Weekly News Roundup

June 8, 2018

TARGET shops around Australia will shut down forever over the next five years, the discount chain’s boss announced today

WESFARMERS is scaling back its struggling Target business, confirming it will cut the size or number of stores in the chain to achieve a 20 per cent overall reduction.

While not singling out specific stores, apart from Highpoint in suburban Melbourne which will be downsized, Wesfarmers department stores chief executive Guy Russo said the reduction would occur over the next five years.

He said staff at closing Target stores could be moved to one of Wesfarmers’ other brands, such as Kmart or Officeworks, but acknowledged this was not always possible in regional towns.

“Where it’s a little sadder is when it’s in the country town and there is no other retailer,” he told investors in Sydney.

In contrast, Wesfarmers plans to open between eight and 10 new Kmart stores in Australia and New Zealand annually, and explore opportunities abroad.

Kmart managing director Ian Bailey said the brand was keen to sell in overseas markets, adding that a small-scale test and learn approach was the way forward.

“We do all this work to design and make products for Australia and New Zealand and then we pitch them against the world class retailers who are offering their products all over the world,” he said.

“So if you look at the numbers, why wouldn’t you, you’d be almost crazy not to.

“How big is the prize? Well the world is enormous.”

Mr Bailey said countries such as Thailand and Indonesia were markets experiencing a huge expansion in the middle class seeking more aspirational products.

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Trump to use his constitutional clemency powers

US President Donald Trump has commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who has served more than 20 years in prison on a first-time drug offence, the ABC reports.

White House sources said Mr Trump was prepared to use his constitutional clemency powers to give relief to dozens more offenders.

Johnson’s cause had been taken up by celebrity Kim Kardashian West, who personally lobbied Trump on her behalf last week.

Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old from Tennessee, has already served more than 20 years in prison on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. In a statement on the commutation of her sentence on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Johnson “has been a model prisoner over the past two decades”.

Sanders noted that while “this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance”.

A White House official familiar with the clemency process said Trump continues to examine the cases of people who he believes have been victims of the criminal justice system.

Trump last week pardoned conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, and has recently granted pardons to the late heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to then-vice president Dick Cheney.

The president is still considering pardoning lifestyle maven Martha Stewart, who was convicted in an insider trading case, and commuting the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, currently serving a 14-year prison sentence on felony corruption charges, along with several others, the White House official told Reuters.

Stewart and Blagojevich both have ties to Trump’s former Apprentice TV shows, but the White House has denied that Trump is only considering pardons for well-known figures and that he is examining several other cases that are less notorious.

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Miss America scraps swimsuit competition, saying ‘we’re not going to judge your appearance’

When the Miss America pageant started in 1921, having young women parade around in bathing suits seemed like a great way to get tourists to come to the Atlantic City Boardwalk after Labor Day.

But how America views women has changed drastically since then, and the Miss America Organisation is run by women who do not think it is such a hot idea.

Accordingly, when the pageant is held this September, nearly a year into the #MeToo era, it will no longer have a swimsuit competition.

“We’re not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you,” Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and the new head of the organisation’s board of trustees, said in making the announcement on ABC’s Good Morning America.

For decades, women’s groups and others had complained that the swimsuit portion was outdated, sexist and more than a little silly.

Ms Carlson, whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes led to his departure, said the board had heard from potential contestants who lamented, “we don’t want to be out there in high heels and swimsuits”.

The announcement came after a shake-up at the organisation that resulted in the top three positions being held by women.

The overhaul was triggered by an email scandal last December in which Miss America officials mocked winners’ intelligence, looks and sex lives.

Instead of showing off in a bathing suit, each contestant will interact with the judges to “highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion and ambition to perform the job of Miss America,” the organisation said.

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Kate Spade, fashion designer, found dead in her New York apartment at 55

Police are investigating her death as an apparent suicide.

Spade, 55, was found by her housekeeper at her home on Park Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the New York Daily News reported, citing unnamed police officials.

Born Katherine Noel Brosnahan, the Kansas City, Missouri native was a former accessories editor at the now-closed Mademoiselle magazine before she and Andy Spade launched their namesake design company, Kate Spade New York, in 1993. The couple married the following year.

They began by selling handbags before expanding to include clothing, jewellery, bedding, legwear and fragrances.

The brand grew into a fashion empire, known for accessories that offered affordable luxury to younger working women.

Her brightly coloured, clean-lined style offered a spunky take on fashion at a time when luxury handbags were out of reach to most consumers, and the industry was dominated by venerable European brands.

The couple sold the brand in 2006.

In 2016, they launched a new fashion brand called Frances Valentine, which sells footwear and accessories.

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