Retail sales crashed and wholesale prices skyrocketed in May following unprecedented federal spending binges, the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Tuesday. Although most government-mandated lockdowns and school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic ended months ago, the U.S. economy has been slow to bounce back.
New data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Tuesday show that massive federal spending and loose monetary policies from the Federal Reserve have resulted in significant increases in inflation across nearly all goods, services, and sectors of the economy — the biggest inflation spike in 13 years. The latest release shows that producer prices spiked by 6.6 percent during the last year, with prices increasing a whopping 0.8 percent over the last month alone. The rise in producer prices mirrors that of consumer prices, measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which have increased 5 percent over the last 12 months.
At the same time, retail sales also crashed, falling 1.3 percent over the last month, according to data released on Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. After the federal government funneled trillions of dollars into the economy during the pandemic, prices were expected to increase. But following unprecedented lockdowns across the country, multiple congressional spending bills complete with federal increases for unemployment, and worker shortages, Americans have been left with surging inflation and rising prices, meaning they aren’t shopping retail.
Meanwhile, businesses trying to recover from lockdowns are desperate for workers, but with many Americans receiving higher unemployment checks, wage costs have increased rapidly. Many businesses have raised the prices of goods to account for the wage increase, passing off the costs to consumers.
For American families, this means higher prices for everyday items. The cost of food, energy, cars, and transportation services have all increased. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of food items has increased 2.4 percent overall in the past 12 months — the price of eggs has increased by 8.2 percent, fresh meat by 8.6 percent, and grains by 5.7 percent. There’s no doubt Americans are paying more for groceries — and prices will continue to increase for at least a year or a year and a half, Phil Lempert of SupermarketGuru.com said in March.
Energy prices shot up 25 percent in one year, with nearly a 50 percent jump for gasoline and nearly 40 percent for fuel oil. Already higher fuel prices and the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline in May, which supplied about 45 percent of fuel for the East Coast, has raised gasoline prices exponentially. Gas prices surged 9.1 percent in March and are up 22.5 percent since last March.
On Monday, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones reportedly told CNBC that “it’s time for the Fed to pull back on the easy-money policy it instituted during the pandemic.”
The Federal Reserve will meet Tuesday and Wednesday, where economists expect talk of changing bond-buying policy. Although the Fed is not expected to make any immediate policy moves, many Republican policy-makers are worried about the Fed underestimating the rising inflation rate.
“Inflation fears are a little bit like phantom limb pain in that they actually cut off the problem but it still hurts, and it hurts because the fear is remembered even if the limb is gone,” James Sweeney, chief economist at Credit Suisse, told the Financial Times on Tuesday.
Could WhatsApp Be the Next Big E-commerce Channel? – Later Blog
If you think WhatsApp is solely for casual chats with friends, think again.
WhatsApp for business is gaining serious traction — over 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account every day.
During Facebook’s annual F8 Refresh conference, WhatsApp’s Head of Business Products, Ajit Varma, shared how the platform is evolving as a customer service and sales tool.
In this blog post, we’ll cover how WhatsApp for business works and how you can use it to drive e-commerce sales.
How Does WhatsApp for Business Work?
WhatsApp is a messenger tool that is primarily used for friends and family chats.
However, WhatsApp can also be used for business.
With the WhatsApp for Business API, brands can use WhatsApp as a home for customer service chats, timely notifications, and product recommendations.
As the app is comfortable and familiar for most users, it’s an easy platform to reach and engage with customers.
With the WhatsApp for Business API, brands can benefit from automated responses to common queries (much like Facebook Messenger chat bots) and provide customer service at scale.
Plus, the evolution of WhatsApp Pay — an in-chat payment feature that allows users to make transactions — opens up a whole host of opportunities for integrated e-commerce on the platform.
For example, when a user contacts a business to ask about a certain product or service, brands can provide recommendations on WhatsApp.
With WhatsApp Pay, users could soon buy a product directly within the app — streamlining the end-to-end purchasing process.
Want to find out more about how social commerce is evolving? Check out this blog post: How Social Media Is Changing the Online Shopping Experience
Facebook F8 2021: New WhatsApp Business Features
During Facebook’s annual F8 conference, WhatsApp’s Head of Business Products, Ajit Varma, announced some major updates to the WhatsApp Business API:
Businesses will soon be able to send timely notifications and updates to customers on WhatsApp, “to let people know when an item is back in stock, for example.”
These could also be informational updates, reminders to book an appointment, or the latest product deals.
New Message Formats
Varma also shared plans to introduce new messaging formats to help businesses streamline conversations, resolve issues, and drive conversions.
The first of which is list messages, which lets brands present a menu of up to 10 options for customers to choose from.
This means customers no longer need to type out a response, significantly lowering the barrier to entry.
Next up, reply buttons — a new format that allows people to make a selection from up to three options in one quick tap.
Brands can customize their list and reply options via their WhatsApp Business API account.
Add to Cart
Perhaps most notably, Varma shared some major e-commerce additions to the WhatsApp Business API.
Customers will now be able to “Add to Cart” within WhatsApp — and could soon be able to make payments directly within the app.
“We’re building new tools to allow the end-to-end commerce journey to happen in WhatsApp,” said Varma. “These features will provide a richer shopping experience.”
“In the future, our goal is to bring payments to our business products,” he added.
Block/Report a Business
Alongside an influx of new features, Varma shared that the company is exploring ways to moderate how businesses operate on WhatsApp.
In addition to limiting how many messages a brand can send and monitoring “value” metrics, WhatsApp is also introducing ways for users to block or report a business.
Users will be able to provide a reason for their decision, which WhatsApp will share as feedback to businesses, Varma explained.
These new features make the WhatsApp Business API a compelling choice for brands looking to evolve their customer experience.
“We’re building a platform which enables you to be creative and come up with ideas that fit well into conversions and plug into WhatsApp’s massive reach,” shared Varma.
“There will be very successful companies built entirely on WhatsApp.”
Stay up to date with all the latest social media news, events, and strategy tips. Sign up to Later’s free weekly newsletter today:
Jillian is Later’s Editor. A go-to expert in social media strategy and content marketing, she has worked in both London and New York. Next up? Lisbon and Paris! You can reach out to her on Instagram here: @jillwrren.
Ben Affleck May Be Ring Shopping For Jennifer Lopez in the Very Near Future
Could wedding bells be in the air? Bennifer is back and heating up faster than ever. These two have seriously wasted no time jumping in right where they left off. Their magical kiss at dinner, intimate Miami vacation, and introductions to each other’s families are just a few of our favorite highlights from the couple so far. We have a feeling these two are in it for the long run this time around and honestly, we couldn’t be more excited. The pair, who broke off their engagement nearly two decades ago, could in fact be getting engaged again — or so a new report suggests.
According to Mirror, an insider told Closer Magazine that Affleck is ready to marry Lopez. “Ben wants to give long-lasting love another shot and is planning a romantic proposal on the singer’s 52nd birthday,” the source claims.
— SheKnows (@SheKnows) May 10, 2021
If this actually happens, we will be seriously ecstatic. It feels like everyone is rooting for Bennifer to thrive and we’re so glad to see Lopez smitten with Affleck after the year she’s had. We can only imagine just how difficult going through a public breakup is, especially when it involves cheating allegations to do with your fiancé.
If this planned engagement is true, we cannot wait to see what ring Affleck picks out for Lopez. Who knows? Maybe they’ve already gone ring shopping. All we know is that we are totally loving these two together and we cannot wait for more updates. We will be anxiously awaiting an announcement on Lopez’s birthday — fingers crossed it’s true!
Before you go, click here to see celebrity couples who famously broke up and got back together.
Bailey Nurseries Hires Brand and Business Development Manager – Lawn & Garden Retailer
Bailey Nurseries announced it has hired Layci Gragnani as brand and business development manager. Gragnani has over a decade of industry experience in public relations, sales, marketing, and brand management, most recently at Star Roses and Plants.
“Endless Summer Hydrangeas, First Editions Shrubs & Trees, and Easy Elegance Roses have continuously worked to break new ground through innovation, partnerships, and a commitment to bringing outstanding hydrangeas, shrubs, trees, and roses to the world,” said Alec Charais, chief marketing and product development officer. “I could not be more excited for that work to continue with Layci leading the charge. Layci is an experienced marketer with an exceptional business sense and track record. She understands that success is measured by that of all partners from the breeder, grower, retail and landscape, and ultimately the consumer. We are thrilled to add her talents to the Bailey team and know it will be success that will be shared by everyone.”
In her new role, Gragnani will oversee the strategic direction and drive the supply chain for the introduction of proprietary genetics into Bailey’s consumer brands. Working with the product development, marketing, and sales teams, Gragnani will drive brand awareness and sales through Bailey Nurseries and its brand licensees.
“Bailey Nurseries is well known in horticulture for their marketing and consumer product excellence, and I am beyond excited to be part of this team,” Gragnani said. “Their work has been instrumental in brand development for our industry, and I look forward to taking them to new and exciting levels!”
Gragnani begins in her role effective immediately and can be reached at [email protected].
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