Data points

Published November 14, 2022
A nozzle pumps gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station in Los Angeles, California. According to government data released last week, US consumer prices cooled in October but remained at decades-high levels, keeping the pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration. The closely-watched report showed more evidence of rising costs, including a rebound in gasoline prices, in a year when surging inflation was at the top of voter concerns.—AFP
A nozzle pumps gasoline into a vehicle at a gas station in Los Angeles, California. According to government data released last week, US consumer prices cooled in October but remained at decades-high levels, keeping the pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration. The closely-watched report showed more evidence of rising costs, including a rebound in gasoline prices, in a year when surging inflation was at the top of voter concerns.—AFP

The next supply disruption

The pandemic has ushered in an era of supply chain disruption and unpredictability that has severely challenged many companies’ planning and processes, and revealed how far prevailing practices are from the ideal. An MIT Centre for Transportation and Logistics poll conducted online at the onset of the pandemic revealed that only 16pc of organisations have an emergency response centre — an established best practice for mitigating and recovering from unplanned interruptions in the physical flow of goods. Unsurprisingly, given the pandemic’s disruptive effects, the same poll found that the highest ambition of supply chain managers was to bolster their risk management protocols and tools. The problem with crisis-driven supply chain initiatives that are focused on protocols and tools is that they are only as effective as the ability of the organisation to use them. Having that ability requires the systematic development of capabilities to manage for supply disruptions. These capabilities ensure companies plan for and respond to known business and operating risks but also manage unknown-but-knowable threats and their associated consequences.

(Adapted from “Get Ready for the Next Supply Disruption,” by M. Johnny Rungtusanatham and David A. Johnston, published on November 07, 2022, by MIT Sloan Management Review)

Making returns harder

Retailers bent over backward amid Covid-19 shutdowns to make returns easy so that people would keep shopping. But that fed a pattern of buying and returning that grew costly for companies.

Now, as e-commerce remains healthy, retailers from Athleta to Zara are shortening refund and exchange windows and charging customers restocking fees. Retailers expect their customers to send back about 17pc of the total merchandise they purchased in 2021, adding up to $761 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

That is up from 11pc in 2020. About 10pc of these returns are fraudulent, says NRF, including returns of shoplifted merchandise and items purchased with the goal of using and then returning. Many of those items can’t be resold, analysts say, costing companies billions and creating waste. Returns are especially challenging for stores that already have too much stuff. With returns piled to the ceilings and clogging warehouse aisles, businesses are working hard to dissuade their customers from bringing items back.

(Adapted from “Good Luck Returning Your Unwanted Clothes and Electronics,” by Rachel Wolfe, published on November 1, 2022, by the Wall Street Journal)

The power of condoms

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have the highest fertility rates in the world. The United Nations projects that the number of Nigerians will more than double by 2050, to 450 million, making it the world’s third-most populous country. This part of West Africa is now the engine of global population growth, a title that previously fell on China, India or Southeast Asia — each of which became economic powerhouses. The ascent of those regions was driven in part by what’s known as the fertility transition. That’s when fertility rates fall toward the replacement rate of about 2.1 births per woman, which stabilises the population and is closely connected to development, growth and poverty reduction. Lower fertility rates mean a higher median age, which means a bigger working population earning and saving money. Lowering birthrates is key to cutting poverty in the world’s most fertile population.

(Adapted from “Talking More About Condoms Is Good for Africa’s Economy,” by Neil Munshi, published on November 1, 2022, by Bloomberg Businessweek)

Quiet quitting in India

It’s not the information technology sector but defense and government that had the highest rate of quiet quitters last year in India, according to a Slack report. Quiet quitting refers to employees fulfilling the requirements of their job but not going above and beyond. At 12pc, their rate of quiet quitting is twice of most sectors surveyed. “Civil servants and government knowledge workers in India are among the more likely to have felt burned out in the past year, with 58pc saying they’ve felt overloaded,” said a Leadership and the War for Talent Report by Slack, an instant messaging platform. Other than burnout, government employees also feel that there is a clear communication gap with their employers or senior leaders. Nine out of ten government knowledge workers say they love it when new collaborative technology is introduced.

(Adapted from “If you thought quiet quitting was highest in IT, you are wrong,” by Vaamanaa Sethi, published on November 9, 2022, by Business Insider India)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 14th, 2022

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