Monthly Archives: September 2018

Brighter signs for local online retailers

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Harvey Norman has been among the large, bricks and mortar retailers to suffer from online commerce.Online mega sale to lift local retailXmas shopping on smartphones set to boomRetail sites face meltdown in clicking frenzy
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After a rocky start, Australia’s retailers have embraced the world of online commerce. But the sector still has some way to go before catching up with peers overseas.

Online shopping in Australia was worth about $12.1 billion in the year to September and represents about 5.5 per cent of total retail spending excluding food, according to figures provided by National Australia Bank.

By comparison, online sales accounted for an estimated 9 per cent of total in the US, worth about $US200 billion ($191 billion) a year.

“There is still a fair way to go in terms of that increase in share,” said NAB economist Gerard Burg.

But the ongoing effect of internet sales was “fundamentally changing the way a lot of people view the sector”, said Mr Burg. “There are some smart retailers around the country that are not looking at traditional retail online but looking at idea of multi-channel retailing, to combine online and traditional retailing for the best effect.”

Australia’s entry into online shopping has been a tumultuous affair.

For years, pure-play online upstarts, such as electronics retailer Kogan or daily deal site Catch of the Day exploited the gap left in the market by traditional bricks and mortar players to build online businesses and loyal customer bases.

Then, about two years ago, the strengthening dollar began propelling what had been traditional shoppers of David Jones, Myer and most notably electronics retailer Harvey Norman to overseas rivals.

Since then, the erstwhile giants of retailing have had to integrate new online sales channels alongside their existing retail network. At the same time, they must convince investors that after years of delay, they are capable of getting ahead of the curve.

Simon Trivett, national head of retail at consultancy Grant Thornton, said that viewing online sales in isolation, “Australia is comparable with other pretty well developed consumer countries like the US, UK and parts of Asia”.

Where it falls “well short” of overseas rivals is the link between bricks and mortar retailers and online sales.

“Overseas they have this concept of omni-channel retail where they view a customer as the same whether they’re buying stuff online or coming in the store to do stuff,” he said. “We segregate a little in Australia.”

He gives the example of UK department store John Lewis, where customers can pick up goods bought online at shops. If you’re in the store and see something you like, you can scan your bar-code and order it online and have it delivered at home, he said. “It’s that integration we don’t have yet.”

Whatever happens for retailers, the profit plunges have added urgency to their need for change. David Jones, Myer and Harvey Norman have seen their profits tank along with their stock values as investors punished the companies for not having a cohesive strategy to bridge traditional and online sales.

First quarter earnings sank 20 per cent at Harvey Norman, hitting $50.1 million, with global sales down 10 per cent on the same period last year. David Jones, while flagging a full-year profit drop of 40 per cent in September to $101.1 million, put a price tag on its flagship properties in order to assure investors of the underlying value of the company.

Analysts noted that smaller, more nimble players were competing not on price, as much as speed. Pearson-backed Bookworld南京夜网.au, for example is trying to beat off-shore giant Amazon on speed and price.

“One of the trends we’re seeing at the moment is the idea of competing on a non-price basis and delivery time is one of the things local retailers are focusing on,” said NAB’s Mr Burg.

“There is quite a bit of innovation going on that’s helping to change the sector,” he said.

City Index chief analyst Peter Esho said the online retailing was maturing but at an uneven pace.

“Within the speciality space, I think it’s definitely increasing at a much faster rate and has a good chance of having a high penetration rate,” he said.

Broader retailing, for food and petrol, for example, would remain more contained to traditional shops, he predicted.

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Stiff competitor: Fifty Shades up for British book award

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Author EL James.As if the sale of 60 million copies worldwide wasn’t enough, the blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey is now in line for a British book award.
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EL James’ erotic tale about a billionaire’s quest to sexually dominate a naive literature student has been nominated for Britain’s National Book Award in the category of popular fiction.

The awards celebrate books that have won wide popular appeal, critical acclaim and commercial success and are selected by panel of 50 book experts, including booksellers and trade journalists.

The nomination of Fifty Shades, which has sold more than 3 million copies in Australia, comes as another surprisingly sexy tale makes waves in Britain – this time in the newly coined genre of “granny-lit”.

A tale of 60-somethings romance, Thursdays in the Park, by British grandmother Hilary Boyd, has become a word-of-mouth e-book hit, with the digital edition quietly outselling thriller writer Ken Follett and Fifty Shades Of Grey.

The novel features a sexually frustrated pensioner who starts a romance with the man of her dreams while babysitting her grandchildren.

Just as the blockbuster sales for Fifty Shades sparked a rush of copycat women’s erotica, Thursdays in the Park has been hailed as a pioneer of a new category of contemporary women’s fiction devoted to late-flowering love.

The book could be a contender for next year’s popular book category. Meanwhile, E.L James’ novel is up against Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes, Victoria Hislop’s The Thread, 1356, by Bernard Cornwell, Cit-adel, by Kate Mosse, and The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson.

For The Casual Vacancy, J.K Rowling’s first foray into adult fiction, the author of the Harry Potter series has been nominated as UK Author of the Year, alongside this year’s Booker prize-winner Hilary Mantel (for Bring Up the Bodies), as well as Zadie Smith (for NW) and Jeanette Winterson (for Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal).

Other notable nominees include rocker Peter Townshend and comedian David Walliams for their respective autobiographies, Who I am and Camp David.

In the category of International Author of the Year, Patrick deWitt has been shortlisted for The Sisters Brothers. Also nominated are Daniel Kahneman for Thinking, Fast and Slow and Herman Koch for The Dinner.

The winners are chosen by votes from the National Book Awards Academy, comprising 750 industry experts. Previous winners of the popular fiction award include Dawn French for A Tiny Bit Marvellous, David Nicholls for One Day and Sebastian Faulks for Devil May Care.

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Sheraton set for Brisbane return

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International luxury tourism brand Sheraton has struck a deal with a Malaysian mining billionaire to open a 32-storey hotel tower on Mary Street in Brisbane’s CBD by January 2014.
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Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Sheraton name, has signed a long-term operating agreement with Paul Chong’s family-run Felicity Hotels group to manage the 246-room hotel.

Named Four Points by Sheraton Brisbane, the development will be the first internationally branded, new-build hotel property launched in the city in the last 10 years.

Following the opening of Four Points by Sheraton Perth in June 2012, the Brisbane property also marks the expansion of Sheraton across Australia partly inspired by the growing need for accommodation in cities hit by the mining boom.

Last year, Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said an accommodation shortfall was costing the city, and announced a moratorium on infrastructure charges to stimulate four- and five-star hotel and motel development.

While Cr Quirk welcomed the news today, he said the city needed an additional 300-plus hotel rooms a year to meet the current demand.

“This investment by Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Felicity Hotel reinforces the opportunities for hotel investors into Brisbane,” he said.

“It is also perfect timing for Brisbane as the city gears up to host thousands of delegates who will attend the G20 Leaders Summit in our city in November 2014 and it means we are even better positioned to comfortably accommodate everyone.”

A recent Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels’ Hotel Investor Sentiment Survey ranked Brisbane the fourth most sought-after location for hotel acquisitions in the world.

Starwood Asia Senior Vice President Acquisition & Development Matthew Fry said the city’s boom-town reputation was well known.

“We have been seeking an opportunity in Brisbane’s sought after business district for a while now,” he said.

“Brisbane is a thriving business city on the east coast of Australia, and we look forward to working with our valued stakeholders to ensure Four Points by Sheraton Brisbane is the city’s leading select-service hotel in terms of its location, comfortable accommodation and extensive business facilities.”

Designed by Brisbane-based Noel Robinson Architects, hotel will be located at 99-103 Mary Street and plans to cater for both business and leisure travellers alike.

Room sizes will average 27 square metres and hotel facilities include an all-day restaurant, a cafe bar and 200 square metres of function space.

Other key hotel developments recently announced for Brisbane include a $35 million refurbishment of the Chifley at Lennons, a boutique hotel as part of Leighton’s Mosaic development in Fortitude Valley, and the Mantra-managed Dunmore Hotel on Brunswick Street.

The Brisbane Sofitel, above Central Station, was previously a Sheraton Hotel.

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Dragons pick up Harrison after Raiders release

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Released by the Canberra Raiders last week, former Kiwi international Bronson Harrison has found a new home with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
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As revealed by Fairfax last week, the Dragons signed Harrison on Wednesday to a two-year contract as a replacement for former Raiders forward and retiring Dragons player Josh Miller.

Harrison played 83 NRL games for the Raiders between 2009-12 and co-captained the club towards the latter stages of 2011.

It was those leadership credentials that appealed to Dragons coach Steve Price, who is looking to replace senior players such as Ben Hornby, Dean Young and Beau Scott.

“I’ve watched Bronson over a number of years now and he is an outstanding football player,” Price said on the Dragons website.

“He’s had a bad run of injuries over the past twelve months but I’m confident we can get him back playing to the ability that we know he is capable.

“People in dialogue with Bronson have noted he is an outstanding leader and that’s what I am looking for.

“He is a talented prospect and I believe he will really fit into the way we play next year.”

Harrison had two years to run on his contract at the Raiders, but his future at the club appeared limited when Canberra recruited backrowers Joel Edwards (Newcastle Knights) and Jake Foster (Bulldogs).

He missed the entire back half of the season with the Raiders because of injury and relegation to NSW Cup.

Harrison, 27, was also a premiership player with the Wests Tigers in 2005.

“The Dragons are a fantastic club with a proud tradition and great record and I’m looking forward to joining them,” Harrison said.

“I want to thank them for giving me an opportunity to continue my NRL career and I can’t wait to join the players for pre-season training.”

The Dragons’ roster also contains former Raiders players Michael Weyman and Daniel Vidot.

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Double trouble: identical twin sisters courted generals, lived the high life and racked up millions in debt

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Controversy … from left, Natalie Khawam, General David Petraeus, Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley and Holly Petraeus watch the Gasparilla parade in Tampa, Florida in January 2010.Petraeus shockwaves jeopardise more top jobsTimeline: the Petraeus affairWho’s who in the Petraeus scandal
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The twin Florida socialites at the centre of the David Petraeus affair gained intimate access to America’s military and political elite through their high-rolling lifestyles even as they quietly racked up millions of dollars in debts and credit card bills.

Jill Kelley, whose complaint over threatening emails prompted the FBI inquiry that has ensnared two generals, is mired in lawsuits from a string of banks totalling $US4 million, court filings obtained by London’s The Daily Telegraph in Florida show.

‘Dishonest and lacking integrity’

Mrs Kelley’s identical twin Natalie Khawam – who obtained testimonies to her good character from Mr Petraeus and General John Allen during a messy custody dispute after her divorce – declared herself bankrupt this year with liabilities of $US3.6 million, filings show.

Ms Khawam was described by a judge in the custody case as dishonest and lacking integrity, The Associated Press reported, citing court documents.

The 37-year-old sisters have emerged as central players in the saga gripping Washington’s national security establishment since Mrs Kelley was named as the “second woman” allegedly harassed by jealous emails from Paula Broadwell, Mr Petraeus’s biographer and mistress.

General sent Kelley ‘more than 20,000 pages of emails’

Mrs Kelley was also named as the woman with whom Marine General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, exchanged more than 20,000 pages of emails, some of which were characterised as “flirtatious”, one senior US official told AP.

The emails between General Allen and Mrs Kelley were not sexually explicit or seductive but included pet names such as “sweetheart” or “dear”. The official said that while much of the communication – including some from General Allen and Mrs Kelley – was relatively innocuous, some could be construed as unprofessional and would cause a reasonable person to take notice.

The sisters also have direct links to Florida’s highest political circles, London’s The Daily Telegraph has learnt. Ms Khawam once dated Charlie Crist, the state’s former governor, a Republican source said, while Pam Bondi, its attorney-general and a close ally of Mitt Romney, attended a function at Mrs Kelley’s home.

Mrs Kelley, a mother of four and unpaid “social liaison” for the US military in Tampa, is said to have spared no expense at such parties to honour top brass stationed at nearby US Central Command. She was pictured at one event at her $US1.2 million mansion in 2010 with Mr Petraeus, who arrived in a 28-car motorcade. The sisters are also believed to have attended the farewell party for Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the former British ambassador to the US, in Washington last year.

Peter King, a Republican congressman for New York who was at the event, told CNN that he had met Mrs Kelley at “one or two events at the British embassy”. An embassy spokesman declined to check, saying that it would take too much time.

Guests at Mrs Kelley’s own parties were treated to lavish buffets, drank champagne and puffed on cigars while being entertained by string quartets, according to insider accounts.

Facing multiple lawsuits

Yet she and her husband Scott, a surgeon, were soon being sued for $US1.9 million by Central Bank after allegedly failing to keep up with mortgage payments on a house they bought after starting their own property company. A similar $US1.8 million property lawsuit from Regions Bank followed soon after.

Later in the year, Regions Bank filed another claim against the Kelleys for $US453,000, before Bank of America sued Mrs Kelley for $US25,000 in allegedly unpaid credit card charges. All four cases remain open. The banks’ lawyers declined to comment. Mrs Kelley’s lawyer did not return a request for comment.

In a further revelation this morning, the Huffington Postalleged that the Kelleys ran a “questionable charity” – the Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation – that spent all its money not on research, as it claimed on tax forms, but on entertainment, travel and legal fees.

“There are obviously financial issues,” said one associate of the Kelleys. “Scott goes to work and works his ass off, and Jill takes care of the social stuff, and gets them into the society pages. They are nice people, and I feel sorry for them.”

Why did generals vouch for Ms Khawam?

The sisters grew up in Pennsylvania, the daughters of a couple who emigrated to the US from Lebanon during the 1970s. Their parents, who had two other children, owned a restaurant and a vehicle registration firm, records suggest.

Ms Khawam, a lawyer, called on their high-level contacts during a custody battle over her four-year-old son in Washington this year. Mr Petraeus and General Allen sent letters to the court supporting her case to overturn a ruling denying her custody.

Informing the court in a September memo that he knew Ms Khawam well and had hosted her for dinner last Christmas, Mr Petraeus testified to having seen “a very loving relationship – a mother working hard to provide her son enjoyable, educational and developmental experiences”.

Two days later, General Allen – who is accused of exchanging thousands of emails with Miss Khawam’s sister, Jill – made his own unusual intervention, writing on headed notepaper and signing off with his title as a general in the US Marine Corps.

He said that she “clearly loves” her son, adding: “In light of Natalie’s maturity, integrity and steadfast commitment to raising her child, I humbly request your reconsideration of the existing mandated custody settlement.”

‘Misrepresentations about virtually everything’

But AP reported that Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz a year earlier criticised Khawam for her behaviour and said her “misrepresentations about virtually everything” would continue.

“Ms Khawam appears to lack any appreciation or respect for the importance of honesty and integrity in her interactions with her family, employers and others with whom she comes in contact,” he wrote in November 2011.

Not only did the judge in the case award her ex-husband custody last year of their three-year-old son, John, but he also told Ms Khawam to pay his legal bills amounting to $US350,000. Khawam filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April after racking up more than $US3 million in debt, according to federal court records.

The status of her most recent custody appeal was not immediately known. She did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday, AP reported.

Her relationship with her ex-husband, Grayson Wolfe, grew to levels of remarkable acrimony as detailed in court papers. She made repeated claims of abuse, which the judge called “an ever-expanding set of sensational accusations” against Wolfe that were “numerous,” “extraordinary,” and, “so distorted that they defy any common sense view of reality.”

Separately, Ms Khawam is being sued in Maryland for $US100,000 in legal fees and in Florida by her former boss Barry Cohen, a prominent Tampa lawyer, who claims in his lawsuit that she “fraudulently omitted Rolex watches, sable mink furs and a diamond ring” from her bankruptcy filing, which she denies.

Mr Cohen’s action came in response to a lawsuit against him from Ms Khawam, who accused him of breach of contract and failing to take action to a complaint of sexual harassment. Mr Cohen denies the allegations.

The Daily Telegraph, London with AP, smh南京夜网.au

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