China: A Land of Opportunities But Not Without Obligations
Like many of you, I thrilled to see the human drama of the Olympics unfold on my TV screen. I was transfixed by the spectacle. Perhaps even more fascinating than the prowess of the world’s athletes were the background stories on life in China reported by NBC and other news organizations.
As Americans, and especially as part of the retail community, we have a particular interest in China. More of the products sold in U.S. stores come from China than any other foreign entity. When retailers look for expansion opportunities, China vaults to the forefront.
Yet, I wonder how many of our retail family, both retailers and suppliers, think about their possible role in resolving world crises, in making life better inside and outside China? How many take advantage of their interchange with Chinese officials and businessmen to voice concerns about official Chinese government policies and business practices?
Take Darfur, Sudan, for example. China has thwarted United Nations efforts to curtail the killings there. With Sudan supplying much of China’s oil needs, Beijing has turned a blind eye to the attacks on civilians in Darfur by agents of the Sudanese government. China reportedly has supplied military equipment to the Sudanese government despite a U.N. ban on such exports, a charge China denies.
I don’t mean to suggest that the retail industry should co-opt our State Department’s and the United Nations’ efforts to alter China’s behavior. I am not suggesting that any retailer or supplier sever relationships with China. But as citizens of the United States—of the world—we have leverage and the opportunity to influence Chinese policies. Just as President Bush attended the Olympics but used the occasion to remonstrate against Chinese policies, it is important and incumbent upon American retailers and suppliers to speak out when meeting with their Chinese counterparts. Negotiations should not be confined to price, quality and work-force issues alone. China’s actions both inside and outside its borders must be discussed, even at the risk of offending Chinese “sensibilities.”
China has been transformed not by military might but by an extraordinary economic surge fueled by Western appetites for less costly finished goods. Western countries and corporations, particularly retailers and their suppliers, cannot shirk their responsibility, their ability to influence Chinese actions, for it is equally true that by doing and saying nothing they are condoning Chinese activities in Darfur and elsewhere. We must convey to the Chinese that what they are doing is abhorrent to the entire American community and is not just our government posturing. It is through continuous commentary from ordinary citizens and corporations that China will come to understand the depth of our national commitment.
From the beginning of commerce in America during Colonial times, we were part of a global trading system. Today’s economy is inextricably entwined in global politics, events and media. For example, the diamond and jewelry industries acted swiftly to safeguard their images after the movie “Blood Diamond” came out in 2006.
The energy crisis has prompted a review of some foreign production, as domestic or closer-to-America manufacturing becomes more economically appealing. Now is an opportune time for American retailers and suppliers to express themselves tactfully but forcefully that, while they respect China’s autonomy, they—and their customers—require China to be a more responsible global citizen.
Staples partners with Blackhawk for gift cards
PLEASANTON, Calif. Staples has announced an exclusive partnership with the Blackhawk Network, the largest third-party provider of prepaid gift-cards, to carry Blackhawk’s Signature Gift Card Mall, currently found in grocery stores such as Safeway. Blackhawk’s Gift Card Mall features over 300 branded gift cards across categories such as fashion, tickets, electronics, home and sports.
“Consumers love buying and receiving gift cards, and putting the Gift Card Mall in Staples stores will make it easy and convenient for our customers to buy a wide variety of gift cards,” said Mark Mettler, senior vp and gmm at Staples.
“Staples is a valuable retail outlet for us because of its understanding of the B2B aspect of our business,” said Don Kingsborough, ceo of Blackhawk Network. “Working with Staples, we will reach small business owners and give them the ability to purchase prepaid gift cards for their employees in the same place they buy office supplies.”
Staples is the first office supply store to carry Blackhawk gift cards.
RadioShack appoints new chief marketer
FORT WORTH, Texas RadioShack announced the appointment of Lee Applbaum to the position of evp and chief marketing officer. Applbaum will be responsible for advertising, brand management, customer relations management and marketing and will report to chairman and ceo Julian Day. He will also serve as a member of the office of the chairman, comprised of Day; Bryan Bevin, evp of store operations; Jim Gooch, evp and cfo and Peter Whitsett, evp of merchandising.
“Lee’s joining us at RadioShack represents another significant step in strengthening our senior management team,” said Day. “Lee’s background and successful track record position him well to add value to our brand.”
Applbaum began his career at Lederle Consumer Health, a division of American Cyanamid Co., shortly after earning his MBA in 1994 from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has also worked at The Coca-Cola Co., Schlotzsky’s, Footstar and The David’s Bridal Group, a division of Federated Department Stores. Immediately prior to joining RadioShack, Applbaum was the chief marketing officer for The Schottenstein Stores Corp.