L’Oréal, ad stereotypes, ONS: Everything that matters this morning

Good morning and welcome to Marketing Week’s round-up of the news that matters in the marketing world today.

L’Oréal grows ecommerce by 62% during 2020

Cosmetics giant L’Oréal grew its ecommerce operations by 62% during the Covid-19 pandemic, as it sought to maintain customer relationships while retail outlets were closed. Online now accounts for 26.6% of the group’s sales.

The group’s annual results for 2020 show a 4.1% fall in like-for-like sales. However, it achieved an operating profit of €5.2bn (£4.6bn) and a 3.9% increase in the dividend paid to its shareholders. Sales accelerated by 4.8% in the fourth quarter.

L’Oréal chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Agon says store closures in 2020 led to an unprecedented, if temporary, decline of the beauty market. The group switched to produce hand sanitiser products that it donated to healthcare staff and other frontline workers.

“L’Oréal has traversed this crisis in the best possible condition and has even grown stronger,” says Agon. “Driven by the strength of its strategic choices and a determined dynamic across the year, L’Oréal has adapted to this unprecedented context and terrible pandemic with speed and agility.”

UK men call time on male stereotypes in advertising

Two-thirds of UK men say advertising stereotypes are so negative they can leave psychological damage, according to new research.

The MANdate study by media agency UM, in conjunction with mental health charity the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and publisher Joe Media, finds 64% of male respondents think negative representations in ads can do real damage. Even more, 75%, believe social media is making it harder to remain psychologically healthy.

Younger men don’t connect with traditional male stereotypes, such as always being strong or behaving like ‘a lad’. The research finds 46% of those aged under 35 see the clichés as detrimental and dangerous.

More than nine in 10 respondents think seeing men portrayed as ‘mean to women’ is harmful, with 79% feeling the same about men portrayed as sexually-obsessed.

UM decision sciences manager George McMahon says, “Men, especially those under 35, respond best to representation that breaks through stereotypes. It’s absolutely in the best interests of advertisers to take greater responsibility.”

CALM CEO Simon Gunning adds: “On average, 13 men take their own life every day in the UK. That is unacceptable. The reasons for suicide are many and complex but it is clear that much more must be done to really understand people’s needs and provide the support and accessible services for those who are struggling.”

The research further highlights that men aged 18 to 34 believe the best way to promote a positive perception of masculinity is to normalise getting help – more than half (56%) think as much – and 44% think men should be shown that it’s OK to fail.

Census 2021 campaign is ‘about us’

The Office for National Statistics is describing its latest campaign, created to drive awareness of Census 2021, as unique in its scale and breadth. Designed to have broad appeal to the entire population, the campaign has been developed by M&C Saatchi.

The integrated ‘It’s about us’ campaign will be brought to life by a series of nearly 80 portraits from across England and Wales, celebrating people and the communities in which they live. A TV version features a cover of This Will Be Our Year, originally by The Zombies, to emphasise the campaign’s community focus.

Designed to reach all adults in England and Wales, versions of the campaign have been developed in 44 languages, and activity will run across TV, radio, audio, social media, digital, out-of-home, press and PR.

The ONS has set an objective of achieving more than 75% online completion for what has been described as a ‘digital-first census’.

Formula E targets digital sports fans

Electric racing series Formula E has launched a new campaign that seeks to reflect accelerated change both on and off the race track.

The ‘Change. Accelerated’ campaign will roll out throughout the 2021 season as the series aims to attract a new digital audience of next generation sports fans. The creative will showcase both Formula E’s purpose, which is to be a force for good by encouraging the adoption of electric road cars and fighting climate change, and the excitement of the sport.

The campaign will launch with the opening of the seventh season of Formula E, with a film made by Uncommon Creative Studios.

“Change. Accelerated. is a message which pushes us not just to embrace change but to accelerate towards it. Everything Formula E does will showcase how we are leading the way in sport, on and off the track,” says Formula E chief brand officer Henry Chilcott.

“It is the combination of thrilling electric street racing, innovation, sustainability and positive impact that makes Formula E unique in global sport.”

TikTok becomes UEFA sponsor

TikTok has become the first digital entertainment platform to sponsor a major international UEFA football tournament.

Football content has become popular on TikTok, with over 70 billion views of the #football hashtag. The short-form video app has now become a global sponsor of UEFA Euro 2020.

TikTok is seeking to cement its position as the place for football fans to share their passion for the sport. It will work with UEFA to launch a range of features including augmented reality (AR) effects and hashtag challenges.

UEFA will launch an official TikTok account for the Euro tournament, and grant TikTok broadcast sponsorship rights.

“Over the coming months, we are really looking forward to working closely with TikTok in order to provide fans globally with a unique and innovative UEFA Euro experience, which will give them the opportunity to connect and share their passion around one of the world’s premier sporting events,” says UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein.

Thursday, 11 February

sainsbury'sSainsbury’s joins Tesco in Aldi price match

Sainsbury’s has committed to price match Aldi on 250 popular items as part of its “boldest ever value campaign”.

The grocer will price match its discount rival across Sainsbury’s own brand and branded products spanning meat, chicken, fruit, vegetables and dairy, in a bid to help shoppers who are “working hard to balance budgets”. The Aldi price match promise will sit alongside the supermarket’s Price Lock campaign, which sees 2,500 everyday products on ‘price lock’ for at least eight weeks to offer customers consistent value.

The price match is the first initiative to come from the supermarket’s Food First plan announced in November by new chief executive Simon Roberts, who took the reins in June.

“We are making great progress delivering our Food First plan and I’m determined that in these tough times, we do even more to help our customers save money,” says Roberts.

“Our new commitment to match Aldi prices on hundreds of our most popular products will mean our customers can be confident that they are getting the quality they expect from Sainsbury’s at great prices.”

Sainsbury’s follows rival Tesco, which launched its own Aldi price match in March 2020 and later extended it to around 500 products in September. In June, Tesco claimed the price matching scheme, combined with its swift response to the pandemic, had seen people switching from Aldi for the first time in more than a decade.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s takes on Aldi in supermarket price war

Microsoft made ‘$51bn bid’ to acquire Pinterest

Microsoft has reportedly approached social media platform Pinterest regarding a potential $51bn (£37bn) takeover bid.

The Financial Times reports that talks between the computing giant and Pinterest, which has maintained it wants to remain independent, are not currently active. The social media platform has surged in usage during the pandemic, causing its market value to rise by more than 600% since the onset of Covid-19 and monthly users to hit 459 million.

Had Microsoft been able to secure the purchase of Pinterest it would have been the company’s largest acquisition to date. The business bought networking site LinkedIn for $26bn (£19bn) in 2016, as well as online game Minecraft for $2.5bn (£1.8bn) in 2014 and private gaming company ZeniMax for $7.5bn (£5.4bn) last year.

Microsoft’s interest in social media ramped up last year when it was revealed the business had tried to buy the US arm of short-form video app TikTok. Cloud computing company Oracle and retail giant Walmart swooped in on the deal, which came about after Donald Trump demanded TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance divest its US operations due to national security concerns.

However, yesterday the Oracle and Walmart takeover was put in doubt after President Joe Biden’s administration said it is planning a wide-ranging review of Trump’s China policy, which could take months.

READ MORE: Microsoft made an approach to buy Pinterest (£)

Boom in delivery offsets ride hailing decline at Uber

Uber EatsRevenue from Uber’s delivery operations rose 224% year on year to $1.36bn (£983m) during the fourth quarter to 31 December, offsetting the impact of lockdown on its ride hailing business, which saw revenues decline 52% year on year to $1.47bn (£1.06bn).

While bookings for rides fell by 47% year on year during the fourth quarter, bookings for delivery surged by 128% as people were stuck at home amid the pandemic. Yet despite the success of delivery to the Uber business, the company made a $968m loss during the fourth quarter.

The company spent $1.04bn (£752m) on sales and marketing in the three months to 31 December, rising to $3.58bn (£2.59bn) for the full year. In October, Uber launched the second iteration of its ‘Tonight I’ll Be Eating’ US ad campaign across TV, online video, out-of-home, audio/radio, paid social and display advertising. The company then made its Super Bowl debut on Sunday with an ad urging consumers to support local independent restaurants, featuring Mike Myers and Cardi B.

On average, Uber’s monthly active consumers spent over $60 (£43) across more than five transactions on the platform in the fourth quarter. During this period the redesigned Uber app continued to roll out on Android, integrating the Uber Eats delivery experience with Uber rides to generate “incremental user and revenue growth” for Uber Eats. The integration now contributes over 10% of Uber Eats first orders. During the fourth quarter the number of restaurants joining the Uber Eats platform grew by 75% year on year.

“While 2020 certainly tested our resilience, it also dramatically accelerated our capabilities in local commerce, with our delivery business more than doubling over the year to a nearly $44bn annual bookings run-rate in December,” says CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

“With two global businesses stitched together by world-class tech and increasingly valuable membership programmes, we are more focused than ever on making people’s lives a little bit easier—helping them go wherever they want and get whatever they need.”

Uber CFO Nelson Chai says the company had “made some big moves this year”, such as acquiring grocery delivery startup Cornershop and food delivery business Postmates, while selling self-driving unit ATG and electric bike and scooter business Jump. Chai insists these changes have resulted in a “much more focused and ultimately stronger company”.

Jeep pauses Super Bowl ad

Jeep has paused its Super Bowl advert featuring Bruce Springsteen after news emerged the New Jersey singer is facing a drink driving charge.

One of the only Super Bowl ads to take an overtly serious tone referencing the pandemic, ‘The Middle’ featured Springsteen seeking to heal the division that has arisen in the US over the past year with a rallying cry: “To the ReUnited States of America.”

However, as news of the charges against Springsteen broke, Jeep pulled the ad saying that while it would be “inappropriate” to comment on details the brand has “only read about and we cannot substantiate”, the company believes it is right to pause the ad until “the actual facts can be established”.

Springsteen was reportedly arrested in a park area on the New Jersey coastline on 14 November for driving while under the influence, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area.

READ MORE: Jeep ‘pauses’ Springsteen Super Bowl ad after singer’s drunken driving charge

Children being exposed to fewer ads for HFSS products

Junk foodThere has been a “significant fall” in the number of ads promoting high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) products appearing on children’s online media sites, including YouTube.

Across the websites and channels monitored, there was a 74% fall in HFSS ads between October and December 2020 compared to the previous quarter, according to the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) third wave of monitoring.

Using monitoring tools to capture age-restricted ads served on a sample of 49 websites and 12 YouTube channels attracting a disproportionately high child audience, the ASA found 27 ads promoting HFSS products from 12 advertisers on 16 websites and eight YouTube channels.

Overall, 47 age-restricted ads for HFSS, alcohol, gambling, slimming products and smoking broke the advertising rules. In total 21 advertisers placed age-restricted ads on 23 websites and eight YouTube channels aimed at, or attracting a disproportionately large, child audience. Advertisers placing age-restricted ads online are required, under the Advertising Code, to target their ads away from child audiences.

The ASA is now taking follow-up action to contact the advertisers to secure the removal of the problem ads and has warned the advertisers to review and, as necessary, amend their practices to ensure they target future ads responsibly.

“We’re pleased to see the number of age-restricted ads we picked up on, in particular for HFSS food and drink, reduce significantly,” says ASA chief executive, Guy Parker.

“We remain alive to concerns and we will be monitoring and reporting on this again. But we’re making significant progress in our ambition to build a culture of zero tolerance for age-restricted ads appearing on websites aimed at children and we expect that progress to continue.”

Wednesday, 10 February

Lay’s campaign unites the world through football

Snack brand Lay’s is promoting the joys of following football from your living room and of the sport’s power to unite and bring joy to people around the world.

The global campaign centres around ‘Apartment Arena’, a 30-second slot featuring Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2017 Lieke Martens.

As part of Lay’s ongoing sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA women’s football, the brand will also be offering fans the chance to send a personalised message from Messi, in 10 different languages, to invite friends to watch a game.

“Even in the toughest of times, joy is all around us – we just need to be open to spotting and sparking it,” says vice president marketing global foods at PepsiCo, Sebnem Erim.

“Lay’s is an every-fan brand that can relate, and we know there is no greater joy than shared football fandom. We’re looking forward to creating these moments with this year’s programme.”

January online retail figures highest since start of pandemic

The IMRG Capgemini online retail results for January show a 74% increase in year-on-year growth, the highest rate of growth since the first lockdown period began last March.

These are the highest January online retail sales on record since 2008 and show big increases across a number of sectors, with health and beauty and beer and wine enjoying notable growth, up 102% and 105% year on year respectively. Electric sales continued to increase dramatically, boasting a 206% year on year increase.

“75% year on year growth is the highest we’ve seen in any month across the whole of the pandemic and almost 10 times the growth in January last year,” says retail insight management consult at Capgemini, Lucy Gibbs.

“January typically sees more subdued sales and a drop off from Christmas trading, however the anticipation of a ‘return to normal’ met the reality of challenges in an ever-evolving pandemic and customers once again turned to online shopping during the third national lockdown.

“The gap between retailers who thrived last year and those who were struggling to survive is becoming clear as news of brand consolidations are hitting the headlines with a focus on online value over the physical estates; what this means for the high street is yet to be determined, however it is clear that digital interactions will further dominate the future shopping experience.”

YouTube given MRC brand safety accreditation

YouTubeYouTube has received Media Rating Council accreditation, recognising that the platform’s content-level brand safety systems protect viewers, creators and advertisers.

The move comes after YouTube made investments in staffing, technology and its policy development, and an extensive audit reviewing the policies determining which videos can be shown on the platform and which ones can be monetised with advertising, as well as its use of video analysis.

“YouTube is the first service we’ve accredited against MRC’s Enhanced Content Level Context and Brand Safety Guidelines,” says MRC executive director and CEO, George W Ivie.

“When we issued those guidelines in 2018, we recognised we had set a high bar for brand safety protection, and YouTube has now met that bar thanks to its years of dedication to brand safety and to the MRC audit process.

“This ongoing commitment presents a much-needed path for other digital platforms and the rest of the industry to follow.”

WFA research reveals marketers need C-suite support

A World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) report has found that the main barriers to successful marketing transformation relate to attitudes, culture, skills and ways of working.

‘Marketing Transformation: Delivering the Future Fit Organisation’ highlights the need for top-level support, freedom to take decisions and investment in training as critical factors when it comes to achieving genuine change.

The report also found that the current state of transformation varies widely between multinational companies, with 37% ‘just beginning the journey’, 32% ‘progressing well’ and 22% ‘well advanced’.

Half of advanced organisations have active support from the C-suite, compared to just 4% of organisations at the early stages of transformation. Transformation is accelerated when executive leadership views marketing as a proven driver of growth. This is the case at 43% of advanced organisations, but only 15% of early-stage companies.

A third of advanced organisations state they invest significantly in the training and development needed for successful transformation. The numbers are just 4% of early stage and 6% of maturing organisations.

Organisations need the capacity and freedom to succeed. Half of advanced organisations stated they significantly/completely gave their teams freedom, compared to 13% of early-stage companies, while 82% of advanced organisations define a clear plan, versus 25% of early stage.

“Marketing transformation for the data-driven digital economy isn’t new,” explains WFA CEO Stephan Loerke. “But the change in business environment precipitated by Covid-19 has accelerated the need for brands to future fit their organisations.

“Naturally this includes a keen focus on ecommerce, customer experience, data and technology. However, the cultural and organisational elements of change are equally (if not more) important than ensuring that the right technology solution is in place. Advertisers will need to be highly focused on a clear roadmap to ensure their organisations are fit for the challenges of the future.”

Report highlights differing attitudes to diversity across UK

Research by People Like Us, a non-profit created to celebrate diversity in media and marcomms, has found that 67% of London professionals believe that diversity and inclusion is a higher priority for their company over the past year and following the increased profile of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

However, outside of the capital the figure falls to just 28%, with respondents outside of London three times more likely to say that their workplace had done nothing in response to BLM.

The PR and advertising industries were singled out in the report as examples of sectors that are more likely to believe that diversity and inclusion has become more of a priority, with 81% of PR respondents in agreement, and 75% of those in advertising.

Just 21% of staff in manufacturing and utilities, 12% in travel and transport and 32% in healthcare said they believed their companies were more likely to prioritise inclusion.

“As someone who has worked in marcomms in London for a large part of their career, the differences our survey has delivered are stark and worrying,” says People Like Us co-founder, Darain Faraz.

“It’s a tale of London vs outside London, it’s a story of senior vs junior staff and the findings are emphasised even further when you look at the industry-by-industry comparison. The results clearly point towards the need for bespoke solutions for specific audiences.”

Tuesday, 9 February

programmatic TV

The gap between different generations’ media habits widens

There is a vast difference between younger and older consumers’ commercial media habits, suggesting brands need to develop more diverse media plans.

There was a 92% gap between how 16- to 34-year-olds and over-55 watched commercial media during lockdown 2020, according to the IPA’s latest TouchPoints report.

This means there is just an 8% similarity between the generations, down from 21% pre-lockdown, and a significant fall from 58% in 2015.

This highlights the pace of change over the past five years and the impact lockdown has had in accelerating the diversification of media habits between generations.

The vast majority (79%) of 16- to 34-year-olds’ total commercial media time was spent on digital channels during lockdown 2020, up from 76% pre-lockdown 2020. For all adults, the figure stands at 48%, down from 51% pre-lockdown.

The study focuses on media where advertising can be bought and is designed to help brands work out where to invest in research, attention and effort.

IPA’s senior research and marketing manager, Simon Frazier, says: “Lockdown has undoubtedly reinforced the dominance of key media for the different audiences and exacerbated the differences. This greater fragmentation of the landscape means the ability for a single commercial channel to deliver comprehensive reach to all adults has significantly diminished.

“A ‘one size fits all’ media approach is likely to be less effective than it was previously – with a mix of both digital and non-digital required for ultimate brand-building success.”

Notonthehighstreet bought by US investor

Online gift retailer Notonthehighstreet has been taken over by American investment firm Great Hill Partners.

The business, which specialises in personalised gifts such as books, jewellery, prints and toys, saw revenues rocket by more than 50% last year as a result of the pandemic. It attracted almost a million new customers and added 500 new small business partners to its roster.

The company now has 3.6 million customers, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who bought a personalised dressing gown for Prince George.

The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

READ MORE: £ Notonthehighstreet taken over by US Great Hill Partners

Franco Manca eyes rapid high street expansion

Pizza chain Franco Manca plans to rapidly expand after the pandemic, with its owner Fulham Shore eyeing the huge number of empty sites coming to the market at cut-price rents.

The group, which also owns The Real Greek, says it plans to open seven sites in 2021, 12 next year and 15 the year after, with chairman David page telling the Financial Times it is in “a good place” as it didn’t have to borrow large sums when the pandemic hit.

He says some landlords are offering sites rents at half the price of pre-coronavirus levels, while others are offering to contribute towards development costs.

The group is also being offered premium sites following the administrations of retail groups such as Arcadia, saying “we are being offered corner retail sites – this is unheard of”.

It is also negotiating rent-free periods of up to 18 months on new sites to offset the impact of restrictions to trading when restaurants are allowed to reopen.

Fulham Shore’s growth plans are vastly different to those in the casual dining sector more generally. The group runs 72 sites, 53 of which are Franco Manca restaurants and says it had £20m available owing to a revolving credit facility that it hopes to extend beyond March 2022.

READ MORE: £ Franco Manca poised for rapid high street expansion

Co-op invests in data and loyalty team to drive growth

Co-op is looking to strengthen its data and loyalty team with the appointment of the BBC’s Phil Barker as head of customer relationship management and customer experience.

The appointment follows the relaunch of Co-op’s membership programme last year and the launch of its app.

Barker will lead the retailer’s efforts to bring data, insight, membership, CRM and customer experience together, tasked with driving value for members, customers and communities.

At the BBC, he was responsible for customer relationship strategy and digital engagement across its portfolio of channels and services, bringing “clarity and structure” across its brands, something the Co-op hopes he will replicate for its business.

The Co-op plans to use digital insight to deliver tailored and meaningful offers and communication for members as well as doubling funds for community groups.

More than 1 million Co-op members have downloaded the digital membership app to date, while 2 million members have selected a local cause to support.

Co-op’s director of data and loyalty, Charlotte Lock, says: “Championing communities through the Co-op customers and members that live in them is critical to our vision of co-operating for a fairer world. We can do that even more effectively by building meaningful relationships and rewarding experiences.”

Online grocery sales hit new high

British consumers spent £1.4bn on groceries online during January, a 121% increase compared to the same time last year, according to data from NielsenIQ.

Online grocery sales now account for 16% of all grocery sales, up from 8% in January 2020, and the highest level on record since reaching 14% in June last year.

During the four-week period, one-in-three British households shopped online, equating to 9.3 million people, with 4.1 million new to the channel. This is the highest number of new online shoppers on record.

Total till sales for the past four weeks grew by 10.6%, which is also the highest growth since June 2020. It is unusually strong growth for January, which normally tends to see consumers pull back on spend following Christmas.

Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins, says: “It has been an extraordinary January for British supermarkets. This was spearheaded by the exceptional growth in online grocery, in which there were 24 million online shops made – up from just 11 million last January.

“This growth has once again been driven by increased demand throughout the third lockdown as shoppers shifted spend away from stores where overall growth was flat. Retailers were able to flex their capacity in home delivery and increasingly in click-and-collect to meet the unprecedented number of new online shoppers.”

Nielsen expects this level of spending to remain consistent throughout February, but growth will likely fall in March given the comparative 21% growth of March 2020. It predicts growth for the full quarter will level out at between 1%-3%.

Monday, 8 February

Super Bowl advertisers opt for some light relief

Brands advertising during last night’s Super Bowl LV clash between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs opted in large part for a comic tone to offset the drama of the past 12 months.

Among the array of advertisers, who it is estimated paid up to $5.5m (£4m) for 30 seconds of airtime, US car company Cadillac reimagined Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands with a vision of suburban life 30 years later as Kim (the film’s original star Winona Ryder) raises her son Edgar Scissorhands (Timothee Chalamet).

Making its Super Bowl debut, Oatly recycled its 2014 ‘Wow No Cow’ ad that was banned in Sweden and features the company’s CEO Toni Petersson in an oat field singing a song about how his brand’s oat milk is “like milk, but made for humans”.

Fellow Super Bowl debutant Klarna enlisted actress and comedian Maya Rudolph to explain how its ‘buy now, pay later’ process works, while General Motors teamed up Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina to show their displeasure at the fact Norway’s adoption of electric vehicles is far ahead that of the US.

Reddit referenced the recent GameStop investment spree, driven in large part by the platform’s WallStreetBets forum, while the online firm that allowed amateur investors to buy GameStop shares, Robinhood, dodged the controversy with a message that anyone can invest.

The only ad to take an overtly serious tone referring the pandemic was Jeep, which brought in Bruce Springsteen to tackle the division seen in the US over the past year and share a rallying cry: “To the ReUnited States of America.”

Some prominent brands opted out of advertising this year, including Anheuser-Busch which chose to reallocate the money it would have spent on a 30-second Budweiser ad to support an Ad Council campaign promoting coronavirus vaccination. While it was the first time the Budweiser brand had not appeared during the Super Bowl for 37 years, Anheuser-Busch did put out ads for Bud Light.

Coca-Cola also pulled out to ensure it was “investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times”, while Hyundai cited “marketing priorities” linked to forthcoming vehicle launches.

READ MORE: Super Bowl ads go for comedic catharsis

Boohoo buys Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton

Boohoo has bought Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton from Arcadia for £25.2m, in a deal that sees the online retailer acquire the brands and online businesses, but not the shops.

“Acquiring these well-known brands in British fashion out of administration ensures their heritage is sustained, while our investment aims to transform them into brands that are fit for the current market environment,” says Boohoo chief executive, John Lyttle.

According to Boohoo, the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands had two million active customers last year. The online retailer, which promises to improve the range of menswear sold through Burton, said the acquisition of the remaining Arcadia brands gives it an opportunity to attract a broader group of customers.

Last week, fellow ecommerce giant Asos bought Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT, marking the end of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire.

Last month, Boohoo bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55m, to add to a portfolio of former high street brands including Karen Millen, Oasis, Warehouse and Coast.

READ MORE: Boohoo buys Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands

Tesco throws weight behind calls for online sales tax

tescoTesco is calling for a 1% sales tax to be levied on ecommerce companies to help create a more “level playing field” for bricks-and-mortar retailers.

The supermarket’s boss Ken Murphy and the CEOs of 18 companies, including Morrisons, Asda and Waterstones, have written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak warning that a return to the old system of business rates “will hamper the recovery of the retail sector post-pandemic, potentially putting thousands of jobs at risk”.

The coalition of bosses claim that business rates put retailers with large store portfolios at a disadvantage compared to online firms.

Sunak is reportedly keen to pursue a tax on ecommerce players, such as Amazon, Boohoo and Asos, although the Guardian reports he will likely wait until the autumn to implement such a tax.

A potential tax would involve a levy on online shopping, which it is believed could help support struggling high street retail. Some 11,000 stores shut in first half of 2020 alone, figures which do not include the forthcoming closures of the Debenhams department store chain and wider Arcadia retail empire.

Lockdown has accelerated the shift to ecommerce, with Office of National Statistics data revealing that in 2020 online retail sales increased by 46.1% compared to 2019, the largest annual increase since 2008. At the same time, full-year retail sales at physical shops for the 12 months ending 31 December 2020 fell by 10.3% to £285.8bn.

A key beneficiary of the shift to online is Amazon, which has been criticised for paying less in business rates than bricks-and-mortar retailers. The company’s UK sales in 2020 totalled $26.5bn (£19.3bn), up 51%. However, Amazon paid a business rates bill for 2020/2021 of £71.5m, representing 0.37% of its retail sales.

READ MORE: Tesco tells Chancellor to hit online rivals with sales tax

TikTok readies ecommerce push

TikTokTikTok is planning an “aggressive expansion” into ecommerce in the US that will see the Chinese-owned social media platform ramp up its competition with Facebook.

The Financial Times reports that TikTok plans to roll out a suite of features this year, including a tool that allows its most popular users to share links to products and automatically earn commissions on sales.

The short-form video app, owned by Bytedance, will introduce ‘live-streamed’ shopping, a mobile version of TV shopping channels whereby users can buy goods directly through the app. There are reports TikTok will allow brands to display their catalogues through the app. The notion of live-streamed shopping is already popular on Chinese social networking app WeChat.

According to the Financial Times, TikTok is also planning to introduce a function allowing brands to place their own ads online.

Last week TikTok signed a global partnership with WPP, enabling the group’s agencies and clients to gain early access to advertising products in development, including partnering on marketing API integrations and next-generation formats, such as augmented reality offerings.

READ MORE: TikTok takes on Facebook with US ecommerce push (£)

DMA backs apprenticeships with content focus

From March onwards apprentices will be able to access content from the Institute of Data & Marketing (IDM) as part of their training, as the trade body looks to support young people in their professional development.

The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) believes there is yet to be a “unified and sustained push” to lead the data and marketing experts of tomorrow towards apprenticeships. As a result, DMA Talent is teaming up with The JGA Group to deliver accredited apprenticeship training as part of a plan to widen access for marketing apprentices.

“Apprenticeships need to become part of the overall talent strategy – driven by the boardroom so they become embedded into the DNA of a business,” says general manager of DMA Talent, Kate Burnett.

“With more support and guidance for businesses, we can increase the number of apprentices across the industry. But we must improve senior stakeholder buy-in, improve understanding of the apprenticeship levy and help organisations to discover accredited training providers.”

The DMA conducted research with 17 senior professionals across the data and marketing industry to learn more about the state of the apprenticeship sector. It found there are 16 data and marketing apprenticeships on offer nationwide, yet many aspiring young marketers still can’t see a clear route into a suitable role that will develop their skills, while others are unaware of the training opportunities.

From a company perspective, issues persist around boardrooms being difficult to engage for programme development and funding, while organisations are also struggling to find accredited training providers and there is confusion about what the apprenticeship levy can be used for.

The report also suggests the structure of apprenticeships needs to be reviewed to allow for a better balance between work and study time, given that every programme currently must allocate a minimum of 20% of an apprentice’s time to study.

Shopper confidence hits highest level since pandemic began

Shopper confidence has increased to its highest level since February 2020, driven by restored confidence among over-55s amid the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

While January’s confidence score of -5 is still relatively low, the IGD Shopper Confidence Index reveals consumer trust in the food industry is at an all-time high thanks to a maintenance of supply, coupled with a focus on health and supporting local communities and suppliers.

Shopper confidence fluctuated slightly across the month and dropped to -7 in early January following the new national lockdown and ‘stay at home’ message, combined with the rising number of coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths. The index then rose to -4 at the end of the month as the UK passed the halfway point towards its mid-February target of administering at least one dose of the vaccine to 15 million people.

Confidence has increased most among those aged 55+ (-3 versus -9 last month), who are a priority group to receive the vaccine. With news of the progress on the vaccinations programme, 19% of consumers surveyed expect to be better off in the year ahead (+2% versus last month), which is the highest level since July 2020. Just under a third (31%) expect to be worse off financially in the year ahead (-1% versus last month).

“It’s really encouraging to see a slight increase in confidence in January, which builds on the increase from November 2020,” says director of global insight at IGD, Simon Wainwright.

“However, the uncertainty surrounding the length of lockdown, the economic downturn and potential supply chain issues around the EU trade deal will mean that confidence will remain fragile for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see the results in February, when the government is on course to reach its target of vaccinating 15 million people.”

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