The Weekly Consensus

The Weekly Consensus

Maeghan Thompson

Story of the Week

Macy’s could get takeover bid from buyout firm Sycamore Partners during sagging sales, job cuts

Private-equity giant Sycamore Partners is exploring a possible bid to buy Macy’s – even as the iconic retail chain this week rejected an unsolicited offer from another bidding group, The Post has learned. Sycamore — a prolific buyout firm whose retail properties include Ann Taylor, Talbots and the regional department-store chain Belk — has been in quiet talks with Macy’s, which also owns Bloomingdale’s, since at least late December, sources told The Post. The talks also come on the heels of a $5.8 billion buyout offer last month from investment firms Arkhouse Management and Brigade Capital. Macy’s, which rejected that bid earlier this week, in recent years has attracted takeover attempts from activist investors Starboard Value and Jana Partners, as well as Canada-based rival Hudson’s Bay Co., owner of Saks Fifth Avenue. While Sycamore is not as far along with Macy’s as Arkhouse and Brigade, some retail insiders believe New York-based Sycamore, led by the media-shy dealmaker Stefan Kaluzny, has the savvy and financial backers to pull off a deal. “Sycamore makes a lot of sense because they own Belk’s and other apparel brands,” said one top retail executive.

Apparel & Footwear

Yoga wars heat up as Levi’s Beyond Yoga taps former Athleta CEO, Gap veteran as next chief executive

Levi Strauss’ Beyond Yoga has tapped former Athleta CEO and longtime Gap veteran Nancy Green to be its next chief executive, as the company looks to scale beyond its modest roots and compete with industry leaders such as Lululemon and upstarts such as Alo Yoga and Vuori.  Beyond Yoga’s founder Michelle Wahler, along with its Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Jesse Adams, will both be stepping down. Green is slated to take the reins on Feb. 1, the company said in a news release.  Wahler and Adams will stay on as advisors to ensure a smooth transition, the company said. “We have arrived at a natural inflection point for this incredible brand,” Levi’s incoming CEO Michelle Gass said in a statement. The leadership shift comes as Beyond Yoga looks to scale and set itself apart in an increasingly crowded athletic apparel space. Retailers such as Lululemon and Nike have long dominated the category, with Beyond Yoga and Gap-owned Athleta following close behind. But upstarts such as Alo Yoga and Vuori have been nipping at their heels and taking market share.


VF Corp. cyberattack impacted 35.5M consumers

VF Corp. estimates that a cyberattack the company reported in December impacted 35.5 million consumers, according to new documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. While personal data was stolen, VF Corp. emphasized that it doesn’t retain or collect social security numbers, bank account information or payment card information. At the time of the incident the company experienced disruption to some of its operations, but the company’s stores, e-commerce sites and distribution centers are now operating “with minimal issues,” the company said. When VF Corp. discovered the incident it shut down a number of its systems, thereby disrupting operations. Some customers canceled orders, wholesale shipments saw delays and the company experienced reduced demand. However, the company believes the impact of the cyberattack is unlikely to be material to its financial state. VF Corp. is seeking reimbursement of costs, expenses and losses from its insurers.


True Religion to Launch Footwear This Fall

True Religion revealed a new footwear licensing agreement with New York City-based wholesale distribution company Orly Corporation. True Religion’s footwear collection for men, women, and kids will launch in Fall 2024. The collection will be sold through True Religion’s own stores and website as well as at major retailers in both the U.S. and Canada. Retail prices will be $55-$200. “As we continue to broaden our lifestyle portfolio, we’re pleased to enter into a new footwear partnership,” said Michael Buckley, True Religion CEO. Buckley, who returned in November 2019 after serving as president back in 2010 when premium denim was in its heyday, has been instrumental in transforming True Religion into a denim and lifestyle brand with wider appeal. Licensing has played a key role in the brand’s comeback from bankruptcy in 2017. True Religion’s licensees include Concept One Accessories and Capelli/Ballet for cold weather accessories for men’s, women’s and children’s. Wholesale accessories manufacturer and merchandiser Amiee Lynn is producing the brand’s line of women’s belts. Orly specializes in multiple categories such as footwear, socks, and housewares across North American markets, including Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.K.


Tilly’s CEO steps down

The chief executive of Tilly’s has stepped down following a softer than anticipated holiday season.  The teen apparel and footwear retailer said that Ed Thomas has retired as president, CEO and a company director.  He has served in the position since October 2014. Prior to that, Thomas was chief executive of The Wet Seal from 2014 to 2015, and from 2007 to 2011. Earlier this month, Tilly’s cut its fiscal fourth-quarter guidance following a 7.4% decline in total sales and a 9% drop in comparable sales during the holiday season, with store comps down 12.3%. “On behalf of the board of directors and everyone at Tillys, I sincerely thank Ed for his many valuable contributions and leadership during his tenure at Tillys, and wish him continued success in his future endeavors,” said Hezy Shaked, co-Founder and executive chairman of the board. Shaked has been appointed to serve as Tilly’s interim president and CEO until a successor is in place. The company is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and currently operates 251 stores across 33 states.


Everlane CEO jumps to Designer Brands

Former Everlane CEO Andrea O’Donnell has been named brands president and executive vice president of footwear company Designer Brands, effective Monday. She will report to Designer Brands’ Chief Executive Officer Doug Howe. O’Donnell will oversee global operations — including design, sourcing, and wholesale and DTC sales of all Designer Brands’ owned and licensed labels. They include Hush Puppies, Jessica Simpson, Keds, Le Tigre, Lucky Brand and Vince Camuto, among others. She has been chief executive of Everlane since 2021. Before that, she led the expansion of Ugg and Koolaburra brands at Deckers. She previously also served as president of global merchandising at DFS Group, a multibillion-dollar retailer majority owned by LVMH. Designer Brands, which also runs footwear retailer DSW, joined others in the industry last year in paring down its workforce. The company is in the midst of a turnaround, including a long-term plan introduced in 2022 that focuses on building its owned brands and delivering $4 billion in revenue by fiscal 2026. O’Donnell is leaving Everlane at a time when the DTC brand is struggling, having announced its own round of layoffs about a year ago.



Athletic & Sporting Goods

Nike’s first fitness studios outside of California to open in Austin

If you’re on a health kick this year, there’s a new reason to be in Austin. Nike is expanding its presence in Central Texas with new fitness studios in the capital.  The world-renowned athletic brand is planning to open two Nike Studios fitness centers in Austin, which are currently only available on the West Coast. Austin’s Nike Training Studios is planned for the Triangle, and the Nike Running Studios is slated for the Grove, according to TDLR filings.  Nike Studios is a network of boutique fitness studios which includes their training and running studios, according to the Nike Studios FAQ. The athletic brand partners with FitLab to host membership-based small classes in endurance and strength training.

WaterRower Acquires CityRow in Connected Fitness Consolidation

CityRow has been acquired by rower maker WaterRower, representing another step in what may be a gradual consolidation of the connected fitness market.  The two companies are familiar with one another, with the Rhode Island-based WaterRower serving as a manufacturing partner for CityRow, which boasts an omnichannel model with at-home rowers, digital content and in-person studios.  Celeb-backed Hydrow beefed up its C-suite late last year to accelerate its growth. The connected at-home rowing company closed out 2023 on the red carpet, teaming up with the George Clooney-directed film, “The Boys in the Boat,” to deliver themed rowing workouts for its members.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

Yellow Wood Partners Portfolio Company Suave Brands Company Acquires ChapStick from Haleon for $510m

Haleon PLC declared its landmark decision to offload the iconic ChapStick lip balm brand to Suave, the U.S. titan renowned for hair and body care, in a deal worth $510 million. This strategic move is part of Haleon’s ambitious plan to streamline its operations and alleviate its debt burden. Suave Brands Co., operating independently under the umbrella of Boston-based investment firm Yellow Wood Partners, is set to splash approximately $430 million in cash to acquire the beloved ChapStick. Adding an extra layer of complexity to the deal, Haleon will also secure a minority interest in Suave, evaluated at around $80 million, as disclosed on the U.K. firm’s official website.

Sephora is a bright spot in LVMH 2023 earnings

Sephora’s power within the LVMH portfolio continues to rise. LVMH shared in its 2023 year-end earnings report that selective retailing, the business unit that houses Sephora, posted a year-over-year revenue increase of 25%, to $19.4 billion, ahead of the luxury conglomerate’s four other units. Behind selective retailing was fashion & luxury goods, with a 14% year-over-year gain, and then perfumes & cosmetics, with an 11% year-over-year gain. The other selective retailers in LVMH’s portfolio are travel retailer DFS and department store Le Bon Marché. LVMH singled out Sephora as having “another record-breaking year for revenue and profit,” though exact figures were not shared. The “exceptional” sales performance was across North America, Europe and the Middle East. Standout moments for Sephora in 2023 included bringing Glossier in-store and launching the influencer program Sephora Sounds in August. That was soon followed by updates to its loyalty program in September and the return of the consumer-facing event Sephoria in September. Another key driver of Sephora’s success in North America is the Kohl’s at Sephora shop-in-shops.

Bridgepoint acquires anti-aging cosmetics brand RoC Skincare

London-listed investment firm Bridgepoint has agreed to buy RoC Skincare from Gryphon Investors. The deal is said to be for around $500 million. San Francisco-based Gryphon carved out the anti-aging skincare brand from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc in 2019 for an undisclosed amount. New York-based RoC Skincare was created in 1957 by French pharmacist Dr. Jean-Charles Lissarrague. Its products, which include retinol and eye creams, are sold globally through pharmacy, specialty and ecommerce channels. Bridgepoint, which has 39.5 billion euros of assets under management, has made similar investments including its purchase of French cosmetics company Vivacy in 2022. It also owned HTL Biotechnology, a maker of skincare ingredient hyaluronic acid, which it sold in 2021 to investors led by Montagu for an undisclosed sum.

Natura &Co Voluntarily Delists from New York Stock Exchange

Natura &Co will volutarily delist from the New York Stock Exchange. The Brazilian cosmetics maker will maintain its primary listing of common shares on the B3 stock exchange in São Paulo. According to the company, the vast majority of Natura &Co trading activity is concentrated on the B3 stock exchange. The decreasing trading volume of Natura &Co’s American Depository Shares on the NYSE no longer makes maintaining the listing a compelling option. “The planned delisting of Natura &Co from the New York Stock Exchange is consistent with our long-term strategy for the business,” explained Natura CEO Fabio Barbosa”This move underscores our continued focus on simplifying our operations to reduce complexity. We thank Natura &Co investors who held ADRs and look forward to welcoming many of them as shareholders on the B3 market. Upholding our dedication to transparency, we will maintain our high disclosure standards through our listing in Brazil.”

Discounters & Department Stores

Target to add 1K wellness products to offering

Target plans to add more than 1,000 new wellness-related products, the retailer announced Wednesday. The products include apparel, workout gear, vitamins and supplements, food and beverage, and self-care items. Hundreds of the new products are exclusive to Target, according to a company press release. The retailer is also touting a $1.99 starting price point for some of the items in its lineup as it broadens its wellness offering. Target has also launched an online wellness destination with ideas, products, meal inspiration and deals.

Walmart to close Store No. 8

Walmart plans to close its technology and business innovation unit, Store No. 8, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing an internal memo. Some of the unit’s innovations include Walmart’s in-home delivery service and text and voice shopping. Since its founding seven years ago, about 300 people have moved on from Store No. 8 to other internal jobs. The responsibility of developing future innovations will be shared by everyone, Chief Financial Officer John David Rainey said, according to the memo. As a result of Store No. 8’s closure, Scott Eckert, a senior vice president who had led the business unit since June 2019, according to his LinkedIn, will leave the company, the WSJ also reported.



Emerging Consumer Companies

Vestiaire Collective launches crowdfunding campaign
Fashion resale site Vestiaire Collective has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise at least €1 million ($1.09 million) from individual investors. The company, backed by luxury conglomerate Kering, aims to become profitable by the end of the year and potentially go public in 2025. The crowdfunding is priced at €1.78 ($1.94) per share, valuing Vestiaire at €1.1 billion ($1.20 billion). The campaign aims to bring loyal customers into the shareholder base and connect with the community. Despite the slowdown in the luxury sector, Vestiaire saw a 25% growth in sales on its platform last year, driven by the increasing trend of buying second-hand clothes and accessories. The company describes itself as a marketplace for “desirable” pre-owned fashion and has banned over 60 “fast fashion” brands from being sold on its platform. Vestiaire aims to achieve profitability by the end of 2024 and considers an IPO as the natural next step. Kering holds a 5% stake in Vestiaire, while Softbank has been an investor since 2021.

Jupiter secures $3 million to expand distribution and merchandise
Jupiter, a scalp and hair brand focused on addressing dandruff and dry scalp issues, has secured $3 million in funding to expand its distribution and merchandise. The funding round involved investors active in the beauty sector, including Willow Growth Partners, Springdale Ventures, and SWAT Equity Partners. Jupiter aims to cater to women who have been left out of the conversation in the scalp discomfort products market. The brand’s customer base is 75% female, and its subscriber base is 90% female. The anti-dandruff market in the United States has been dominated by brands like Head & Shoulders and Selsun Blue, which primarily target male consumers. Jupiter sees an opportunity to address the demand not served by these dominant players. The brand offers a range of six products, including shampoo, conditioner, serum, mask, scalp brush, and a daily scalp essential supplement. Jupiter recently conducted a clinical trial and consumer study, with participants experiencing a reduction in flaking, itching, and improvement in scalp health and hair thickness. The funding will be used for retail expansion, product development, and hiring.

Neighborhood Goods shuts down, leaving brands unpaid and uncertain
Neighborhood Goods, a startup that aimed to create a modern department store experience, is closing down after six years of operation. The company opened its first location in 2018 and expanded to several other cities. However, brands that partnered with Neighborhood Goods have reported difficulty in getting in touch with the company and claim to be owed thousands of dollars in unpaid invoices. CEO Matt Alexander confirmed the closure and cited numerous challenges faced by the company over the past year. One of the retailer’s landlords had a change of heart and prompted the decision to close all locations. Signs of trouble for Neighborhood Goods emerged last year when the company attempted to cut costs and closed its Texas locations. The closure of Neighborhood Goods follows the trend of other startups in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) space that have struggled and closed down. Brand partners are now awaiting final payments and the resolution of their contracts with the retailer.

Ultra Violette Receives $15M Investment from Aria Growth Partners

Australian brand Ultra Violette has received a $15 million investment from U.S.-based equity firm Aria Growth Partners to expand the brand’s retail footprint into North America, according to Business News Australia. Aria Growth Partners is said to help Ultra Violette enter Sephora Canada with its Skinscreen Range in March 2024. Founders Ava Chandler-Matthews and Rebecca Jefferd will continue their majority stake in the business. Ultra Violette has reportedly achieved 100% year-on-year growth since launching in 2019.



Food & Beverage

Mars is paying $661 million for Britain’s biggest independent chocolate maker

Mars is buying Hotel Chocolat in a deal that values Britain’s largest independent chocolate maker at £534 million ($661 million) and could boost its growth prospects outside of the United Kingdom. Hotel Chocolat was founded in 1993 by entrepreneurs Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris who “were on a mission to make chocolate exciting again,” according to its website. The brand opened its first store nearly 20 years ago in north London and has since grown to 131 UK stores, in addition to cafés and restaurants. It also has stores in Japan and a working cocoa farm, complete with a luxury eco-hotel, in the Caribbean. In the most recent financial year, Hotel Chocolat posted what it described as “disappointing” financial results. The company’s revenue declined 10% to £205 million ($254 million) and it reported a loss of £6.2 million ($7.7 million). CEO Thirlwell, who will stay on under Mars, said the takeover would boost the brand’s growth prospects.

Nutrabold Leads $90M Investment in Bloom Nutrition

Nutrabolt announced a significant minority investment into Bloom Nutrition. The investment provides Nutrabolt with an ownership stake of approximately 20%, making the company Bloom’s largest investor. This investment is part of a larger $90 million financing that also includes veteran CPG investor Clayton Christopher and consumer investment firm Amberstone. Bloom Nutrition – founded in 2019 by Mari Llewellyn and Gregory LaVecchia – offers high-quality health supplements aimed at helping consumers achieve their wellness goals. The founders’ vision is to make healthier living accessible to all by reimagining supplements with flavor and function.

Swander Pace Capital Completes the Sale of Patriot Pickle to H.I.G. Capital

Swander Pace Capital announced the sale of Patriot Pickle, a manufacturer and distributor of high-quality refrigerated pickles across the United States to restaurant chains, supermarkets, and delis, to an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital (“H.I.G.”). Since being acquired by SPC in April 2021, Patriot Pickle has benefited from significant investments in sales and operational infrastructure while completing two transformative acquisitions that have further strengthened the pickled and fermented foods platform and set the stage for even further growth. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.



Grocery & Restaurants

Aldi acquisition of Southeastern Grocers moves forward

Southeastern Grocers Inc. has completed its divestiture of Fresco y Más to Fresco Retail Group, LLC, the company announced Thursday. Southeastern continues ownership and operation of Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie grocery stores. The divestiture is part of the acquisition deal announced in August that would entail discount grocer Aldi acquiring Southeastern Grocers’ some 400 Winn-Dixie and Harvey Supermarket stores. As part of the deal, Aldi will acquire all outstanding Southeastern Grocers stock in an all-cash transaction, the grocer said in a press release. “The successful sale of Fresco y Más marks an important milestone on our path forward,” Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, said in a statement. “As we continue to lead our Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie stores, we remain focused on being the most preferred grocer in the neighborhood and delivering an exceptional grocery shopping experience complete with the quality, service and value our customers and communities have come to expect.” Aldi’s acquisition of Southeastern Grocers is expected to be completed within the first half of 2024.

Chick-fil-A class-action lawsuit settlement: Who gets money, payout per person, other details

Popular fast-food chain Chick-fil-A has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company “made false or misleading representations regarding its delivery fees and menu prices for its delivery orders,” according to the settlement website. The court filing explains that during the early pandemic, Chick-fil-A started promising customers free or low-cost delivery on orders placed for delivery on its website or through its mobile app. But the lawsuit alleges this was false because the company imposed “hidden delivery charges” on such orders. These hidden delivery charges came in the form of increased food prices for delivery orders that were much higher than what a customer would pay when ordering in or picking up from a Chick-fil-A store. Chick-fil-A has now agreed to settle the lawsuit for $4.4 million without admitting to any wrongdoing. To compensate those covered under the class action, Chick-fil-A will allow them to select one of two options: a cash settlement of up to $29.25 or a gift card settlement of up to $29.25.

Home & Road

Cash flow balloons at Ethan Allen even as Q2 sales continue to fall back

Top 100 retailer Ethan Allen’s sales and orders fell by double digits across the board during the second quarter. For the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2023, total consolidated net sales dropped 17.7% to $167.3 million. Retail net sales took the biggest tumble, down 19% to $139.2 million. Wholesale net sales declined 14.7% to $90.6 million. Orders fell back in both sectors: down 9.4% in retail and down 10.9% in wholesale. The company also reduced its inventory carrying levels during the quarter, bringing them down 11.9% to $140.9 million. Farooq Kathwari, Ethan Allen’s Chairman, President and CEO, noted that the Covid era’s record-high backlogs are now returning to pre-pandemic levels. Although Q2 was marked by lower sales, Ethan Allen cash flows from operating activities soared to $13.59 million from $2.52 million in the year-ago period.

Wayfair laying off 13% of global workforce

Wayfair Inc. has had another round of job cuts as it continues to cut costs. The digitally native home furnishings retailer said the decision to lay off approximately 1,650 employees —roughly 13% of its global workforce, including 19% of its corporate team — as of Dec. 31, 2023 follows a series of actions initiated in August 2022, when it reported disappointing quarterly sales results including a 24.1% decline in its customer base. Having taken what it terms a “comprehensive, organization-wide analysis of the appropriate team size and structure,” Wayfair said it expects these job cuts to deliver annualized cost savings of more than $280 million. The latest layoffs follow a round of 1,750 job cuts the company announced in January 2023 and 870 jobs it eliminated in August 2022. In January 2023, Wayfair said it expected to save $750 million a year from the job cuts, including cash and stock-based compensation, with the total cost-cutting plan expected to produce $1.4 billion in annual savings.

Sherwin-Williams finishes fiscal year with record sales

Sherwin-Williams released its fourth quarter financial results, showing record sales not just for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2023, but also for the full year.  For the quarter, consolidated net sales increased 4.1% to a record $23.05 billion, with net sales from its Paint Stores Group up 6.8% in the year. Diluted earnings per share also showed an increase, up 19.8% to $9.25 per share for the year, compared with $7.72 per share in 2022. With net operating cash for the year of $3.52 billion, 15.3% of net sales, Sherwin-Williams reported adjusted EBITDA up 17.5% for the year, to $4.24 billion or 18.4% of net sales. “Sherwin-Williams delivered solid fourth quarter results, with positive sales growth and significant year-over-year gross margin improvement,” said President and CEO Heidi G. Petz. “We continued our accelerated growth investments in the quarter, which we are confident will continue to drive profitable above-market growth in future periods.”

Jewelry & Luxury

LVMH shares jump over 12% as earnings point to luxury sector resilience

LVMH shares jumped more than 12% on Friday morning, after the world’s largest luxury group posted higher-than-expected sales for 2023 and raised its annual dividend. The owner of Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon and Hennessy, as well as brands including Givenchy, Bulgari and Sephora, on Thursday night reported sales amounting to 86.15 billion euros ($93.34 billion) for 2023, exceeding consensus forecasts and equating to 13% organic growth from the previous year. Organic revenue was up 10% in the fourth quarter. The result was boosted in particular by 14% annual growth in the critical fashion and leather goods sector, along with 11% growth in perfumes and cosmetics. Wines and spirits meanwhile posted a 4% decline. The Paris-listed stock provisionally closed Friday’s session nearly 13% higher.


Watches of Switzerland Slashes Guidance

Watches of Switzerland is lowering its full-year guidance amid a slowdown in spending in the once red-hot market for luxury watches. The retailer said it had a positive start to the third quarter of its fiscal year, which includes the months of November and December, but had “a volatile trading performance” before Christmas and beyond. The company said it expects the challenging conditions to continue throughout the end of its fiscal year. Watches of Switzerland’s full-year revenue is now expected to range between £1.53 billion to £1.55 billion ($1.94 billion to $1.97 billion), down from its prior guidance of £1.65 billion to £1.7 billion ($2.1 billion to $2.16 billion). Constant currency revenue growth is forecast at 2 to 3 percent, down from 8 to 11 percent.


Jewelry Was the Strongest Performer in Richemont’s Q3

Richemont had a strong third quarter, with its jewelry division fueling the surge. For the third quarter ended Dec. 31, Richemont posted sales of €5.59 billion ($6.09 billion), a 4 percent year-over-year increase at actual exchange rates. The results marked the company’s highest quarterly sales total ever, Richemont Chief Financial Officer Burkhart Grund said on an earnings call last week. For the nine-month period, sales were up 5 percent at actual exchange rates to €15.81 billion ($17.22 billion). The luxury titan said it performed well in the third quarter in spite of a “continued uncertain macroeconomic and geopolitical environment.” Sales in all regions, except Europe, increased at actual exchange rates compared with the prior period, led by Asia-Pacific and Japan, with sales up 8 percent in both regions.

Office & Leisure

Tumi Embarks on Multiyear Partnership With the PGA Tour and LPGA

Tumi is expanding its presence in the sports world with a new partnership. The luxury travel company is embarking on a multiyear partnership with the PGA Tour and LPGA, signing on as both golf organizations’ official luggage partner. The partnership kicks off this week at the PGA Show in Orlando, Fla., where the brand will preview its new full-range golf collection. Helmed by Tumi creative director Victor Sanz, the Tumi golf collection includes golf bags, duffel bags, ball pouches and other golf accessories in beige and black. The collection is said to leverage the brand’s high-performance materials and innovations. Tumi has several partnerships in the sports world, including with Premier League soccer team Tottenham Hotspur and its player Son Heung-Min, Formula 1 team McLaren Racing and its driver Lando Norris, and the Professional Tennis Players Association.

Mattel Is Building An Amusement Park With A Barbie Beach House And Hot Wheels Coasters

Barbie has been on a hot streak lately, but there’s even more reason for Barbie fans—and Hot Wheels and Thomas the Tank Engine fans—to get excited this year. That’s because Mattel has announced that it’s building the Mattel Adventure Park, an indoor/outdoor theme park that will feature some of the brand’s most iconic toy lines at the forefront. The small, nine-acre park is being built in Glendale, Arizona, on the grounds of the already-built VAI Resort. According to a press release put out by Mattel, this is a hop and skip away from the State Farm Stadium, home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. The interesting thing about Mattel’s Adventure Park is that the bulk of the attractions are indoors. Which means air conditioning, and it’s also enclosed so it can be visited year-round in almost any weather.

Technology & Internet

Netflix Shares Pop On Subscriber Growth

Shares of Netflix jumped nearly 11% on Wednesday after the company reported adding 13.1 million subscribers during the fourth quarter, stronger growth than Wall Street expected as the streamer builds its ad-supported service and cracks down on password sharing. Netflix now has 260.8 million paid subscribers, a new record for the service, it said when it reported quarterly results after the bell Tuesday. The subscriber growth easily tops the 8.76 million paid membership adds Netflix reported in the third quarter. The company also blew past Wall Street’s fourth-quarter expectations of 8 million to 9 million. Netflix reported fourth-quarter net income of $937.8 million, or $2.11 per share, versus $55.3 million, or 12 cents per share, in the prior-year period. The company posted revenue of $8.83 billion for the quarter, up from $7.85 billion in the year-ago quarter. As Netflix focuses on improving profits, the company increased its 2024 full-year operating margin forecast to 24%, up from a range of 22% to 23%.


Three decades in, Amazon still working on its original books business

Within its first month of coming to life as an online bookstore in 1995, had shipped books to all 50 states. By 1997, it had shipped its one millionth order (hand-delivered by Jeff Bezos himself). So there’s something emblematic in how the company that billed itself as “earth’s biggest bookstore” has continued to evolve its bookseller business across three decades as it became an everything store, a retail giant with Whole Foods and various experiments in the bricks-and-mortar world, a global logistics provider, the country’s largest cloud computing services vendor, and most recently, a major generative AI investor. For all of its time spent in books — and what its success has done to the bookstore business — there are still some issues that Amazon has to work out with readers. In the middle of December, Amazon rolled out a new service, Your Books, aiming to tackle some of the challenges it still faces in helping users build a library that they turn to more often.

How the Apple iPhone changed the world

When Apple announced the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs called it a “revolutionary product” in a handset category that he said needed to be reinvented. Now, nearly two decades and 42 models later, the iPhone is one of the world’s most popular phones. Apple has sold over 2.3 billion units of the iPhone and has over 1.5 billion active users, according to research from Demand Sage. The original iPhone was released in June 2007 and exclusively sold with AT&T for $499. “Investors were optimistic about the impact that it could have with Apple,” said Deepwater Asset’s Gene Munster. “The initial data that came out from AT&T was a disappointment from that first few days of sales. I remember talking to investors after that first weekend, and the general sense was that this product, in one investor’s words, was dead on arrival.”

Finance & Economy

Fed’s favorite inflation gauge rose 0.2% in December and was up 2.9% from a year ago

The Commerce Department’s personal consumption expenditures price index for December, an important gauge for the Federal Reserve, increased 0.2% on the month and was up 2.9% on a yearly basis, excluding food and energy. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for respective increases of 0.2% and 3%.  On a monthly basis, core inflation increased from 0.1% in November. However, the annual rate declined from 3.2%. The 12-month rate is the lowest since March 2021.

Consumer spending surges during holiday shopping season. Economy still strong

Consumer spending rose a robust 0.7% in December to cap off a strong holiday shopping season and underscoring the remarkable strength of the economy.  Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.5% increase in spending.  Household spending has been buoyed by low unemployment, record low layoffs and the first increase in inflation-adjusted incomes in a few years. Incomes rose 0.3% in December.  Strong consumer spending, the main engine of the economy, helped to deliver a robust 3.3% annual rate of growth in the fourth quarter. The economy also expanded at stunning 4.9% pace in the third quarter.