Live stream commerce – live selling over online video by a retailer or brand with contemporaneous, purchases from customers on the same platform – has seen growing adoption. With a more immersive and personal shopping experience than traditional online shopping, live stream commerce broadens interactions and deepens connections between sellers and consumers, giving companies a chance to provide information on products and brands, to lengthen engagement periods, and to sell more goods. The chance for consumers to ask real-time questions – and to receive access to limited quantity goods, discounts, or promotions – has all the makings of a successful experience for the retailer, brand, and consumer.
The concept is not new, of course. Home Shopping Network launched in 1982, and QVC in 1986. Viewership and content consumption was confined to television, and widespread adoption by brands and consumers remained elusive. That remained largely the case until recently, when compelling mobile and web options began to surface. While still relatively nascent in the U.S., live stream commerce has been gaining traction, with COVID accelerating its use. Today, live streaming is poised to become a meaningful part of digital marketing and sales strategies, especially for companies seeing a rising cost of customer acquisition online and those with strong brand stories.
Live stream commerce began to take off in China in the last decade, as influencers live streamed their shopping and travel, providing a glimpse of aspirational products and an element of discovery. According to Coresight Research, live streaming generated $60 billion in global sales in 2019. That number was expected to double in 2020. U.S. sales are still a very small part of that total – around $1 billion.
In anticipation of increased demand, technology companies both big and small have developed systems and tools for brands and retailers to use. For years, people have used Facebook Live to connect with customers, prospects, and fans. Instagram launched live stream commerce in 2020. In 2019, Amazon introduced Amazon Live, giving hosts the ability to discuss and promote products sold website. Google launched its own platform, Shoploop, and YouTube introduced its own live stream selling and shopping features. Upstarts like NTWRK, Bambuser, Livescale, and Popshop Live attempt to offer similar value with slightly different approaches, and they’ve seen some initial success. NTWRK, a live stream commerce app focused on collectibles and limited-edition sneakers, reportedly only needed ten minutes to generate $1.5 million in revenue from the sale of an artist’s prints.
The platforms seem to be effective, as retailers, brands and consumers find live stream commerce to be more social, experiential, and engaging. As a result, sellers are starting to look at it more closely. Rebecca Minkoff sees a 20% boost to website traffic every time she streams. Fashion brand Anne Klein held a shoppable live stream hosted by Anne Klein’s granddaughter. Ulta Beauty, which like most retailers was forced to close stores during the pandemic, recently launched a shoppable live stream in an effort to establish a new, viable channel.
While in-store shopping remains disrupted, online shopping will continue to see the benefits. Physical retailers and consumer products companies still need to reach their customers. As consumers shift more dollars online, live stream commerce offers a more distinctive experience from ordinary online buying – a more personal connection with the brand and a special chance to engage with, in many cases, someone deeply involved with the brand, such as a founder. That has led to higher conversation rates for live stream commerce, making the channel an even more attractive one for driving revenue and growth. With many effects of COVID likely to be permanent, and the transition from physical to digital lasting, live stream selling can be a significant new channel for many brands and retailers.
Headlines of the Week
There is a new twist in Staples’ years-long effort to take over rival Office Depot. ODP Corp., whose banners include Office Depot, OfficeMax and CompuCom, turned down a takeover bid from Staples. The offer, which was made last week, was for $2.1 billion, or $40 a share. However, ODP opened the door to a different deal. “The Board has unanimously concluded that there is a more compelling path forward to create value for ODP and its shareholders than the potential transaction described in your proposal,” Joseph S. Vassalluzzo, chairman of ODP, wrote in a letter to Stefan Kaluzny, managing director of Sycamore Partners and a board member of USR Parent Inc., the Sycamore-affiliated owner of Staples. In the letter, Vassalluzzo said the company was open to a different deal rather than a full takeover. In 2016, Staples and Office Depot called off their merger after a federal judge issued an injunction temporarily blocking the $6.3 billion deal over antitrust concerns. Staples previously tried to acquire Office Depot in 1996. But the deal was called off after regulators raised antitrust concerns.
Family-owned Birkenstock is in advanced talks to sell the nearly 250-year-old German footwear brand to European private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for $4.8 billion, Bloomberg reported. CVC Capital Partners already owns Swiss watch brand Breitling and German beauty retailer Douglas, according to the report. Consumers have been gravitating to more comfortable footwear for a while, but the pandemic has accelerated that, with The NPD Group last week reporting that “brands like UGG, Crocs, and Birkenstock were bright spots in an otherwise tough year for footwear.” Birkenstock opened its first company-owned U.S. store three years ago, saying it was focused on growth in the region. Long a bohemian favorite, Birkenstock has expanded its following as fashionistas also increasingly slipped into them and as it added a wider variety of finishes and styles to its otherwise fairly limited assortment.
Apparel & Footwear
Renzo Rosso’s Italian apparel group is doing due diligence on a potential acquisition of German fashion house Jil Sander, a spokesperson for OTB Group said Tuesday, confirming a report by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. OTB, which already owns Diesel, Marni and Maison Margiela, had said in a December statement that it was once again on the hunt for new assets. “We want to increase our critical mass and we want to do it in a modern and sustainable way, first of all supporting and strengthening the pipeline, and in general Made in Italy,” the company said. Jil Sander is currently owned by the Japanese apparel company Onward Holdings Ltd., which acquired the brand at an equity value of €167 million in 2008. The label is currently designed by Luke and Lucie Meier, the husband-wife duo known for their work at OAMC and Christian Dior, respectively.
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has increased its shares in Hugo Boss by up to 15.2 per cent. The move has been made through stocks and derivatives and means Frasers Group now owns 3.6 million of common stock, representing 5.1 per cent of Hugo Boss’ total share capital. The empire also owns 3.3 million shares via contracts for difference, which represents 4.8 per cent of Hugo Boss’ shares, and 3.7 million shares via the sale of put options, amounting to 5.3 per cent of the retailer’s share capital. Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct and House of Fraser, said that after taking into account the premium it will receive under the put options, its maximum aggregate exposure to Hugo Boss is approximately €275 million (£245 million). “This investment reflects Frasers Group’s growing relationship with Hugo Boss and belief in Hugo Boss’s long-term future,” Frasers Group said.
Next has reportedly emerged as the leading bidder in the race to acquire the Arcadia Group retail empire out of administration as the auction process heads to a conclusion. According to The Sunday Times, Next is being seen as the frontrunner to buy Sir Philip Green’s embattled firm and has made a bid for it in partnership with US hedge fund Davidson Kempner. While full details on its bid remains unclear, The Times reported that Next and Davidson Kempner have conducted extensive due diligence on Green’s empire, which includes Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge and Wallis. Should their bid be successful, they would appoint external managers to a new joint venture that would run Arcadia. The new joint venture would see Next taking a minority stake, although it would manage Arcadia’s online operations through its Total Platform, a service where Next operates third-party brand.
The Vermont school teacher behind the cozy mittens worn by Senator Bernie Sanders during President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday said she’s been flooded with requests from people wanting to buy a pair. But they’re no longer for sale. “Thanks for all the interest in Bernie’s mittens!” Jen Ellis wrote on Twitter. “I’m so flattered that Bernie wore them to the inauguration. Sadly, I have no more mittens for sale. There are a lot of great crafters on ETSY who make them.” A few years ago, Ellis, who teaches second grade, gave the Vermont senator the patterned, hand-knit “smittens” — part mittens, part sweater — on the campaign trail. They’re now an iconic accessory in the “grumpy chic” meme of Sanders sitting with his arms crossed in a puffy jacket and blue mask. In a statement to CNN on Thursday, Sanders said the meme this week “makes people aware that we make good mittens in Vermont. … We have some good coats as well.”
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Bengaluru-based health and fitness startup Curefit has acquired Silicon Valley fitness startup Onyx to improve its computer vision technology for at-home fitness products and expanding business internationally. Founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Asaf Avidan Antonir and James Sha, Onyx’s body tracking technology helps in personalising feedback, providing accurate rep counts, form correction and detailed performance tracking for workout activities. The development comes soon after Curefit launched operations in the US, with virtual fitness sessions. The Onyx technology enable phone cameras to track movements of users as they are working out with real-time guidance on posture, form and more. The app allows users to track their progress and compete with friends. The fitness tracking technology is also being used by Curefit in India for its virtual sessions.
Don’t mess with the Swoosh. In its latest suing spree, Nike is taking on the entire counterfeiting market. Nike has reportedly filed several lawsuits this year expanding its trademark war on fakes. Just last week the brand began legal proceedings against a Los Angeles-based manufacturer and also filed suit against hundreds of websites and social media accounts for selling counterfeit sneakers. While Nike has reached a confidential settlement agreement in the Warren Lotas case, the sneaker giant’s legal battle over the counterfeit Dunks is far from over. In a complaint filed in California federal court, Nike claimed the contested Warren Lotas sneakers had ultimately originated with a manufacturer called La La Land Production & Design Inc., BloombergLaw reports.
Cohere Capital announced that it has made a strategic growth investment in Portland, OR-based CCS, the online retailer of streetwear and skateboard equipment. The investment will allow CCS to continue to invest in technology-enabled products and service offerings and accelerate its brand growth. Founded in 1985, CCS’s roots are as a mail-order catalog that grew into a website. CCS sells its own branded hard and soft goods in addition to being an e-commerce site for other skate and streetwear brands.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Japanese cosmetics firm Shiseido Co Ltd said on Friday it was in talks to sell its lower-priced skincare and shampoo brands to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners in a deal reported to be valued at more than $1.45 billion. Shiseido, whose shares ended the day up 4.4%, said it was negotiating a sale of its personal care business in the first half of the year to CVC but said no decision had been taken. The business includes its Tsubaki shampoo and Sea Breeze deodorant brands which are sold at drugstores and convenience stores in Asia. A CVC representative declined to comment. Bloomberg News, which first reported the talks, said the deal was likely to be worth 150 billion-200 billion yen ($1.45 billion-$1.93 billion). Shiseido, which did not comment on the value, said it was considering keeping a stake and involvement in the business. The Japanese firm has been eyeing possible asset sales to focus on premium cosmetics, including its namesake line and brands such as Cle de Peau and NARS sold at department stores.
Hims & Hers, the four-year-old wellness brand, went public via a special purpose acquisition company. The completion of the reverse merger comes just under four months after Oaktree Acquisition Corp. announced it would take Hims public, valuing the three-year-old company at $1.6 billion. The deal, which was led by co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management Howard Marks, includes proceeds of around $280 million—$204.5 million in cash and $75 million from private placement investors.
PureK Holdings Corp., along with its majority-owned CBD subsidiary company, PureKana LLC, has entered into a binding letter of intent with DTC Brands, LLC to acquire No B.S. Skincare. No B.S. Skincare was founded to provide consumers an all-natural and environmentally friendly alternative to the excesses of the beauty industry. The company’s products are made with potent, plant-based and scientifically proven natural ingredients and – unlike other skincare solutions – with absolutely no harmful chemicals like parabens, sulfates, or phthalates, and no synthetic fragrances. PureK Holdings Corp. indirectly owns a 50.1% equity interest in PureKana. PureKana is recognized as a Top 10 CBD brand in the United States and has operated a profitable direct-to-consumer online business since its inception in 2017. Its product lineup includes high quality CBD that can be consumed in the form of tinctures, capsules, topicals, patches, and gummies.
Discounters & Department Stores
Tuesday Morning CEO Steven Becker is set to leave his post and board directorship this year, the company said just two weeks after it exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Becker recently signed an employment agreement that expires in June and will not be renewed, according to a securities filing. However, Becker will stay on if a new chief hasn’t been named by then. Becker also agreed to work as a consultant through Sept. 30 to help with the transition.
In its latest move to capitalize on the spending of its broad customer base, Walmart is expanding its offerings beyond its core business by building a fintech startup. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant last week announced plans to create a fintech startup with Ribbit Capital — a company with a history of backing several players in the space, including Robinhood, Affirm and Credit Karma. Walmart will own a majority of the startup but didn’t give specific details on the deal. However, the company’s expansion to other non-retail categories like veterinary and human health clinics and its plans to gain partial ownership of social media app TikTok suggest attempts to grow outside retail.
The Hudson’s Bay Co. has begun meeting with investors to spin off Saks.com into a public company sometime in the future, WWD has learned. “They want to split Saks.com from the Saks brick-and-mortar stores,” a source told WWD. “Hudson’s Bay is meeting with investors now to do a private placement in Saks.com, putting it in a position to do an IPO in the next 12 months.” The maneuver would create a freestanding Saks Fifth Avenue brick-and-mortar chain of stores, and a freestanding Saks.com company, and the two companies would have an exclusive agreement between them in order to mimic an omnichannel world, the source said.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Bloom & Wild, a London-based online flower delivery business, announced that it has raised a £75 million ($102 million) Series D. The company plans to use the funding to continue expanding across Europe (in addition to the UK, it operates today in Ireland, France, Germany and Austria), and to build out the business through technology, hiring new talent, thinking up more ideas and new partnerships. The round was led by General Catalyst, with Index Ventures, Novator, Latitude Ventures, D4 Ventures, and existing investors such as Burda Principal Investments also participating. Founded in 2014, Bloom & Wild had only raised $35 million before this round.
GOAT Group (GOAT), the platform for sneakers, apparel and accessories, has secured a strategic investment from Groupe Artemis, the controlling shareholder of Kering, a world leader in luxury fashion. The investment follows GOAT’s Series E funding round of $100 million announced in September 2020, which valued the company at $1.75 billion at the time. GOAT will utilize this strategic investment from Groupe Artemis to support its continued expansion in fashion apparel and new categories. Since its founding in 2015, GOAT has become a leading sneaker marketplace, expanding to apparel and accessories from select emerging, contemporary and iconic brands. The company delivers products to over 30 million members across 170 countries.
Curtsy, a clothing resale app and competitor to recently IPO’d Poshmark, announced today it has raised $11 million in Series A funding for its startup focused on the Gen Z market. The new round was led by Index Ventures, with participation from Y Combinator, prior investors FJ Labs and 1984 Ventures. The app, which evolved out of an earlier effort for renting dresses, now allows women to list their clothes, shoes and accessories for resale. To date, Curtsy has raised $14.5 million.
Grocery & Restaurants
Vestar Capital Partners, a middle market private equity firm, has made a majority growth investment in Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, a brand specializing in plant-based frozen and refrigerated foods. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Larry Praeger, chief executive officer, and Adam Somberg, president, will continue in their roles and will remain investors in Dr. Praeger’s. Jeffrey Ansell, senior adviser to Vestar, will become chairman of the board at Dr. Praeger’s. The company’s products include meat alternative burgers, sausages, and nuggets as well as appetizers, snacks, breakfast items and sides. They are sold nationwide in retail outlets and online.
Driven by the COVID-19 crisis, U.S. household spending on consumer packaged goods swelled 19% in 2020 and remained elevated heading into 2021, according to new research from advertising efficacy specialist NCSolutions. Americans also have shown a greater predilection for new CPG items as they’ve hunkered down at home, with nearly half of those surveyed by NCSolutions reporting that they’ve tried a new brand or product category. New York-based NCSolutions identified three phases of pandemic-related grocery spending in 2020. U.S. household CPG spending rose 2% from pre-pandemic levels for the “preparedness buying” period of Feb. 24 to March 11 as reported cases of COVID-19 popped up around the country. Next came the “extreme buying” phase of consumer stockpiling as coronavirus was declared a national emergency, which saw CPG expenditures jump 35% versus pre-COVID buying. The “home-confined buying” period then began on March 22 and continued to the year-end, with CPG expenditures up 22% as most consumers locked down at home, with some elevated spending around holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s. Although grocery spending growth fluctuated — sometimes sharply — on a month-to-month basis during 2020, year-over-year CPG spending gained by double-digits in every month except January, NCSolutions’ purchase data showed.
Home & Road
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. concluded its previously announced sale of Cost Plus World Market (“CPWM”) to Kingswood Capital Management. The companies signed a transition services agreement to ensure business continuity after the transaction closes. As part of the deal, Kingswood Capital gains access to 243 stores, the CPWM online business, two distribution facilities and a corporate office in Alameda, CA. Moreover, CPWM will continue operating as a stand-alone retail brand.
Volta, the developer of a network of electric vehicle charging stations that monetize using advertising, has raised $125 million in new funding in a process managed by Goldman Sachs. Volta builds and operates a network of electric vehicle charging stations that are sited in parking lots around grocery stores, pharmacy chains, banks and hospitals. The company has placed its charging stations, with their 55-inch digital displays in locations at 200 cities across 23 states, according to a statement. The charge is free for vehicle owners and is supported by the retailers and consumer goods companies that want to reach the EV audience. With the new financing, Volta has now raised over $200 million in funding and intends to use its cash to begin expanding internationally. Companies who have placed Volta’s chargers on their sites include Albertsons Companies, Giant Food, Regency Centers, Wegmans and TopGolf. Brands advertising on the company’s screens include GM, Hulu, Nestlé, Polestar, Porsche and Unilever.
Jewelry & Luxury
Milllenials and Generation Z consumers still have a taste for diamond jewelry, says a new survey from the Natural Diamond Council. The online survey, conducted by 360 Market Reach, polled 5,000 respondents during October 2020. The poll found: Given an unlimited amount of money to spend, younger consumers said they would choose to purchase or receive diamond jewelry second only to vacations—which represents a particular opportunity now that people are not taking vacations.
Peter Engel, who has served as president of Fred Meyer Jewelers for more than 15 years, will step down from the position on March 31, the company confirmed to JCK. Carolyn Dabbundo, vice president of East Coast sales, and Kirsten Darrow, general vice president of marketing and merchandising, are also leaving the company in February, it said. The Fred Meyer Jewelers team will now report to Todd Kammeyer, vice president of merchandising for the Fred Meyer grocery chain. The jeweler’s team will be led by Jon Cook, vice president of operations, and Julie Keeney, vice president of sales, the company told JCK.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called for a reset in the US-China bilateral relations. “The most urgent task currently is for the two sides to work together to remove all sorts of barriers to achieve a smooth transition in China-US relations,” Wang said. “At the same time, based on the direction of mutual benefits for our two peoples and countries, we need to strive to restart dialogue, return to the right track and rebuild trust in this next phase of relations.” He also encouraged the business community to “play a larger role” to consolidate bilateral relations.
Office & Leisure
Calego International Inc. has announced the launch of Calego Insights, the intelligence arm of the longstanding consumer products company. After 90 years of producing consumer products and distributing them to the world’s leading retailers, Calego has packaged its expertise into strategic advisory offerings for consumer brands and retailers operating in today’s fragmented and demanding omnichannel environment. Its first offering helps brands that sell or want to sell their products to third-party retailers to generate, syndicate and leverage ratings & reviews. Calego has years of experience doing exactly that across its own portfolio of proprietary, private label and licensed brands. Calego built its iFLY® travel goods brand from scratch using a strategy focused on wholesale fulfillment, retailer-partnership and consumer-generated content, namely ratings & reviews. Today, over 80% of all the ratings & reviews associated with luggage products on Walmart.com are generated and syndicated by Calego. After having been asked by many brands and retailers for advice on how to elevate their ratings & reviews performance, Calego decided to deliver its methods and expertise in a proper offering.
Royal Caribbean Group is selling one of its four cruise lines — Azamara — to a New York-based private equity firm. In a $201 million transaction, the second largest cruise company in the world plans to hand over the Azamara brand and its three cruise ships to Sycamore Partners by the end of March. The company’s decision to shrink its fleet comes after 10 months of canceled cruises in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain said in a statement that the sale allows the company to put more resources into its three remaining cruise lines: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea. “…Azamara remains a strong brand with its own tremendous potential for growth, and Sycamore’s track record demonstrates that they will be good stewards of what the Azamara team has built over the past 13 years,” he said in a statement. Created by Royal Caribbean Group in 2007, Azamara offers smaller, luxury cruises to destinations all over the world.
The venerable North Howard Street theatrical costumer A.T. Jones & Sons Inc. that has kept Baltimoreans and environs dressed as ghouls, ghosts and other guises for more than 150 years, now faces an uncertain future since the death of its owner, George F. Goebel, 88, who was also a well-known magician and illusionist, earlier this month. “We have been closed because of COVID-19 and I can’t see how we can continue doing business the way we used to. Our future really is uncertain,” said a son, Ehrich “Rick” Goebel, of Scotland, who is currently operating the costumer. Perhaps its most famous and enduring creation was The Oriole Bird mascot costume. The business was established in 1868 by Alfred Thomas Jones, a painter and a North Carolinian, who came to Baltimore in 1861. Successive Jones family members — Walter H. Jones Sr. , son of the founder, and then his widow, Lena, who was followed by their son, Walter H. “Tubby” Jones Jr. — continued to run the business, until it was sold in 1972 to George F. Goebel, who began working there in 1950.
Technology & Internet
A few weeks ago, Shopify president Harley Finkelstein proudly proclaimed that his company could be considered “the second largest online retailer,” adding the important caveat “if you were to think of us as a retailer.” For a decade, Shopify has been slowly growing, describing itself as a quiet no-nonsense back-end tool to help merchants grow their businesses. And over the last year it became an empire. Now, as Shopify has created more programs to bring in new merchants, the company has become a new e-commerce default — and it has big plans to expand beyond mere DTC brands. When the pandemic first hit, Shopify cemented its dominance. It began pushing out new programs and marketing to position itself as the platform for small businesses. It built out new templates for businesses that were once primarily offline to more easily come online. The company focused on facilitating retail services that businesses desperately needed.
The parent company of online luxury retailer Mytheresa climbed 19% in its U.S. trading debut after a $407 million initial public offering priced at the top of its marketed range. Shares of MYT Netherlands Parent BV, which rose as much as 39% in New York trading, closed Thursday at $31, giving the German e-commerce company a market value of about $2.66 billion. The pandemic has been a mixed blessing to internet retailers, Mytheresa CEO Michael Kliger said in an interview. While the outbreak has disrupted supply chains, the lockdowns imposed across Europe have encouraged more people to shop online. Mytheresa, which specializes in women’s clothing and accessories, carries more than 250 brands including Gucci, Prada and Givenchy and has customers in more than 140 countries, according to its website.
Finance & Economy
The number of Americans filing new jobless claims has declined, but still remained high. The Labor Department said another 900,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, down 26,000 from the revised level of the previous week. This was a bit better than expected, as economists were anticipating a total of 925,000 claims, CNBC reports. Still, the number continues to remain well above the record for most claims in one week prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 695,000, as well as higher than a few weeks ago.
Despite an ongoing pandemic, the New Year might just be enough to reignite optimism in the American consumer. According to Engine Insights’ consumer survey, which was conducted Jan. 8 to 10, 71 percent of consumers are optimistic that the year 2021 will be better than last year. Concerning financial matters, consumers overall said they would look for ways to save and be more financially savvy with the top focus areas being saving money by preparing more meals at home rather than dining out, paying down credit card debt at a faster rate, exploring ways to improve your credit score and learning about investment options. Notably, only 10 percent of consumers said they would spoil themselves with a large purchase they would not otherwise make.