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Business Travel Is a Mess
With flight delays prevalent, many travelers are opting for seven-hour drives.
Here are today’s highlights:
The pandemic may have just about finished off the discount coupon.
How Nike instilled a culture of entrepreneurship.
Even at $25 an hour, this factory can’t get fully staffed.
One man’s mission to make New York City once again the oyster capital of the world.
Business travel is coming back, but flying is a mess right now: “As the nation’s travel system strains under staffing shortages, cancellations and Covid-19 absences, some frustrated professionals are opting to drive instead of fly for work trips, booking companies and travelers say. Meeting and conference organizers say they’re changing schedules to account for flight delays, for example putting keynote speakers on the second or third day of events, rather than the opening sessions.”
“Travel Incorporated, a Georgia-based travel management company, says its hundreds of clients have typically suggested employees drive when destinations are under three or four hours away. This summer, some of those clients are giving employees the option and time to drive if the location is up to five to seven hours away, says Tracie Carillo, senior vice president of business development and marketing.
“Managers are also approving more expensive nonstop itineraries, encouraging employees to take early-morning flights or to travel the day before important meetings to avoid missing them, say booking companies and travelers.”
“Eighty-nine percent of business travelers reported having to take unexpected steps recently because of difficulty booking transportation and lodging for business travel, according to an April survey of 1,000 U.S. business travelers from travel and expense software provider SAP Concur.”
“Compounding the impact of the delays and cancellations are the high cost of hotels, airfare, gas and food. To economize, some companies are encouraging staff to schedule multiple meetings during a trip or make stops in different cities.” READ MORE
Coupons are getting harder to find, and consumers are less interested in find them: “In 2021, Kantar Media estimates, 168 billion circulated, across both print and digital formats. That was down from about 294 billion in 2015. The shrinking coupon market includes not just the number of coupons distributed but also the share turned in at checkout. Redemption rates declined to 0.5 percent of all print and digital coupons in 2020 from about 3.5 percent in the early 1980s, according to a paper by economists at Harvard University, Georgetown University and Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. The economists see a larger phenomenon: Increasingly time-strapped consumers don’t want to deal with even small hassles to save a few dollars on toothpaste.”
“‘The declining use of coupons and the declining redemption rates indicate a fundamental shift in consumer shopping behavior,’ the authors wrote. They added, ‘We view this as additional evidence that declining price sensitivity reflects a longer-run secular trend.’”
“At the same time, mobile phones have made all kinds of other incentives possible, including cash-back rewards, points that can be redeemed for store credit and contest prizes.”
“If coupons had been slowly dying for years, the pandemic delivered a sharp blow. Seemingly overnight, roiling supply chains and the lurch from office to home left consumers desperate to buy anything they could get their hands on; brand preferences went out the window.”
“When inflation started to spike last year, not only did retailers have trouble keeping shelves stocked, they weren’t even sure they could maintain stable prices until the coupons expired.” READ MORE
Rural counties are booming: “Small communities have long lagged far behind big cities in job creation and income growth. But since the pandemic, many are seeing an infusion of remote workers drawn by lower costs, laid-back lifestyles and natural beauty—and worn down by crime and other urban challenges. Their presence has helped spur hiring, income gains, and home-price growth in rural towns. The question now is whether these transplants are there to stay. After years of losing residents, Litchfield County in the northwest corner of Connecticut drew in workers after the Covid-19 pandemic hit. In Winsted, a small town in the county overlooking a large lake, commercial real-estate sales used to be fairly weak, said Gary Giordano, a Realtor and economic-development commissioner in the area. The pandemic helped change that, he said.”
“Those newcomers are sipping drinks at the craft brewery downtown, which opened in the year before the pandemic and serves beers on tap. They are placing orders at the new cafe on Main Street whose menu includes an extensive list of sweetened cold brews, fruity ice teas and spritzers.”
“George Noujaim set up his Lebanese restaurant along Winsted’s downtown strip in 2016. The inflow of new residents during the pandemic is a key factor propelling his business, Mr. Noujaim said.”
“This spring he opened a new production facility with large cylindrical machines to pump out hummus for distribution to Connecticut supermarkets, delis and restaurants. He’s targeting businesses in many Litchfield County towns.” READ MORE
A McKinsey study suggests remote work is here to stay: “The most striking figure to emerge from this research is 58 percent. That’s the number of Americans who reported having the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week. Thirty-five percent of respondents report having the option to work from home five days a week. What makes these numbers particularly notable is that respondents work in all kinds of jobs, in every part of the country and sector of the economy, including traditionally labeled ‘blue collar’ jobs that might be expected to demand on-site labor as well as ‘white collar’ professions.”
“Another of the survey’s revelations: when people have the chance to work flexibly, 87 percent of them take it. This dynamic is widespread across demographics, occupations, and geographies. The flexible working world was born of a frenzied reaction to a sudden crisis but has remained as a desirable job feature for millions.”
“This represents a tectonic shift in where, when, and how Americans want to work and are working.” READ MORE
The only Tampax factory in North America is paying $25 an hour—and still can’t hire enough workers: “For the latest example of just how tight U.S. labor markets are, look to consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble. In its bid to lure workers to one of the country’s most important tampon plants, the company has been raising wages for months. ... The advertised average annual wage has gone from $47,000 to $57,00 to $60,800 -- with ‘opportunity to grow.’ Highlighted benefits include 15 paid vacation days, 12 paid holidays, health insurance and a free fitness center.”
“P&G says that staffing at the Auburn plant -- the sole source of its Tampax-brand tampons sold in the U.S. -- has ‘largely stabilized,’ but people familiar with the production needs say that the facility is short-handed.”
“Staffing problems have coincided with an increase in tampon demand. The issues haven’t led to a full-on shortage, but some women across the country started to stock up as reports of lower inventories spread.” READ MORE
At least 20 Nike executives have started their own businesses: “Nike co-founder Phil Knight's best-selling memoir, ‘Shoe Dog,’ focuses on the company's scrappy, underdog, and entrepreneurial roots. Knight and Bill Bowerman launched Nike with a handshake, a tale known by all Nike employees. The waffle iron Bowerman used to invent Nike's iconic waffle shoe is even on display in the company's museum. ‘Nike is the quintessential entrepreneurial company,’ the 14-year Nike veteran Kate Delhagen, who now works as an angel investor, said. ‘It was founded by Phil, who is entrepreneurial at his heart. That spirit blows through the company. A lot of us channel Phil's lesson: $50 and a handshake, let's go. Pour some ingredients in a mold and see if it works.’”
“Delhagen is among several Nike veterans who founded companies in recent years. They're trying to disrupt everything from traditional Nike categories like workout apparel to industries like funeral services.”
“Knight is even getting in on the action. While he remains Nike's chair emeritus, he helped launch a company last year that provides name, image, and likeness services for varsity athletes at the University of Oregon, his beloved alma mater.”
“Nike is known for listening to consumers. Lockard and Eberle are doing the same at Bala, the footwear company for nurses they co-founded in 2020. The co-founders interviewed nearly 500 nurses before launching the company's first product. Bala started taking preorders in September 2020. Within 12 days, it sold 7,700 pairs. The goal was 250.” READ MORE
California is offering its residents “inflation relief” of up $1,050: “Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders agreed on a $17 billion relief package that includes $9.5 billion in inflation relief funds. Those estimated 23 million California taxpayers will receive between $200 and $1,050 by early next year. ... Those with up to $75,000 in income, or $150,000 if married and filing jointly, will receive up to $350 per tax filer, plus $350 if they have one or more dependents. Thus, joint filers with at least one dependent stand to receive the highest possible sum of $1,050.”
“Other states, such as Maine, New Jersey and New Mexico, have also made efforts to provide direct relief payments to residents, according to O’Neill.”
“Moreover, many states are in talks to implement gas tax holidays, and some have already temporarily suspended those levies.” READ MORE
The founder of Real Mother Shuckers is trying to return oysters to ubiquity and also honor the legacy of Black oystermen: “On a recent afternoon in Brooklyn, a man known as Moody stood behind his dark blue cart in front of the Bushwick location of BK Lobster, gingerly prying open Fanny Bay, bluepoint and Prince Edward Island oysters with his shucking knife and presenting them to customers on a bed of ice. Occasionally, a curious passer-by would ask him what he was doing, to which he replied, ‘Selling oysters,’ raising his voice loud enough to be heard over the rumble of the J train overhead and the hip-hop music playing from a portable speaker.”
“Moody, a 37-year-old Crown Heights native whose real name is Ben Harney Jr., is the owner of the Real Mother Shuckers, a small business he founded in 2019 to provide a more approachable oyster experience.”
“‘People can be a little leery of a guy selling oysters on the street,’ Mr. Harney said. ‘So I’m serving them in a comfortable way so that some can have the experience and judge for themselves.’”
“Ultimately, Mr. Harney wants oysters to become a common food — for everyone — again. ‘New York was the oyster capital of the world,’ he said. ‘And we’re eating hot dogs?’” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Wunderkeks Has Two Daddies: This week, we welcome another new panelist to the podcast, Hans Schrei, who is co-founder of Wunderkeks, an e-commerce bakery in Austin, Texas. Hans tells Jay Goltz and Liz Picarazzi why he and Luis Gramajo, his husband and co-founder, sold a business in Guatemala, immigrated here in 2019, and started a cookie business from scratch, going from selling at farmers’ markets their first year to doing more than $5 million in e-commerce last year. Hans also explains why he doesn’t think it’s enough just to make a delicious cookie, why he’s trying to raise seed capital, and what would happen to his visa if Wunderkeks were to fail.”
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If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren