Always fun to be in the studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (so proud to be wearing a Winnipeg Jets pin on my lapel!). This past weekend, Elmer Kim, Natasha Fatah, and I debriefed a busy week in business, including:
- La Presse Goes Non-Profit: One of Canada’s longstanding publications will become a non-profit entity, setting the stage for receipt of donations, and perhaps, federal funding. What does this development mean for the future of newspaper-style media companies?
- Canadian Tire Set to Acquire Helly Hansen: This retailer has a long standing history in a range of sectors, including automotive, outdoor, and sporting goods. Will acquisition of this Norway-based sportswear company take Canadian Tire in a new direction?
- Meet Google Duplex: As AI continues to evolve, Google turned heads with a very human sounding voice making an appointment over the phone, engaging in a typical conversation with a human. What issues and opportunities does this technology raise?
Print and newspaper media have undergone massive changes over the past decade, leaving many struggling with questions around the next steps forward, as well as their future viability. Movement to a non-profit structure might give the impression that the revenue challenge is no longer an issue, but this is problematic for at least two reasons: (i) all organizations need money to survive, and in the case of non-profits, they need to demonstrate that they are worthy of donations and funding; and (ii) in order to do so, non-profits must be able to generate successful outcomes, which requires the right strategy and plan. In a nutshell, La Presse needs to have the right business model in place, including a clear plan around what it seeks to achieve and how it will do so, which boils down to cash inflows, outflows, and results. Moving a problem “from here to there” won’t fix it; stay tuned to see if this important work has been done.
The huge consumer appeal of “life wear”, those resilient fabric technologies that allow us to comfortably wear what was once thought as only athletic wear, from dawn to dusk, wherever we go, is a difficult trend for retailers to miss. Canadian Tire has long been a source of more durable items, and with the billion dollar acquisition of Helly Hansen, the opportunity exists to expand their offering into this popular area. In addition, since Helly is an established brand globally, the opportunity for Canadian Tire to generate revenues in other markets and, perhaps, expand product offerings into these channels could be of interest. What’s critical in the retail industry is to ensure that product is turning over, and that inventory isn’t so broad that it puts a drag on results. With Canadian Tire’s many departments, are they in the process of streamlining their offering to better align with the marketplace?
And finally, in the category of “the future is now”, Google just keeps on moving forward, with its Duplex technology that sounds oh, so human. With the ability to make phone appointments and interact with conversational ease, it’s not difficult to see many potential applications. As with any business, it’s important to also see the downside, including risks of utilizing this technology in unintended ways, such as impersonation and security breaches. Questions are also being raised around job loss, as a mass of relatively low value roles could be displaced; such has been the case over the last century or more. With so many high value things to do, call it progress.
Thanks for tuning in and see you next time, CBC!