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Senate Approves $1.9T Bill, But Changes Coronavirus Stimulus Checks Eligibility

On Saturday the Senate approved the next relief package, but not before making 3 crucial changes.
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March 8, 2021 3 min read
This story originally appeared on ValueWalk
Democrats moved one step closer on Saturday to pass the next coronavirus relief package. On Saturday, the Senate approved the massive stimulus package, but with several amendments. One of the amendments was related to the eligibility for the $1,400 coronavirus stimulus checks.
Senate makes three crucial changes to relief package
On Saturday, the Senate made several changes to the relief package legislation. There were, however, three notable changes – axing the proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, reducing the raise to federal unemployment benefits and narrowing eligibility for the coronavirus stimulus checks.
Despite these amendments, the overall package that passed the Senate is largely the same as was introduced by President Joe Biden in January.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had assured that they would stay in session to finish the legislation last week. Now that the Senate has approved it, the bill will go back to the House for a vote. And, then on to the White House for Biden’s signature.
The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Tuesday. It is believed that the legislation would easily pass the House, and Biden also would sign it this week. This means eligible people could start seeing the checks in their bank account soon.
Democrats are aiming to pass the relief package before enhanced unemployment aid expires on Sunday, March 14.
Senate changes eligibility for coronavirus stimulus checks
Talking about the changes to the eligibility for stimulus checks, the Senate approved version makes the stimulus checks more targeted. Similar to the earlier relief packages, individuals with AGI (adjusted gross income) of $75,000 a year (married couples earning less than $150,000) will get stimulus checks of the full amount.
However, the payment would phase out faster than the earlier rounds. Those earning more than $80,000 a year (married couples earning more than $160,000) would get no payment at all.
In the earlier version of the bill passed by the House, the payment phased out for individuals making $100,000 or more ($200,000 for couples). As per an estimate by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the changes by the Senate would leave out about 7 million families from getting the payment.
However, unlike the previous two rounds, adult dependents, including college students, would qualify for the payment this time.
As for the unemployment assistance, the Senate version calls for giving a $300 federal boost to the unemployment benefits. Also, the legislation calls for extending two crucial unemployment benefits programs through September 6.
The House bill (and Biden’s version), on the other hand, proposed giving a $400 weekly enhancement through August 29. Also, the House bill extends the pandemic programs for the same period.
Additionally, the Senate bill also makes the first $10,200 worth of benefits payments tax-free for households with an annual income of less than $150,000.

Tesla Leads Fellow EV Makers Down The Hill

March 8, 2021 4 min read
This story originally appeared on MarketBeat Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) is down -15.26% year-to-date, posting a decline of 11.48% in March. That follows a 14.87% downturn in February.
It’s closed Friday at $597.95, it’s first sub-$600 close since early December.
Tesla’s decline is part of a broader market pullback, particularly among techs and other growth names.
Other electric vehicle stocks followed Tesla down. You’ll often see stocks in the same industry move in tandem.
One factor affecting Tesla and its industry compatriots: A spike in Treasury yields caused investors to switch out of techs. In addition, growing optimism about a post-pandemic world means a shift toward the energy and industrialsectors.
Electric vehicle makers have been among leading growth stocks.
Known as an Innovator
China-based EV manufacturer Nio (NYSE: NIO) was on a tear in 2020, and sports a one-year return of 924.46%.
Recently, it’s followed the same downward trajectory as Tesla. The company has built a strong brand in the Chinese market, where it’s known as an innovator. For example, the company says its proprietary NOMI technology is the first in-vehicle artificial intelligence system.
Nio’s best-selling vehicle is the EC6 crossover SUV, which only launched in September.
Company-wide sales jumped 130% in the most recent quarter, to $1.02 billion. The company lost $0.14 per share. Both top- and bottom-line numbers missed analyst expectations.
Downside trading volume accelerated in the past two weeks, a sign that institutional owners are exiting. Given the big run-up in 2020, it’s not necessarily a surprise to see some profit-taking at this point.
The stock closed Friday below its 50-day moving average, but 26.9% above its 200-day line. Support at that line would be a signal that large holders have continued conviction in the stock.
Warren Buffett Likes the Stock
Fellow Chinese EV maker BYD (OTCMKTS:BYDDF) is also heading downhill. This stock’s 2020 chart action was stellar. The stock’s one-year return is 299.81%.
Year-to-date, BYD is down 6.08%.
The company is making a name for itself with electric buses, as well as passenger cars.
It has the support of perhaps the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffett, who said in a shareholder letter that Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) owned 8.2% of the company. That’s a larger holding than Berkshire owns in General Motors (NYSE: GM).
Are Three Wheels Enough?
Eugene, Oregon-based Arcimoto (NASDAQ: FUV) is etching its own path by manufacturing futuristic three-wheeled vehicles. It remains to be seen if these offbeat products gain big traction, but the stock had a strong if volatile, 2020.
Its one-year return is 840.63%. Unlike some other EV makers, Arcimoto is showing a year-to-date gain; it’s up 13.76% so far in 2021.
Arcimoto is slated to report fourth-quarter results on March 31. Analysts expect a loss of $0.12 per share on revenue of $1.46 million. Those low sales expectations, relative to other publicly traded companies, are a reflection of the company’s early stage. At the end of the third quarter, the company had shipped only 136 vehicles.
The business appears to be scaling up quickly, but it remains at a very early stage, and charting its trajectory involves a high degree of speculation. Across the year ending Sept. 30, Arcimoto produced just 136 vehicles.
Even so, the past few weeks have been a rough ride, sending the stock down 17.11% in February and another 16.02% so far in March.
Industry Poised for Growth
Although EV stocks are skidding lately, analysts continue to have high expectations for the industry, including companies other than Tesla.
Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a recent note that he sees a million electric vehicles delivered in 2022, with Chinese manufacturers in the lead.
However, he sees a bright future for Tesla in the near-to-mid term, as well. He says Tesla, with a current market cap of $573.94 billion, could reach a $1 trillion market cap this year, despite the recent selloff.
Ives also sees the wider EV market reaching $5 trillion over the coming ten years. It was around $250 billion last year.

The Children's Place Could Benefit From a Post-Vaccine Baby Boom

The Children’s Place could be poised for an upturn with a predicted baby boom caused by the pandemic.
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March 8, 2021 4 min read
This story originally appeared on MarketBeat
The Children’s Place (NASDAQ:PLCE) is off to a great start in 2021. After spending most of 2020, meandering at or below pre-pandemic levels, PLCE stock is surging nearly 59% so far this year. And the stock continues to rise on expectation of its March 9 earnings report.
If the whisper number is accurate, the company will post better-than-expected earnings per share. It will still be a negative 10 cents per share. However, that is 7 cents higher than analysts are projecting. For the quarter, analysts project $419 million in revenue.
Despite the fact that the company’s brick-and-mortar operations were shut down, the year-over-year revenue numbers may be pleasantly surprising. In 2019, the company generated $1.87 billion in revenue. If the fourth-quarter revenue projection holds, The Children’s Place will post approximately $1.46 billion for 2020.
That’s a 20% decline. But after revenue was effectively cut in half from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, revenue is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Digital saved the day
By now you’re probably sick of hearing the word omnichannel. But the retailers that have weathered the pandemic with the most success are doing so because they’ve embraced digital. And that’s the case with The Children’s Place.
The company made a $50 million investment as part of a digital transformation strategy. During the pandemic, this strategy began to pay dividends. In its prior quarter earnings the company pointed to some highlights. Specifically, the company’s digital customer count doubled on a year-over-year basis. More than 800,000 of its previously store-only customers were now availing themselves of the Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store (BOPIS) or Buy-Online-Ship-to-Store (BOSS) initiatives that are at the cornerstone of their omnichannel strategy.
The company is also seeing digital penetration rise to 44% in the third quarter. This will be key to the company achieving its goal of decreasing its dependency on brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, the company has a goal to make revenue from mall-based brick-and-mortar stores account for less than 25% of its revenue entering the next fiscal year (2022).
What can the company do for an encore?
In the early months of the pandemic, many analysts were forecasting a baby boom in 2021. For public health reasons, couples would be sharing close quarters with each other. And the logical assumption was that many of those couples particularly those without children might decide to accelerate their family planning.
However, it hasn’t worked out that way. In June 2020, the Brookings Institute estimated that 2020 would bring 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births than in 2019. The institute has since landed towards the lower end of that estimate, but the facts remain the same. For any number of reasons, couples have decided to hold off on starting or adding to their family.
One of those reasons is a general lack of optimism in their personal future. Will that change with a return to normalcy? That’s a question that nobody can answer right now, but the answer should be a significant factor in your decision about whether to buy PLCE stock.
When there are 300,000 fewer births, that’s a ripple effect that will last for several years of toddlers and young children. And that means a smaller addressable audience for The Children’s Place.
But if the wave that was, perhaps naively, expected in 2021 does hit in a smaller fashion in 2022, the outlook could change again.
Wait Until After the Dividend to Take a Position
If you already own PLCE stock, you should base your opinion on what, if anything, you hear regarding the company’s future guidance. After the significant run-up this year, anything other than blowout guidance will probably be a sell signal for some institutional investors.
One thing to pay attention to is any guidance about when, or if, the company plans to reinstate its dividend that it suspended at the onset of the pandemic. Prior to 2020, PLCE was a good dividend stock, averaging a 27% growth for the prior six years.

Big Lots Follows North Star To Profits, You Should Too

Big Lots continues a great quarter of profits by showing resilience and adaptation in the face of the pandemic.
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March 8, 2021 4 min read
This story originally appeared on MarketBeat
It’s A New Day For Big Lots
Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) continues to impress us with its resilience in the face of the pandemic. The resilience can be fully attributed to Operation North Star, a nationwide rationalization of business that set it up nicely for the pandemic. Not only were the stores in better condition to receive, retain, and convert traffic but eCommerce channels were open as well. In the wake of the crisis, the company’s revenue growth accelerated from spotty low-single-digit YOY improvements to a sustained acceleration that is expected to continue in 2021. In our view, Big Lots’ growth story is only compounded by its value and dividend which are helping to drive share prices higher.
Big Lots Exceeds Guidance, Guides Higher
Big Lots had a great quarter indeed with 8.1% YOY growth in revenue. The figure exceeds the company’s own guidance but, unfortunately, did not exceed the analyst’s estimates. The analysts were actually expecting comps to come in a little higher than the 7.9% reported, luckily for Big Lots new and non-comp stores were able to make up the difference. Notably, eCommerce and omnichannel sales grew 130% over last year and are sustaining the robust growth seen earlier in the year.
Moving down to the bottom line, the company was able to leverage the revenue strength to great success. The company’s margins widened a little bit more than expected resulting in GAAP and adjusted EPS that was above the consensus targets. At the GAAP level, EPS of $2.59 beat by a dime while the adjusted $2.59 beat by $0.09. 
The guidance is perhaps the best part of the report. Although the company refrained from giving a full-year outlook it is expecting adjusted EPS in the range of $1.30 to $1.45. This is above the consensus $1.33 and based on an expectation for low-single-digit revenue growth. That is important to note because this is the first quarter of comps against COVID-conditions and growth is expected. With another round of stimulus on the way, it is not out of line to think revenue and EPS will exceed the company’s guidance once again.
Big Lots Is A Deep-Value And Reliable Dividend Payer
Big Lots is a deep value relative to nearly every other consumer staple/stay-at-home pandemic winner. The stock is still only trading at 11X its earnings compared to a range of 20X to 32X earnings for Target, Walmart, and Costco, 24X earrings for Ollie’s Bargain Warehouse, and 15X for BJ’s Wholesale Club. In terms of the dividend, the company’s 1.95% yield is backed up by a low 22% payout ratio and a balance sheet that is taking on fortress-like qualities.
At face value, the company’s debt is very low but that is not the full story. Cash flow from operations is so good that over the past year the balance sheet has been turned on its head and in a good way. At the end of the 4th quarter, Big Lots was sitting on $36 million in debt and $560 million in cash where last year it had only $53 million in cash and $279 million in debt. The takeaway is that while Big Lots has not made a distribution increase in several years it is more than capable of doing so, the dividend is very safe, and when the next increase comes it could be very large.
The Technical Outlook: Big Lots Confirms Support
Shares of Big Lots have been moving sideways since breaking out of the previous range earlier this year. The Q4 report did not alter that but it did spark a move to retest support and it was confirmed. With price action now poised to move higher, we expect to see this stock retest the top of the range very soon. There may be some resistance in the range of $66 to $67 that could hold prices from moving higher but we don’t think it will last for long. A move above $66/$67 would be very bullish and could take this stock up to trade at a more-respectable multiple, one worthy of its growth, dividend, and cash-generating power.

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman Addresses Small Business in Inequality Speech

Small business owners need to listen up. The CEO of a big player in the digital space is saying capitalism needs a makeover. The head of PayPal is saying the tweaks needed are important for our democracy, too. And these changes will affect small businesses.
PayPal CEO Dan Schulman talked on “upgrading capitalism” in a recent keynote interview. It was during the first day of  The Conference Board’s Virtual Event, Building a More Civil & Just Society.

PayPal CEO Says Capitalism Needs an Upgrade
Schulman made sure everyone knew what team he was on right from the outset.
“I’m a big believer in capitalism,” he said at the 3-day virtual event that ran March 2-4. “I think it’s the best system there is for fostering innovation. But like anything including products or services you need to upgrade.”
Here’s what the PayPal CEO had in mind.
Schulman says 185 million adults in the United States struggle to make ends meet at the end of the month. And that affects our democracy and small business, too.
“We need to look at why capitalism isn’t working for such a large segment of our population,” he says.
Simple Idea
The idea behind upgrading it is simple. Both CEOs and business owners need to help the system evolve so it meets society’s needs.
So what’s to be done and how will any changes Schulman proposes affect small businesses? What can small businesses do to help their society and their bottom lines at the same time?
One thing he proposes is not just relying on the market to set wages. There needs to be a different gauge make sure employees are financially healthy.
And that starts with a shift in focus.
“The single biggest competitive advantage that a company has is the skillset and the passion of their employees,” Schulman says. “Standing up for inclusion and ensuring that no one is discriminated against isn’t a left or right issue.”
That shift in focus also includes a new metric small businesses can mimic to gauge employee financial health.
It’s called Net Disposable Income (NDI).
How It Works
Schulman explained how it works:
“It’s basically about how much money someone has left over after they pay all of their taxes and essential living expenses.”
PayPal decided employees needed to have an NDI of at least 20%.
The company did a few proactive things like slashing healthcare costs by 60% to bring up the numbers for some of their employees.
Other Steps
The company took some other steps including raising wages and bringing in a financial education program for workers. Small Businesses can scale these down.
“It a huge investment in employees in terms or dollars,” Schulman says, “but in my opinion it’s an investment that’s going to pay off.”
Wondering if it’s worth the effort to scale down ideas like this to suit a smaller business?
Check out PayPal’s results. Schulman says the company will have reached the 20% NDI mark by the end of this year.
Image: paypal

Tesla is Quietly Working on a Project to Help Texas' Power Grid

The electric automaker is quietly working on battery strong enough to power 20,000 Texas homes to combat the energy crisis.
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March 8, 2021 3 min read
This story originally appeared on ValueWalk
Tesla is quietly building a giant battery for Texas’ power grid as the state continues to reel from energy shortages. Texas’ power grid almost collapsed last month, and Tesla’s move marks its first major push into the center of the nation’s energy economy.
Tesla subsidiary to add to Texas’ power grid
According to Bloomberg, a Tesla subsidiary registered as Gambit Energy Storage is building an energy storage project in Angleton, Tex. outside Houston. The more than 100-megawatt battery would be able to power approximately 20,000 homes on a hot summer day.
Although the site’s workers kept the equipment covered and tried to keep people in the area from seeing what they were doing, a Tesla logo could be seen on a worker’s hard hat. Bloomberg also said public documents confirmed the automaker’s role in the project.
Property records filed with Brazoria County indicate that Gambit’s address is the same as that of a Tesla facility not far from its auto factory in Fremont, Calif. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing lists Gambit as a subsidiary of Tesla. The automaker’s executives are not commenting on the battery project.
Texas rocked by energy problems
Winter storms blanketed Texas in February, leaving millions of people without power for days. Tesla CEO Elon Musk mocked the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), the nonprofit organization that managers electric power flow to over 26 million customers.
“Not earning that R,” he tweeted.
The battery-storage system Gambit is building is registered with Ercot. System Planning Senior Director Warren Lasher told Bloomberg that June 1 had been proposed as the date for the project to go into commercial operation. The site where the project is being built is next to a Texas-New Mexico Power substation.
Tesla’s Texas power grid project advances energy efforts
Tesla is widely known for its all-electric vehicles, but it has long been more than just an automaker. The company touts its official mission as to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” In addition to being needed to store power produced by solar and wind, utility-scale batteries can also be lucrative opportunities. Battery owners can sell electricity back to the power grid when prices are high.
Tesla has been pushing into the residential energy market for years. The company revealed the Powerwall home battery in March 2015. Tesla acquired solar-panel installer SolarCity the following year.
Tesla is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the biggest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders’ families. Musk co-founded the company and recently moved to Texas, where the automaker and his private spaceflight company, SpaceX, are currently expanding its operations.

Karlie Kloss Looks to These Female Founders for Inspiration

October 8, 2019 3 min read
This story appears in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
When supermodel Karlie Kloss launched her girls’ coding boot camp, Kode With Klossy, she wanted the next generation of women to have easier access to the world of computer science. Now, as Kode With Klossy has grown to have a national presence, girls across the country are learning to code — and looking to Kloss as a role model who’s not afraid to blaze her own trail. But Kloss has some role models of her own. Here, she talks about the women she looks to for inspiration. 
Check out more stories from our October/November issue’s list of 100 Powerful Women.

Cindy Mi
Founder and CEO, education platform VIPKid
“I deeply admire Cindy’s dedication to democratizing access to education through technology. Her platform gives rise to the foundational tools that shape people’s lives, perspectives, and futures.” 

Lilly Singh
YouTuber and founder, Unicorn Island Productions
“I am such a fan of who Lilly is as a person and the message she stands for. Nothing’s more powerful than a network of strong women who encourage each other, and Lilly is a huge driver in spreading this idea, inspiring women to support one another.” 
Related: Forerunner Ventures Founder Kirsten Green On What She Looks for In a Pitch
Nia Batts
Cofounder and CEO, beauty bar Detroit Blows
“Nia has built a business founded on accessibility and community. Aside from being a success in her own right, she’s using the platform she’s built to help advance the entrepreneurial aspirations of other women.”

Fei-Fei Li
Cofounder and board chairman, nonprofit AI4All
“AI has the power to transform every industry, but it requires a diverse set of perspectives. I admire Fei-Fei’s commitment to ensuring that everyone can influence AI, from education and research to development and policy.” 
Margaret Hamilton
Cofounder and CEO, software engineering company Hamilton Technologies
“Margaret Hamilton’s work in computer science is revolutionary and undeniable—her innovations impact every programmer. She’s expanded the limits of what’s possible in science and engineering.” 
Related: Four Tech Founders Share Their Low-Tech Strategies For Success

Serena Williams
Athlete and founder, Serena Ventures
“The world knows Serena first as a world-class athlete, but the work she does off the court is equally impressive. She empowers young women to explore, showing them that we can be many things and pursue a variety of passions.” 
Jen Rubio and Steph Korey
Cofounders, travel brand Away
“Jen [left] and Steph [right] have differentiated Away [luggage] from the rest of the industry through their unique approach to design. By combining fashion, technology, and travel, they’ve built a smart, innovative brand.”

Mellody Hobson
Co-CEO and president, Ariel Investments
“Mellody is a true trailblazer, the type of woman and entrepreneur I aspire to be. She’s pushed boundaries and defied expectations at every step of her career, opening doors for businesses across the country.”
Related: This Woman Entrepreneur Liquidated Her 401(k) to Co-Found Her Company. Now, It’s Bringing in $100 Million.
Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy
Cofounders, at-home fertility testing startup Modern Fertility
“Afton [left] and Carly [right] have leveraged technology to improve women’s lives and give them greater agency. Their work will impact so many families.” 

Brynn Putnam
Founder and CEO, at-home workout device and platform Mirror
“Brynn has completely forged her own path, sitting at the intersection of fitness and technology and setting a new standard for her industry.” 

Biden Poised to Sign Final Stimulus Package With $1,400 Checks Within Days

House Democrats are set to vote on a final version of the bill late on Tuesday.
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March 8, 2021 3 min read
This story originally appeared on Business Insider
President Joe Biden is on course to sign a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan within days, marking his first major legislative achievement nearly two months into his administration.
The Senate approved the massive rescue package on Saturday after a marathon day of voting. Now the House is expected to vote on the bill in its final form late on Tuesday, after it makes a stop at the Rules Committee. Democrats are rushing to enact the bill ahead of a March 14 deadline for the end of enhanced unemployment benefits.
House Democrats hold a five-seat majority, the slimmest in decades for the lower chamber. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to approve the rescue bill quickly.
It would provide $1,400 stimulus payments for most taxpayers; $300 weekly federal jobless aid through early September; fund vaccine distribution and testing; an expanded child tax credit; and money for state and local governments.
However, the bill contains some notable differences from the one House Democrats cleared a week ago, which requires some finagling in the Rules Committee. The new legislation does not include a $15 minimum wage, after a Senate official ejected it last month, and it cuts federal unemployment benefits to $300 weekly instead of $400. The duration of unemployment benefits is actually longer than the House version of the bill, running through September 6, but shorter than an earlier Senate proposal to run through October 3.
Despite early concerns that these changes could prompt a revolt among progressives, they still appear to support the rescue package. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the final bill has “retained its core bold, progressive elements.”
“Importantly, despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” Jayapal said in a Saturday statement.
Jayapal also said in a tweet that she believed the stimulus serves as a “down-payment on the $3-to-$4.5 trillion in stimulus,” suggesting progressives will continue pressing for ambitious spending.
Biden said on Saturday that the federal government would start sending stimulus payments “this month” as he touted parts of the bill that are broadly popular with voters. He also said the legislation strongly resembles the initial one he proposed in early January.
“I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place,” Biden said on Saturday.

The Booming Industries Hiring in a Covid-19 World

March 8, 2021 5 min read
This story originally appeared on ValueWalk
The pandemic, and let’s face it, 2020 in general, were a total car crash for a lot of people’s jobs, businesses, and general sanity. However, not all sectors suffered during the COVID-19 crisis. 
The whole thing may have been a natural disaster, but it really wouldn’t be natural if some industries didn’t experience an uptick in a downturn, and one of the primary areas we saw growth was in warehousing and distribution.
Many shoppers intend to shun stores after the pandemic
Many of us got locked down during the crisis at various times, and we had to change our shopping habits. Perhaps the best news for warehouse workers is that it’s not looking likely consumers will revert back to bricks-and-mortar retailers after the crisis blows over – if indeed at all. 
There have been countless surveys carried out since March 2020, and they pretty much all say the same thing – that shoppers don’t intend to get back to buying in stores when restrictions end. Publicis Sapient recently published research that suggests nearly three-quarters of US consumers have upped their online shopping during the past few months, and very nearly half those surveyed stated they’re going to carry on doing so in the future. 
Bricks-and-mortar versus the digital shelf
The stark contrast in the fortunes of online and main street retailers is perhaps best illustrated by the 2020 financial results of Shopify and Walmart. Shopify, the Canada-based global eCommerce giant, recently announced some pretty impressive figures from Q4 2020, with revenue up 94% year-on-year. 
Shopify passed the $5 billion mark over the holiday season, and income for the whole of 2020 was up 86% on its total from 2019. Shopify didn’t rest on its laurels during 2020 or throughout the pandemic. In Q2, the company extended its free trial period from two weeks to three months. Buy-online-pickup-kerbside was introduced, and the online retailer also offered local delivery.
Walmart shareholders aren’t going to be too worried, but the company’s fortunes do say a lot about how things changed during last year. The traditionally big-box retailer is viewed as a slow and steady bet. It’s not exactly innovative, but it gets the job done eventually and with few frills. 
Walmart’s Q4 figures were underwhelming, and that’s how Wall Street saw things too upon the announcement, with a dramatic drop in share price during pre-market trading. While Walmart boasts nearly 5,000 locations around the country, it does have an eCommerce presence, but it lacks the cutting edge of Shopify and achieved less than 70% in Q4 – when it probably should have launched initiatives to cash in on the holiday period.
Who was hiring during 2020?
What all that online shopping means is that eCommerce companies like Shopify and Amazon and the distribution and warehousing industries are hiring – and hiring big. By October of last year, Amazon had taken on an extra 400,000 staff to cope with the shift to online shopping during coronavirus measures. The recruitment drive pushed the company’s workforce above one million for the first time. 
In warehousing, it was a similar story. While the pandemic saw employment levels in the US dropped by almost 11 million heading into October, there were still 1.25 million working in warehouses, up 46,000 when compared to just eight months before. However, it wasn’t all rosy for the industry, and COVID-19 has raised some serious health and safety concerns among workers.
Warehouse staff safety issues during COVID-19
The pandemic hasn’t just brought a boom to warehousing; it’s also heralded a fair amount of unrest. That’s primarily stemmed from a fear of infection among staff, and stories have emerged about worker fears being ignored. Allegedly, that even led to retaliation by bosses when staff complained and asked for better measures against infection. 
Stafford Sterner is the President of SJF Material Handling Inc, based in Winsted, Minnesota. He says that in the forty years he’s been in the business, COVID-19 has presented one of the biggest safety crises for logistics and warehousing companies. “The pandemic has created some truly unique challenges for warehousing, and it’s something nobody has had to deal with before, so it hasn’t been that easy to react and adapt quickly. At SJF, we’re committed to safe handling practices, and all the operations out there in this sector are used to that – it’s a big part of the job. COVID-19 has certainly brought several new issues, and it’s important workplaces are redesigned to provide sufficient protection for staff. It’s become as vital as any other safety practices we implement.”
For frontline industries like warehousing, the challenges posed by COVID-19 will continue for a while yet. With vaccinations well underway, this vital sector will hope for some semblance of normality – although it doesn’t look like the workload will ease up any time soon.

Why Retaining Great Principals And School Leaders Matter For Equity In Education

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As Director of the Education Reform Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas, Anne Wicks gets a rare insight into the highest levels of leadership. It’s commonplace for Anne to hear wisdom from the country’s—and even the world’s—top leaders, including from the 42nd president, George W. Bush, himself.
Much of this wisdom focuses on the value of foundational purpose-driven leadership. “Good leadership starts with understanding yourself and what you stand for, and knowing how to communicate that effectively,” says Anne. 

Anne Wicks, Director of the Education Reform Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute
Anne Wicks
With a passion for education and creating an equitable system for every child, Anne knows her purpose. She also excels beyond communicating it. She spearheads initiatives that help our nation’s kids grow into tomorrow’s superstars—and it all begins with recruiting, hiring, and retaining the best principals.

By partnering with schools, Anne uses everything from hard data to in-classroom initiatives to researching new ways to attract top talent. She’s especially devoted to recruitment and retention strategies when it comes to schools in lower-income neighborhoods. 
“My goal,” Anne says, “is to better support the system so that all kids have the opportunity to learn and to succeed.” 
How Can Schools Retain Exceptional Principals?
One big question that’s constantly swirling within Anne’s head is, “What can we do to support and retain great principals in every school?” Without an effective leader, it’s easy for the rest of the structure to crumble. 

“Teachers love to work with a great boss that will set up a strong, instructional culture that will also engage with students and families,” says Anne. “Great bosses make them want to be at a school which, in turn, helps kids to progress.”
Unfortunately for schools in lower-income communities, the best principals often will leave the districts for others that they see as better opportunities. Usually, this means receiving higher pay, less stress, and more autonomy. 
Anne’s goal is to significantly reduce principal turnover, especially within the schools that need them the most. But changing such embedded structures isn’t easy. That’s why Anne has been studying how outstanding principals are cultivated and retained. 
The program is called the Principal Talent Management Framework. Currently made up of four districts, Anne researches and analyzes the experience of school principals throughout their careers including recruitment, compensation, leadership development, evaluation methods, and autonomy levels. 
“We want to understand what helps districts develop great principals,” says Anne. By comparing ongoing research from a diverse range of institutions, her team can better grasp why some principals stay while others leave. Or, why some schools easily retain fantastic leaders while others experience constant turnover.  
From here, they can develop and launch new strategies within these districts in hopes of building a stronger, better educational system.
Recruiting The Best Leaders From Within 
Before developing great principals, you first have to find them—a task easier said than done. Every district has unique recruitment methods, as well as different financial and personnel resources at their disposal. 
Schools with better resources usually have a huge advantage when it comes to attracting top talent. Seeing this clear inequity, Anne and her team are working hard to identify the best methods in recruiting, hiring, and retaining amazing principals. Each study a step closer to ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality education—no matter what neighborhood they happen to live in.
One highly successful tactic they’ve uncovered is encouraging districts to tap into the potential undiscovered leaders at their own facilities. “Lots of leadership roles exist on any campus,” she says. “You can see who should be encouraged to get into the pool.” 
Think of current coaches, teachers, assistant principals, or other staff members who show strong leadership traits. “You can be really intentional about seeking leadership on campus,” says Anne. “That way, your pool involves developing your own people.” 
So, instead of engaging in expensive recruitment or outreach efforts, encourage these aspiring leaders to move up the ranks themselves by staying within the district. “They’ll see that they are opportunities to develop. They don’t have to go off to another program, try to get a credential, and hope for the best,” says Anne. “Strong districts do that kind of thing.”
Hiring from within also increases the diversity of school staff and leadership. “It’s a great way to diversify and recruit principals of color—to get principals that look like the students at the schools,” says Anne.
It’s a strategy where everyone wins. The kids win by having amazing, invested, and relatable leaders. School districts win as retention rates grow thanks to aspiring principals feeling encouraged to grow. And the leaders themselves will feel empowered with the ability to personally shape the future.
Better Communication for Better Education
Hiring the right principal is just the first step towards building a healthy, thriving school environment. Next, the school system has to continually support an environment worthy of the nation’s best educators.
Anne strives to curate the country’s best schools by working closely with districts and their administrative team. These real-world insights allow Anne to launch new initiatives and strategies in an actual school setting. 
Oftentimes, an idea will sound perfect on paper. But once launched, school leaders will report issues that Anne may have never uncovered. This provides everyone with an opportunity to make adjustments in real-time. As concepts gradually get ironed out, they eventually evolve from a hypothetical into a working solution—and perhaps the next great educational innovation.
“Partnering with school leaders is a really important check,” Anne says. “It makes us all better when we work together.” Whether the feedback is positive or negative, everyone involved feels privileged to be working towards a common goal—developing the next generation of leaders. 
“We want to create a seamless experience for principals,” says Anne. “They’re the most important people you can have in a district.” And as Anne learns more each day, it takes a strong, intentional strategy to attract these very important educators. 
“Clear strategies will ensure that they’re getting the best,” says Anne. “Then, we want districts to keep developing leaders while keeping kids on track to learn, and to succeed.”
The conversation with Anne Wicks continues on the Leading with Genuine Care podcast. In our chat, we talk more about creating more equitable school districts, the importance of libraries, advice on making a positive impact on our local schools, and more! Don’t miss an article or episode of the podcast by signing up for my mailing list. You’ll also get a free guide to my favorite mindful resources. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep up with my company imageOne.