of small and independent stores.
For many consumers, the pandemic has transformed what shopping means. Alyse November, a licensed social worker in Boca Raton, Florida, says her clients have become increasingly stressed about shopping.
“Shopping was an outlet to relieve stress — it was an escape from life,” November said. “Now, it’s a source of stress because the process of it is so cumbersome. … We don’t know how to do it and do it safely.”
D’Innocenzio reported from New York. AP Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg also contributed from New York.
to this report.
Christopher Rugaber And Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press
German economy grew by 8.5% in third quarter – TheChronicleHerald.ca
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s gross domestic product grew by a record 8.5% in the third quarter as Europe’s largest economy partly recovered from an unprecedented plunge caused by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring, the statistics office said on Tuesday.
The stronger-than expected rebound was mainly driven by higher household spending and soaring exports, the office said.
“This enabled the German economy to make up for a large part of the massive decline in gross domestic product caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the second quarter of 2020,” it added.
The reading marked an upward revision to an earlier flash estimate of 8.2% growth, and followed a 9.8% plunge in the second quarter.
The outlook is clouded by a second wave of coronavirus infections and a partial lockdown to slow the spread of the disease. Restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues have been closed since Nov. 2, but shops and schools remain open.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional state premiers are planning to extend the “lockdown-light” on Wednesday until Dec. 20, according to a draft prepared for their meeting.
A contraction in the service sector is expected to weigh heavily on gross domestic product in the fourth quarter, while lockdown measures in other countries are likely to hit export-oriented manufacturers as well.
DIW economist Claus Michelsen said a decline in economic output was therefore on the cards, with initial estimates indicating a GDP drop of around 1% in the final quarter.
“Germany and many important trading partners are likely to slide back into recession,” Michelsen said.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Rene Wagner; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and EKevin Liffey)
ROGER TAYLOR: Box maker, Maritime Paper, bets on post-pandemic economy – The Journal Pioneer
Packaging company, Maritime Paper Products Limited Partnership in Dartmouth has purchased some new technology, which will “reduce its manual operations with increased automation.”Despite that, Sheldon Gouthro president and CEO of Maritime Paper, says it will not reduce the size of the workforce at the company.
Currently there about 150 people at the company’s operation in Dartmouth and when combined with operations in St. John’s, N.L. and in Moncton, N.B., he says, the company’s total compliment of employees is about 250 people.
The equipment purchased from Fremont, Calif.-based Electronics For Imaging (EFI) Inc. is expected to improve productivity, cut waste and reduce Maritime Paper’s carbon footprint.
Gouthro wouldn’t say how much the new equipment cost, except to say it is a significant investment. The plan is for the equipment to be installed at the main plant in Burnside Industrial Park by the end of the first quarter next year.
He admitted concern about the break down of the Atlantic Bubble, which may make it difficult to bring in technicians to complete the installation of the new equipment on time.
“Our number-one goal is to reduce waste, not just in paper but in overall operational efficiency,” Gouthro stated in the EFI news release. “We estimate our waste reduction with Escada (control systems technology) will be more than 10 per cent.
“With better process control we can increase speed and push up time on our corrugator and run a more sustainable operation with benefits that trickle down to every area of the company,” he said. “It’s like having cruise control on your car. I doesn’t mean there isn’t someone there still driving the machine.”
Maritime Paper produces more than 150 cardboard packaging combinations, says Gouthro.
“Each one has a unique recipe requiring specific run speeds, so this technology will give us the best efficiency and quality of our combined board while making rapid, automatic adjustments without comprising the quality of our board,” he said.
Maritime Paper, has been an independent corrugated manufacturer and printer for more than 90 years. It is one of six operating companies controlled by Scotia Investments Ltd. based in Bedford. Scotia Investments was incorporated in 1927, as part of the ongoing legacy of the late Nova Scotia industrialist Roy Jodrey.
The company started planning to purchase the EFI Escada Corrugator Control system during the last part of 2019, before anyone heard of COVID-19 and what it would mean, says Gouthro.
The new Escada system being installed in Dartmouth gives Maritime Paper a competitive advantage with the ability to produce higher-quality graphics on superior combined board manufactured.
While there was concern about what would happen at the beginning of the pandemic, Gouthro says there was a small downturn in the beginning but business picked up as it became apparent that there was increased need for packaging due growth in e-commerce.
“We were fortunate enough to be designated an essential service, because of the increased need for packaging during,” he says.
While there were plenty of concern about making this type of investment during a medical and economic crisis, Maritime Paper’s decision to proceed with its plan, means the company is focused greater efficiency which should serve the company well once the pandemic comes to an end.
The Escada system purchased from EFI is designed to produce the highest-quality boards at optimum speeds and with repetitive consistency. The other EFI product purchased is the Escada Syncro 7, which is designed to manage the corrugator control functions automatically, thus achieving maximum output.
Although the new system is being installed in Dartmouth, it is expected to also create greater efficiencies at the company’s plants in St. John’s and Moncton.
With the growth in demand for packaging, driven by increased home deliveries across all sectors of the economy, Gouthro says, achieving high-quality graphics is a competitive advantage when dealing with clients, particularly in the food and beverage industries.
The downfall of adtech means the trust economy is here – TechCrunch
2020 has brought about much-needed social movements. In June, activists launched the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, a call to hold social media companies like Facebook accountable for the hate happening on their platforms.
The idea was to pull advertising spending to wake these social platforms up. More than 1,200 businesses and nonprofits joined the movement, including brands such as The North Face, Patagonia and Verizon. I led my company, Cheetah Digital, to join alongside some of our clients like Starbucks and VF Corp.
Stop Hate for Profit highlighted social media hitting its tipping point. Twitter and Snapchat chose to stand up against hate speech, banning political ads and taking action to flag misinformation. Facebook, unfortunately, has not yet been as proactive, or at best it’s been sporadic in its response.
While many thought the movement would come and go, the reality is it has only just begun. With America conducting arguably its most divisive election in history, these problems won’t just go away. For marketers, Stop Hate for Profit is more than a social movement — it is pointing to an issue with ad tech as a whole.
I believe we are seeing the downfall of ad tech as we know it with social media boycotts and data privacy leading the charge.
The social media quagmire
In May, Forrester released a report titled “It’s OK to Break Up with Social Media” that contained statistics indicating that consumers are fed up with social media: 70% of respondents said they don’t trust social media platforms with their data. Only 14% of consumers believe the information they read on social media is trustworthy. 37% of online adults in the U.S. believe social media does more harm than good.
Here is the reality we need to get back to: Social media isn’t built for marketers to reach consumers. In the beginning of the social media craze, brands rushed to get on board and join the conversations. What many brands discovered is these channels became a platform for customer complaints not for building positive brand perception. Furthermore, the social platforms marketers flocked to as an avenue to reach customers began charging marketers just to get to the customers.
The algorithms that define what content you see unfortunately make it harder for people to see opposing views, and this more than anything else polarizes society further. If you start looking at QAnon content, very soon that’s all the algorithms feed you. You might spend more time on social platforms fueling their ad dollars, but you have also lost a grip on reality. Marketers must admit things have gone too far on social media and it is okay to move on.
Imagine you are in need of a minor surgery. Perhaps you take an Uber ride to the specialist for a consultation. Next, you go get the surgery and it is successful. Soon you find yourself at home recovering and all is well. That is, until you start scrolling Facebook. Suddenly advertisements pop up for medical malpractice lawyers, but you haven’t told anyone about the surgery and you certainly didn’t post about it on social media.
Here you are, just wanting to rest and recover at home, but instead you are being bombarded by advertisements. So how did those ads get there? You left a digital footprint, your data was sold and now you’re being hit with intrusive ads. To me, this story crystallizes the abuse ad tech has been fostering in the world around us. There’s an utter invasion of privacy and consumers aren’t blind to it.
Data privacy has been a focus of conversation for marketers for several years now. Just this year, America saw the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) go into effect and become enforceable. This legislation gives back control of data to the consumer. In June, Apple announced updates to make it harder for apps and publishers to track location data and use it for ad targeting. At the beginning of August, Meredith and Kroger announced a partnership to provide first-party sales data for advertising efforts in an attempt to move off of cookies. It is clear data privacy is not a fad going away anytime soon.
Where do marketers go from here?
I believe the future of marketing is the trust economy. The Stop Hate for Profit campaign, the invasion of privacy and shifting attitudes and behaviors of consumers point to the end of an era where marketers relied upon third-party data. Trust is now the most impactful economic power, not data. We conducted research earlier this year with eConsultancy, and our findings revealed that 39% of U.S. consumers don’t like personal ads driven from cookie data. People don’t want to be tracked and targeted as they click around the web. Ad tech’s roof is caving in and marketers must adjust.
The old methods of marketing won’t carry you through into the era of the trust economy. It is time to look to new channels and revisit old channels. We have to shift back to the channels where we own what is being said. Advertising on social platforms should be focused on driving consumers to owned channels where you can capture their permissions and data to connect with them directly. Consider email as a channel to focus on.
Don’t worry — it works. That same eConsultancy report found nearly three out of four consumers made a purchase in the last 12 months from an email sent by a brand or retailer and massively outperformed social ads when it came to driving sales. Similarly nine times as many U.S. consumers want to increase their participation in loyalty programs in 2020 than those that want to reduce their involvement. You have to ensure you are owning your data and loyalty programs are a treasure trove of consumer data you own. Emily Collins from Forrester does a good job of explaining why you can achieve this with a true loyalty strategy, not just a rewards program.
Your goal should be to build direct connections to consumers. Building trust means offering a value exchange for data and engagement, not going and buying it from a third-party. Fatemah Khatibloo, a principal analyst for Forrester wrote, “Zero-party data is that which a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. It can include purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize her.” This zero-party data is foundational for the trust economy and you should check out her advice on how it helps you navigate privacy and personalization.
The trust economy is really about asking yourself, as a marketer, what you stand for. How do you view your relationship with consumers? Do you care? What kind of relationship do you want? Privacy has to be part of this. Accountability is crucial. We must be accountable to where we are putting our money. It’s time to stop supporting hate, propping up the worst of society and fueling division. Start taking responsibility, caring about social issues and building meaningful relationships with consumers built on trust.
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