Amazon warehouse workers get to re-do their union vote in.
Updated November 29, 2021 at 4:37 PM ET
Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama are getting a new vote on whether to form the company's first unionized warehouse in the United States.
A U.S. labor-board official is ordering a re-voteafter an agency review found Amazon improperly pressured warehouse staff to vote against joining a union, tainting the original election enough to scrap its results. The decision was issued Monday by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board. Amazon is expected to appeal.
The news puts the warehouse in Bessemer, outside Birmingham, back in the spotlight as a harbinger of labor-organizing efforts at Amazon, which is now Amazon book club second-largest private employer with over 950,000 employees.
The union drive is being led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Its president, Stuart Appelbaum hailed today's development:
"Today's decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, noted that employees at the warehouse overwhelmingly chose not to the union in the previous vote. "It's online banking login hsbc that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn't count. As a company, we don't think unions are the best answer for our employees."
During the first attempt in early 2021 — seen as the most consequential union election in recent history — Bessemer workers voted more than 2-to-1 against unionizing. It was a stinging defeat for the high-profile push to organize Amazon's U.S. workers, after gaining nationwide support, including from President Biden, other politicians and celebrities.
That vote, tallied in April, was held by mail due to pandemic concerns. More than half the warehouse staff had cast ballots.
The union filed a legal challenge to the election, alleging Amazon engaged in unfair labor practices. Amazon denied the charge. The NLRB held a hearing before the hearing officer last month recommended a do-over of the Bessemer election.
Amazon appealed the recommendation, saying it did not act illegally or intimidate workers and called on the agency and the union to accept the choice of the Bessemer workers. The union maintained that Amazon "cheated (and) got caught."
Unions are a prominent presence at Amazon in Europe, but the company has so far fought off labor-organizing efforts in the United States. The election in Bessemer was the first union vote since 2014. The Teamsters union has passed a resolution that would prioritize its Amazon unionization campaign.
In October, workers from a Staten Island warehouse cluster in New York petitioned federal officials for a union election, but later withdrew the request.
Previously, the NLRB's hearing shed new light on Amazon'santi-union campaign during the Bessemer election. One warehouse staffer testified that during mandatory meetings at the facility, managers said the fulfillment center could shut down if staff voted to unionize. Other workers said they were told that the union would waste their dues on fancy vacations and cars.
One key controversy had been over a new mailbox in the warehouse's private parking lot that Amazon said was installed by the U.S. Postal Service to make voting "convenient, safe and private." However, the mailbox's placement inside an Amazon tent right by the workplace prompted some employees to wonder whether the company was trying to monitor the vote.
Postal Service official Jay Smith, who works as a liaison for large clients like Amazon, testified that he was surprised to see the corporate-branded tent around the mailbox because the company appeared to have found a way around his explicit instructions to not place anything physically on the mailbox.
But Smith and other Postal Service officials also testified that no one at Amazon has been provided keys to access the outgoing mail or, in this case, election ballots. A pro-union Amazon worker told the hearing that he saw corporate security officers opening the mailbox.
Editor's note: Amazon is among NPR's financial supporters.
The Gulf States Newsroom's Stephan Bisaha contributed to this report.
Are you completely swept away by the medieval fantasy world of Amazon Prime's The Wheel of Time? The latest in a series of series that want what Game of Thrones has, the show already has a lot of fans thanks to the OG books that came out in the '90s and '00s. Seriously, like, am I not the only one who has noticed Wheel of Time fans coming out of the woodwork in anticipation of the series adaptation??
I, for one, would like to learn more—so here's everything you need to know about The Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan, and his sometimes co-author Brandon Sanderson, including what order to read them in when you get started.
Jan ThijsAmazon Prime
If you've stumbled here without having checked the show out yet (hi!), it's about a group of five potential Chosen Ones training average american savings 2020 take down the Big Bad. It's like Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games—only published way before either of those franchises were a thing.
If you're intrigued by the show and have been itching for a new fantasy series to read, I've got great news for you. There are a lot of books in this series. And not to shade Game of Thrones or anything, but this series is actually finished! If The Wheel of Time gets renewed for more seasons, they aren't in danger of the show catching up to the books ending. It's done. It's published. Book readers know pretty much everything that's gonna happen.
Want to join them? These are all of the books in TheWheel of Time series in the order they were released:
- The Eye of the World (1990)
- The Great Hunt (1990)
- The Dragon Reborn (1991)
- The Shadow Rising (1992)
- The Fires of Heaven (1993)
- Lord of Chaos (1994)
- A Crown of Swords (1996)
- The Amazon book club of Daggers (1998)
- Winter’s Heart (2000)
- Crossroads of Twilight (2003)
- New Spring (2004)
- Knife of Dreams (2005)
- The Gathering Storm (2009)
- Towers of Midnight (2010)
- A Memory of Light (2013)
New Spring, the eleventh book in the series, is a prequel set 20 years before the events of The Eye of the World. Other than that, they take place in the same order they were released.
Soooo where should I start??
If you wanted to be really extra, you could start with the prequel then read them in chronological order. It actually might help if you're following along with the Amazon Prime series adaptation of The Wheel of Time, since season 1 adapts characters and storylines from both the first book in the series and the prequel.
Most of the time, I tend to recommend reading and watching things in release order, because that's how most fans experienced the thing, but if you're anxious to learn as much as you can about the show, chronological is the way to go.
Happy reading! Nothing goes better with cold weather than a good fantasy series with lots of magic and swooping capes that goes on forever. This new obsession really couldn't come at a more perfect time.
Leah Marilla ThomasLeah Marilla Thomas is an entertainment writer, UNC alum, and former Hasbro Toy Tester (yes, that's a real thing) who loves The Good Place and Love Island equally.
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Pic: Emma Ollin discovers her book in Waterstones
A Market Harborough author has published her debut novel after spending lockdown writing four books.
Mum of four, Emma Ollin, has two jobs, but she used her time during furlough to launch her writing career.
Her new book 'Spontaneously Reckless' is published through Pegasus and follows the life of a twenty-something navigating four romances.
Emma said: "When I found my book in Waterstones, I burst into tears of happiness, making a scene as I didn't know it was there.
"I can't explain how it made me feel, and it still feels surreal. I write to escape the pressures of working and parenting, where I have little time to myself.
"I tend to write from 8pm till 11pm when I get time to myself and enjoy sitting with my headphones in listening to Oasis and creating characters who become my best friends."
InYourArea Book Club
After being furloughed, Emma put her spare time to good use and started writing her novel, which was completed in an astonishing eight weeks.
During the pandemic, Emma wrote four other books, three in the YA genre and six in total, whilst caring for her four children and working part-time at a pre-school.
Emma is undertaking a creative writing course with the ambition to be an author working from home.
Spontaneously Reckless follows Freya Bell, who wants to live free, enjoying life and not tied down.
Freya hooks up with four different men from each aspect of her life routine.
The sequel, Spontaneously Torn, is currently being edited, and Emma also has two teenage romance novels on the reading platform Wattpad, based in 2004, with mention of Harborough.
She said: "Many of my friends, family and Harborough locals have amazon book club are currently reading my stories.
"I started writing in 2019 during maternity leave with my fourth child. Over the years, I had always written short stories that came to me in my sleep.
"I one day decided to open my laptop and put them into one story."
Emma self-published her work for a year until she approached Pegasus, who redesigned the novel.
The book is available from Pegasus, Foyles, WHSmith, Waterstones, Amazon and more. Signed copies can be bought in Waterstones in Market Harborough.
Her literary influences include J. K. Rowling, E. L. James and Julia Quinn.
Spontaneously Torn will be available next autumn.
Get all the latest news, updates, things to do and more from Market Harborough, Leicestershire's dedicated InYourArea feed.
Burberry, Women’s Aid, Amazon: Everything that matters this morning
Women’s Aid launches game show to educate people about coercive control
Women’s Aid has launched a campaign to highlight the fact women often don’t realise they are in an abusive relationship or victims of coercive control.
To shine a light on the issue, the charity has developed a spoof TV show called ‘Spot The Abuse’ with Engine Creative. During the two-minute film, three female contestants are asked questions by the host to help educate people about the signs of coercive control.
Questions include ‘Your partner often tells you what to wear and gets moody if you don’t agree. Is this normal?’, ‘Your partner won’t let you have a bank account as he says you’re no good with money. Do you think that’s okay?’ and ‘Your partner has a right to stop you going out with your friends and family because he says he worries about you when you’re out. Is this okay?&rsquo.
When answering the questions the contestants all look uncomfortable before it is revealed their partners are in the audience.
The ad ends with the line ‘Many of us struggle to spot the signs of coercive control. What your partner says is normal might not be’ before directing people to the Women’s Aid website.
Women’s Aid is looking to raise awareness of the issue, because coercive control offences have continued to rise since it was made illegal in 2015. Police recorded 24,856 coercive control offences in England and Wales in the year to March 2020, more than double compared to the 16,679 recorded the previous year and the pandemic has only fuelled the problem.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid says: “We hope this advert will raise awareness and start important conversations about controlling behaviour in relationships. Greater awareness and understanding of the behaviours that make up coercive control means that more people will be able to identify it, prevent it and prosecute it.”
Entice and Orbit become latest energy firm casualties
Entice Energy and Orbit Energy have collapsed into administration amid surging gas prices, taking the total number of companies going bust to 25 since August.
Both ceased trading on Wednesday, with Ofgem stating it will find new suppliers for Entice’s 5,400 customers and Orbit’s 65,000. The regulator has assured affected customers “they do not need does chase do auto loans worry” as they are “under our safety chase status of application credit card and will continue to be supplied energy.
Earlier this week Bulb, the UK’s seventh largest supplier with 1.7 million customers, collapsed. It is the largest company to date to face difficulties.
READ MORE: Entice and Orbit become latest energy firms to go bust
Amazon workers plan Black Friday strikes
Amazon workers across 20 countries are planning strikes and protests on Black Friday over pay.
Workers in the UK, US and several countries in the EU are among those planning work stoppages, with the Make Amazon Pay group stating “Amazon takes too much and give back to little&rdquo.
The move is backed by a coalition of labour groups and trade unions, including GMB Union, Trade Union Congress and War on Want in the UK, but no UK Amazon warehouse is unionised so they can’t legally strike.
Many employees at UK warehouses will be working today but protests led by campaign groups – of which many Amazon workers are members – will be staged at Amazon buildings including its London headquarters and sites in Coalville, Leicestershire, Coventry and Peterborough.
Elsewhere, a Freedom of Information request made by GMB has revealed ambulance callouts to Amazon warehouses across the UK tend to increase by nearly 50% in the run up to Black Friday and the busy Christmas period.
READ MORE: Amazon workers plan Black Friday strikes
The ICO looks to eliminate privacy risks posed by online advertising
The Information Commissioner’s Office has set out data protection standards for advertising that companies, including Google, must meet when developing tools to ensure people’s privacy online is protected.
It states that new adtech must comply with data protection law and offer people the ability to receive ads without tracking, profiling or targeting based on excessive collection of personal information.
It comes as the ICO says companies have been sharing a person’s information with “hundreds, if not thousands” of businesses to deliver targeted ads.
One of the main areas for focus is Google’s Privacy Sandbox, which is set to replace the use of third party cookies while still allowing brands to offer targeted digital advertising.
The ICO has been working with the Competition and Markets Authority to ensure Google’s new technology protects people’s personal data, while ensuring competition in digital markets.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham says: “What we found during our ongoing adtech work is that companies are collecting and sharing a person’s information with hundreds, if not thousands of companies, about what that person is doing and looking at online in order to show targeted ads or content. Most of the time, individuals are not aware that this is happening or have not given their explicit consent. This must change.
“That is why we want to influence current and future commercial proposals on methods for online advertising early on, so that the changes made are not just window dressing, but actually give people meaningful control over their personal data.”
Burberry partners with Marcus Rashford to help kids develop literacy skills
Burberry has partnered with footballer and youth advocate Marcus Rashford to help disadvantaged young people develop literacy skills. As part of the initiative, Burberry will provide funding and books to help support libraries and ensure they are a safe environment for kids to learn.
In the UK Burberry is working with the National Literacy Trust to help libraries in primary schools provide a better platform for children to learn. It has singled out 10 libraries in schools across Manchester, Yorkshire and London that are most in need of transformation.
Dedicated what restaurants are open near me today on thanksgiving and access to National Literacy Trust resources will also be provided to 200 teachers across the country.
Each school will also take part in the Marcus Rashford Book Club, a collaboration between the footballer and Macmillan Children’s Booked to encourage more kids to take up reading.
Burberry will be supporting organisations in the United States and Asia with similar initiatives.
Rashford says: “Far too many children do not currently have access to books, typically because of financial restraints and there was a need to inspire them and allow them to see beyond the challenges they face daily. These children need the escapism of reading more than amazon book club and access to books should not be restricted by the area you grow up in.”
Pam Batty, vice-president of corporate responsibility at Burberry, adds: “Providing safe spaces for the next generation to stretch their imaginations and craft their own stories, drawing inspiration from a diverse range of literature, is critical to developing their confidence and ambitions for the future.”
Lidl targets 1,100 stores in Great Britain by the end of 2025
Lidl has ramped up its stores target in Britain to 1,100 within the next four years, as the supermarket remains on track to reach 1,000 by the end of 2023.
The additional 100 new stores will be opened across England, Scotland and Wales, including sites in town centres, retail parks and metropolitan locations. Lidl claims the expansion will create 4,000 new jobs across the country.
Some 55 new stores were opened in the UK this year. Lidl GB CEO Christian Härtnagel says: “Our new store target today marks a significant investment for the business. We remain committed to our bricks and mortar strategy and maintaining our store opening pace; roughly a store a week for the next four years.”
In its latest UK accounts, published yesterday, revenues climbed 12% to £7.7bn in the 12 months to the end of February. That contributed towards a pre-tax profit of £9.8m, compared with the £25m pre-tax loss the business posted for the previous year.
According to NielsenIQ data, Lidl experienced growth in its total till grocery sales of 10.3% over the last 12 weeks, ahead of Aldi (7.9%) and Marks & Spencer (7.9%).
Meanwhile, Kantar data shows the grocer claims a 6.2% share of the groceriesvmarket, having nudged its share up by 0.1% over the past three months. The largest market share belongs to Tesco (27.6%), followed by Sainsbury’s (15.2%), Asda (14.3%), Morrisons (10%) and Aldi (7.9%).
CAP bans ‘cosmetic intervention’ ads from targeting teenagers
New rules banning ads for ‘cosmetic interventions’ from targeting under-18s have been introduced by the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), taking effect from 25 May 2022.
Cosmetic interventions refers to any intervention, procedure or treatment carried out with the primary objective of changing an aspect of a consumer’s physical appearance, according to CAP’s ruling. This includes surgical and non-surgical interventions, both invasive and non-invasive.
The ban does not include cosmetic products like creams, emulsions, lotions, face masks, makeup or hair products.
Under the new rules, such ads cannot appear in non-broadcast media directly targeting under-18s, or appear in non-broadcast media where under-18s comprise 25% or more of the overall audience. That covers print, online media, social media platforms or influencer marketing.
These ads also won’t be allowed in or around TV or radio programmes likely to appeal to audiences under the age of 18.
The ban follows a consultation in September last year, which looked into the potential harm such ads could have on young people. Evidence showed that children and young people are vulnerable to body image pressures from all areas of life, and that negative body image perceptions are prevalent among those groups.
“Because of the inherent risks of cosmetic intervention procedures, and the potential appeal of these services to young people struggling with body confidence issues, it’s important we set the bar necessarily high in terms of marketing,” says CAP director Shahriar Coupal.
“The new rules will ensure ads can’t be targeted at under 18s and, where children and young people do see them, our strict content rules mean the ads can’t mislead or otherwise exploit the vulnerabilities of their audience”
Alcohol brands warn of wine and spirits shortage this Christmas
Brands including Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy and the Wine Society have signed a letter to government warning of a shortage of wine and spirits this Christmas, as rising costs and supply chain disruptions hold up deliveries.
The letter, written by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, was co-signed by 49 firms in total.
The WSTA claims imports are now taking up to five times longer than a year ago, with the sector badly affected by the HGV driver shortage.
Being unable to fulfil orders on time would mean lost business and could ultimately lead to increased costs for consumers, the letter warned.
“Businesses like ours previously able to fulfil orders in two to three days now have to operate on a day one for day fifteen basis,” the letter said. Businesses are also reporting increased costs of around 7% by freight forwarders to account for driver retention.
The letter therefore asked for “urgent action” to prevent the industry falling deeper into “delivery chaos”, particularly in the run up to Christmas, a “critical trading period” for drinks brands. The WSTA called for the temporary HGV driver visa scheme to be extended for a year, and asked government to help smooth congested freight routes from ports.
The warning comes as food distributors informed MPs that consumers could face less food choice this Christmas as a result of supply chain issues.
READ MORE: Warning of wine and spirits shortage at Christmas
Mulberry shares soar as revenues return to pre-pandemic levels
Luxury fashion brand Mulberry has recorded a sales boost of 34% to £66m over the six months to 25 September, driven by the reopening of UK stores and growth in Asia. The business recorded half year revenue of £69m two years ago before the pandemic hit.
Pre-tax profit for the first half reached £10.2m as a result, compared with a loss of £2.4m in 2020. In the subsequent eight weeks to 20 November, retail revenue increased 35% year-on-year.
“Sales in the UK recovered strongly once our stores re-opened. The sales lost from the absence of tourists in the UK and the rationalisation of stores in Europe were replaced by strong growth in Asia,” the company said.
A ‘strategic focus on full-price sales and increased volume efficiencies’ also drove an increased in gross margin from 59% to 69%.
Shares in Mulberry soared 24% following the company’s financial update yesterday to 375p, with investors encouraged by the apparent return in demand for luxury products.
Meanwhile, in a bid to avoid the supply chain problems plaguing the retail industry at present, Mulberry is planning to expand its UK factory. According to CEO Thierry Andretta, about 60% of the brand’s products are now made in the UK, up from around half before the pandemic.
READ MORE: Mulberry aims to expand in UK as Somerset factory helps it beat supply crisis
Three UK launches new loyalty app to help customers make “meaningful moments”
Mobile and internet service provider Three UK has launched ‘Three+’, a new free-to-download rewards app that provides customers with exclusive offers.
Members will amazon book club access to offers from brands across food and drink, entertainment, days out, wellbeing, sport and shopping. Three+ will have ‘always-on’ rewards available, plus competitions and ‘surprise and delight’ rewards that will come and go, giving customers a reason to check in on a regular basis.
At launch, those offers include discounted cinema tickets at Cineworld and Picturehouse, access to pre-sale tickets for the Reading and Leeds Festival, and a ‘2-4-1’ offer on a guided tour around Chelsea FC’s stadium and museum.
Other brands available on launch include online florist Bloom & Wild, restaurant chains Chiquito and Frankie & Benny’s, recipe box service SimplyCook, and food delivery service Uber Eats.
Andrew Foy, director of new products, propositions and insights at Three UK, says: “Three+ isn’t just about the rewards but the meaningful moments they help to create for our customers. With so many extra plusses from Three, members can kickstart a film club, take a friend out to dinner, or have date night delivered and make it one to remember. And with more exciting rewards in the pipeline, there’s never been a better time to join Three.”
M&S takes stake in Nobody’s Child as partnership evolves
Marks & Spencer has evolved its partnership with eco-conscious, affordable fashion brand Nobody’s Child by taking a 25% stake in the label for an undisclosed sum. Nobody’s Child ranges will soon become available in M&S stores,as well as online.
The investment is part of the Brands at M&S strategy, which uses a number of different business models including wholesale agreements, investments and strategic acquisitions. According to M&S, 14% of shoppers who bought Nobody’s Child were new customers of M&S womenswear.
Nobody’s Child will continue to operate independently, but will use the investment to scale up its operations. M&S says it will benefit from the agility of Nobody’s Child, which has a focus on near-sourcing supply.
Further collaborations between the two brands are expected as the partnership evolves, including sustainability initiatives and the development of fashion and design talent.
“We’re shaping the future of M&S clothing – the strength of our own-brand product, our broad customer base and the reach of M&S.com make us an attractive platform partner,” says M&S clothing and home managing director Richard Price. “In turn, introducing brands helps us become more relevant, more often for our 22 million customers. Nobody’s Child was the first brand to launch on M&S.com and has proved incredibly popular with new and existing M&S customers.”
“We are proud of the growth over the last year and particularly our M&S partnership. Nobody’s Child is an independent brand, with a passionate team committed to delivering easy to wear pieces made from sustainable fabrics at affordable prices. This remains the driving force behind everything we do,” says Nobody’s Child CEO Jody Plows.
ITV links commercial innovation efforts with Adlabs launch
ITV has launched Adlabs, a new enterprise and strategy created to bring together all of its commercial innovation activities under one banner. The broadcaster says the initiative will bring its customers closer to the amazon book club of new innovations as they are tested and trialled.
ITV Adlabs will cover three areas of innovation: digital products, digital partnerships and strategic insight. It will incorporate Dynamic Creative advertising on Planet V, shoppable ads, broadening ITV’s intellectual property into the metaverse and launching new commercial models with partners, including Twitter.
Plans include the development of contextual targeting, allowing advertisers to target contexts such as moods or meal times on ITV Hub, and on Sky, Virgin and Youview platforms.
“We’ve delivered a number of significant innovations this year, but the launch of AdLabs is partly about changing our body language – being better organised, experimenting alongside our customers and embedding them more upstream in the process,” says ITV commercial managing director Kelly Williams.
“AdLabs will further drive our digital transformation and our digital future – the laboratory is open for business.”
Online now accounts for more than a third of Gap sales
Fashion retailer Gap, which closed its physical UK stores during 2021, has faced considerable supply chain constraints that dented sales as reported in its third quarter results.
The group, which trades globally under the Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta brands as well as the core Gap name, says that Covid-related factory issues and congested ports led to a constrained inventory. It says this equated to an eight percentage point negative impact on sales. Overall, net sales were down by 1% compared with the comparable pre-Covid third quarter of 2019, at $3.9bn £2.9bn).
Online sales were up by 48% compared to Q3 in 2019 and now represent 38% of total business as the group scales back traditional retail operations.
Gap-branded sales were down by 10% compared to 2019 figures, with the company estimating that permanent store closures resulted in an 18% net sales decline. The company has entered into partnerships in a number of European markets with which it seeks to improve profitability, including a joint venture with Next in the UK.
“The team has made tremendous progress, adapting quickly while never taking their focus off of our long-term objectives,” says executive vice-president and CFO of Gap Katrina O’Connell. “We have strong demand for our brands and our fleet rationalisation and divestitures are progressing well and adding value.”
Famous victims feature in ad for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month has been marked with a new campaign that features late celebrities who lost their lives to the disease.
The emotive appeal has been created by Pancreatic Cancer UK. Called ‘Lost Voices: Help us break through the silence’, the campaign seeks to drive donations to fund vital research into the deadliest common cancer. Alan Rickman, Sir John Hurt, Aretha Franklin, Patrick Swayze and Steve Jobs are among the famous people to feature, in an ad that mixes humour and shocking facts to draw attention to pancreatic cancer and its impact.
Public awareness of pancreatic cancer remains low, so the ad highlights the number of celebrity deaths it has caused and seeks to educate viewers with key facts. More than half of those diagnosed die within three months as there is no test to aid early diagnosis. Many people are simply diagnosed too late to receive effective treatment.
“Unlike other charities, we simply don’t have the army of survivors around us who do so much to provide hope and inspiration to people living with other forms of cancer,” says Pancreatic Cancer UK CEO Diana Jupp.
She believes there hasn’t been enough noise around pancreatic cancer and this has meant too little research funding, too little public attention and barely any progress in survival for more than 40 years.
“By harnessing the lost voices of some of the extraordinarily talented celebrities who have sadly died from pancreatic cancer, we want to break through the silence,” Jupp adds.
‘Hearts and minds’ campaign for East of England Co-Op Funeral Services
A brand awareness campaign for East of England Co-Op Funeral Services has been launched to encourage funeral planning. According to the brand only 8% of UK adults have a funeral plan.
The ‘It means everything to us, because it means everything to you’ campaign citi aadvantage platinum select login a 40-second TV ad – from recently-appointed agency Refinery – that illustrates the care and attention required for the funeral of a loved one. It centres on Benny the Bear, a teddy passed from father to daughter and which has a central role in life’s milestones, finally playing a pivotal role at the father’s funeral.
East of England Co-Op Funeral Services head of marketing Oli Watts says: “It means everything to us, because it means everything to you is a beautiful way of explaining how we view providing funeral services. Conveying such a sensitive and emotive subject in an engaging way is extremely challenging. We’re immensely proud of this campaign because it is built on a solid insight about what matters to families we care for.”
Bulb becomes latest casualty of the energy crisis
Bulb Energy had become the largest brand to fall into administration amid the global energy crisis, affecting 1.7 million customers.
The energy company, which was founded in 2015 in East London, is the first to be placed into “special administration”, whereby it will be run by the government through the regulator Ofgem. The brand said in a statement that this was a way to “protect” customers, meaning there will be no change to their supply and their credit balance will be protected.
Bulb blamed a combination of “skyrocketing” wholesale prices and an “extremely volatile” market for putting pressure on the business. The company explained it had been “exploring fundraising options” as the crisis hit, but the situation spooked investors who were not prepared to proceed while wholesale gas prices were so high and the price cap forced suppliers to provide energy “at a significant loss&rdquo.
In October, customers complained that their monthly bills were rising by up to 80%, despite being hundreds of pounds in credit. Speaking at the time, the company said it was standard practice for an energy company to review what people paid.
Stating that Bulb was founded on the principle that it believed energy customers deserved a better deal, the brand said it was proud to have grown to serve 6% of the UK market. The business claimed to have played a part in amazon book club green energy go “mainstream”, given that when Bulb started just 1% of UK households were with renewable energy suppliers and now that figure is more than 30%.
The brand also called out its expansion to France, Spain and the US as notable highlights, as well as its decision to donate £2 for every new customer to the Bulb Foundation, founded to fight the climate crisis.
Marketing at the brand was being led by chief growth and marketing officer Lis Blair, who joined from her role as EasyJet CMO in September 2020, and vice-president of marketing Russell Davies.
READ MORE: Energy firm Bulb set to go into administration
Electrical retailer AO backs ‘digital first marketing’ amid supply chain pressures
Electrical retailer AO says it is investing in “digital first marketing” and brand awareness as it looks to build on success amid the wider supply chain crisis.
Total group revenue rose by 6% to £759.6m for the six months to 30 September, compared to 2020, and by 67% on a two-year basis. In the UK, total revenue increased 7.2% to £661m compared to last year, which the business attributes to higher average product pricing and “good growth” in selected business lines. This figure is up 65% on revenue generated pre-pandemic in 2019.
In AO’s German business, revenue fell by 2% to £99m due to reduced product revenue in a “highly competitive” market. Overall, the group made an operating loss of £11m during the half year period.
Over the six months, AO attracted more than 780,000 new customers, while the business also saw “notable step changes” in post-Covid repeat purchase rates. The business now boasts 300,000 Trustpilot ratings, averaging 4.6 out of five stars, and a net promoter score averaging more than 80.
In the UK, the retailer spent £22.5m on advertising and marketing in the six months to 30 September, equivalent to 3.4% of revenue for the country. In Germany, spend on marketing reached £4.5m, or 4.5% of revenue.
AO explains that in the UK advertising and marketing costs increased as manufacturers “increasingly supported digital first marketing”, leading to what it describes as increased competition for “clicks per customer” as companies sought to build market share online. In addition, the business increased spending on brand awareness over the six-month period.
The company now expects capital expenditure costs will increase during the second half of the year, as it commences spend on “marketing-related activities”, including a new creative studio in London.
AO diverted much of its marketing energy into the German market over the past six months, having extricated itself in December 2020 from what it describes as an “onerous marketing contract” totalling £1m.
The brand says that traditional retailers in Germany are waking up to the online opportunity, which has increased competition levels and ramped up the cost of digital marketing. AO claims that given it is relatively new to the country, having launched in 2014, there is a “fundamental need” to invest in raising the profile of the brand. As a result, AO has increased its marketing investment to build brand awareness through SEO, PR and its first TV ad for years during peak trading.
Looking ahead, the business has seen UK growth impacted by the nationwide shortage of delivery drivers and ongoing global supply chain disruption, alongside facing increased competition in the German online market. The peak trading period is now “significantly softer” than AO anticipated just eight weeks ago, meaning the business expects group revenue to range from flat to down 5% year on year.
“We’re seeing more customers making repeat purchases more frequently across categories. Once they experience the AO Way, they keep coming back,” says founder and CEO John Roberts.
“Our outstanding operational capabilities are also being recognised by more and more companies who are now outsourcing their delivery services to us. We’re working hard to solve some of the current challenges that our industry is facing. We’ve recruited c.500 new drivers and are working closely with our manufacturer partners so that customers can get what they need.”
Atom Bank switches to four-day week
Atom Bank has introduced a four-day working week after the Covid crisis highlighted the limitations of the “old fashioned” nine to five.
The online bank’s 430 employees will now work for 34 hours over four days and get Monday or Friday off, for the same pay as when they previously worked 37.5 hours across a whole week. The staff will, however, be asked to work longer hours on the days they are in.
The new working pattern came into effect on 1 November following a review to ensure the move would not impact customer service or productivity. While the shift to a four-day week is voluntary, the decision is said to have resonated with a desire amongst Atom Bank employees for more flexible working.
CEO Mark Mullen told the BBC he hopes the move will improve employee wellbeing and help retain staff.
“Before Covid, the conventional wisdom was you had to commute in, sit at a desk all day and repeat that process when you commuted home,” says Mullen. “Covid showed us that it wasn’t necessary…I think doing 9-5, Monday to Friday is a pretty old-fashioned way of working.”
The Atom Bank boss explained the arrangement relates to everyone and even as CEO he could not email employees on their day off and expect a reply.
An increasing number of brands are trialling the shift to a four-day week, including Unilever New Zealand, while the country of Iceland called its trial an “overwhelming success&rdquo. However, other brands have scrapped plans for a four-day week, such as scientific organisation the Wellcome Trust, which in 2019 deemed the move “too operationally complex&rdquo.
READ MORE: Atom Bank introduces four-day work week without cutting in pay
Twitter branches out into ecommerce with live shopping
Twitter is hoping to break into the ecommerce market with the launch of a live shopping stream intended to make the experience “seamless&rdquo.
The new feature will allow users to click on the shoppable banner and shop tab on a live event, toggling back and forth between the latest tab and the shop tab throughout the livestream. Users will also be able to continue to watch the livestream on the merchant’s website within an in-app browser, so they don’t miss anything on Twitter while making their purchase.
The first trial is being carried out in collaboration with retail giant Walmart on 28 November. Via the Walmart Twitter account users will see singer Jason Derulo front the platform’s first shoppable livestream, consisting of a 30-minute variety show highlighting electronics, home goods, apparel and seasonal décor.
Walmart CMO William White says the retailer is focused on “charting new territory” in shoppable livestreams, adding: “We’re meeting customers where they are and making it easier to shop incredible deals and find inspiration through dynamic, interactive experiences. We look forward to continuing to bring engaging experiences to our customers that allow them to shop seamlessly while also being entertained.”
In addition to the livestream feature, Twitter intends to add more brands to its Shop Module trial in the US, while there are plans to test a new way of onboarding merchants and cataloguing products via the Twitter Shopping Manager feature.
Travel ad spend set to grow 36% by 2022
Travel advertising is expected to grow by 24% in 2021, rising by a further 36% in 2022 as global travel starts to recover post-Covid.
This growth will be seen across the 13 key markets which account for 74% of total global ad spend (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, UK and the US), according to Zenith’s Business Intelligence Travel report. The media group expects the fastest growth in travel advertising to come from India and Russia, where by 2023 travel ad spend is set to be 31% and 21%, respectively, above the 2019 baseline.
The travel ad market lost nearly half its value in 2020 (46%), while the ad market as a whole shrank by just 4%. Given the severe declines under lockdown, it is anticipated that spend on travel advertising will be down 33% on 2019 levels in 2021, while the ad market as a whole will be 7% ahead of pre-pandemic levels. Zenith anticipates it will take until 2023 for travel ad spend to exceed 2019 levels of spending, when it will reach $19.6bn (£14.6bn).
The analysis also suggests that travel advertisers spend more on digital advertising than the average brand – 63% in 2020 versus 58% on average. The switch to digital makes sense given 32% of travel sales were conducted online in 2021, compared to 20% for retail as a whole.
Zenith now predicts digital advertising to become even more important for both brand building and conversion. By 2023 travel brands will be spending 70% of their budgets on digital advertising, an increase from 63% in 2020, according to the analysis.
Expectation amazon book club the sector will also move towards the greater integration of travel apps with vaccine passports and offering digital concierge services.
In addition, the analysis finds that travel advertisers spent substantially more of their budgets on newspapers, magazines and out-of-home advertising than the average (20% in 2020 versus 13% for the average brand). However, brands in this sector spent substantially less on TV, some 13% of their budgets compared to an average of 24%.
“As travel begins to recover from the unprecedented drop in demand in 2020, brands are rebuilding their relationships with consumers, using digital technology to guide them at every stage,” says head of forecasting at Zenith, Jonathan Barnard. “Online video in particular will play a key role in creating emotional connections with consumers, inviting them to take their first step on their digital journey.”
Tesla employee claims ‘nightmarish’ harassment in lawsuit
A female staff member at Tesla’s factory in California is suing the car manufacturer for facing “nightmarish” conditions in the workplace.
Jessica Barraza told the Washington Post she experienced “near daily” cat calls and inappropriate touching. Male colleagues would proposition her, stare at her breasts and verbally describe her as having an “onion booty” or “coke bottle”, and brush against her body while pretending it was accidental.
Barraza pushed through with the suit after an incident where a colleague placed his hands on her torso and another man placed his legs between her legs.
Tesla is also being accused of fostering a culture of sexual harassment after Barraza filed two complaints in September and October, but they were not addressed.
“After almost three years of experiencing all the harassment, it robs your sense of security – it almost dehumanises you,” Barraza told the Washington Post.
In October, the electric car manufacturer was forced to pay $137m in damages to a former employee for failing to stop him being racially abused.
READ MORE: Tesla worker files suit over ‘nightmarish’ harassment
Diversity and inclusion are the biggest challenges for marketing
More than half (58%) of senior marketers say diversity and inclusion is the industry’s biggest challenge, according to a survey from the Data and Marketing Association (DMA).
The survey of 220 senior marketing professionals, finds retaining talent (53%) and attracting talent (49%) are also key issues and will likely be exacerbated by the “severity of events” over the last 18 months.
However, the study finds 2021 has been more “positive” for organisations. Positive sentiment felt about the last 12 months has improved from 23% this time last year to 84% today. Future expectations are “encouraging” with 94% of businesses having positive outlooks for the year ahead, compared to 36% in 2020.
Additionally, 48% of data and marketing professionals say measurement is a challenge that must be overcome, specifically ROI.
“Talent has become of increasing concern to our industry, and society more widely since the pandemic began. Diversity, inclusion, talent acquisition and retention are the biggest challenges,” says Tim Bond, DMA director of insight.
“People are what matter most and this is reflected in senior marketers’ views on the most pressing issues. This is also echoed by the vast number of organisations becoming more thoughtful and compassionate with their marketing approach.”
Technology retailers fear stock issues for Black Friday
Retailers have warned technology product demand may not be met for Black Friday sales this week due to supply chain constraints.
There have been delays to the delivery of stock for retailers, with a “pinch point” identified www walmart money card customer service Asia, according to the IMRG.
Black Friday takes place on 26 November and is an annual event where retailers and brands cut prices to attract customers in the run-up to Christmas.
Retailers usually buy a larger number of units months in advance to meet demand but weeks of delays mean promotional activities will have to focus on products already in stores.
Larger retailers will be able to navigate through the current supply chain issues, however, smaller sellers will see more challenges, according to the IMRG.
“The real pinch points are Asia. Those with deeper pockets can find ways to work around it to ensure they have the stock in, but some will be in a much more difficult position,” says IMRG insights director Andy Mulcahy.
Black Friday originated in the US but since 2013 has become a massive shopping event in the UK, gaining infamy from videos of fights between customers breaking out in shops.
READ MORE: Black Friday: Tech retailers fear supply chain delays will hit stock
Meta delays encryption on Facebook and Instagram messaging
Meta is delaying plans to encrypt user messages until 2023 due to warnings its measures could prevent child abusers from being found.
The company formerly known as Facebook announced in September the encryption process would begin in 2022 at the earliest to its Messenger and Instagram apps. WhatsApp is already encrypted as are voice and video calls on Messenger.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says private messaging is the “frontline of child sexual abuse online” as messages are encrypted, meaning only the sender and recipient of messages can view them.
“We’re taking our time to get this right and we don’t plan to finish the global rollout of end-to-end encryption by default across all our messaging services until sometime in 2023,” says Meta global head of safety Antigone Davis, writing in the Sunday Telegraph.
“As a company that connects billions of people around the world m and t mortgage pay by phone has built industry-leading technology, we’re determined to protect people’s private communications and keep people safe online.”
READ MORE: Meta delays encrypted messages on Facebook and Instagram to 2023
Activision Blizzard chief mulls stepping down
Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick has told senior managers at the video games publisher he would consider stepping down if culture problems are not fixed at the firm.
Kotick held a meeting on Friday where he made the comments, however, he stopped short of saying he would step down, but leaves the door open for the option if misconduct at the company is not resolved.
Some employees at the company staged a walkout last week after a Wall Street Journal report found Kotick knew about allegations of sexual harassment and assaults, which has led to delays in product launches and departures of top executives.
The Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush publisher has been accused of fostering a ‘frat boy ’culture. Activision says it had fired more than 20 employees following allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination last month.
READ MORE: Activision CEO Kotick would consider leaving if he can’t quickly fix problems – WSJ
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