I recall a college economics class when I first heard the term “NIMBY”. It was a clever way to sum up certain negative feelings – Not In My Back Yard – as in do not build that nuclear power plant in my town. Recently, the terms reshoring and nearshoring are grabbing headlines. One clever writer used the term “YIMBY” – Yes In My Back Yard.
Over the past three years, there has been dramatic upheaval in global supply chains. Shipping times from Asia to the US went from one month to three months or more. The cost of shipping increased from $2,000 per 40-foot container to $25,000. Shortages occurred in virtually all categories from electronics, to toys, to running shoes. It is estimated that the pandemic alone affected 98% of global supply chains.
Although the supply chain has largely normalized in these past months, the result is that companies are reshoring: relocating manufacturing and/or sourcing to home where their markets exist. And if they are not reshoring, then they are nearshoring: relocating supply sources close to home, which is increasingly in Mexico for US companies.
A recent Deloitte survey showed that 62% of 300 large US companies have begun reshoring or nearshoring (also known as friendshoring). An Accenture study of 1,000 executives showed that 94% of companies are planning direct investments in reshoring or nearshoring. A McKinsey study revealed that 71% of surveyed fashion companies intend to increase nearshoring by 2025 while 24% intend to reshore. A Kearney report shows 92% of CEOs who have not yet initiated shifting manufacturing have positive inclinations to do so.
Historically, the primary reason companies have manufactured and/or sourced from China and India has been cost savings from dramatically lower labor rates. However, as the standard of living has risen in these countries so have labor rates. Wages in the manufacturing sector in China have tripled in the past ten years. With increasing Asian wages, outsourcing to these counties is less effective. Beyond costs, many companies are viewing nearby manufacturing as the best option when considering dependability and resilience. In good times, low-cost labor may improve gross margins, but when supply chains break there may be no gross profit if products do not show up.
Putting aside the cost of goods, bringing supply bases closer to home has numerous advantages: 1) improved quality control, 2) reduced shipping costs, 3) increased speed to market and 4) domestic job creation. Further, retailers are motivating companies to manufacture onshore. Walmart has committed to support its suppliers who reshore by increasing their purchases of “Made in the US” products by $350 billion over the next ten years. This was a renewed vow from ten years ago when Walmart made the same pledge, but for $250 billion. It is estimated that Walmart’s pledge will create 750,000 US jobs over this time period. It is estimated that reshoring led to 350,000 jobs last year and 260,000 jobs in 2021. This compares to 6,000 jobs in 2010. The largest beneficiaries of reshoring have been Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas.
The largest beneficiary of nearshoring is south of the border in Mexico. And it is an enormous opportunity. According to the Mexican Economic Bureau, 400 US companies intend to relocate sourcing bases from Asia to Mexico this year. Moreover, the goal is to shift 25% of Asian imports in the coming years.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that China itself is seizing this opportunity. The fastest growing region in Mexico for nearshoring is Nuevo León. US companies represented 47% of foreign investment into Nuevo León last year. Behind US companies were Chinese companies, representing 30%. The Chinese do not want to lose share of the US market. And by locating in Mexico, they avoid tariff issues. Case in point, a polyester t-shirt costs $1.19 to make in China vs. $1.57 in the Mexican region. However, duties on the Chinese t-shirt are 39.5%. At the end of the day, the landed cost in the US is $1.99 for the Chinese t-shirt compared to $1.85 for the Mexican t-shirt.
In a recent interview, the CEO of a Chinese furniture company talked of building a $300 million factory in Nuevo León. The CEO only had three questions. How soon could construction begin? (Answer – immediately.) How are the highways? (Answer – not great, but improving.) Are there any Chinese restaurants? (Answer – no.) I suspect that Nuevo León will soon have restaurants that serve both American and Chinese tastes.
Headlines of the Week
Amazon on Wednesday said it had closed its $3.9 billion deal for primary care provider One Medical. Amazon agreed last July to acquire One Medical to deepen its presence in health care, and “dramatically improve” the experience of getting medical care. Amazon has long had ambitions to expand into health care, buying online pharmacy PillPack in 2018 for $750 million, then launching its own virtual clinic for chronic conditions, and prescription perks for Prime members. The deal gives Amazon access to One Medical’s more than 200 brick-and-mortar medical offices in 26 markets, and roughly 815,000 members. The purchase was the first major deal announced since CEO Andy Jassy took the helm from founder Jeff Bezos in July 2021, and Jassy has indicated he sees health care as a major area of expansion. In a statement, he said health care is ripe for disruption, citing long appointment times and the complexities of primary care.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has agreed to buy outdoor retailer Moosejaw from Walmart in a bid to take share in the multibillion-dollar outdoor market. The cost of the deal, which is expected to close in March, was not disclosed. Walmart purchased Moosejaw for $51 million in February 2017 under then-e-commerce President Marc Lore. The acquisition, a rare move for Dick’s, could help the retailer grow its presence in the outdoor market and develop its e-commerce footprint after its 2021 launch of Public Lands, which has a stronger brick-and-mortar focus. While Moosejaw operates about a dozen brick-and-mortar locations in the Midwest and near the Great Lakes, it’s primarily an e-commerce company that’s been around since 1992.
Apparel & Footwear
Mango, the Barcelona, Spain-based fashion brand, has signed an agreement to open seven stores this year at shopping centers in the U.S. operated by Brookfield Properties. The deal brings Mango closer to achieving its objective of operating 40 stores in the U.S. by 2024. Currently, Mango operates 10 units in the U.S., including four in Florida and a flagship on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Mango also disclosed Tuesday that it has launched its first freestanding store in Canada, a 5,000-square-foot unit in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in greater Toronto. After Yorkdale, Mango will open seven new stores until July, including sites on premier shopping streets and in shopping malls, as well as continuing its wholesale distribution to department stores. Mango has been present in the U.S. since 2006. After the opening of its flagship on New York’s Fifth Avenue last May, the company expanded last year its presence in Florida with several openings, including a new store at Lincoln Road in Miami and at Aventura Mall, a major shopping center in north Miami.
Wolverine Worldwide Inc., in the midst of turnaround efforts and maintaining confidence about achieving long-term growth, fell deeper in the red last year. The footwear and apparel firm on Wednesday reported a net loss of $361 million for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to a loss of $14.6 million in the year-ago period. However, revenues grew 4.6 percent to $665 million last quarter on a constant currency basis, from $635.6 million in the year-ago quarter. Wolverine’s international business was strong, rising 22.2 percent, or 31.9 percent on a constant currency basis, to $281.5 million. Direct-to-consumer revenue of $224.4 million was flat compared to 2021, and up 4.8 percent on a constant currency basis. Earlier this month, the company sold the Keds brand to Designer Brands Inc., the parent company of footwear retailer DSW. Wolverine also disclosed it intends to grant an exclusive license to DBI for Hush Puppies footwear in the U.S. and Canada, where DSW has been the exclusive retail partner for Hush Puppies. The sale of Keds and the license agreement will generate more than $90 million in cash.
Two independent running brands — Oiselle and Janji — are joining forces through a merger. The Seattle-based Oiselle is a running label led by women and geared toward women that plays up inclusivity through different initiatives. The Boston-based Janji is a mission-driven brand that donates 2 percent of every purchase to clean water initiatives. Prior to teaming up officially, executives at both companies routinely shared information and insights and developed a certain level of camaraderie and respect for each other, according to Oiselle president Atsuko Tamura. In an interview Tuesday, she declined to disclose the terms of the deal, which was executed by Digsbury Ventures. The new setup will include an executive change. Oiselle founder Sally Bergesen is taking an advisory role as Tamura continues to serve as president. Janji’s cofounders Mike Burnstein and Dave Spandorfer will stay on at the company, which started as a college project in 2012. Matt McCalpin will maintain his role as chief operating office and will now act as managing director of partnerships, supporting operations across both brands.
Luxury online retailer Mytheresa saw second-quarter growth slow as “aspirational, occasional” customers put the stops on spending during the key holiday period, against a backdrop of higher inflation and economic uncertainty. In the second quarter of fiscal 2023, the online retailer known for its splashy customer events and selective tie-ups with luxury brands such as Pucci, Gucci and Khaite posted a 7.8 percent uptick in gross merchandise value to 215.9 million euros. By contrast, GMV growth in the first quarter was 20.8 percent, while growth in the first half of the year was 13.7 percent compared with the corresponding period in fiscal 2022. Mytheresa’s chief executive officer Michael Kliger said the company was happy with the second-quarter growth, adding it was driven by “high-end, wardrobe-building luxury customers” rather than “aspirational, occasional luxury shoppers.” Kliger said that in the second quarter ready-to-wear, high-end skiwear and fine jewelry sold well “due to the top customers,” while sales of handbags and shoes, key categories for the aspirational client, were less vibrant.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Authentic Brands Group has proposed a new term loan that it plans to use to support a potential acquisition of Boardriders, Inc., according to a report from Moody’s. Boardriders, owned by Oaktree Capital Management, has long been rumored to be on the selling block. Boardriders’ six primary brands include Quiksilver, Billabong, ROXY, DC Shoes, RVCA, and Element. Boardriders was formed through the merger of Quiksilver and Billabong in April 2018.
A newly formed holding company known as Heritage Outdoor Group just acquired Precision Shooting Equipment, Inc., one of the leading manufacturers of archery equipment in the U.S. Heritage announced the acquisition of PSE in a press release. News of the buyout isn’t a complete surprise. Rumors have been swirling for some time regarding a potential purchase of the compound bow manufacturer by Bowmar Hunting (owned by Josh and Sarah Bowmar) or other personalities in the hunting space. But since Heritage Outdoor Group is a relatively unknown up-and-comer in the hunting and archery space, some are curious what the acquisition means for the future of PSE.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Biotech company Amyris, Inc. – known for their beauty brands such as Biossance, JVN, Rose Inc, Pipette, Costa Brazil, Stripes, EcoFabulous, and others – has reached an agreement with Givaudan to sell certain cosmetic ingredients, including their Neossance Squalane, Neossance Hemisqualane and a suncare ingredient called CleanScreen. The companies signed a long-term partnership agreement under which Amyris will continue to manufacture ingredients for Givaudan to use in cosmetics, as well as provide access to its innovation capabilities. Further, Givaudan will become the commercialization partner for future sustainable beauty ingredients. The terms of the deal include a combination of an upfront cash consideration and a performance based earnout, along with a long-term manufacturing agreement. Givaudan plans to fund the transaction from existing resources. Further details have not been disclosed. Amyris’ active cosmetic ingredients business would have represented approximately $30 million of incremental sales to Givaudan’s results in 2022 on a proforma basis.
Sustainable beauty brand Caliray has raised a Series A round. The California-based brand launched in 2021 by Urban Decay founder Wende Zomnir has received new financing led by True Beauty Ventures, the early stage beauty and wellness focused investment fund run by Rich Gersten and Cristina Nuñez. Caliray’s assortment consists of eight products, including Come Hell or High Water Volumizing Tubing Mascara, SO Blown Blurring Collagen Peptide Primer and their first wellness beauty-boosting supplement, Get Lit, created in partnership with Thorne HealthTech, and a clean-formulation entrance into the setting spray category where Zomnir made a name for herself nearly two decades ago. Investors in Caliray also include Hezy Shaked, founder and chairman of Tilly’s, who has been involved since the beginning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources estimate that the brand will generate between $20 million and $25 million in retail sales by 2024.
Vivify Specialty Ingredients, a leading provider of specialty colorants, additives, and ingredients, has acquired Reitech Corporation, a manufacturer of pigment dispersion, for an undisclosed amount. Based in Reading, PA, Reitech has manufactured pigment dispersions for more than 40 years. Vivify was acquired in December 2021 by Gryphon Heritage Fund, the small-cap strategy of middle-market private equity firm Gryphon Investors, and is actively seeking to partner with additional businesses to expand product offerings and services for its customers.
As a beauty industry veteran, Jen Atkin knows what it takes to build a successful brand—her haircare line, Ouai, has become a mainstay at retailers like Sephora and Ulta since its 2016 debut. But with her new venture, Mane by Mane Addicts, Atkin is using the success of her hair-focused website, creative agency, artist network, and social media content platform Mane Addicts, which has 4.5 million followers across Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok, as a springboard into the direct-to-consumer beauty space at a challenging time for such brands. Mane is launching with 8 SKUs at accessible price points. Initial backing for the brand came from the John Paul Mitchell Haircare Family Trust and HB Investments, a private investment office from the founders of Huda Beauty.
Discounters & Department Stores
Off price retailers — with one notable exception — are poised to shake off much of the pressures faced by most apparel and home goods retailers, several analysts said ahead of upcoming earnings reports from the segment. “We remain bullish on the off price space amid elevated inventory availability, consumers shifting to value-seeking mode, and favorable environment to start pivoting back to pre-COVID margin levels for the space,” Credit Suisse analysts led by Michael Binetti said in a client note Wednesday. That mode, quite evident last year as rising prices made shoppers choosy, budget-minded and less loyal, now appears to be accelerating, to the benefit of off-pricers, according to Cowen & Co. analysts led by John Kernan. That is especially true for households at lower income levels, they found.
Target announced a $100-million investment Wednesday to expand next-day delivery capabilities through the addition of more than six new sorting centers. The retailer plans to grow its sortation network from nine to more than 15 facilities by the end of 2026. The company said the centers will expand next-day coverage “across major U.S. markets,” though didn’t specify locations. Target expects to deliver roughly 50 million packages from its sortation centers in 2023, twice the amount of last year. Since opening its first facility in 2020, the retailer said it’s seen a 150% increase in the number of orders delivered the next day.
TJX on Wednesday said its Q4 net sales rose 5% year over year to $14.5 billion. U.S. net sales rose 6% to $11.4 billion, with largest division Marmaxx up 8% and HomeGoods down 4%. U.S. store-only comps rose 4%, with Marmaxx (mainly T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores) up 7% and HomeGoods down 7%, according to a company press release. Net income rose 10.4% to just over $1 billion. Margins missed in the quarter, with pretax profit margin up less than the company expected (rising 0.2 percentage point to 9.2%), merchandise margin down “slightly,” and gross profit margin down one percentage point to 26.1%.
Walmart on Tuesday reported comparable sales were up 8.3% and e-commerce sales grew 17% in the U.S. in the fourth quarter. Total global revenue for the quarter was up 7.3% to $164 billion, while revenue for the full year rose 6.7% to $611.3 billion. The company said its Q4 consolidated operating income was $5.6 billion, a decrease of 5.5%, while Q4 adjusted operating income was $6.4 billion, an increase of 6.9%. Gross profit rate declined 83 basis points, due to markdowns and mix of sales. For 2023, Walmart expects consolidated net sales to increase between 2.5% and 3%, and for U.S. comp sales to increase between 2% and 2.5%.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Telemedicine platform Twentyeight Health has raised $15.5 million in a pre-Series A funding round. Launched in 2018, the company provides access to telemedicine services including contraceptives, prenatal vitamins and herpes treatment, and is aiming to improving access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for women from underserved communities. Twentyeight Health plans to use the funds to expand its services to continue expanding its geographic footprint. The company also plans to partner with more payers as well as non-profits to reach more women from underserved communities.
Functional beverage brand, Tru, has raised $6.5 million in a Series A led by Btomorrow Ventures. The brand, founded in 2015, makes a variety of functional beverages, in drink, shot, and tablet form, to serve needs from energy to sleep. Products all include adaptogens and nootropics meant to enhance cognitive function, relaxation, and creativity. The brand is on shelves at retailers including Market Basket, Harris Teeter, and Wegmans, and has begun to roll out regionally into larger retailers like Walmart. The fresh capital will be used to support team expansion and expand its footprint across the US, as well as invest in brand awareness.
Clean hair color brand, Hally Hair, has announced a partnership with student-athletes from Baylor University, with the launch of two new colors of its temporary hair makeup product, Shade Stix. Kathryn Winokur, Founder & CEO of Hally Hair noted, “This collegiate launch is just the beginning, and we look forward to working with other universities in the future to build authentic programs that celebrate athletes, school spirit and fan engagement. In an era of immense self-expression, the ability to build Hally’s brand through sport and to leverage our easy-to-use hair color products to get entire campuses game-day-ready is nothing short of a layup.” The brand has 26+ additional collegiate licensed color products planned over the next 12-18 months, and is notably one of the first brands to embrace the new Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) NCAA policy concerning collegiate athlete partnerships.
Fabletics, the California-based activewear brand co-founded by actress Kate Hudson in 2013, has launched its first collection of scrubs. The collection features twelve different styles of scrubs, available in a range of colors and sizes. Leveraging its expertise in premium design and performance wear, the brand designed its scrubs with performance features such as moisture-wicking and anti-odor technology. The launch of the scrubs collection is part of Fabletics’ mission to provide versatile and functional clothing for healthcare professionals. “Creating Fabletics Scrubs was years in the making,” said Adam Goldenberg, Co-founder and CEO of Fabletics. “This collection is inspired by the medical community and it symbolizes our gratitude for the important work that these individuals do every day. We conducted comprehensive research and received direct feedback from these professionals, as we are committed to creating a product that can perform at the highest level and meet all their needs.”
Food & Beverage
Publicly traded consumer products company Starco Brands, Inc. has acquired plant-based food and beverage maker Soylent, completing the brand’s evolution from red hot food-tech startup to cross-category CPG platform. The California-based brand, best known for its eponymous meal replacement shakes, will continue to operate as an independent business unit within Starco with CEO Demir Vangelov remaining in his role alongside the brand’s 20-person team. Founded in 2013 by tech entrepreneur Rob Rhinehart, Soylent sought to take a Silicon Valley styled approach to CPG with its line of powdered and ready-to-drink meal replacements. Soylent aimed to provide a plant-based “complete nutrition” beverage that could successfully replace solid food through its blend of proteins, fats, amino acids and essential nutrients. Over the past decade, Soylent raised over $113 million in venture capital from firms including Andreessen Horowitz, GV, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and The Production Board. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Soylent was exploring a sale, citing a report that the brand was projected to surpass $75 million in revenue in 2022 – up 19% from 2021 – and was seeking an exit.
International Flavors & Fragrances will sell its Flavor Specialty Ingredients business to Exponent for $220 million in cash. The deal is expected to close by the end of the third quarter. The business makes base aromas primarily for the flavor market. It has four manufacturing and distribution facilities — two in the U.K., one in Ohio and one in China — and additional distribution points in Mexico, Brazil and Hong Kong. The division has about 340 employees and generated more than $100 million in revenue during the past 12 months, IFF said. In December, IFF CEO Frank Clyburn announced the company would be divesting three of its non-core businesses in the first quarter of 2023. This is the second of those to be announced. The company is also selling its Savory Solutions Group for $900 million.
Sales of private label products in all retail outlets in the United States jumped more than 11% to reach $229 billion in 2022, according to data from the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) and the market research company IRI, Inc, Chicago. National brand dollar sales rose 6.1% to $981 billion, bringing overall grocery industry sales up to $1.2 trillion. Store brand unit sales were 58.8 billion in 2022, down from 59.4 billion in 2021. National brands counted 228.4 billion units sold in 2022 versus 238.3 billion in 2021, according to the IRI data. Of the 17 departments IRI tracks, 16 showed store brand growth. Categories with notable growth included refrigerated products, which rose 17% to $47 billion in sales; general food products with a 14% increase to $38.6 billion in sales; and meat, which rose 5% to $26.5 billion in sales. Drilling deeper into IRI’s individual product categories show which experienced the most private label growth in 2022. Bottled water sales, for example, rose nearly 22.8% to reach $6.7 billion in sales and cookies increased by 18.3% to hit $3.4 billion in sales. Other categories experiencing significant growth included butter and butter blends, shortening and oils, and processed poultry which saw sales rise 26.6%, 26.5% and 25.7%, respectively.
Grocery & Restaurants
In 2020, Covid restrictions ground the nation’s bustling restaurant industry to a halt. Since then, there have been significant signs of a rebound: Dining rooms have reopened and customers have returned to cafes, fine-dining establishments and fast food joints. But there are fewer US restaurants today than in 2019. It’s not clear when —if ever — they’re coming back. Last year, there were about 631,000 restaurants in the United States, according to data from Technomic, a restaurant research firm. That’s roughly 72,000 fewer than in 2019, when there were 703,000 restaurants in the country. That number could fall even further this year, to about 630,000 locations, according to Technomic, which doesn’t foresee the number of restaurants in the US returning to pre-Covid levels even by 2026. Sit-down restaurants, especially, are at a disadvantage as delivery and takeout remain popular. And with inflation still high, some potential customers are avoiding restaurants to save money. Meanwhile, restaurant operators are seeing their own costs, like rent and ingredients, rise, and say it’s hard to hire staff.
Wingstop Inc. benefited from poultry deflation in 2022, leading it to hold the line on prices and increase its advertising fund to build awareness of the brand, executives said Wednesday. The Dallas-based brand. said domestic same-store sales rose 8.7% in the Dec. 31-ended fourth quarter, much of it due to decreasing poultry prices in the last half of the year. “We benefited from meaningful deflation in 2022, so we did not have to take price in fact in the fourth quarter,” said Michael Skipworth, Wingstop CEO and president, in a fourth-quarter earnings call. “Our same-store sales growth was 8.7% driven entirely by transaction growth, which speaks to the unique sales leverage we have at Wingstop,” he said. The top-line sales growth and deflation “further strengthened our unit economic model,” Skipworth said, which helped the company open 228 net new units globally, representing a 13.2% growth rate. Skipworth said a combination of leading indicators and progress against its supply-chain strategy “suggest a favorable commodity backdrop to continue through 2023 at an average unit volume of $1.6 million and an initial investment in the mid-$400,000 range.” Franchisees were seeing that translate into a two-year payback, he said. The company is targeting AUVs of $2 million or more.
Home & Road
Sleep retailer Mattress Firm’s first quarter sales slid 3% to 953 million euro for the first quarter ended Dec. 31, 2022, compared with sales of 987 million euro in the comparable quarter of fiscal 2022. In its quarterly update for the three months, Steinhoff International said the retailer’s performance was driven by a 13% decrease in comparable sales. The company also said it saw a 17% decline in the number of customer transactions, partially offset by a 4% increase in average order amount. Overall, Steinhoff International’s first quarter sales climbed 14% to 3.2 billion euro from 2.8 billion euro in the first quarter of fiscal 2022. Steinhoff International acquired Mattress Firm in 2016. Earlier this year, the company pulled the Mattress Firm IPO saying market conditions were not favorable. The company’s update on Mattress Firm said brick-and-mortar sales dropped 15% and digital sales slid 14% and attributed the declines to the “macroeconomic environment as consumers delay discretionary spending.”
La-Z-Boy Inc. reported third-quarter financial results for the period ending Jan. 28. The company’s consolidated sales hit $573 million, a 0.2% increase from the previous year’s quarter, beating analyst estimates by approximately $43 million. The company attributed its healthy sales as a result of pricing and surcharge actions as well as a “favorable” product mix and a strong showing in its retail segment. “We again delivered excellent results driven by productivity gains throughout our supply chain and superb performance in our company-owned retail segment,” said Melinda D. Whittington, president and CEO. “During the quarter, we worked down the majority of our excess backlog, getting close to normal lead times, and continued to invest in marketing to increase awareness and consideration of the La-Z-Boy brand.”
Jewelry & Luxury
An obvious advantage for luxury brands is that their wealthier customer base can more easily shrug off inflation and other financial pressures. But online advertising firm Criteo found that many people of lesser means also shop at the high end. Some 70% of high-income shoppers are spending the same or more on luxury goods, but 54% of low- to middle-income shoppers have similar plans, according to the survey. Nearly a third of consumers say they will continue to shop for upscale goods despite price hikes, with half of those in households making more than $100,000 in annual income saying so. Similarly, researchers at PwC found that more than a quarter of global consumers said they will keep buying luxury and designer goods, with 21% saying they will buy more luxury goods over the next six months.
Jewelry sales rebounded in January, jumping a healthy 6.5% over the same month in 2022, according to Mastercard’s sales tracking service, SpendingPulse. That number is striking, since last year SpendingPulse said that January jewelry sales grew 19.8% in 2022 over 2021. This year’s increase represents a change from what SpendingPulse called “nine months of stagnant growth” in the jewelry category. In December, SpendingPulse said jewelry sales had fallen 5.4% over the holiday. The improved results potentially reflect early Valentine’s Day spending, it said.
De Beers is considering a range of possibilities as it ponders the future of its Forevermark diamond brand, chief financial officer Sarah Kuijlaars tells JCK following the release of the company’s 2022 financial results. “We are interested in finding the most effective model for retail and how we engage with our end clients and consumers,” she says. “I think it’s a model that we’ll have to evolve because consumers are evolving.” Asked whether Forevermark’s current wholesale model will continue, she says, “We’re looking at all options about how we can grow the downstream part of the business and grow it profitably.”
Swarovski has named David Wielemans its chief financial officer, beginning in April. In his new role, Wielemans will become a member of Swarovski’s executive committee and will report to Alexis Nasard, the company’s first CEO from outside its founding family, who was appointed in June 2022. Wielemans will be based in Männedorf, Switzerland. Wielemans replaces Frederik Westring, who is currently interim CFO. Westring will leave Swarovski at the end of June “to pursue other interests,” the company said, but until then will work on special projects. Wielemans joins Swarvoski from EssilorLuxottica, where he served as co-CFO for EssilorLuxottica Group as well as group CFO for Essilor International.
Office & Leisure
If your childhood was filled with memories of playing with iconic Mattel toys like Barbies or Hot Wheels, then this new amusement park under development in Glendale, Arizona might be worth a visit. The first ever Mattel brand park titled, “Mattel Adventure Park,” is scheduled to open next year. The theme park will be part of VAI Resort, which claims to be the largest resort in Arizona. Mattel Adventure Park is set to feature numerous attractions and experiences such as The Barbie Beach House, where visitors can have a “signature pink beverage on the third-story rooftop,” according to the amusement park’s website. Some of the other attractions include two Hot Wheels roller coasters and a Thomas & Friends indoor theme park featuring the first life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine electric passenger train and more. Mattel Adventure Park was expected to open in 2023 but after some delays, it is now slated to open in 2024.
GameSquare on Thursday announced gaming star Tyler “Ninja” Blevins will be joining the international gaming and esports company as chief innovation officer. “When I think about the gaming space and innovation, I think Ninja. He is known as the godfather of the space,” Justin Kenna, CEO of GameSquare, told Newsweek. “This is an evolution of his career.” Blevins will help lead GameSquare’s growth opportunities, which includes Ninja Labs, an incubator for what a company statement called developing “first-of-its-kind concepts and products directly focused on connecting with youth culture.” GameSquare hopes Ninja Labs will allow the company to connect with young gamers while developing consumer products and original intellectual property. Kenna said that when he told Jones about Ninja, he said the analogy he used was “we’re signing Tom Brady.”
Technology & Internet
eBay Inc. said its gross merchandise volume, which is the value of all goods sold on the site, fell 12% to $18.2 billion in the most recent quarter, the seventh consecutive period in which the number dropped. The number of active buyers on the marketplace also fell – dropping 9% to 134 million during the period ending Dec. 31, 2022. That too is the seventh consecutive quarterly drop. “EBay is back to where it was before the pandemic, losing customers and declining sales,” Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co., told Bloomberg News. “Unless you’re looking for an odd item, eBay is forgotten by most consumers. You just don’t hear a lot about it the way you do the Walmarts, Targets and Amazons of the world.” Chief Executive Officer Jamie Iannone is trying to reduce expenses to align with declining sales. Earlier this month, EBay announced it would cut about 500 employees, or 4% of its workforce.
Meta has trained and will release a new large language model to researchers, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Friday. The model, called LLaMA, is intended to help scientists and engineers explore applications for AI such as answering questions and summarizing documents. Meta’s release of its new model, which was developed by its Fundamental AI Research (FAIR) team, comes as large tech companies and well-capitalized startups alike race to tout advances in artificial intelligence techniques and integrate the technology into commercial products. Large language models underpin applications such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing AI, and Google’s unreleased Bard.
Finance & Economy
Consumer debt hit a fresh record at the end of 2022 while delinquency rates rose for several types of loans, the New York Federal Reserve reported. Debt across all categories totaled $16.9 trillion, up about $1.3 trillion from a year ago, as balances rose across all major categories. Despite a decline in originations, mortgage balances increased to $11.9 trillion, up about $250 billion from the third quarter and about $1 trillion from a year ago. Originations for new home loans and refinancings fell to $498 billion, less than half where they were for Q4 in 2021 and a drop of about $135 billion from the third quarter.
US economic growth in the fourth quarter was weaker than previously estimated, reflecting a downward revision to consumer spending as the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation figures were revised higher. Inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, or the total value of all goods and services produced in the US, increased at a 2.7% annualized rate during the period, Commerce Department data showed. The figure compares with a previously reported 2.9% advance. The details of the report point to an economy that was losing steam at the end of 2022. Stripping out trade, government spending, and inventories, a key gauge of underlying demand known as inflation-adjusted final sales to private domestic purchasers rose just 0.1%, the weakest since the start of the pandemic.