Business stories of interest this week

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

1. Ardent leisure narrows loss to $156 million

Theme parks and entertainment centres operator Ardent Leisure expects to trade profitably in the second half of the financial year as attendances improve at the Dreamworld theme park on the Gold Coast.

Visitor numbers have slowly been recovering since their dramatic fall following a fatal accident there in October 2016.

Ardent booked a net loss of $15.6 million for the period from July 1 to December 26 of $15.6 million — less than a third of its $49.3 million net loss for the six months to December 31, 2016.

The result — for 179 days, compared to the previous first-half’s 184 days — includes an impairment charge on Dreamworld of $22.8 million, that was flagged earlier in February.


2. The Reject Shop shows renewed focus 

IT’S the simple change that’s made a big difference.

Increased availability of everyday items like laundry powder and tissues have brought customers back to The Reject Shop.

The discount retailer has reported a first-half profit of $17.7 million, an increase of 1.1 per cent on the prior corresponding period, with comparable sales up 0.4 per cent. The profit result released on Wednesday, which beat the company’s guidance of $16 million to $17 million, sent its shares soaring to close up 13 per cent higher on the previous day at $6.67.

In a statement to the ASX, managing director Ross Sudano said the company’s merchandise strategy was “back on track” thanks to a “raft of significant changes”.


3. Stand up desks not good for business

They’re all the rage in offices these days, but a new study suggests standing desks may actually increase bodily pain and slow down mental functioning.

Researchers from Curtin University observed 20 adults performing two hours of standing computer work to investigate changes in discomfort and cognitive function, muscle fatigue, movement, lower limb swelling and mental state.

They found discomfort “significantly” increased in all body areas and reaction time and mental state deteriorated, although creative problem solving improved.

“Due to concerns about excessive sedentary exposure for office workers, alternate work positions such as standing are being trialled,” the authors wrote in the study, published in the journal Ergonomics.

“However, prolonged standing may have health and productivity impacts, which this study assessed. The observed changes suggest replacing office work sitting with standing should be done with caution.”


4. Amazon launches fulfilment service for Australian marketplace sellers 

Amazon is aiming to attract more sellers and shoppers to its revamped Australian site by offering third-party traders access to its world-renowned fulfilment services.

From Tuesday, traders selling on Amazon Marketplace will be able to send their products to Amazon’s Melbourne fulfilment centre and pay the global e-commerce giant to store, pick, pack and ship orders to consumers in Australia and overseas and handle returns.


5. Caltex to end petrol station franchise

Caltex will buy out all its petrol station franchises by 2020, bringing nearly 500 outlets back under company control. The move comes after a difficult period for the company, which has been rocked by a wage underpayment scandal within its franchise network.

At the end of 2017, just over a third, or only 314 of 810 petrol stations, were Caltex operated, with the rest owned by franchisees.

Caltex will now spend between $100 million to $120 million over the next three years to bring them back within the company.

“Franchising has been an integral part of growing the retail business,” the company said in a statement.