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June 1, 2020

Publishing News

Magazines Push Back Release Dates of September Issues
WWD: "In the world of glossy fashion magazines, September is actually August, but this year the September issues will do just what they say on the cover. Some publishers are pushing back the release dates of their most crucial issues of the year from August to September, allowing more time for ads and samples to roll in. It will also give editors additional time to shoot models and celebrities, a task that has been difficult to carry out during coronavirus lockdown. “Our September issues will come out in September — something I’ve wanted to do for years,” said Carol Smith, publisher of Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Elle. For Marie Claire, that means Sept. 1 and for Elle and Bazaar, Sept. 8. Subscriber and digital issues tend to arrive a few days earlier. Usually the newsstand September issues are released in mid to late August. “When we started talking to Italy [in mid-May] only a handful [of brands] had shot their campaigns….so on that side giving them more time to create their ads for sure, but on the edit side giving our editors more time to get in their samples,” Smith added. With many factories, warehouses and offices around the world closed for the past couple of months due to the coronavirus outbreak, brands have struggled to produce clothes and accessories, let alone the opulent, expensive ads that often involve a small army of photographers, stylists and makeup artists. But with Italy gradually unlocking, some companies are beginning to act. Max Mara recently shot its campaign, styled by Carine Roitfeld, who traveled from Paris to Milan by car for the project. Others have turned to virtual shoots. Nevertheless, Smith acknowledged that it will be a tough year. “While I believe very strongly that fashion and luxury will recover, it’s going to be a tough 2020. [Brands] have to make up for lost ground,” she said. In terms of ads, only around three brands have told Smith they won’t advertise in September. Others are scaling back their usual spend. “In fashion, you know in September Saint Laurent needs six pages. Well, maybe they’re going to run four in an issue. So, yes, there’s going to be a slight scale back. We have anticipated it and certainly projected that."... WWD’s previous research of 2019’s September ads found that Vogue scored the most at 356 pages, or 59% of the book, although this was down from 427 pages in 2009, when the country was mired in recession, and from 562 pages in 1999. In second place was Bazaar, which had 222 pages of ads, or 55% of the book. In 2009, there were 276 pages and in 1999, there were 325 ad pages in that magazine’s September issues. For Vogue... the newsstand release date is also early September. Last year’s September issue was available on newsstands in New York and L.A. on Aug. 13, and nationwide Aug. 20. It’s understood this is also to allow the magazine, which once used to set the agenda for the entire fashion industry in its September issue, to give its brand partners more time, as well as staffers producing content. Such a move by Vogue and the other titles could also align with the reopening of more retail stores. Otherwise they would be telling readers about the new fashion trends that they wouldn’t be able to go out and buy — at least in a store.Elsewhere at Condé, which has implemented two rounds of cuts as it grapples with falling advertising due to COVID-19, Vanity Fair, more general interest but still reliant on luxury advertising, seems to be sticking closer to its usual schedule of August, with plans to release its September issue at the end of that month.At Meredith Corp.’s InStyle, publisher Agnes Chapski did not provide WWD with a release date for September, but said: “For the September issue specifically, we plan to be flexible with our production schedule to accommodate the creative challenges our marketing partners are having as a result of the pandemic.” It usually hits newsstands mid-August and, according to a media kit, that was also the original plan for 2020.InStyle is the only fashion magazine that has stuck to its 12-month publishing schedule. Marie Claire, Bazaar and Elle each will have one summer issue, while Vogue combined June and July amid advertising and producing concerns. The latter plans to make the missing issue up with a bonus holiday edition.“I’m really proud of that,” InStyle editor in chief Laura Brown told WWD earlier this month about the magazine’s 12 issues. “Everyone has their reasons or their schedules and their economics and I’m not going to speak to other companies, but we’re doing it""...

NYT Mag Wins Big at Virtual National Magazine Awards
WWD: A virtual, pre-recorded, 90-minute version of The American Society of Magazine Editors’ National Magazine Awards, aka The Ellies, were streamed on Thursday night, due to the pandemic. The only thank-you speech was from David Granger, former editor in chief of Esquire magazine, who was inducted into the magazine editors’ hall of fame — a move that was revealed months ago, which gave him the chance to pre-record a message. “I f–king love that medium,” he said of magazines. That absence of acceptance speeches for each award must have come as a disappointment to New York Times Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein, who won no less than five. The awards are apparently being safely stored in a barn during lockdown before the winners can get their hands on them.The magazine’s wins were in podcasting, for which it was a first-time winner; reporting; feature writing; public interest, and general excellence.Hot on The Times’ heels was National Geographic and Condé Nast’s Bon Appétit, which were each awarded four Ellies. National Geographic had first-time wins in feature photography and social media. Bon Appétit was a first-time winner in leisure interests, video and design. Bon Appétit also won a general excellence award.Elsewhere, The Hollywood Reporter’s recently departed editorial director Matthew Belloni also won a general excellence award.The usual winners were left out at this year’s Columbia University-sponsored event. Usually, The New Yorker and New York Magazine walk away with more awards than their editors can carry — in the past stirring both envy and dislike of their respective editors David Remnick and the now-departed Adam Moss. But on Thursday night they were left almost empty handed apart from Tyler Foggatt, associate editor of The New Yorker, who won an ASME Next award for journalists under 30"..

Hearst Union Election to Take Place in July
WWD: "Hundreds of Hearst Magazines staffers will get their election eight months after revealing their goal of unionizing.Staffers will be able to vote by mail, with ballots being sent out on June 12 as most employees work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the Hearst Magazines Union said on Instagram Friday. The deadline to send them back is July 13. This comes after Hearst executives gave the green light to staffers to vote from home. Some other media outlets have blocked their staffers from doing so...  To date, even without a union, Hearst has not made any coronavirus-related layoffs or cut pay. Its rival, Condé Nast, is on its second round of cuts, laying off 100 staffers and furloughing a similar amount. InStyle owner Meredith Corp. has also implemented paycuts for 60 percent of staff"...

Meredith Launches Company-Wide #BeTheKind Campaign
MediaPost: "To bring its audience’s attention to acts of kindness happening during difficult times, Meredith Corp. has launched a company-wide campaign called #BeTheKind.The campaign was inspired by and builds upon content produced by Meredith magazines, such as Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, Parents and Martha Stewart.“As Americans and their loved ones are navigating these trying times, a small act of kindness can make a large impact,” said Melissa Inman, vice president of digital content, strategy and operations.“At Meredith, our goal has always been to inspire and uplift people through our trusted content and in this time of uncertainty and anxiety, it’s more important than ever to share positivity whenever possible. Showing and receiving kindness can help make us all feel better and inspire others along the way,” she added. Some recent examples include an interview with the owner of a small-town bakery who honored graduating high-school seniors by baking and decorating more than 800 free cakes, a 10-year-old Connecticut girl who created 1,500 art kits for kids who are living in shelters or foster care and a virtual taco night hosted by Drew Barrymore to benefit No Kid Hungry... During the campaign, Meredith brands will promote individuals and organizations who participate in the initiative across its digital platforms."

Paid Online Subs More Critical, And More Difficult, With COVID Crisis
Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo reports on various publishers' efforts to drive more paid online circulation as the pandemic takes a huge toll on advertising. Excerpts: " “When the ad market is strong, companies look for ways to make more things free and more accessible, and when it’s weaker, they put more things behind walls and focus on that,” said Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media, which is in the midst of furloughs, temporary pay reductions, and other austerity measures. “Our strategy is just to be well diversified. We’re trying to avoid the seesaw.”Vox Media owns New York magazine and its various web properties, which introduced digital subscriptions in late 2018. (They saw a 250% year-over-year increase in April, per Bankoff.) Flagship website created a video-based subscription offering last year, and similar niche pay products are being explored. But the company isn’t going all-in just because it’s being hammered by a global health and economic crisis. A few data points Bankoff gave for his case that a well-diversified revenue assortment will ultimately see them through the storm: Vox had one of the most-watched shows on Netflix last month (Coronavirus, Explained); the Strategist’s e-commerce business is killing it, as homebound readers flock to the site for tips on navigating the quarantine world; Chase Sapphire recently sponsored a series of virtual video events for Eater featuring prominent chefs and celebrities. “Advertising per se is not a bad business model,” said Bankoff. “It’s just more subject to the ups and downs of the economy, and we’re going through a down cycle based on this pandemic right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away as a business model.”James Murdoch, who knows the subscription business well from his time at News Corp and as CEO of the European pay-T.V. titan Sky, offered a similarly tempered take. “The subscription model, even in a frictionless environment, is much harder than people think it is,” said Murdoch, who more recently served as CEO of 21st Century Fox. “Now plant yourself in a world with 20% unemployment in America. If the Holy Grail is subscription pricing, it becomes a zero-sum game over a finite customer spend. Then you’re dealing with higher churn and a smaller audience. It’s challenging.”[NY Times COO Meredith Kopit] Levien, however, is highly optimistic about the promise of paid readership for the industry as a whole. “There’s something like 185 million people who read news, or who are news consumers in America, and there’s only something like 24 or 25 million people who report that they pay for news,” she said. “That’s a very large audience of people who read and watch and listen to journalism and a relatively small number of people who pay for it digitally. So to me, we are still making a market for paid digital journalism. I think it has a lot more room to grow""...

S&S's New CEO Unfazed by Challenges Ahead
PW: "Last week, S&S parent company Viacom/CBS tapped Karp, a 10-year S&S veteran who also held important editorial positions at Random House and Hachette Book Group, to replace Carolyn Reidy after her sudden death on May 12. In addition to succeeding the much-admired Reidy, he is confronted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the potential sale of S&S. In a memo to the S&S staff announcing his promotion, Karp wrote about his relationship with Reidy over the past 10 years and how that will affect his leadership style: “Carolyn Reidy has shown me how an executive communicates and leads—candidly, firmly, warmly, attentively, and generously. I owe Carolyn a debt I will never be able to repay to her, but I will do everything I can to pay it forward by sustaining her standards and humanity through my work with you. We will maintain our culture of straightforward and creative collaboration, in which anyone from every corner of our organization can suggest any idea.”As for the pandemic, Karp told PW that surprisingly, despite the massive disruptions to the economy and society, book sales at S&S haven’t dropped much. “The center has held, and that is reassuring.” He added that S&S employees have done a great job working remotely and have been able to generate lots of interest in the publisher’s books. He hopes that the worst part of the pandemic is over, and, if that is indeed the case, “what comes next should be pretty good—we have great books coming.”Given the smooth way S&S is operating at the moment, Karp said there is no rush to reopen the publisher’s New York City office. S&S is working with Viacom/CBS to develop policies that will allow for the safe return of its employees, he noted, adding that no immediate decisions will be made—“There isn’t a sense of urgency.”Karp said he has a good relationship with Bob Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom/CBS: “Bob has been very supportive of me and Simon & Schuster. He has given us the freedom to do our best work.”The sale process will kick into a higher gear when market conditions have stabilized, according to Karp. “There has been lots of interest,” he added. Since a trade publisher the size of S&S hasn’t been on the market in a long time, he said the publisher is seen as a “crown jewel,” and he is “confident we will wind up in a good place""...

Wirecutter Moves to NY Times Site
MediaPost: "Product recommendation site Wirecutter has moved. It is now part of site looks mostly the same, but now is accessed via Wirecutter’s content will be housed in front of The New York Times paywall. However, it’s unclear if that will remain the case permanently. Wirecutter was purchased by The New York Times Company in 2016... “By moving to, we’ll be able to reach and help even more readers. Our editorial team will continue to work independently from The Times, but you can look forward to future collaborations across the site,” reads an FAQ page dedicated to explaining Wirecutter’s move to’s business model will remain unchanged. The site will continue to receive commissions from purchases made via affiliate links"...

Forbes Changes Tune on Kardashian Story
Showbiz 411: "Forbes is now unmasking their own bad reporting. They’ve published an article that contradicts their original piece, from 2019, declaring Kylie Jenner “the youngest billionaire” in the world.What the new article fails to admit is that Forbes started all this in the first place. Their reporter, Natalie Robehmed, is gone from the magazine and relegated in the new piece by Chase Peterson-Withorn (Malcolm Forbes would have loved that byline) and Madeline Berg an “additional reporting” credit. (On her Twitter page, Robehmed id’s herself as “freelance journalist mostly working in audio, formerly @Forbes.”) Robehmed seems like she was the one duped by the Kardashians about Kylie Jenner’s billionaire status"...


Retail News

Retail Ensnared in Nationwide Protests; CVS Closes Some Stores in 20 States
RetailWire: "“We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities — it extends across America,” wrote Target CEO Brian Cornell Friday in an open letter.The letter arrived following the third night of protests in the retailer’s hometown of Minneapolis where George Floyd died in police custody and on the same day a former police officer was charged with murder.“The murder of George Floyd has unleashed the pent-up pain of years, as have the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor,” Cornell continued. “We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts.” A Target store across the street from the epicenter of many of the city’s protests was one of the first to be looted and damaged. By Sunday, Target was indicating that it was temporarily closing or shortening the hours of about 200 stores as protests and looting spread across the country. Cornell pledged Target’s support of communities during the healing process. He concluded, “Since we opened our doors, Target has operated with love and opportunity for all. And in that spirit, we commit to contributing to a city and community that will turn the pain we’re all experiencing into better days for everyone.” Theft and smashed windows have already cost millions in damage, but many retailers are likewise standing in solidarity with the protests., which scaled back deliveries in some cities to protect drivers, wrote on Twitter, “The inequitable and brutal treatment of black people in our country must stop. Together we stand in solidarity with the Black community — our employees, customers, and partners — in the fight against systematic racism and justice.”Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, tweeted, “Minneapolis is grieving for a reason. To paraphrase Dr. King, the negative peace which is the absence of tension is no substitute for the positive peace which is the presence of justice. Justice is how we heal""... USA Today: "Some CVS stores across 20 states are closed... CVS does not have a complete list of the closed stores, due to the developing nature of the situation.The pharmacy chain confirmed while several stores have sustained damage, no employees were hurt during the protests." Each closed pharmacy’s phone system has been rerouted to a nearby CVS Pharmacy that is open so all patients will continue to have access to pharmacy care.... Morning News Beat offers an extensive roundup of the impacts of the protests on retailers around the country.

Pantry Loaders Boost Food Sales at Big Lots
PG: "Big Lots is planning to expand its assortment of food and consumables to leverage big sales momentum from the pandemic.The discounter says it saw so many new grocery shoppers during the past few months that it now plans to launch what it calls a "pantry optimization initiative" in September. "This initiative repositions our food and consumables square footage from food staples to food entertainment and consumables," Big Lots CEO Bruce Thorn said during a first quarter earnings call Friday. "The assortment will include national brands along with everyday low prices coupled with owned brands and closeouts. This offering will allow more of our customers to find more of the items on their shopping list, which will also increase trips." Thorn said the closeout chain is "positioned to win going forward" in attracting consumers who are staying home and looking for pantry essentials, and also consumers in financial distress looking for deals. "Our merchandising mix is exactly what consumers want and need today, filled with food, consumables and stay-at-home assortments with structurally sound margins," Thorn said. "Our loyal customer base has increased in size over the last few months." Big Lots said it is reconfiguring the front of its stores to free up square footage for consumables to drive higher revenue, increase box productivity and generate more margin per square foot. Big Lots also plans to launch Instacart in the next few months and is exploring other same day delivery services"...

Costco's Sales Growth Slows in Q3
SN: "Costco Wholesale saw sales growth moderate in its fiscal 2020 third quarter as coronavirus-driven stock-up purchases tailed off, though grocery and other core categories fueled booming e-commerce sales.Earnings fell short of Wall Street’s forecast as the warehouse club chain took a hit from incremental expenses related to COVID-19. For the 12-week quarter ended May 10, net sales totaled $36.45B, up 7.3% from $33.96B a year earlier, Costco said. Membership fee income increased 5% to $815M. The renewal rate was 91% in the U.S. and Canada and 88.4% internationally.Overall comp sales rose 4.8% YoY but were up 7.8% excluding fuel and foreign exchange. U.S. comp sales gained 5.9% (+8% excluding fuel and forex) in the quarter. Costco’s Canadian clubs saw total comps fall 2.5%, but backing out fuel and forex the comp figure showed 3% growth. International comp sales climbed 6.2% and were up 12.2% excluding fuel and forex.“In terms of traffic, our shopping frequency decreased in the quarter worldwide by 4.1% and in the U.S. by 2%,” CFO Richard Galanti told analysts in a conference call late Thursday. “Our average transaction ticket was up 9.3% during Q3 and the 9.3% does include the negative impacts from gas deflation and FX.” The shutdown of some ancillary businesses such as optical, hearing aids, photo and food courts (no seating and limited menu), also shaved comp sales results by one to two points, he added"...

COVID Forces Changes for Wegmans
WSJ: COVID-19 "represents an existential challenge to the 104-year-old family-owned company as it upends a shopping experience that made it a household name across the U.S. Northeast.The chain’s famed food bars, which sell everything from pizza to sushi, are closed. Its beloved free samples are gone. It removed varieties of pasta sauce, yogurt and butter as Wegmans loaded up on basic staples. Its stores—built to resemble European-style market halls—now feature plexiglass dividers at cash registers and more security guards to keep customers in line.“A huge part of our business has been treating our customers really as guests and entertaining them. We can’t do that anymore,” Danny Wegman, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.’s 73-year-old chairman, said in an interview. “We lost our mojo. We have to replace it.”" Many businesses that have models that pamper the customer are facing the same problem, while those that are more utilitarian, like Costco and Home Depot, may have an easier transition.

Online Grocery Sales Up Again in May
SN: "Online grocery purchases continued to grow in May, with demand spurred by the COVID-19 crisis lifting sales 24% month-over-month to $6.6B billion, strategic advisory firm Brick Meets Click reported. The latest gain reflected further increases in both online grocery orders and household penetration, according to the Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Survey. The study, conducted May 20 to 22, polled 1,724 U.S. adults who participated in their household’s grocery shopping within the previous 30 days. Online grocery dollar sales growth totaled $1.3B in May, the same as in April, when sales jumped 37% from $4B in March. Underscoring the impact of the coronavirus outbreak — which led to a spurt of consumer stockpiling activity starting in late February — online grocery sales were $1.2B in Aug. 19. “COVID-19 is affecting the way people shop for groceries, and this research helps retailers to better understand where they need to invest in their online and in-store businesses,” explained David Bishop, a partner in BMC. Total online grocery orders in May rose 18% to 73.5M from 62.5M in April. BMC attributed the gain to expanded capacity associated to retailers that reopened their services and/or added more delivery and pickup time slots to accommodate the upsurge in demand. Average monthly purchase frequency also escalated in May, up 10% to 1.7 purchases per customer from 1.6 in April. Similarly, average order value was up nearly 6% to $90 in May from $85 in April. Both trends illustrate that online grocery shopping is becoming more established among a wider base of U.S. households, BMC said, adding that higher consumer prices beginning in April and in-stock improvements also contributed to the bigger order size in May. About 43M customers shopped online for groceries during the previous 30 days, raising household penetration to 33% in May from 31% in April. Increased capacity played a key role in boosting penetration, as consumers concerned about the virus found it easier to get a delivery or pickup time slot and avoid having to go inside a store"...

Powell's Books Owner On Uncertainties Ahead
NY Times: When the coronavirus hit, Powell’s Books, Portland, Oregon's largest bookstore, 'suddenly faced an existential crisis. Its chief executive, Emily Powell, closed the company’s stores in mid March. Without customers browsing the aisles, revenues dried up immediately, and the company’s head count was slashed by some 90% in a matter of days. As word of the layoffs spread, online orders spiked, allowing Powell’s to rehire many workers. Yet with its stores still closed and the virus still spreading, Ms. Powell — who took over the business from her father and grandfather — says it remains unclear how a sprawling used bookstore will be able to safely reopen to the public." Excerpt from a Q&A with Powell: "Initially we brought back another 50 folks, which brought us to about a hundred. We’re now around 200, and we’re hoping to maintain that as long as we possibly can, until we can open again. Unfortunately that’s really an unknown. I don’t think any of us knows what will happen with our economy and how comfortable people will feel spending any extra money they have on something like a book. So it really depends on what happens in the coming months"... [On when to reopen stores:] "When we opened, all we needed were wooden bookshelves, a rotary phone, a cash register and cash. Now we, like many other retailers, need social media. We need dev ops engineers to build an automated website. We need a database that lives in the cloud that’s searchable in a very nuanced way. There are far more costs to doing business. So we have these expenses that have been going up for a very long time, and now we have very few of the sales, and we anticipate when we open the sales will be quite low even as folks come back"...

Retailers Earn Praise for Pandemic Responses
PG: "according to Forbes, such chains as Target, Walmart, Dollar General, The Kroger Co., Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health have put in top work in responding to the needs of employees and communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.The list includes banks and telecoms but those retailers were among the top performers on the new Forbes list of top corporate responders during the pandemic. Kroger was given high marks for its expanded sick and emergency leave policy, along with its COVID-19 testing program and its temporary pay increases and bonuses.For its part, Walmart earned praise because of the $1 billion or so in cash bonuses awarded to associates and its efforts to hire restaurant and hospitality workers who lost income when most businesses closed their doors or severely cut back operations.In making the list, Forbes said it judged “how well the 100 largest employers among U.S. public companies responded to the public health crisis. It is a snapshot in time, analyzing companies’ policies from mid-March through May 7 across 22 categories, from relaxed attendance policies to community relief funds, on a rising scale of 1 to 5. The numbers were then averaged into an overall composite score.” Dollar General also achieved a Top 25 ranking on that new Forbes list. During the pandemic the company has expanded sick leave for employees and increased their access to “telehealth” services. “For employees not enrolled in Dollar General medical plans, we provided an additional opportunity to enroll in our Telehealth Programs, which provides affordable healthcare options to employees without physically visiting a healthcare provider’s office,” Dollar General said. “We are also currently waiving all Telehealth co-pays for employees covered until Dollar General’s medical plans.” Despite the positive vibe of this list effort, Forbes does note that not everything has gone well in the corporate and retail realms during the pandemic. “These companies are not free of controversies,” the magazine said. “Some [including Kroger] have been criticized for ending policies, such as ‘hero’ pay, too soon. Others are facing lawsuits for wrongful death of workers or allegedly failing to safeguard the health of staff and customers. Perhaps a bigger question is whether the policy changes brought out by Covid-19 will be temporary or have a lasting impact on corporate America."

Food Prices Expected to Stay High for Extended Time
AP: "Overall, the cost of food bought to eat at home skyrocketed by the most in 46 years, and analysts caution that meat prices in particular could remain high as slaughterhouses struggle to maintain production levels while implementing procedures intended to keep workers healthy.While price spikes for staples such as eggs and flour have eased as consumer demand has leveled off, prices remain volatile for carrots, potatoes and other produce because of transportation issues and the health of workers who pick crops and work in processing plants... Given that the percentage of Americans’ paychecks that go toward food has declined over the past 50 years, many people likely can handle the recent price increases. But the coronavirus also has pushed roughly 41 million Americans out of work, and for them, even a small price hike can be troubling. “We’ve obviously seen this record increase in unemployment filings, and so there are more people who are at risk in that sense that they literally don’t have any employment to secure the money that they would need to buy the food that they traditionally purchase,” Malone said. “For the people who are already operating on the margins, these price increases are nontrivial""...


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