Billionaire activist investor Daniel Loeb, CEO of Third Point, earlier in February shared with investors his belief that the market is not recognizing the respective full value of Amazon.com’s e-commerce and Amazon Web Services (AWS) businesses, rekindling discussion into a potential break up.
In June, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers proposed antitrust legislation against the major tech platforms (Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon) that some speculated could lead to the splitting of Amazon into two websites — one for third-party sellers and another for first-party — and forcing the company to divest its own products. Amazon has been accused of unfairly competing against marketplace sellers and stealing third-party seller ideas in developing its own private label products.
Joe Lonsdale, general partner at venture-capital firm 8VC, also charged in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, “AWS subsidizes Prime, harming consumers in the long run.”
Third Point, known for launching activist campaigns against corporate boards, had already been holding discussions with other hedge funds about a possible AWS spinoff, according to the WSJ.
In an investor call last week, Mr. Loeb assessed AWS’s enterprise value at over $1.5 trillion and Amazon’s retail operations at $1 trillion for a combined $2.5 trillion — nearly $1 trillion more than the company’s current market valuation.
Beyond retail and AWS, Amazon’s businesses include logistics, advertising and media (Prime Video, Prime Music, book publishing, Fire TV and Twitch).
In a subsequent shareholder letter, Mr. Loeb shared that Third Point had “significantly increased” its Amazon holdings as he believes new management led by Andy Jassy is considering a long-term strategic plan that “may include several bold initiatives that are the subject of wide market speculation at the proverbial investor water cooler.”
Discussion Questions: Do you see a benefit to breaking up Amazon? Which parties would benefit most from a breakup and which would be negatively affected?
Comments from the RetailWire BrainTrust:
Amazon’s business units are so intertwined that it will be harder than anyone anticipates to separate. AWS profits are significantly fed by data earned through customer behavior on the retail side. If AWS had to pay market value for that data, their profits would look very different. It’s clear the scale and proprietary power of Amazon is impacting the entire retail industry, and especially hurtful to small community businesses trying to keep their store afloat. But if Amazon is broken up, then a hard look should also be given to other multi-platform businesses like Walmart and Target. And keep in mind that China-owned Alibaba has just launched global sales with delivery anywhere in the world for $3, and would be more than happy to step into any gap left by Amazon.
DeAnn Campbell, Chief Strategy Officer, Hoobil8
Whether driven by investor desires to extract more value or by antitrust concerns, Amazon should not be broken up. Dealing first with antitrust, Amazon is not a monopoly. It is nowhere near a monopoly. It does not harm consumers. It does not harm other businesses by duplicitous means. It competes fairly and squarely. If it outperforms other retailers and takes share, it is because it is better at what it does in terms of thinking, innovating and executing than those players. That deserves applause, not censure. As we have seen from other strong retailers, like Target and Walmart and Kroger, the possibility of competing and winning against Amazon is still possible. As for investors, it is perfectly possible to extract value by playing financial games through splitting up companies and their divisions. This is the same story pushed with those wanting players like Macy’s to break off e-commerce. But this often misunderstands the integrated nature of businesses, including Amazon’s flywheel approach. Short term gains come at the expense of long term success! So, that’s a hard no from me!
Neil Saunders, Managing Director, GlobalData
Of course it should be broken up. Let its retail business stand on its own. I mean, PayPal and eBay were broken up. Why should Amazon continue this way?
Paula Rosenblum, Co-founder, RSR Research
Without initiating a complex debate on antitrust, bundling, etc. the fundamental question regarding anti-competitive legislation is whether one aspect of the business receives a subsidy that allows them to sell their services below their cost and which creates an unfair advantage to competitors. While there are many dimensions of Amazon’s behavior which demonstrate outsized negotiating leverage, with many documented instances of abuse, the only part of the Amazon empire that seems to fit the subsidy description is AWS, which is reputed to provide most of Amazon’s profits. Is there a reason why this couldn’t be spun-off as a separate business, eliminating the subsidy effect? I can’t think of one.
Dion Kenney, COO, Mondofora
The thinking that supports an Amazon breakup became outdated at the dawn of the Information Age. We need to quit applying Industrial Age Band-Aids to Digital Age issues. Way back in the 20th Century it might have made some sense to keep markets from monopolizing because of the long-term impact on competition and the consumer. But in the Digital Age, some problems – say last-mile delivery – require scale to address. Additionally, Amazon’s businesses are so intertwined, teasing out certain pieces may have profound unintended consequences. Who would benefit from an Amazon breakup? Large branders and the competition. Who would be negatively affected? My money is on the consumer.
Ryan Mathews, Founder, CEO, Black Monk Consulting
Headlines of the Week
New York-based investment firm KKR announced it has entered an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Refresco Group B.V., one of the largest independent beverage contract manufacturers worldwide. The majority stake will be acquired from Refresco’s existing stakeholders, French investment firm PAI Partners and Canadian group British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), but they will retain “significant” minority positions in the company. The deal values the bottler at around $7.9 billion (or 7 billion euros). Founded in 1999, Netherlands-based Refresco provides bottling and beverage solutions for retailers and brands across North America and Europe. The company currently operates over 70 manufacturing sites across the two continents, claims over 10,000 employees and also offers material planning, procurement, warehousing, fulfillment and distribution services.
Macy’s executives shot down the possibility of spinning off its e-commerce businesses into a stand-alone company after studying such a move with help from the consultancy AlixPartners. “In every scenario we considered, we found that the combination of our profitable digital platform with our national footprints will deliver greater value to shareholders than a separation of our digital and physical assets,” Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call. The decision on the spinoff follows a fourth quarter with Macy’s comparable sales up 28.3% and digital sales up 12% year over year and up 36% from Q4 of 2019. Comps for the full year were up 43%. Digital sales grew by 13% from 2020, and digital penetration stood at 35%.
Apparel & Footwear
Banana Republic is filling its merchandise voids in a “genderful” way. Two categories — BR Baby and BR Athletics — get launched in March, as part of what Sandra Stangl, Banana Republic’s president and chief executive officer, describes as the new vision for the business. “We really are aiming to become an iconic lifestyle brand, with both of these launches. Inclusivity is part of it.” BR Baby, selling sizes up to 24 months, officially launches March 1, though there will be an Instagram presale on Saturday. BR Athletics will launch March 16 online and in 19 stores, with 16 styles. Like BR Baby, BR Athletics will be housed in pods of about 200 square feet in the stores, with a distinct environment. Both BR Baby and BR Athletics collections are genderless, or “genderful” as Stangl said, meaning virtually all of the items can be worn by any gender.
Retail and entertainment conglomerate Authentic Brands Group announced Thursday it has entered into a partnership to co-own and oversee David Beckham’s global brand management firm. Authentic Brands declined to disclose financial terms of the deal. A person familiar with the transaction said the company paid about $269 million for a 55% stake in the soccer star’s DB Ventures. As part of the deal, Beckham will become a shareholder in Authentic Brands, which owns retailers such as Forever 21 and Barneys New York, and the rights to iconic stars including Elvis Presley and Shaquille O’Neal, who is also a major investor. The transaction will allow Authentic Brands to open its European headquarters in Beckham’s existing London offices, the company said. Authentic Brands also said it is now the largest shareholder in Studio 99, a production company Beckham co-founded in 2019. DB Ventures currently manages Beckham’s endorsement deals with companies including Tudor watches and whisky label Haig.
Wolverine Worldwide reported strong fourth quarter and fiscal 2021 results as the footwear conglomerate faced supply chain challenges head on. The company – which owns Merrell, Saucony, Sperry, Keds and more – saw revenues of $2.4 billion, up 34.8% versus the prior year. Brendan Hoffman, Wolverine Worldwide’s president and CEO, who joined the company in 2020 from Vince and took the helm as CEO at the beginning of the year, noted that fiscal 2021 revenue exceeded 2019’s numbers. (These full-year comparisons exclude Sweaty Betty, which Wolverine acquired in Aug. 2021 in an all-cash deal valued at about $410 million.) Wolverine said the acquisition will continue to fuel growth and enhance the company’s fast-growing e-commerce business, which saw revenue increase 58.3% in the fourth quarter of 2021 versus the same period the prior year. (It doubled over 2019 levels). For the full year of 2021, e-commerce revenue was up 39.7% versus the prior year and up 109.4% versus 2019. Overall growth was fueled by the company’s four largest brands.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Online sports retailer Fanatics and a group of investors led by Jay-Z are acquiring Mitchell & Ness in a deal worth $250 million. According to Yahoo! Sports, Fanatics will hold a 75 percent ownership stake in the throwback jersey brand, with the remaining 25 percent being held by Jay-Z, fellow rappers Meek Mill and Lil Baby, LeBron James’ business partner Maverick Carter, and the TikTok famous D’Amelio family. Mitchell & Ness began manufacturing sports apparel in 1904 in Philadelphia, but in 1983 it switched its focus to reproduction of vintage jerseys. Today it holds licensing agreements with the NFL, NBA, MLB, and MLS, as well as select NCAA and HBCU universities.
ONCAP, the mid-market private equity platform of Onex Corporation, has acquired a majority stake in Merrithew International Inc., in partnership with the company’s founders, Lindsay and Moira Merrithew. The investment was made by ONCAP IV, a US $1.09 billion 2016-vintage fund. Financial terms were not disclosed. Founded in 1998, Merrithew is the global leader in mind-body education, content and equipment. The company has trained more than 60,000 instructors and partners worldwide, developed six innovative education programs — STOTT PILATES, ZEN-GA, Total Barre, Halo Training, Merrithew Fascial Movement and CORE™ Athletic Conditioning & Performance Training™ — and has produced an extensive line of professional and at-home equipment and accessories for personal and professional use.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Eco-luxury beauty brand La Bouche Rouge has raised 10 million euros in funding from investors Mirabeau Asset Management, the Chalhoub Group and BPI. Nicolas Gerlier, a L’Oréal veteran, founded La Bouche Rouge in 2017 with the aim of creating the first cosmetics brand worldwide to ban microplastics and plastics from everything, including product formulation, manufacturing and selling. “There are three key words: rethink, refill, recycle,” he said. The prestige brand began five years ago with lipstick containing no microplastics or ingredients Gerlier considered unhealthy. From the outset, it was also vegan, cruelty-free and in recyclable, refillable packaging. More recently, La Bouche Rouge products were redesigned, and it began expanding with items for the eyes and face. The brand now has 22 product references in all.
The Beauty Health Company saw net sales double in 2021, and with it, is setting sights on expansion. The parent company of HydraFacial posted $260.1 million in net sales for 2021, up 118.3 percent from 2020’s total of $119.1 million. For the fourth quarter, net sales hit $77.9 million, up from $37.9 million in 2020. Net losses widened from $29.2 million in 2020 to $375.1 million in 2021, and to $17.3 million for the fourth quarter, up from $7.5 million a year prior. Losses were largely due to the company’s public warrants, which had no assigned cash value, redeemed during those time periods. Andrew Stanleick, the company’s newly anointed president and chief executive officer, attributes a hotbed of consumer activity in services for the growth. “The company has amazing growth and has been really benefiting from these secular trends, which are forecasted to continue,” he said of interest in skin and hair care.
Blueland, the fast-growing direct-to-consumer brand that pioneered the refillable cleaning category to eliminate single-use plastic, raises $20 million in growth investment. Launched in 2019 by co-founders Sarah Paiji Yoo and John Mascari, Blueland was the first to bring the unprecedented tablet form factor to market across a range of cleaning products that promise no single-use plastic, ever. The company launched 15 products in its first two years of business and develops all of its products in-house, resulting in over 40 patents and patents pending with worldwide protection. As a Certified B Corporation and Climate Neutral Certified, the company is recognized for meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. The latest round will accelerate Blueland’s direct-to-consumer and retail growth and fuel continued innovation, and expansion plans into new cleaning and personal care category launches are already in place, with new offerings scheduled to debut in 2022.
Discounters & Department Stores
In a bid to discover up-and-coming beauty brands, Walmart will launch a beauty accelerator program dubbed Walmart Start, according to details emailed to Retail Dive. Walmart will choose five beauty brands to receive various resources and operational support to help prepare them for a potential product launch in store and online, the company said. The company said it will take applications from Feb. 18 through March 7 and the selected brands will be announced in May. The beauty brands are expected to launch in Walmart’s stores and online at some point between December of this year and March 2023, according to the company’s website.
Draper James RSVP launched in 500 Kohl’s stores with a spring capsule collection, according to a company announcement. Draper James RSVP is a special collection from actress Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James line, and is exclusive to Kohl’s. The offerings demonstrate a “feminine, Southern-contemporary style” in a variety of pieces including dresses, structured blazers, bodysuits, blouses, skirts, rompers, capris and cardigans. Draper James RSVP will be located adjacent to 300 Sephora at Kohl’s shops in an area that showcases new brands.
Target on Wednesday announced that it is rolling out an option for shoppers to add a Starbucks order and make returns through its Drive Up service, according to a company announcement. Pickup time windows and membership fees are not required. These services will debut in select cities in the fall, with more locations added in 2022. The retailer also expanded its “backup item” function, where shoppers can designate secondary item substitutions for Drive Up and Order Pickup. Customers can indicate they are on their way to a Target location through the retailer’s app and will then have an option to place an order from the Starbucks menu. Shoppers will also be able to initiate a return through the app and complete it at a store’s Drive Up lane.
TJX Cos. posted a comparable sales increase of 13% (for open stores only) against the same period two years ago, before COVID-19 disrupted the off-price sector. Net sales, at $13.9 billion in Q4, were up 27% over last year and up 14% from two years ago. CEO Ernie Herrman said in a press release that sales had been trending higher in the quarter prior to surges across the country of the omicron variant of COVID-19. For the fiscal year, TJX’s comp sales for open stores were up 17% from two years ago.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Made by Nacho, a New York-based premium cat food company co-founded by chef Bobby Flay, has closed a $14 million Series A. The round was led by CAVU Venture Partners with participation from New Fare Partners and Mars’ Companion Fund. The company’s seed round was led by Sonoma Brands. Made by Nacho will use the funds to grow its team, scale its product offerings and expand its marketing efforts. Made by Nacho was founded by Flay and his cat, Nacho, alongside food industry veteran Elly Truesdell. The company launched with a six-month nationwide exclusive in more than 1,300 PetSmart stores, as well as on its own direct to consumer site. The company currently has 27 SKUs across four categories, including dry food, wet food in pouches, wet food in cups and single-ingredient freeze dried treats; with plans to rapidly expand its assortment this year.
De La Calle, a Los Angeles-based beverage brand offering rich flavors with functional benefits like probiotics and low sugar announced the closure of a $7 million investment. The round was led by KarpReilly with participation from HERE Studio, and DrinkPAK. The investment sets De La Calle up for significant growth in the canned tepache segment with the launch of four new flavors, expansion into new product lines, and solidifying a national retail footprint.
Sparking water brand Sanzo announced a $10 million Series A investment. The round was led by CircleUp Growth Partners. Additional investors in the round include Convivialite Ventures, Semillero Partners, Gold House Ventures, Kaya Ventures and former Coca-Cola Co. executive Francisco Crespo. Previous investors Mana Ventures, Outbound Ventures, and Hyphen Capital also participated in the round. Founded in 2019, Sanzo is formulated with fruit and no added sugar, artificial flavors or preservatives. Varieties include lychee, calamansi lime, alphonso mango and yuzu ginger. Products are sold online and in more than 2,000 retail and foodservice outlets, including Panda Express, Erewhon and Whole Foods Market. Founder and chief executive officer Sandro Roco, a Filipino-American, created the brand to bridge Eastern and Western cultures.
Subscription boxes — monthly mystery shipments of curated products — had their heyday in 2010. Now, the startups that propelled this phenomenon are diversifying their revenue streams beyond the model. Since launching in 2012, Bark – founded as a DTC subscription service for dog toys, BarkBox – has expanded into pet food and dental care, directly selling individual products and now sells its products through more than 10 retailers including Target, Costco and Petco. Clothing box company Stitch Fix, for example, has slowly been adding one-off purchase options for customers since 2020, and piloted a preview-before-you-buy service in the U.K. in summer 2020, a shop-by-category feature in the U.S. in March 2021 and a buy-it-again direct sell option in June 2021.
Food & Beverage
Kraft Heinz and NotCo have entered a joint venture to develop and produce plant-based co-branded products at scale, the companies announced Tuesday. The joint venture will be under the control of Kraft Heinz, go by the name of The Kraft Heinz Not Company LLC, and be led by Lucho Lopez-May, NotCo North America’s current CEO. This partnership will combine NotCo’s patented artificial intelligence platform — which has been used to reimagine milk, meat, mayonnaise and ice cream with plant-based ingredients — with Kraft Heinz’s product portfolio and scale. The companies did not give details about potential products coming out of the joint venture, but the release said it was designed to “reimagine global food production and advance toward a more sustainable future.” NotCo is the leading international player in AI-enabled plant-based food products. Last summer, the Chilean company raised a $235 million Series D round, which brought it to a $1.5 billion valuation.
Dairy brand Good Culture has taken another step towards its goal of becoming a cultured foods platform, announcing the closing of a $64 million funding round that will support retail and product expansion this year. The raise was led by Manna Tree, with participation from SEMCAP Food & Nutrition and actor Kristen Bell. Some of the capital will be used to provide liquidity to early investors including CAVU Venture Partners and General Mills’ investment arm 301 Inc, which both previously took part in the company’s $2.1 million round in 2016 and $8 million round in 2019. Good Culture’s portfolio of organic cottage cheese, low sugar fruit topped cottage cheese, sour cream, lactose-free sour cream and cottage cheese is sold in over 10,000 doors. The company has a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 79% for the past five years with $70 million in retail sales for the last 52 weeks, Merrill said, and a plan to achieve $100 million in sales for fiscal year 2022.
Cell-based seafood maker Wildtype raised $100 million in a Series B funding round. It was led by L Catterton, and included participation from new investors Cargill, Bezos Expeditions, Temasek, S2G Ventures Ocean and Seafood Fund, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition. Several chefs and professional athletes, as well as existing investors Spark Capital and CRV, also participated. Wildtype will use these funds to expand its production capacity of cell-based sushi-grade salmon as it prepares for its U.S. launch. Since it was founded in 2016, Wildtype has raised more than $120 million. Wildtype is one of several companies working with the FDA as it moves toward comprehensive food safety and regulatory guidelines for seafood made by growing cells. Its combination production plant, tasting room and educational center went into operation last summer.
Grocery & Restaurants
Papa Johns International, Inc.’s growth spree continued in the fourth quarter of 2021, with same-store sales up 11.1% in North America, on top of an accelerated development pace, CEO Rob Lynch said during Thursday’s earnings call for the quarter and full fiscal year ended Dec. 26, 2021. Much of Papa Johns momentum came from digital sales, which saw double-digit growth for the second consecutive year in a row, and now 90-95% of orders come through digital channels, Lynch said Thursday morning, a significant portion of which comes from loyalty program growth which increased its membership by six million to 23 million by the end of 2021. Lynch attributes much of the continued success of the Lexington, Ky.-based pizza brand to pizza innovation and an aggressive growth strategy, particularly the impact that pricier LTOs like the Epic stuffed crust pizza and New York-style pizza, the latter of which launched six weeks ago, to more customer buzz than anticipated. As a result of these menu items constantly being added, average check has grown in tandem with traffic.
QDOBA Mexican Eats announced it has signed a multi-unit franchise development agreement to bring 30 locations to North Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties over the next 10 years. At the helm of the brand’s largest deal is Michael Guiffre, who has over two decades of leadership experience within the construction industry overseeing organization structure, customer relations and development. Guiffre’s first venture into restaurant operations was with Dunkin’, where he was the operating partner for 10 locations and recognized for the network’s performance which earned 13 million dollars annually. The agreement comes as QDOBA charges into an aggressive growth phase, its sights set on expanding to 2,000 units through a mix of existing franchisees adding more units, signing new franchise agreements, and continuing corporate development. Following 60 franchise commitments in 2021, the brand is already working with several experienced franchisee groups interested in developing into major markets for 2022.
Home & Road
The Home Depot’s U.S. same-store sales rose 7.6% in the fourth quarter as the Home Depot reported another strong quarter and forecast continued sales growth in its new fiscal year. Net income increased to $3.35 billion, or $3.21 per share, in the quarter ended Jan. 30, from $2.86 billion, or$2.65 a share, in the year-ago period. Analysts had expected earnings per share of $3.18. Sales rose 10.7% to $35.72 billion, topping estimates of $34.88 billion. Same-store sales in the U.S. rose 7.6%. Although transactions fell, the average ticket rose to $85.11, fueled by inflation. Sales per retail square foot increased to $571.79 from $528.01 in the year-ago period. For the full year, sales rose 14.4% to $151.2 billion. Net earnings were $16.4 billion, or $15.53 per share, compared with net earnings of $12.9 billion, or $11.94 per share in fiscal 2020. In a statement, chairman and CEO Craig Menear called fiscal 2021 another record year for the Home Depot, noting that the chain achieved a milestone of more than $150 billion in sales. Menear is set to step down as CEO on March 1, and will be succeeded by company veteran and COO Edward “Ted” Decker. He will continue to serve as chairman.
Home décor superstore chain At Home kicked off its 2022 expansion with the opening of new stores in six states. The six February opens bring the retailer’s store count to 241 units. At Home opened 16 units in 2021. Formerly a public company, the business was acquired by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman last July. The newly opened stores are located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Ledgewood, N.J.; Dallas; Tustin, Calif; Rochester, Minn.; and Matthews, N.C. At Home currently operates stores in 40 states.
Jewelry & Luxury
As usual, bad news for the world has proved to be good news for the price of gold. At the time of publication, the spot price of the yellow metal had soared past the $1,900- per-ounce benchmark to hit $1,903—the result, analysts said, of the Russia-Ukraine crisis setting the world on edge. By contrast, at the beginning of February, gold was trading around $1,800. Yet since the Ukraine crisis began heating up, the yellow metal has risen, spending the last few days hovering around the $1,900 benchmark. Overnight, it hit $1,913 an ounce in Asian markets, according to BullionVault, before settling down again. Overall, gold is trading at its highest price since May 2021.
You may know The RealReal for its online retail, authenticating and selling a curated selection of high fashion, footwear, and jewelry. But with 16 U.S. brick-and-mortar stores and counting, The RealReal is finding in-person shopping is building its brand even bigger. Fine jewelry is a key part of The RealReal’s store development, says Steffi Lee, editorial manager of fine jewelry and watches for the San Francisco–based brand. The RealReal’s customers want sustainable fashion and are interested in authenticity, so they’re ready to buy jewelry from the site and its stores, Lee says. Consider this: In its 2022 Luxury Consignment Report released last month, The RealReal’s resale luxury goods experts in San Francisco say “conscious consumers” across a wide spectrum of age ranges are looking to resale as a way to create one-of-a-kind style while also shopping their values.
Pandora is partnering with Macy’s to open 28 shop-in-shops this year throughout the U.S. The expansion follows a soft launch in November 2021, in which the Danish jewelry brand opened five Macy’s shop-in-shops at stores in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Garden City, New York. The in-store boutiques were met with “a strong customer response,” said Pandora. “As one of the nation’s premier retailers, Pandora values Macy’s as a strong partner to increase brand accessibility in the U.S. and accelerate our footprint growth,” said Luciano Rodembusch, president of Pandora North America, in a press release about the partnership.
Kering had a strong end to its fiscal year, reporting record revenue for 2021 and exceeding pre-pandemic 2019 levels, and its jewelry brands stood out as a bright spot on the balance sheet. CEO François-Henri Pinault said during an earnings call Thursday the luxury giant may look into acquisitions in the near future, including in jewelry. “We will very actively look at a potential acquisition, if it makes sense in terms of our portfolio strategy going forward and we have the means to do that,” he said. The company behind Gucci, Saint Laurent, and other high-end brands posted fourth-quarter revenue of €5.41 billion ($6.14 billion), a 35 percent increase year-over-year and 24 percent higher than the fourth quarter of 2019.
Luxury Brands – from Louis Vuitton to Gucci and Hermes to Bulgari have been raising their retail prices at a steady pace. The materials are more expensive, labor costs have risen but so far, the luxury shoppers have accepted the increases. That mood may not last. Last week Louis Vuitton raised their prices on dresses, shoes and handbags. While prices have crept up selectively in the past, the massive increases were an indication that costs have risen and forced management to take this action. Bernstein, who tracks prices closely, estimate the increase between 6% and 7%, Purse Bop estimates the increase is about 4% for lower priced bags but 15%-18% for higher priced purses.
Office & Leisure
Pet Supplies Plus is growing its footprint and offerings via an acquisition. The largest independent pet retailer in North America has acquired Wag N’ Wash, an emerging natural pet food, self-wash, and grooming franchise with more than 15 locations. Each brand will continue to operate as separate entities. With more than 600 stores in 39 states, Pet Supplies Plus was acquired in January 2021 by Franchise Group in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $700 million. It was previously owned by private equity firm Sentinel Capital Partners. Pet Supply Plus stores offer a wide assortment of natural pet foods, goods and services. Wag N’ Wash is mainly centered on self-wash, grooming services, and natural food options, primarily for dogs and select cat items. New and existing franchise owners will have the opportunity to open a store under the Wag N’ Wash or Pet Supplies Plus name, depending on what makes the most sense for the market. Headquartered in Livonia, Michigan, Pet Supplies Plus ranked No. 20 in Entrepreneur magazine’s 43rd Annual Franchise 500 list as of 2022, and is ranked as the Top Full-Service Pet Supplies Franchise for the eighth year running.
L Catterton, the largest global consumer-focused private equity firm, announced that it has invested in Shanghai Enova Pet Products (“Enova”), the owner of Pure & Natural, a leading domestic premium pet food brand in China. This marks L Catterton’s foray into China’s pet food market, leveraging the firm’s global experience in the sector and capabilities in building enduring brands. The investment comes amid the rapid growth of China’s pet food market, which has expanded considerably over the past five years. With pet owners increasingly seeking higher quality, more nutritious food for their pets, the premium segment is experiencing the fastest growth and is expected to more than triple over the next five years. Pure & Natural is now the top domestic premium dog food brand in China and has helped fuel Enova’s sales growth over the past five years. L Catterton has significant experience investing globally in the pet food space. Current and past investments in this space include Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Butternut Box, Canidae, Inspired Pet Nutrition, JustFoodForDogs, Lily’s Kitchen, Nature’s Variety, Petlove, and Wellness Pet Food Company.
More than 30 years ago, Hallmark released Mahogany, a greeting card brand inspired by Black culture that celebrates Black voices. But in today’s world, there are many more ways to connect with others than through greeting cards. So under the leadership of vice president Alexis Kerr, Mahogany is expanding beyond a product line into a lifestyle brand for Black women. “We want the brand to be a gathering place for Black women to connect with one another, and celebrate their culture, sisterhood and community,” Kerr told Campaign US. Mahogany set out to give Black women a voice with its lifestyle platform Mahogany.com, which launched in December. Mahogany.com is also an online hub where consumers can shop Mahogany products, including the upcoming launch of its Uplifted & Empowered 2.0 card collection.
Toy history was made when the Toy Foundation unveiled the winners for the prestigious 22nd annual Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) during a virtual event attended by play professionals and toy fans from around the world. During the TOTY ceremony, Squishmallows from Jazwares took home the coveted “Toy of the Year” award, as well as the “People’s Choice” award and “Plush Toy of the Year.” Dubbed the “softest, cutest, cuddliest plush around,” the Squishmallows brand has proven its popularity among kids, adult collectors and anyone looking for a hug. TOTY awards were handed out in 16 categories.
Technology & Internet
Shares of Etsy climbed as much as 18% in extended trading Thursday after the company reported better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter. Shares had already climbed 10% during regular trading. Etsy said it had 96.3 million active buyers on the platform as of the fourth quarter, a touch higher than analysts’ projected 95.6 million. Revenue growth slowed to 16% year over year during the quarter. Etsy sales growth topped 100% in 2020, but have decelerated in recent quarters. Etsy CFO Rachel Glaser said she believes Etsy, which operates an online marketplace known for handmade and personalized goods, will be able to keep expanding its business in a post-pandemic world.
Alibaba on Thursday reported its slowest quarterly revenue growth since going public and missed expectations, but the Chinese e-commerce giant did beat on earnings. The 10% revenue growth is the slowest quarterly year-on-year growth rate for the company since its 2014 U.S. listing. Alibaba has been facing macroeconomic headwinds in China, which have weighed on the e-commerce giant’s business. Chinese retail sales remained sluggish in the fourth quarter of the year, for example. And there is heightened competition in China’s e-commerce space. Meanwhile, the company’s shares have fallen over 50% in the last year as China tightened regulation on the country’s technology sector in areas from antitrust to data protection. Scrutiny on China’s tech giants continues, which is another factor weighing on the company.
Finance & Economy
President Joe Biden said Thursday that the U.S. will introduce a new wave of sanctions against Russia in a broad effort to isolate Moscow from the global economy. The president said that the totality of the penalties will target trillions in assets and include specific measures against Russian elites and banks including state-owned VTB Bank. The White House has also authorized additional troops to be stationed in Germany as NATO allies look to bolster defenses in Europe, Biden said.
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell moderately in February, after a decrease in January. The Index now stands at 110.5, down from 111.1 in January. The Present Situation Index which is based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, improved to 145.1 from 144.5 last month. The Expectations Index — based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions — declined to 87.5 from 88.8. Inflation is top-of-mind among consumers even if consumer outlook remains bright.