Tuesday. 2/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Slash and burn

Consumers have come to expect discounts. Whether it’s an end-of-season steal or the price of a holiday, when we find a bargain we chalk it up as a win. But it’s not always a win. The money that shoppers save is taken from the pockets of brands and shops – and independent retailers suffer the most.

Last month, as part of a fashion-industry rethink, many designers and retail CEOs joined forces to sign open letters that advocate important changes. These include shifting the timing of clothes deliveries to align with the real-world seasons and rethinking the number of fashion weeks. But the point that really catches the eye is to do with tackling discount culture.

To be clear, we’re talking about the mid- to long-term future: when retailers reopen in the coming weeks they’ll be desperate to shift products that have been sitting inside shuttered shops, so summer sales will be rife. But broadly speaking, discounts strip shops of profits and designers of nobility. Of key concern are in-season sales, such as Black Friday in November when retailers sell winter garb at slashed prices. In recent years some brands have refused to participate in Black Friday but others say they can’t afford not to because they need the custom and if shoppers can’t buy something at half price from them, they will simply turn to a competitor.

And herein lies a major obstacle: successfully changing discount culture requires co-operation from players across the retail spectrum. We have already seen remarkable teamwork from the fashion industry during the pandemic – and this is a cause worth fighting for. Either sales disappear or many independent brands and retailers will.

Politics / UK

Halfway house

As England eases lockdown rules this week – groups of six can now meet outdoors and some pupils are returning to school – Westminster is set to resume physical operations in the House of Commons today, putting an end to video-call participation and online voting. “It shows that the country is moving again,” says Lance Price, former director of communications under Tony Blair. “For a parliamentary democracy to work fully, you want as many MPs to be there as possible.” However, political needs must be balanced with health requirements. The speaker has already set a limit of 50 MPs in the House of Commons but many parliamentarians worry that this might not be enough. “Like any employer, the government needs to find ways of keeping people apart,” says Price. “But [parliament] is an outdated building with lots of narrow corridors. It’s a fine line; rules might have to be readjusted to allow virtual participation again.”

Economy / Japan & South Korea

Clean slate

Citizens of 111 countries are currently banned from entering Japan until the end of June. But its government announced yesterday that it is considering easing restrictions on visitors from Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand, all of which have strong economic ties to Japan. Corporate profits in the first quarter of this year showed their largest fall in the Land of the Rising Sun since 2009 so the priority is to encourage business travel to resume.

Neighbouring South Korea faces similar challenges because of stalled growth and projections of its worst economic performance since the Asian financial crash in 1998. Both countries are hurling money at the problem: Japan has put together a record-breaking stimulus package of ¥117trn (€975bn), while South Korea has announced its own measures worth about €183bn. They seem to have a handle on the virus (for now) but the economic battle is only just beginning.

Media / Brazil

Headline act

Jornal Nacional has long been the news programme of choice for many Brazilians. Aired since 1969 on Globo, the country’s largest broadcaster, the 20.30 telecast is co-hosted by Renata Vasconcellos and the veteran William Bonner (pictured), who has been presenting the show since 1996. Both are celebrities in Brazil but Bonner, in particular, has revitalised his performance since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, helping to attract new viewers and match the ratings of the evening soap opera that follows. Though Jornal Nacional has never been quite as stern as nightly news shows from other countries, Bonner has injected more opinion of late by displaying his incredulity with the Brazilian government’s handling of the pandemic. But his tone is also sensitive – he cried when mentioning the daily death toll during one show, which struck a chord with viewers. Brazil is having a tough time of it right now but the sight of Bonner on the small screen is a welcome relief.

Urbanism / New Orleans

Paving the way

For cities in climates with distinct wet seasons, the management of rainfall and run-off presents a significant infrastructural challenge. New Orleans might have found a solution: the US city recently passed an ordinance that will require all new road projects to use permeable paving for parking lanes and footpaths. Sitting near the Gulf of Mexico, the Big Easy is routinely subjected to heavy downpours and hurricanes. Permeable paving, it is hoped, will help to ease the burden on the New Orleans drainage system by allowing rainwater to filter through to the ground beneath. Jared Brossett, the councillor who sponsored the ruling, says that it “will ensure that the city improves [its] infrastructure, resilience and reduces flooding”. With some 40 per cent of the world’s population living in rapidly urbanising tropical areas, cities with similar climates would do well to consider a permeable paving requirement of their own.

M24 / The Stack

‘Vanity Fair Italia’, ‘Openhouse’, ‘Lodestars Anthology’

We speak to ‘Vanity Fair Italia’ editor in chief Simone Marchetti. Plus: Andrew Trotter from ‘Openhouse’ magazine and Liz Schaffer from travel title ‘Lodestars Anthology’.

Monocle Films / Global

Animal architecture

Finding a compromise between an animal’s wellbeing, a farm’s efficiency and local architecture traditions is a fine art and often has to be done with limited resources. For Monocle’s 10-year anniversary issue we pulled on our wellies and went in search of the animal architects who are taking the bull by the horns.

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