This is Kickstart—the daily morning management briefing on innovation, leadership, technology and the economy from the editors of Canadian Business. Sign up to get it directly to your inbox each weekday at 6 AM Eastern.
Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:
Here’s what happens if Trump kills NAFTA
The fifth round of NAFTA renegotiation talks will begin on Friday in Mexico City, but things aren’t looking great for the nearly 25-year-old trade agreement. The last round, held in Washington, ended on what might charitably be called a tepid note. But President Donald Trump’s distaste for the treaty is well known. So what really happens if the worst-case scenario unfolds and Trump scraps the whole thing?
With the U.S. out of NAFTA, experts say, prices on everything from cars to groceries are expected to climb. Tens of thousands of jobs would be at risk as supply chains are torn apart and retaliatory protectionist measures crimp growth in both countries. Stock prices, particularly for export companies that depend on the U.S. market, would be sent into flux, and the loonie would plunge. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the Trudeau Liberals would face searing questions about what went wrong. “To put it bluntly,” says Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, “all hell would break loose.”
Link: Canadian Business
Will things really change, post-Weinstein?
Since major allegations broke a few weeks ago of sexual harassment and assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, lodged by dozens of women, it’s like a dam has broken. Stories have poured forth of powerful men using their influence to coerce, exploit and abuse the women around them. Such behaviour is not new, and sadly it is not rare. But the current moment feels different, somehow, like perhaps this is a window of opportunity to force a true reckoning with the ways in which our workplaces, our colleagues, ourselveshave been complicit in this toxic dynamic. This powerful essay by Rebecca Traister grapples candidly with the complex emotions this moment is unleashing, and it’s worth your time. The change that’s needed is likely to be painful, she says—and perhaps it needs to be:
The truth is, the risk of exposure that makes us feel anxious about the well-being of our male friends and colleagues — the risk of being named and never recovering — is one of the only things that could ever force change. Because without real, genuine penalties on the line, without generations of men fearing that if they abuse their power, if they treat women like s–t, they’ll be out of jobs, shamed, their families devastated — without that actual, electric, dangerous possibility: Nothing. Will. Change. Companies will simply start investing more in sexual-harassment insurance (a real thing!) and make payouts a line item in the budget, and we’ll go back to talking about how men are just men.
Link: The Cut
What’s really killing retailers?
Traditional bricks-and-mortar retail is struggling in just about every developed economy, and the culprit is generally agreed to be online shopping, particularly aggressive and fast-growing Amazon. But some argue there’s another, less-well-known threat, in the form of private equity firms who have bought a number of major retail chains in recent years. Their strategy is generally the same: load the company up with debt while slashing costs. The end goal is supposed to be a leaner, more competitive company, but that’s not how it’s worked out lately:
This is a robbery in progress. Private equity firms borrow massively to buy companies, and use corporate cash reserves to pay themselves back. Workers who supply the value to the business see nothing; in fact, to service the debt, companies usually cut staff. When the retailer collapses under the borrowing weight, all workers lose their jobs. And even when sales go up, like they have by 5 percent annually in the toy sector over the past five years, dominant toy sellers like Toys“R”Us cannot compete because of the debt burden. The company’s profitability was increasing when it filed for bankruptcy.
Link: The New Republic
The people who sleep at Walmart
Walmart is an exceptional company in many ways, but one of the quirkier ones is its general policy of letting people stay in its parking lots overnight. With Walmarts reliably saturating most of the suburban United States, RV tourists, weary drivers on a budget, and more than a few open-road eccentrics can count on being able to find a spot to park their cars—and themselves—for the night. Photographers Mike Belleme and George Etheredge traveled around the South last summer, meeting parking-lot overnighters, hearing their stories and unravelling the etiquette of this transient community:
“It’s not pretty: no pine trees, no bubbling brook, no ocean beach,” Chuck Woodbury, the editor of RVTravel.com, said in a tutorial video intended for casual travelers. “The idea of staying at Walmart is to park for the night, to get some sleep and then move on.” Walmart’s practice of letting people populate many of its parking lots has made the retail giant’s stores a reliable, if somewhat improvised, destination and a place where an informal culture emerges before and after dark.
Link: The New York Times
Earnings reports today
Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:
Calian Group (CGY), Loblaw Cos. (L), Primero Mining (P), Slate Retail REIT (SRT.U), Western Copper and Gold (WRN)
Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.