The Weekly Consensus

The Weekly Consensus

Maeghan Thompson

Story of the Week

Amazon, iRobot call off $1.4 billion acquisition

Amazon is no longer seeking to purchase the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum. Amazon and iRobot have entered into a mutual agreement to terminate their acquisition agreement, originally signed in August 2022, under which Amazon would have acquired iRobot for $1.4 billion in cash. The companies have signed a termination agreement that resolves all outstanding matters from the transaction, including Amazon paying iRobot the previously agreed upon $94 million termination fee. In July 2023, Amazon and iRobot agreed to lower the purchase price from roughly $1.7 billion to $1.4 billion. When it was initially announced, the deal marked Amazon’s second billion-dollar acquisition in less than a month (and fourth largest ever).  iRobot was founded in 1990. It is best known for its Roomba robot vacuum, which it introduced in 2002. The company has expanded its product portfolio over the years, and it now includes technologies and advanced concepts in cleaning, mapping and navigation.

Apparel & Footwear

H&M CEO quits abruptly after ‘very demanding’ times

Helena Helmersson stepped down Wednesday as chief executive of H&M, bringing an abrupt end to her four-year tenure and triggering a surprise change in leadership at one of the world’s largest fashion retailers. “I am very proud of what we together have achieved during the last years when we have navigated through pandemic, and several geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges,” she said in a statement published alongside the Swedish company’s latest financial results. “However, it has been very demanding at times for me personally and I now feel that it is time to leave the CEO role, which of course has not been an easy decision.” Helmersson, who is leaving H&M after 26 years at the company, has been replaced as CEO by Daniel Erver. He was most recently head of the H&M brand, which is the largest within the group. Its other brands include & Other Stories and COS. H&M’s operating profit margin fell to 7.2% in the fourth quarter of its financial year — covering the September-to-November period — from 7.8% in the previous quarter. H&M shares plunged after the announcements and were more than 9% lower in midday trade in Stockholm. The stock has declined 14% since the start of 2024.


Crocs, Inc. Appoints EVP and CFO Anne Mehlman to EVP & President of Crocs Brand; Announces Planned Retirement of EVP & President Michelle Poole

Crocs, Inc., a global leader in innovative casual footwear for all, announced that Michelle Poole, 55, EVP & President of the Crocs Brand, has decided to retire. To ensure a seamless transition, she will remain in her current role through early May and will serve in an advisory capacity until early 2025. In keeping with Crocs, Inc. succession planning, current EVP & Chief Financial Officer Anne Mehlman will be promoted to EVP & President of the Crocs Brand. Until her replacement is named, Ms. Mehlman will continue to serve as Chief Financial Officer of the company. Crocs, Inc. has launched a comprehensive search for a new Chief Financial Officer. Anne Mehlman has over 20 years of global financial and operational experience, having re-joined Crocs, Inc. in 2018 as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Mehlman had previously worked at Crocs, Inc. as Vice President of Corporate Finance from 2011-2016. After leaving Crocs in 2016, she served as the Chief Financial Officer of, the ecommerce retailer owned by Amazon. Ms. Mehlman serves on the board of Joann, Inc.


Canada Goose roars back to life in Asia, but sales slide everywhere else

Canada Goose Holdings Inc. enjoyed skyrocketing sales in Asia last quarter after China lifted COVID-19 restrictions, even as revenue fell sharply in North America and Europe. The luxury apparel company said purchases in Macao and Hong Kong led the way spurred by tourism from mainland China, where store traffic doubled. Sales in Asia jumped 62 per cent year over year in the quarter ended Dec. 31. “Strength in (Asia-Pacific) reflects both the colder weather in greater China in Q3 as well as (the end of) store closures last year relating to COVID-19 restrictions,” chairman and CEO Dani Reiss told analysts on a conference call Thursday. The Pacific surge fueled a total year-over-year revenue boost of six per cent in its third quarter. Closer to home, however, the Toronto-based company saw sales drop off. Warmer weather through the fall and early winter alongside weaker consumer demand caused by high inflation and interest rates drove down revenues by nearly 14 per cent in Canada and the U.S.


Boot Barn Downgrades 2024 Outlook After Sales Miss in Q3

Shares for Boot Barn were down more than 5 percent after the bell on Wednesday as the footwear retailer downgraded its outlook for fiscal year 2024. The Irvine, Calif-based company reported that net sales in the third quarter were $520.4 million, up 1.1 percent from the prior year but short of the company’s previously outlined guidance of $535 million. Same store sales in Q3 were down 9.7 percent, which was also weaker than the 8 percent decline expected from Boot Barn management. Net income was $55.6 million, with $1.81 per diluted share, ahead of the $1.79 expected from Boot Barn and analysts. Jim Conroy, president and chief executive officer of Boot Barn, said the company’s 49 new Boot Barn stores that opened over the last year helped offset the 9.7 percent same store sales decline in Q3 and drove top line growth in Q3. Boot Barn opened 11 new stores in Q3, for a total of 382 stores. “Excluding three quarters in calendar 2020 that were impacted by the pandemic, the third quarter marks our 38th consecutive quarter of year-over-year sales growth since our IPO in 2014, nearly ten years ago,” Conroy said in a statement.

Superdry CEO exploring takeover of struggling retailer

Superdry CEO and top shareholder Julian Dunkerton is considering making a cash offer for the shares he does not already own, among other options, the embattled British fashion retailer said on Friday. Superdry shares soared earlier on Friday to levels not seen since October after The Times newspaper reported that U.S. private equity company Sycamore Partners and Authentic Brands Group, which owns Ted Baker, had Superdry “on their radar”. The share price has also been boosted by news on Wednesday that Norwegian alternative investment fund First Seagull took a 5.3% stake in the company. Superdry in its statement did not mention speculation about an outside takeover, only referring to a potential cash offer by Dunkerton, possibly with financing partners. Dunkerton holds a 26% stake in the company, whose share price had been hammered in recent months as the retailer grappled with weak demand and a cash crunch. Last week, Superdry said it does not expect market conditions to improve in the near term after a tough Christmas, adding that its finance chief Shaun Wills would step down at the end of March.



Athletic & Sporting Goods

Tom Brady is merging his nutrition and apparel brands with training company Nobull

Seven-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady is merging his health and nutrition company, TB12, and his apparel company, Brady, with training brand Nobull.  As part of the deal, Brady will become the No. 2 shareholder in Nobull, behind BodyArmor founder Mike Repole who bought the company last year.  Nobull was founded in 2015 by former Reebok executives Marcus Wilson and Michael Schaeffer. The Boston-based company employs about 100 people across the U.S., U.K. and China, and sells its sneakers and apparel primarily online.  Under the merger, the company will continue to operate under the brand name Nobull and aims to become a complete wellness company.

Triple Eight Distribution, LLC Acquires Certain PRO-TEC Brand Assets from Bravo Highline, LLC

Triple Eight Distribution, LLC today announced that it has completed the purchase of certain PRO-TEC brand assets from Bravo Highline, LLC. PRO-TEC is an industry-leading protective helmet and pad brand since it first hit the Skateboard scene in 1973. Born in the backyard pools and homemade ramps of Southern California, PRO-TEC is considered by many in the Action Sports industry to be a core, defining skate brand, dubbed “the Original” protective brand.  Since 1996, Triple Eight Distribution has been developing tough, stylish protective gear for the action sports industry.

PGA Tour strikes $3 billion deal with Fenway-led investment group; players to get equity ownership

The PGA Tour is getting a $3 billion investment from Strategic Sports Group in a deal that would give players access to more than $1.5 billion as equity owners in the new PGA Tour Enterprises.  The launching of PGA Tour Enterprises, with SSG as a minority partner, comes eight months after the PGA Tour signed a framework agreement with the Saudi backers of LIV Golf for a commercial venture, and ultimately led to private equity groups wanting to join.  The tour still is negotiating with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which was not part of the deal. The tour said its partnership with SSG allows for a co-investment from PIF, subject to regulatory approval.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

D.S & Durga Acquired by Manzanita Capital

D.S & Durga has been acquired by Manzanita Capital for an undisclosed amount. Founders David Seth Moltz and Kavi Ahuja Moltz will remain in their leadership roles. Funds raised will be used to expand D.S & Durga’s retail footprint, hiring new talent and for international expansion, according to multiple reports. The fragrance upstart, founded in 2009, now shares a home with Diptyque, Space NK and Malin+Goetz. Manzanita also sold Byredo to Puig in 2022 for a rumored $1 billion.

Amorepacific Operating Profit Plummets 63.7 Percent

AmorePacific has announced its results for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2023. The K-beauty behemoth saw revenue drop 14.9 percent while operating profit plummeted 63.7 percent. Both the Domestic and Overseas units lost ground, with revenue down 11.6 percent y/y for the former and for the latter, diving 18.3 percent. AmorePacific revealed that, on the domestic front, while its multi-brand shop channel sales posted more than 50 percent growth, travel retail experienced a double-digit decline. Meanwhile, the overseas business continued to be hit by loss from the China business.

Henkel agrees to buy Vidal Sassoon brand in China from P&G

German consumer goods firm Henkel reported it plans to acquire the Vidal Sassoon hair-care brand in China from US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. Vidal Sassoon’s portfolio focuses on the premium hair care segment with shampoos and conditioners. It also offers products around styling and treatments. Terms of the transaction were not immediately disclosed.

Under New Ownership, The Body Shop Is Shedding Most European and Some Asian Business

The Body Shop has signed an agreement with an international family office to sell most of its business in mainland Europe and in parts of Asia. Financial terms of the deal, which includes both physical and digital operations, were not disclosed. The part of the activity effected equals to about 14 percent of The Body Shop’s business worldwide. The sale does not impact its global head franchise partners, which operate on a country or territory level, but some sub-franchise partners are to be included in the sale. It is believed The Body Shop’s largest market remains its home country of the U.K. The B-Corp-certified company operates around 2,800 retail locations in more than 70 countries.

Discounters & Department Stores

Walmart introduces AR eyewear try-on tech

Adding another tech tool to its services, Walmart is enabling customers to virtually try on eyewear with augmented reality technology, the retail giant announced Tuesday. Using the Walmart website or app, shoppers can click the “try them on” icon on an eyewear product page. Customers can virtually try on more than 750 eyewear options and customize their lenses by uploading a prescription and allowing a facial scan to capture pupillary distance measures. Walmart states that it uses 3D data and algorithms to create a digital twin of eyewear frames. After ordering their eyewear online, customers can bring their glasses to a Walmart Vision Center and receive additional assistance from an optician, per the press release.

Walmart announces ambitious 5-year store plan

Walmart announced Wednesday a five-year plan to build or convert more than 150 locations while simultaneously continuing its efforts to remodel existing stores. Over the next 12 months, the retail giant said it aims to remodel 650 stores across 47 states and Puerto Rico. Both new and remodeled Walmart stores will reflect the retailer’s “Store of the Future” concept, with improved layouts, expanded product selections and innovative technology to support associates as well as make shopping trips more convenient, according to the announcement. The store investments come at a time when Walmart has become a dominating force in the grocery sector, driving financial gains as well as growing market share.


Retailers have finally tamed their inventories: report

Last year’s third quarter was the first time since the pandemic that sales growth in retail and apparel outpaced inventory, according to a Jan. 17 research note by Telsey Advisory Group analysts. The spread between inventory growth and sales growth hit negative 730 basis points in Q3. That compares to a positive spread of 3,320 basis points when inventories were peaking in Q3 2022, according to the analysts. Inventories across retail sectors were down 7.8% year over year in Q3 overall, compared to 38.2% growth in the same period the year prior. The analysts said they expect “most retailers to continue to control inventory” in 2024.



Emerging Consumer Companies

Aggregator Forum Brands acquires organic period care brand Lola
Amazon aggregator Forum Brands has acquired organic period care brand Lola. Lola, founded in 2014, aimed to disrupt the period care industry dominated by Tampax by offering 100% organic cotton products. However, the market has become more crowded with similar brands like The Honey Pot and August. Forum Brands confirmed the acquisition but did not disclose the specifics of the purchase. Lola expanded into retail in 2020 with a deal with Walmart and has since sold its products through other brick-and-mortar retailers. It also launched new product categories focused on sexual health. In late 2022, Lola’s co-CEOs stepped down, and Amy Fisher took over as chief executive, although she is no longer with the company. Forum Brands, founded in 2020, focuses on acquiring high-growth e-commerce businesses that sell predominantly on Amazon. The company aims to build a portfolio of standalone businesses that are category leaders both on and off Amazon. Forum Brands has a target demographic of females aged 25 to 44.

Sexual wellness brand Woo More Play seeks crowdfunding for Nordstrom launch
Sexual wellness brand Woo More Play is turning to crowdfunding to support its expansion, with a campaign on the StartEngine platform. The brand aims to raise $1 million through the campaign, which will be used to launch its products at premium department store Nordstrom. Woo More Play is offering investors seven tiers of perks based on their investment amount, including discounted lifetime subscriptions and the opportunity to have dinner with the brand’s co-founders. The minimum investment is just under $250, with perks becoming available at $500 or greater. Woo More Play has already raised $2 million in venture capital funding since its launch in 2018, and its current investors support the crowdfunding campaign as a way to strengthen the brand’s relationship with its community. The brand has previously entered Anthropologie, Amazon, and Revolve, and has achieved $11 million in sales to date. CEO Mackie Swan believes the sexual wellness category has significant potential for growth and sees the crowdfunding campaign as a long-term marketing strategy.



Food & Beverage

Organic Chocolatier Alter Eco Announces Acquisition By Trek One Capital

Trek One Capital has acquired Alter Eco Foods. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Alter Eco is a manufacturer of such better-for-you snacks as organic dark chocolate bars, truffles, granola and quinoa. The company focuses its products on the organic and natural retail channels, according to the company. Alter Eco was founded in 2004 to formulate an organic chocolate brand to support cacao farmers in South America, according to the company. The company sources raw materials from eco-friendly farms, which are focused on regenerative farming, agroforestry, sustainable agriculture and fair trade practices, according to the company.

Utz Brands sells certain assets, brands to Our Home

Utz Brands announced a definitive agreement for the sale of some brands and assets, including Utz Quality Foods, to Our Home, an independent better-for-you snack platform. Our Home affiliates agreed to purchase the Good Health and R. W. Garcia brands, manufacturing facilities in Lincolnton, NC, and Lilitz, PA, and related assets. The company will also assume Utz’ Las Vegas facility lease and manufacturing operations. The transactions will total approximately $150 million in after-tax net proceeds. Utz is set to use this to pay down long-term debt, which is expected to lower interest expenses by approximately $12 million in the 2024 fiscal year.

Infinite Roots has raised $58m for mushroom mycelium

Hamburg-based Infinite Roots has raised Europe’s biggest funding round for a mycelium company so far, with a $58m Series B. The round was led by the European Innovation Council (EIC) and Dr Hans Riegel Holding (HRH), a holding company of confectionery giant Haribo. The startup — previously known as MushLabs — grows mycelium cells. These are what mushrooms grow from, and Infinite Roots then turns the cells into products that offer an alternative to animal-based and plant-based food options, creating a third category of nutrition. Some of its products include mycelium meatballs, sausages and steaks.



Grocery & Restaurants

Savory Fund acquires restaurant South Block

Savory announced on Wednesday the acquisition of South Block, a 15-unit restaurant chain based out of Clarendon, Va. This becomes the twelfth investment Savory has made from its $200 million Fund III since its founding in 2020. South Block currently has locations in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, and is known for its health-focused menu that includes made-to-order smoothies, açaí bowls, toasts, and cold-pressed juices. South Block was founded in Clarendon, Va., in 2011 by Amir Mostafavi to build healthier communities, one block at a time. Along with the restaurant, Mostafavi also started a nonprofit called Fruitful Planet, which provides fresh fruit and vegetables to underserved communities.

Starbucks’ earnings report was weak — but Wall Street expected worse

Wall Street is shaking off Starbucks’ weak quarterly report, seemingly taking executives at their word that the company’s challenges are “transitory.” The coffee giant’s stock ticked higher in morning trading, hours after it reported fiscal first-quarter earnings and revenue that missed Wall Street’s estimates and lowered its full-year sales outlook. Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan blamed three headwinds for the disappointing results: war in the Middle East weakening its local licensees’ sales, “misperceptions” in the U.S. over the company’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war, and a “more cautious” consumer in China. Executives also tried to convey that those challenges are expected to subside as fiscal 2024 progresses. While Starbucks lowered its full-year outlook for revenue and same-store sales growth, it reiterated its forecast for fiscal 2024 earnings per share growth.

Home & Road

HomeGoods rocked out in Q4 with strongest market share gain

Wayfair remained at the top of the market share heap among home-focused retailers during the fourth quarter of 2023 and even gained a bit of share. But HomeGoods clocked the biggest market share gain during the period, up 1.9 percentage points year-over-year, according to YipitData’s Q4 2023 Market Share Index for home stores. The survey tracks online and off-line sales. Home Goods nabbed 14.5% of market share, up from 12.6% in the fourth quarter of 2022. The chain, which shut down its e-commerce platform in mid-October, was No. 2 in terms of the sector’s market share. Wayfair grew its share to 15.2%, up from 14.7% in the prior-year period, with its share increasing 0.6 percentage points. Williams Sonoma’s share also bumped up 0.6 percentage points, resulting in Q4 share of 3.5%, up from 3.0% in 2022. It ranked No. 9 in share for the month.

Kirkland’s secures additional debt financing

Kirkland’s has secured additional debt financing to support its strategic repositioning efforts.  The specialty retailer of home décor and furnishings said it has entered into a supplemental credit facility on Jan. 25, 2024, which will increase its available credit by up to $12 million.  Kirkland’s Home secured the financing through a new first-in last-out, asset-based, delayed-draw term loan facility. The new facility is in addition to the company’s existing $90 million asset-based revolving credit facility. Proceeds from the new facility, when drawn, will be used to provide additional liquidity for ongoing working capital needs. As of closing, the company’s combined credit availability under both credit agreements was approximately $21.5 million.

Jewelry & Luxury

‘This is natural evolution’: Saks and Neiman Marcus on the state of luxury

For Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, the past few years have brought huge changes (and even a failed push for the two luxury retailers to merge). In 2020, during the peak of the pandemic, Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy, exiting in September that year with a plan to shed $4 billion in debt. The next year, the department store refinanced an additional $1.1 billion in debt. “If I look back to six years ago when I joined the company, the company was 10 times levered,” CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said in a discussion at the ICR Conference in January. “We couldn’t invest in the business. We were very focused on transactions, as opposed to driving relationships and gaining share.”

Former De Beers Exec Delage Joins GIA Board

François Delage, the former head of De Beers Jewelers and its Forevermark brand, has joined GIA’s board of governors. Delage served as global CEO of Forevermark from 2007 to 2009, and then CEO of De Beers Jewelers from 2009 to 2020. Following that, he founded and headed Adorisa Group, a fine jewelry brand. Most recently, he served as the CEO of high-end real estate business Barnes International. He got his start at LVMH, where he became president of Louis Vuitton for the Asia-Pacific region.

How ‘quiet luxury’ is subtly taking over investor portfolios

Quiet luxury was one of last year’s biggest viral fashion trends on social media — but unlike other short-lived fads on TikTok or Instagram, this one has made its way into investor portfolios and shown actual returns. So what is “quiet luxury”? The trend revolves around understated, subtle displays of opulence and popular shows like HBO series “Succession” have also played a part in boosting its popularity. Gone are the days of loud, flashy displays of wealth in fashion — it is now all about subtlety and minimalism. But the trend has not only gained traction in the fashion world, even investors are starting to take notice.


Office & Leisure

Byron Allen Makes $14B Offer to Buy Paramount Global

Byron Allen is making a play for Paramount. The comic-turned media mogul has made a $14.3 billion offer to buy all outstanding shares Paramount Global, according to a statement from Allen’s company. The deal would also see Allen Media Group assume Paramount’s roughly $15 billion debt load, valuing the shares at about a 50% premium to their recent trading prices. Allen’s AMG owns The Weather Channel, a number of local TV stations, The Grio, and a syndicated TV content business, among other ventures. The mogul, who began his career in Hollywood as a stand-up comedian (he still occasionally performs), is known for his aggressive negotiating tactics, and an unflinching desire to grow his business. AMG added a handful of new board members late last year as it sought new expansion opportunities. It is not clear who Allen’s strategic partners are in the offer, or if there any contingencies.


WHSmith to open 50-plus stores in airports across North America

WHSmith is betting big on North America. The UK-based retailer is on track to open over 110 stores this year, including over 50 in North America, where it continues to make “excellent progress,” the company stated. “The growth opportunities in North America are substantial and there is a good pipeline of tenders,” stated group CEO Carl Cowling. Cowling said the company is seeing passenger number growth and “strong “demand for its travel essentials categories.  WHSmith’s Marshall Retail Group’s (MRG) airport and resort business now represents approximately 50% of the revenue of its North American division. WHSmith is a leading global retailer in news, books and convenience for travelers, with more than 1,700 stores across 30 countries worldwide. In November 2018, WHSmith acquired InMotion, a global technology retailer in U.S. airports, now operating over 120 stores, including stores in the UK, Spain and Australia. In December 2019, WHSmith acquired Marshall Retail Group, a leading and fast-growing U.S. travel retailer with over 170 stores.

Toy sales dropped 8% last year: report

The toy industry reported a 8% decline in sales in 2023, according to a report by Circana shared with Retail Dive. A number of factors contributed to the downturn last year, including inflation, depleted customer savings and rising consumer credit card debt. However, the industry experienced a $5.7B increase in sales since 2019, driven by average selling price growth, per the report. Within 11 toy supercategories tracked by Circana, three experienced growth in 2023. Building sets were up $220 million and experienced the fastest growth, with Lego Icons, Lego Disney Classic and Lego Speed Champions dominating the category. Plush toys had the second largest dollar gain, up $31 million, with Pokémon, Furby and Harry Potter leading the way. Last year may have been difficult for the U.S. toy industry, but its four-year compound annual growth rate is still positive. Top toy IP for 2023 included Barbie, Star Wars and Marvel, among others. Movies and streaming releases often put franchises in the spotlight, with built-in fan bases for toy sales, according to experts.

Propelled Brands acquires growing dog daycare, grooming chain

Just a week after Camp Bow Wow announced plans for 2024, the dog daycare and grooming chain now has a new owner. Propelled Brands, a franchisor of service-oriented businesses that include Fastsigns International, My Salon Suite and NerdsToGo, has acquired Camp Bow Wow, which operates 216 locations in 40 states and Canada. The acquisition brings Propelled Brands’ combined portfolio to over 1,300 locations. The company says it will have a significant role in expanding Camp Bow Wow’s presence and development. Camp Bow Wow opened 12 locations in 2023, and has more than 60 new locations in development, with plans for 20 to open in 2024. Propelled Brands says the acquisition brings its expertise in franchising to an “entirely new vertical for the company as it grows its portfolio of premier service brands.” Founded in 2000 and based in Westminster, Colo., Camp Bow Wow has been ranked on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list for 15 consecutive years. “Joining the Propelled Brands family aligns with our ongoing strategy to provide outstanding support and growth opportunities to our franchise owners, and we look forward to leveraging Propelled Brands’ franchise expertise to accelerate unit-level growth and dramatically expand our footprint across the country,” said Camp Bow Wow President Julie Turner.

Technology & Internet

Apple’s Vision Pro virtual reality headset launches in U.S.

Apple’s Vision Pro virtual reality headset officially launched in the U.S. on Friday. Customers who preordered the headset will begin to receive it or pick it up at Apple Store locations. Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared at the company’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City on Friday morning to celebrate the headset’s release. Speaking to CNBC’s Jim Cramer at the event about the Vision Pro’s high sticker price, Cook called it “tomorrow’s technology today.” The Vision Pro starts at $3,500. “People can spread their payments out over time, and so that’s one affordability kind of thing,” Cook said, referring to a monthly financing plan that buyers can choose. “It’s chock-full of invention. It’s got 5,000 patents on it.” “We think we priced it at the right level considering the value of it,” Cook added. On Apple’s earnings call Thursday, Cook said the Vision Pro is also being embraced as an enterprise product, citing companies including Walmart, Nike, Vanguard, Stryker, Bloomberg and SAP that “have started leveraging and investing” in the headset as a platform for customers and workers. Still, Cook said Thursday that he believes Apple can remain “both” a consumer- and enterprise-focused company going forward with the Vision Pro now among its offerings, considering the gadget’s “ton of use cases.”


Amazon Reports Better-Than-Expected Results as Sales Jump 14%

Amazon on Thursday reported fourth-quarter results that sailed past analysts’ estimates, and gave strong guidance for the current quarter. Amazon easily topped Wall Street’s expectations for earnings, indicating that CEO Andy Jassy’s efforts to rein in costs are paying off. The company laid off 27,000 employees between late 2022 and mid-2023, and ended some of its more unproven bets. It has continued to look for ways to trim expenses in other areas, such as its fulfillment business. In January, it announced cuts in Prime Video, MGM Studios and Twitch, among other units. Revenue jumped 14% to $170 billion in the fourth quarter. The period reflects results from the holiday shopping season and Amazon’s October Prime Day event, both of which the company said exceeded its expectations. “This Q4 was a record-breaking Holiday shopping season and closed out a robust 2023 for Amazon,” Jassy said in a statement. “As we enter 2024, our teams are delivering at a rapid clip, and we have a lot in front of us to be excited about.”

Activist Elliott builds roughly 13% stake in Etsy, secures board seat

Activist investor Elliott Management has a “sizable” investment in e-commerce firm Etsy, which announced on Thursday that Elliott partner Marc Steinberg would join the company’s board. The activist investor has built a roughly 13% position in the stock, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC. That economic interest is a blend of shares and options, CNBC’s David Faber said. The position would make it Etsy’s largest investor. “I am looking forward to working with the Board and supporting Josh and the team as they execute on initiatives to improve the customer experience, accelerate top- and bottom-line growth, and drive long-term value,” Steinberg said in a release. Etsy shares shot up more than 10% on the news. Elliott and Etsy have been meeting for a few months, CNBC’s Faber said. Still, the e-commerce company’s stock is down about 10% year to date. Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the firm was “excited” to welcome Steinberg to the board.


Finance & Economy

American consumers feeling more confident than they have in two years

American consumers, fresh off strong holiday spending, are feeling more confident than they have in two years.  The Conference Board, a business research group, said that its consumer confidence index rose for the third straight month, to 114.8 in January from 108 in December. January’s reading came in just slightly higher than the 114 that analysts were expecting.  The index, which measures both Americans’ assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for the next six months, is at its highest level since December of 2021.  Anxiety over the possibility of an economic recession in the next 12 months continued to fade for most Americans.

U.S. economy added 353,000 jobs in January, much better than expected

Job growth posted a surprisingly strong increase in January, demonstrating again that the U.S. labor market is solid and poised to support broader economic growth.  Nonfarm payrolls expanded by 353,000 for the month, much better than the Dow Jones estimate for 185,000, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The unemployment rate held at 3.7%, against the estimate for 3.8%. Job growth was widespread on the month, led by professional and business services with 74,000. Other significant contributors included health care (70,000), retail trade (45,000), government (36,000), social assistance (30,000) and manufacturing (23,000).