Visa Bills, Pulps & Presses, Let's move to UK 💳

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No Pulp, No Presses, No Books

The problems with supply chains are coming for books, too.

According to industry tracker NPD Bookscan, printed book sales have increased 21% in the last two years. For an industry that usually hovers around a 3-4% growth rate, such rise is unprecedented. 

It’s clear that the pandemic is driving the growth in book sales. As global lockdowns began in March 2020, sales of non-traditional categories took-off - such as educational books for home-bound kids, first aid books for emergencies, books on bread-making, a lot of books on social justice and race in the summer of 2020 during the George Floyd protests, and books on politics during the presidential election season.

Most years, the news that more people are reading books would be treated as an unalloyed positive. But this year, the increased demand is colliding head-on with some major problems throughout the publishing industry.

For one, it’s getting more complicated and expensive to publish books. Paper, ink, and printing presses are all at a premium right now. 

According to a report from the printing company Sheridan, the price of wood pulp (from which paper is made) rose from $700 per metric ton in 2020 to almost $1,200 per metric ton in 2021, as a result of environmental initiatives such as plastic bans and shut down of 279 pulp and paper mills in China.

Meanwhile, with shoppers increasingly ordering products online, the price of cardboard in which to ship goods has also gone up.

Then there is the printers vs. Amazon problem. As a major book buyer, Amazon has a lot of leverage to negotiate prices, allowing it to purchase books from publishers at very low cost. Publishers pass the resulting losses along to their printing presses. 

All in all, the exacerbating problems in global supply chains, a global labor shortage, a paper shortage, consolidation of the printing industry, and an increased demand for books from bored stay-at-homers has led to a “perfect storm”.

We’re living in the economy of shortages. Cars, computers, chicken wings… at this point, it might be easier to point out what’s not in limited supply. A little perspective on the Everything Shortage.

10: Companies that control 82% of global shipping

240%: Expected increase in profits of Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

76 seconds: Average time it takes for a crane to load or unload a shipping container in North America vs.

27 seconds: Average time it takes for a crane to load or unload a shipping container in Asia

2022-2023: Experts’ best guesses as to when supply chain issues will end

Visa vs. Small businesses

Americans spent $6.7 trillion through credit/debit cards in 2019, up 88% from 2009, according to a recent report by HSN Consultants. Of those transactions, more than 60% were made using Visa cards.

Visa has now grown into one of the world’s most valuable companies. As of this month, Visa has a market valuation of more than $491 billion. Its shares have risen over 170% in the last five years.

However, some retailers, especially small businesses and startups, argue that Visa’s success has come at a hefty expense.Swipe fees collected by Visa and Mastercard ballooned to $67.6 billion in 2019 from $25.6 billion in 2009, according to data from the National Retail Federation. The overall processing fees paid by U.S. merchants to accept all card payments jumped to $116.4 billion in 2019 - an 88% increase since 2009.

Businesses believe the fees imposed by Visa are too high to survive or thrive in a competitive market.

And especially during Covid, when cash payments reduced for fear of virus transmission, and online payments soared, businesses have had to pay hefty sums in processing cutting into their already meagre profits. Small businesses who faced massive losses in the early months of the pandemic feel overwhelmingly thwarted by this.

Best Places for Work-Life Balance

The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been named the country’s best employer for work-life balance in 2021, according to rankings by Glassdoor.   

Glassdoor analyzed more than 600,000 reviews left by full-time U.K.-based employees on its website between Jan 2021 and Sept. 2021. The jobs website looked at how workers rated their employer out of five, in terms of work-life balance. It also looked at specific reoccurring keywords in the reviews, such as “mental health” and “wellbeing,” in order to gauge sentiment.

The companies that came in the top three had similar “people first” work cultures. In fact, at the British software design company Arm that came in third place, employees have access to a mental health app and are encouraged to use their workdays to do volunteer work.

Here’s a rundown on the top 10 companies. 

  1.     Office for National Statistics
  2.     Softcat
  3.     Arm
  4.     Sky Betting & Gaming
  5.     Mastercard
  6.     Bank of England
  7.     Dell Technologies
  8.     FirstPort
  9.     Sage
  10.     SAP

Additional research, also published by Glassdoor, found that 48% of workers had taken action to improve the blend of their work and home life amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shorts ⏳
  • Heat-wave Naming - A city in Spain will begin naming its heatwaves - after all, why should hurricanes and tornadoes have all the fun? 
  • UK wants lockdown again - UK doctors have called for a return to lockdown due to increase in infections.  
  • A Possible Crypto-crisis - Cryptocurrencies could cause a 2008-level global financial crisis if not regulated - Bank of England officials warn.   
  • More Tech Regulation - 56% Americans support more regulation in tech companies. 68% believe tech giants have too much influence.  
  • Afghan funding - UN sets up a special trust fund to provide urgently needed cash directly to Afghans 
  • Backsies on Tax - The UK released a report about taxes on beef and flights to achieve its net zero emission goal. And then deleted it. 
  • Math or Porn? - A Taiwanese teacher uses Pornhub to upload Math videos. Makes $250,000 annually. #Dedication.

Stash Recommends: Tools to Explore
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📖 Gutcheck: GutCheck is a global, online agile market research solution that enables clients to get quick consumer insights to address business questions.

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