Business stories of interest this week

Business stories from the past week, compiled by Jason Maywald:

1. Summer is a productive not slack time for office workers

Aussies are ramping up the hard work this January, with three in five hiring managers saying staff productivity improves during the summer months.

Research by recruiter Robert Half revealed the correlation was particularly strong in New South Wales, where 70 per cent of managers said they found office workers “much more productive” or “somewhat more productive” during the sunny months.

It compares to Western Australia at 64 per cent, Queensland at 52 per cent, and Victoria at 45 per cent.

Men were more likely to exhibit higher productivity in the warm weather (60 per cent compared to women’s 51 per cent), as were workers in the public sector (64 per cent compared to the private sector’s 53 per cent).


2. The future of grocery shopping – Amazons checkout free store opens to the public 

Amazone opened its checkout-free grocery store to the public on Monday after more than a year of testing, moving forward on an experience that could change bricks-and-mortar retail forever.

The Seattle store, known as Amazon Go, relies on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back.


3. Close to 1 million households under mortgage stress

Aussies finished last year under increasing mortgage stress, new data has revealed, leading industry figures to warn of a potential increase in home loan defaults in 2018.

Research firm Digital Finance Analytics’ latest mortgage stress and default analysis update estimated more than 921,000 Australian households (29.7 per cent) are under mortgage stress; a rise of more than 10,000 households since November. Meanwhile, 24,000 of those were in severe stress. DFA principal Martin North believes 54,000 households are currently at risk of 30-day debt defaults over the next 12 months.

Making matters tougher, the ratio of household debt to income more than doubled between 1995 and 2015, from 104 per cent to 212 per cent, according to OECD data.

4.  You’ll be shopping like The Jetsons pretty soon

Supermarkets without checkouts, trolleys that push themselves and shop assistants who know what you posted on Facebook this morning.

The automation and radical evolution of bricks and mortar retail is here, and robots will soon be roaming grocery store aisles like, depending whether you’re a shopper or a cashier, a helpful android from The Jetsons or a Dalek from Dr Who, built to “EXTERMINATE“.

5. The slow painful death if Myer and DJs

Myer and David Jones are honestly trying. So it’s sad to see what is happening.

Myer got itself a confident young CEO who put in a bold new strategy. But he couldn’t stop the department store from bleeding. Myer, which has posted a run of bad sales figures, just this week announced it was cutting yet more staff to turn the business around.

David Jones got sold off to foreign owners who are also trying a new strategy. It’s a different strategy to the Myer one, with more focus on food. But they are bleeding too. This week the owner of David Jones announced they were looking into writing down the value of the company they bought for $2 billion in 2014.

The synchronised horror in the department stores suggests maybe there’s nothing they can do. Maybe it’s all over. Maybe department stores are like big bookstore chains or video stores that simply don’t have a future, no matter how you try to shake it up.