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May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020

Publishing News

Note to Readers: MBR Publishing & Retail News will take a break next week, returning on Monday, June 1.

Time Launches 'Leadership Brief' Newsletter, Interview Series
MediaPost: "Following the success of its Coronavirus Brief newsletter, Time has launched a new business and technology-themed newsletter and weekly interview series called The Leadership Brief. The new product is Time’s 12th editorial newsletter — and the first to focus on business and technology.The Leadership Brief, which has been in development since last fall, features in-depth interviews with business and technology leaders speaking to how their organizations are adapting to the present moment. First up in the series is Peloton CEO John Foley, with interviews from Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, and others planned over the coming weeks."The pandemic is putting extraordinary demands on leaders,” Eben Shapiro, Time deputy editor and host of The Leadership Brief, told Publishers Daily. "At a moment when the future looks very different than it did just a few short months ago, our goal is to help people understand what leadership requires today"... The Leadership Brief builds on successful Time franchises, such as its annual Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people and Person of the Year, along with live and virtual events that bring together business and thought leaders. Last year, the title expanded its Person of the Year franchise to include a Businessperson of the Year for the first time. Recently, it launched a virtual series of Time 100 talks. The publisher hopes to see success with The Leadership Brief similar to its Coronavirus Brief newsletter, which amassed nearly 70,000 subscribers in less than two months.The targeted editorial mission also provides added opportunities for marketers and advertisers."As we continue to evolve our brand, our focus has been on providing marketers with alignments that we believe maximize value and utility to our consumer's lives, whether professionally or personally,” said Time Chief Revenue Officer Viktoria Degtar. “The more we can deliver against this objective from a reader perspective, the more success we have seen from a revenue perspective.""

TOH, Family Handyman Saw Record Digital Stats in April
MediaPost: "Many publishers are seeing a spike in both digital traffic and print subscriptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Trusted Media Brands’ Taste of Home (TOH) and Family Handyman. In April, the brands reported record numbers, with recording a 66% jump in monthly unique visitors YoY, at 32.2M. recorded a 44% increase YoY, at 9.6M. Each brand saw traffic spike between March and April, too, with TOH reporting a 22% gain and Family Handyman reporting a 38% jump. The increase in traffic is due, in part, to the brands’ quick pivot early on in the pandemic. “When news of the virus spreading in the U.S. started accelerating in early March, we anticipated that more people would be staying close to home,” Beth Tomkiw, TMB chief content officer, told Publishers Daily. “So we came together as a group to identify the content categories and topics Taste of Home could organize around in a way that is true to the brand and our audience during the coronavirus.” That meant tapping into already popular topics, like comfort foods and baking and freezing and preserving food. They also looked at ingredient substitutions with pantry staples and cleaning and disinfecting tips. Following its first meeting, TOH content director Jeanne Sidner put together a task force of stakeholders from distribution channels, including search, social, newsletters and partners. “The goal was to meet daily to look at real-time content performance data, share ideas and use our learnings to boost visits and engagement across all channels,” said Tomkiw. The team currently meets once a week to “checking our brand stance on new issues that arise and creating relevant new content, while moving away from topics that are slowing down.” Some of the most popular collaborations across the TOH teams include one focused on bread baking, which has seen the brand’s Basic Homemade Bread recipe clock in 4.4M visits since March 1...[and] gardening articles... Family Handyman has relied on its service journalism and calm voice during the pandemic. The brand’s DtoC product DIY University reported a 53% increase in transactions during April, with a 72% increase in revenue YoY, as it provided readers with how-to stories, such as “How to Power Your Home with Renewable Energy” and “How to Build a Backyard Shed""...

Bloomberg TV+ Launches On Samsung TV Plus
MediaPost: "Bloomberg Media has teamed up with Samsung to deliver Bloomberg TV+ to viewers in full 4K ultra-high definition. The channel is available via Samsung TV Plus on smart TVs built between 2017-2000.Bloomberg TV+, which launched in 2019, is the first channel to stream in 4K UHD on Samsung TV Plus. “This is a milestone launch with a number of firsts for Samsung and Bloomberg Media,” stated Salek Brodsky, vice president of strategic partnerships and business development for Samsung Electronics. “Not only is Bloomberg TV+ the first 4K UHD channel to be offered on Samsung TV Plus, we’re the first platform to stream it in 4K UHD, and the first to offer it to millions of viewers beyond Bloomberg’s owned and operated channels.” Coverage includes Bloomberg TV’s 24-hour business and financial news network, combined with a new data-rich display of graphics created specifically for the 4K UHD format"...

The Atlantic Lays Off 17% of Staff, Shutters Video Unit., Accelerates Sub Strategy
WWD: "The 162-year-old magazine is reducing its headcount by 68 people, or 17% of its staff, saying in a memo that it’s part of a “reset of our business strategy in response to the current economic climate. While these decisions are profoundly difficult, they have been made to ensure the long-term financial stability of The Atlantic,” the publication said. Although the publication went on something of a publicity spree more recently to highlight a surge in subscriptions, adding 90,000 subscribers since March, around when the pandemic took hold in the U.S., it’s still in need of cost-cutting. Many other media outlets have been in the same position: record traffic and subscriptions but effectively no advertising and no events to bring in needed additional revenue. David Bradley, chairman and owner of Atlantic Media, which also has a majority investor in Laurene Powell Jobs, called the magazine’s coverage of the pandemic “unparalleled.” But it didn’t save jobs.“These crucial gains have not forestalled abrupt and dramatic losses in our advertising and live events businesses,” Bradley said. “As stewards of this 163-year-old American institution, our responsibility is to guarantee The Atlantic’s long-term financial viability.” The publication described the end of its events business due to the coronavirus as “overnight and near-complete” and said it’s experiencing “a bracing decline in advertising.” The decline in advertising revenue for most publications, online and off, is expected by experts and researchers to be worse than the last recession. Going forward, The Atlantic will focus mainly on getting even more subscribers and on its brand studio, or partnerships, business to drive revenue. Given the shift away from events, the layoffs most affected people working in The Atlantic’s live events business, with the magazine noting “uncertainty about when in-person events will return.” The Atlantic just introduced a stricter online paywall last September and then launched a redesign of its site and magazine at the end of last year. But the cuts also hit the sales and marketing team and what Bradley characterized as a “small number” of newsroom positions, along with the elimination of the video production department. A temporary salary freeze is also in effect and there are reductions in executive pay, although the publication did not specify the amount. The magazine had already implemented a hiring freeze and halted its fellowship program.Jon Schleuss, president of the union NewsGuild, which represents the editorial employees being laid off, said The Atlantic’s decision further underscores “the dire need for federal aid to newsrooms.” NewsGuild has launched a “Save the News” campaign to promote this push for aid from the U.S. Congress as the pandemic, and the related loss of advertising revenue, has already caused widespread cuts across media.“Communities depend on journalists — more than ever — for critical information, and yet tens of thousands of journalists have been laid off, furloughed or seen their pay cut,” Schleuss said. “Congress needs to act now to save the news.”
NY Post 

FIPP World Media Congress Goes Digital for 2020
MediaPost: "For the first time in its nearly century run, the 45thFIPP World Media Congress is taking the event digital, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.While the physical event was slated to take place in Estoril, Portugal September 15-16, the digital event will take place from Sept. 2-30 online. The month-long event incorporates three content channels and an online meetings platform, which includes Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS), the Worldwide Media Marketplace (WMM), FIPP Rising Stars and FIPP Insight awards presentations.The three channels feature more than 70 international speakers and networking platforms for virtual meet-ups. A dedicated Congress channel focuses on challenges and opportunities facing media today, along with strategies to meet them. The DIS channel turns attention to digital innovations in the media landscape. The WMM channel features sessions with publishers and service providers or exhibitors, allowing exhibitors a place to display their brand, content and technology solution. One-to-one virtual meetings are available via the Dealroom-powered WMM meeting platform for the months of September, October and November.Participants can choose the online sessions they prefer, which will take place as standalone events during the conference’s four weeks, and submit questions before the event or ask a question live. Those that sign up for the full Congress can access recordings of all sessions, presentation slides, the WMM meetings platform which will remain open for three months and special reports and "how-to" case studies from the event"...

Wintour: Virus Is 'Catastrophic' for Fashion Industry
CNBC: "Anna Wintour, the longtime editor of Vogue, said Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic has been “catastrophic” for the fashion industry, devastating emerging designers and big retailers alike. “I think it’s really giving the industry a pause,” Wintour said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” “I think everybody is rethinking what the fashion industry stands for, what it means, what it should be.” Wintour, who also serves as Conde Nast’s U.S. artistic director, referenced the recent bankruptcy filings by department stores Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney, both of which entered the public health crisis on precarious financial footing.“It’s the small businesses, whether you call them luxury or accessible, or whatever it may be, that are simply struggling because they have no sources of revenue coming in,” Wintour added. She said that's why Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America partnered with Amazon to launch a digital storefront this month that features the work of small and medium-sized designers. Vogue and CFDA in April launched a fundraising effort called “A Common Thread,” which gives grants to those in fashion who are struggling during the pandemic. “This was an opportunity for the industry ... to help these people and make them understand that there is indeed a future for young creative talent and that they aren’t going to have to close up shop,” said Wintour, who noted Amazon’s $500,000 donation to “A Common Thread.” Wintour, who has led iconic Vogue since 1988, said she believes the Covid-19 crisis will alter how people approach fashion in the future, with an eye toward sustainability and “the value of what they’re buying, whatever the price point""...

How An Antitrust Case Against Google Might Affect Publishers
In MediaPost, Rob Williams writes: "Publishers that complain about losing advertising revenue to Google can now support those claims with a new academic paper that argues the search giant has abused its power.The company has harmed publishers, advertisers and consumers by stifling competition, according to a report published this week by a former top antitrust economist in the Obama administration. “Google doesn’t want to develop content so that it wins more Pulitzer Prizes than The New York Times or The Washington Post; that is an expensive undertaking," Fiona Scott Morton, a Yale economics professor who was the chief economist in the Justice Department’s antitrust division, wrote in the paper. "Rather, Google wants to host that attractive content so it can capture the ad dollars that otherwise would go to those publishers.” Scott Morton's report, titled “Roadmap for a Digital Advertising Monopolization Case Against Google,” comes as the Justice Department and state AGs investigate whether the company has abused its near-monopoly in search to harm competitors. Much of the analysis is based on the findings of the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority. In December, it published a preliminary study of the country's digital ad market. The U.K. report found that Google's market share in the software used by publishers to show display ads was at least 90%, and it has significant share in other parts of the programmatic marketplace. Based on those findings, Scott Morton argues that Google has the ability to use its dominance in the digital ad supply chain to steer ad dollars toward its "owned-and-operated" properties like Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps. The report details 20 cases of Google’s allegedly anti-competitive conduct that makes the digital ad marketplace more obscure. While advertisers likely pay too much and publishers get too little, Google captures at least a 40% cut of those media dollars, the report argues. Google has pushed backed against publishers that claim they've been harmed, arguing that it doesn't monetize news snippets that appear on its Google News aggregation site or in search results. As I've said before, Google does help to drive traffic to publisher websites that they can monetize, and its dominance in the programmatic marketplace deserves greater scrutiny... Forcing Google to split its programmatic operations from its "owned and operated" properties that compete with publishers is a necessary step in making the marketplace fairer to publishers and their advertisers."


Retail News

Americans Filed 2.4M Jobless Claims Last Week; Total Now at 38M
Yahoo Finance: "An additional 2.438M Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 16. Economists were expecting 2.4 million initial jobless claims during the week. The prior week’s figure was revised lower to 2.69M from the previously reported 2.98M. Over the past nine weeks, more than 38M Americans have filed unemployment insurance claims."

Albertsons Sells 17%+ Stake to Apollo Global
SN: "Just over two months after filing for an initial public offering, Albertsons Cos. plans to sell a more than 17% stake in the company to private equity firm Apollo Global Management. Albertsons said Wednesday that funds managed by Apollo affiliates have agreed to buy $1.75B of its convertible preferred stock. After the repurchase of a portion of common stock owned by current shareholders, Apollo will hold about 17.5% of pro forma common shares outstanding in Albertsons on an as-converted basis, according to the Boise, Idaho-based grocery retailer. The transaction is expected to be completed by June 15, pending customary closing conditions, Albertsons said. The grocer is owned by an investment group led by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. "Albertsons Cos. is pleased to work with Apollo and its co-investors. Apollo knows our industry and business model well, given its significant prior history of successful investments in the grocery sector. We believe the investment led by the Apollo Funds represents a vote of confidence in both our business and our long-term strategy,” Albertsons Cos. President and CEO Vivek Sankaran said. “We are also proud to have the continued support of our owners, a consortium led by Cerberus... which also includes Kimco Realty Corp., Klaff Realty LP, Lubert-Adler Partners LP and Schottenstein Stores Corp. We appreciate their tremendous support over the years in operations, technology and financing as we have grown our business and our platform, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic as we focus on the safety and well-being of our associates, customers and communities." On March 6, Albertsons filed a registration statement for an IPO with the SEC, a couple of months after news reports said the chain was looking to go public. Two previous attempts by Albertsons to become public fell through... Apollo’s current grocery retail investments include The Fresh Market, which the private equity firm acquired for $1.36B in 2016, and Smart & Final, acquired in a $1.12B buyout that closed last June. Apollo also had been the controlling owner of Sprouts Farmers Market but sold off its remaining shares in the specialty grocer in 2015 after the chain went public in 2013"...

Target Sees 141% Digital Sales Leap in Q1, But Misses Earnings Expectations
SN: "Sharp growth in online pickup and delivery and a bigger shopping basket, especially food and beverage purchases, propelled Target Corp. to double-digit sales gains for its fiscal 2020 Q1. Meanwhile, investments related to the coronavirus pandemic — including customer and employee safety, worker compensation, supply chain changes and a ramp-up of online fulfillment — impacted Target’s bottom line in the quarter as the company missed Wall Street’s earnings forecast. For the quarter ended May 2, sales totaled $19.37B, up 11.3% from $17.4B a year earlier, Target reported Wednesday. Comp sales climbed 10.8% YoY, fueled by 12.5% growth in average basket size as customers made fewer but bigger-ticket shopping trips, Target said. “As I reflect on all that’s transpired since the quarter began in February, there were two key factors in our success: our strategy of positioning stores as fulfillment hubs and our unbelievable team. When guests began flocking to our stores to stock up, our team was ready. And when digital demand exploded as guests began to shelter in place, our teams had the tools, processes and capability to flex to meet that shift in demand,” Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell told analysts in a conference call on Wednesday. “But it goes well beyond processes and tools, because our team’s efforts on behalf of our guests and communities have been monumental,” he said. “The pride our team has shown and their willingness and ability to deliver essential products and services to our guests is humbling and inspiring. Our guests are putting their trust in Target, the team is delivering.” Digital was by far the leading driver of comp sales in the quarter, accounting for 9.9% of growth as online sales soared 141%. In comparison, store comp sales edged up 0.9%. Target noted that digital comp sales picked up each month during the first quarter, rising from 33% growth in February to 282% growth in April. Overall comp sales rose 3.8% in February and more than 16% in April. For the quarter, same-day services — Order Pick Up, Drive Up (curbside pickup) and Shipt (home delivery) — saw sales skyrocket 278%, representing 5 percentage points of Target’s total comp-sales growth. Stores fulfilled nearly 80% of digital sales in the quarter.“To put this volume into perspective, on an average day in April, our operations were fulfilling many more items and orders than last year’s Cyber Monday, a day for which we had planned months ahead at the time,” Cornell said. “In contrast, this unprecedented surge in volume was completely unexpected at the beginning of the quarter, and it ramped up from normal trends in a matter of weeks.”More than 5 million customers shopped on for the first time during the quarter, including over 2 million first-timers for Drive Up service.“How was this accomplished?” Cornell commented about the same-day services growth. “It comes down to two factors: our strategy of using our stores as hubs, and the ability of our team to quickly pivot to meet shifting demand. And while we incurred extra costs to accommodate this incredible surge in digital fulfillment, we expect to gain a long-term benefit in terms of guest loyalty." Chief Operating Officer John Mulligan said in the call that several measures of unit volume and overall digital were higher in the 2020 first quarter than in the first three quarters of 2019 combined.For example, units volume through Drive Up was higher in the first quarter than in all of 2019. Sales of orders shipped or picked up from stores swelled nearly 150%. Specifically, sales were up more than 300% for Shipt and 600% for Drive Up, with the latter including an almost 1,000% year-over-year gain for April... Among Target’s five core merchandising categories, the strongest performance in the quarter came in hard lines, which saw well over 20% comp-sales growth, including more than 45% in electronics (such as video games and home office), according to Cornell.Essentials and beauty card posted comp gains in the high teens, while food and beverages turned in comp sales growth of more than 20%. Home goods comp sales were up by high single digits, driven by 25% growth in kitchen, whereas apparel saw comp sales fall 20%... Target’s operating income came in at $468M, down 58.7% from $1.14B a year ago. The company said its operating income margin rate fell to 2.4% from 6.4%, while its gross margin declined to 25.1% from 29.6%. Target attributed the decreases to actions taken by its merchandising teams — such as costs and inventory impairments from the rapid slowdown in apparel and accessories sales and an unfavorable category mix toward lower-margin items like essentials, food and beverages — as well as to higher digital and supply-chain costs and investments in team member wages and benefits. Cornell said it was extending its enhanced hourly pay and benefits through the end of June, after having previously extended them to the end of May. Target posted Q1 net earnings of $284M, or 56 cents per diluted share, down from $795M, or $1.53 per diluted share, a year earlier. The company said the decline reflects “hundreds of millions of dollars” of incremental employee pay and benefits and COVID-19 safety investments for workers and customers. Adjusted EPS (diluted) were 59 cents vs. $1.53 in the prior-year period. Analysts, on average, had projected adjusted EPS of 68 cents, with estimates ranging from a low of 6 cents to a high of $1.86, according to Refinitiv/Thomson Reuters"...

BJ's Gains Share With 20%+ Q1 Sales Surge
SN: "BJ’s Wholesale Club has “gained considerable share” after net and comp sales jumped more than 20% and net income more than doubled in fiscal 2020 Q1, President and CEO Lee Delaney said. For the quarter ended May 2, net sales totaled $3.72B, up 21.1% from $3.07B a year earlier, BJ’s reported Thursday. Membership fee income also rose 8.4% to $79.6M, powered by a 40% YoY gain in members. Overall revenue rose 20.8% to nearly $3.8B. Comparable-club sales climbed 19.9% from a year ago and, excluding fuel, were up 27%. “This pandemic has presented us all with challenges. I am proud of how we managed our business in this new environment and deeply thankful for the contributions of our club and distribution center team members, who have tirelessly served a surge in demand for essential products while embracing new safety conditions and protocols,” Delaney told financial analysts in a conference call on Thursday. “Grocery goods, which represent roughly 85% of our merchandise sales, were in extremely high demand starting in late February and continuing throughout the quarter. Consumers consolidated their trips and bought bigger baskets to satisfy increased consumption-at-home needs,” he explained. “And while needs shifted throughout the quarter from cleaning supplies to pantry loading to perishables, we offered a one-stop destination with industry-leading value from the large sizes consumers need to stock up. These trends were relatively consistent in shape and magnitude across all our geographies. As a result, we believe we have gained considerable share in every region across most categories in which we compete"... The company reported that “digitally enabled” sales swelled 350%. BJ’s offers its own buy-online-pickup-in-club (BOPIC) service and partners with Instacart for same-day home delivery. “Digitally enabled sales grew by more than threefold this quarter and represented 5% of our merchandising comp sales for the quarter, compared to 3% in the fourth quarter and 1.5% in last year's first quarter,” he said. “We believe we have a structural cost advantage as we continue to grow these businesses, especially in our same-day delivery business, which was up more than eightfold over last year’s Q1. We plan to continue to improve upon our existing capabilities and launch new offerings to delight our members and increase the value of their membership. “In the first quarter, we began testing curbside pickup and BOPIC for perishables in select clubs,” he added... Grocery led the way in the quarter with a 33% jump in comp sales. “Perishables, edible grocery and nonedible grocery, all saw comp sales north of 30%. We saw very strong growth rates in all the categories you would expect — paper products, cleaning essentials, fresh meat, frozen, dairy, fresh produce, packaged goods and beverages,” Eddy said. "Our general merchandise and services divisions saw declines of approximately 3%, as sales of apparel decreased and we turned off our services businesses. Our apparel business drove the bulk of that decline. We saw healthy growth in other categories, including TVs and other consumer electronics, small appliances and recreational"... Q1 operating income rose to $143.8M, or 3.8% of total revenue, from $70.7M, or 2.2% of total revenue, a year ago... BJ’s posted net income of $95.7M, or 69 cents per diluted share, vs. $35.8B, or 25 cents per diluted share, in the prior-year period. Adjusted net earnings for the 2020 quarter also were $95.7 million, or 69 cents per diluted share, versus $36.7M, 36 cents per diluted share, a year earlier. Analysts, on average, had projected adjusted EPS of 34 cents, with estimates ranging from a low of 26 cents to a high of 52 cents, according to Refinitiv/Thomson Reuters"...

Schnucks to Open New Natural Store Format
SN: "Schnuck Markets Inc. today announced it is introducing EatWell, A Natural Food Store by Schnucks, a new store format in Columbia, Mo., focused on consumers prioritizing health and wellness, natural foods “and the occasional splurge,” according to the company. Schnucks’ EatWell store will open in early summer 2020 at 111 South Providence Road in Columbia at a former Lucky’s Market purchased by Schnucks during a bankruptcy auction earlier this year. Schnucks is currently remodeling the 42,000-sq.-ft. store for the new format. EatWell will be the second Schnucks-owned store in Columbia. The Schnucks supermarket at 1400 Forum Blvd. will continue to provide traditional grocery offerings as well as Schnucks exclusive signature items. In addition to offering natural food items, the new store will include a focus on organic and local items, and feature a "natural living" department in which associates can assist customers with choosing options that fit a healthy, balanced lifestyle"...

Judge Dismisses UNFI Suit Against Goldman Sachs
SN: "A New York State Supreme Court justice recently dismissed United Natural Foods Inc.'s lawsuit accusing Goldman Sachs Group of breach of contract and fraud.The lawsuit, filed in 2019, stems from UNFI's 2018 acquisition of Supervalu, a nationwide distributor of conventional groceries and the owner of several retail grocers. Goldman Sachs helped UNFI raise the $2.9B it needed to close the purchases. UNFI claimed that several of the firm's decisions increased the cost of the transaction"...


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