The economist reports on the trouble of Tesco as UK consumers shopping habits change and the German discounters Aldi and Lidl roll our their operational models in the UK.
By any measure the figures were eye-popping, worse even than most analysts had expected of the struggling company. Tesco made the largest pre-tax loss, of £6.4 billion ($9.6 billion), in British retail history, eight times as much as the previous record, set by Morrisons last year. This was also the sixth-largest loss in the country’s corporate history. Most of it (about £4.7 billion) was due to a fall in the property value of Tesco’s British stores. This was not merely an accounting matter, but a sign of how its out-of-town hypermarkets have fallen out of favour with consumers who shop online or use smaller convenience stores. Underlying profits were 68% down on the previous year, at £961m, and overall sales were down by 1.8%. The stock that Tesco keeps in its warehouses is worth £570m less than previously thought, and the pension scheme is £3.89 billion in deficit. And so on.
Full Story on Economist.com
I have seen a lot of bookshops go out of business, including the famous bookshop on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. From Adelaide comes a new business model for having a physical bookshop that moves to different locations in the city. A pop-up bookshop. The owners write:
Curating an ever-evolving, eclectic mix of old, new and collectible books (in itself somewhat out of step), we’ve popped up in various locations, in various styles, within Adelaide’s CBD. On the street, at boutique markets, in cafes, empty shopfronts, arcades. The idea being that by putting ourselves in plain view, we remind people that bookshops exist.
Well, that’s our story too. In November 2013, we pushed ourselves by leasing a space on Adelaide’s main retail strip, Rundle Mall. Next door to French Connection, across from Nespresso, sharing mall frontage with Apple and Nike. It was a make-or-break philosophy – and we received the most amazing reactions from the public who just couldn’t believe what they’d stumbled upon. It lasted four months and we were encouraged enough by that success to give Rundle Mall another go this year. We’re putting a bookshop on the main stage in a city where people constantly – interminably to us – decry the fact there are “no bookshops in Adelaide”.
But how can this work? Our bookshop is a business. Businesses survive by making money. Bookshops don’t make enough money to pay big rents. All these statements are true, more or less. All we have is a complete, unfaltering faith that what we’re doing is worthwhile and important and, because of this, we’ll be OK.
At the moment, we sell just enough books to pay our wealthy landlord, buy stock and cover our modest living expenses. It’s long hours, risky and stressful but we love it. We need to make money to survive but aren’t driven by money. In fact, the short answer to the “how can it work?” question is that we sacrifice money for lifestyle. We treat it as a seasonal occupation, working unsustainably hard for a short period of time then taking a break.
Full Story in the Guardian
The Guardian reports on the problems of the existing business model:
Australia Post has warned its losses will amount to $6bn over the next 10 years unless the government allows it to change the price of sending letters.
The national carrier is forecasting its first full-year loss in 30 years, or since before it was corporatised.
Its chief executive, Ahmed Fahour, said Australia Post had a competitive parcel business, but losses from its letters business were swallowing up profits.
Fahour said the government understood the scale of the problem. “They either fund the next 10 years of losses, which could amount to $6bn, or we’re out of business,” he told Fairfax radio on Monday.
Australia Post reported a first-half profit after tax of $98m, down 56% on the first-half result of the previous year.
The letters business lost $151m, 57% worse than the loss in the first half of last financial year.
Fahour said Australia Post had never been subsidised and had always paid dividends to the government, but the world had changed.
“Either we get a massive injection from the government to keep the business going, or they give us the permission to manage the business and therefore no subsidy is required and the business can continue,” he said.
Letter volume decline accelerated to 8.2% year-on-year, the largest fall recorded since Australia Post’s letter volumes started falling in 2008.
The Guardian provides an update on how Fairfax, a company we features in our course 7 years ago, is doing:
Hywood counters by claiming that readership has never been higher – Fairfax’s website is the most popular news site in the country, and a barely-believable 5.1 million visitors access it every month. However, this is missing the point.
It is not readers, it is revenue that is needed to run those great full-service newsrooms. And cut-throat competition has driven online advertising through the floor – for every dollar a newspaper loses in print advertising it is lucky to recoup 10 cents online. Few newspapers are lucky enough to be owned by a trust, rather than accountable to shareholders, like the Guardian, or to attract a fairy-godfather like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has adopted the Washington Post.
Hywood’s solution has been to diversify into a dozen different fields. Fairfax’s metropolitan newspapers now produce less than half its revenue. The company has morphed into selling baby goods, organising fun runs and ocean swims, a dating service, a real estate site. It has partnered with Channel Nine to launch a video-to-the-home service, though many fear this will end in tears. Apart from its unlikely name of Stan, it is about to face formidable competition from the world’s largest and most aggressive player in video-streaming, the US giant Netflix, which launches in Australia next month.
But many fear these ventures are just postponing the inevitable demise of the newspapers that have chronicled the country since the earliest days of white settlement, leaving Murdoch, at least for now, with a monopoly on everything Australians read in print. “They’ve saved the company, but f——d the papers,” as one analyst told me.
AOL, whose dial-up internet business was destroyed by fast cable, DSL and not mobile phone internet connections connections (see graph) is trying to reinvent itself as a content company. It was to write local news and take the Huffington Post global. Read details on Economist.com: AOL’s second life.
The WSJ reports: “Microsoft’s newest version of Office, available starting Tuesday, is a radical change from the past. For starters, Office 365 has a surprising new price model: It is available as a subscription that can automatically renew each year, if you choose. This new system constantly updates program features year round. Every time you open a program in Office, you will be running the latest version.”
You may not have heard it. Magazines, unlike newspapers, are continuing to do well in the age of the internet. But this is apparently not true for News Weeklies in the USA. Newsweek today announced that it will stop its print edition and focus on an electronic edition. The LA Times provides the details. Read Story.
Microsoft is rumored to imitate Apple’s strategy of making both software and hardware.
Microsoft (MSFT) is currently in the midst of a major transition unlike anything the company has dealt with in the past. According to our own sources and multiple subsequent reports, Microsoft is working on its own smartphone. While this would mark the first time Microsoft has launched a self-branded smartphone (we’re not counting the KIN), the implications for the company are much greater than just a phone. Noted industry insider Eldar Murtazin has written a lengthy piece on the company’s upcoming Windows Phone plans, but has also explored some of the reasons why Microsoft is being forced to make its own tablets and smartphones, and most likely its own laptops and desktops as well in the near future.
Source: Yahoo News
The American Postal Service is facing bankruptcy with $9 billion dollar negative cash flow. One way to come up with a new business model is to see what happens in other parts of the world. It turns out that European postal services have already spent to past 20 years trying to reinvent themselves, as detailed in this article in the NY Times.
The WSJ reports:
ROCHESTER, N.Y—After three decades of serial reorganizations, Eastman Kodak Co. is struggling to stay in the picture.
The 131-year-old company lost much of its film business to foreign competitors, then mishandled the transition to digital cameras. Now it is quickly burning through its cash as it remakes itself into a company that sells printers and ink.
On July 26, Kodak reported its fifth consecutive quarter of losses. The company’s junk-rated debt coming due in two years has moved below 80 cents on the dollar, signaling the market sees a risk of default. The company’s already battered stock has taken an especially tough pounding in recent days, falling 10% Wednesday to $1.77. Prior to this week, Kodak hadn’t closed below $2 since the 1950s, according to the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago.
Feb 1, 2012: Wharton Professors comment on the demise of Kodak. What’s Wrong with This Picture: Kodak’s 30-year Slide into Bankruptcy
May 2, 2012: John Kotter traces to failure of Kodak to complacency that set in even before the digital revolution. Read Barriers to Change: The Real Reason Behind the Kodak Downfall
From NY Times:
Microsoft has long salivated over the notion of controlling the living room and becoming a major entertainment force. Kinect may well stand as its best bet yet for turning that vision into a reality. “This is an incredibly amazing, wonderful first step toward making interactivity in the living room available to everybody,” says Mr. Ballmer, while cautioning that Microsoft still has “a lot of work to do.”
The first Kinect prototype cost Microsoft $30,000 to build, but 1,000 workers would eventually be involved in the project. And now, hundreds of millions of dollars later, the company has a product it can sell for $150 a pop and still turn a profit, Mr. Mattrick says. (People who don’t have an Xbox can pay $300 for a package that includes the console, Kinect and a game.)
For Mr. Ballmer, Kinect is far more than a business opportunity or a pleasant diversion for consumers. It offers a moment to prove to investors and company directors that Microsoft is capable of an Applesque, game-changing moment under his leadership.
This one of the most vivid examples of challenges to the existing business model of a firm. The Wall Street Journal reports:
After nearly 17 years of consistent growth, Barnes & Noble is stumbling. Revenue fell 3% to $5.12 billion for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2009, while earnings dropped about 45% to $76 million.
When it launched the iPad last month, Apple championed a new approach to e-book pricing. Earlier this year, most large publishers agreed to establish a so-called agency model, where the publisher receives 70% of the digital price while e-book sellers act as agents and receive 30%. While some best sellers remain at $9.99, many major authors are priced at $12.99 or $14.99.