With Major League Baseball (MLB) kicking off its 2022 season last week, fans will be enjoying “America’s pastime” over the next several months at home and at the ballpark. For many, the ritual of taking in a game at a stadium includes not only admiring towering home runs and thrilling extra-inning games, but also, of course, the food. Baseball is a sport that holds its traditions to be nearly sacred, but, while popcorn, cracker jacks, and hot dogs remain favorites at nearly every concessions stand, food at the ballpark is beginning to change. Mirroring a greater trend across the entire landscape of food today, fans want, and are being offered, healthier options.
Consumers’ gravitation toward healthier foods and beverages has been underway for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend. According to a survey by the International Food Information Council, the pandemic led more than eight in 10 Americans to alter their food habits. These changes include eating healthier than usual, cooking more often at home, snacking more frequently, and thinking about food more frequently. While price and taste remain the key factors in food purchasing decisions, consumers also increasingly value foods that are health-promoting, comforting, accessible and safe.
Healthier food is creeping into the ballparks around MLB in several ways, the most obvious of which being new options on concessions menus. At Yankee Stadium, beyond foot longs, Dippin’ Dots, pretzels, and Bud Light, visitors can now choose from tofu noodle bowls, gluten free turkey burgers, and non-fat frozen yogurt. Staying in New York, Citi Field (the home of the Mets) now offers smoothies, vegan pizza, and veggie burgers and hot dogs. Both stadiums also have a farmers’ market of fresh fruit. In Boston, at Fenway Park, visitors can enjoy salads containing fresh produce from the park’s rooftop garden. In Chicago, the Cubs’ home of Wrigley Field offers a popular roasted cauliflower sandwich topped with garlic garbanzo bean spread, spinach, and roasted red pepper pesto.
Another way in which at least one baseball club is involving itself in healthier food is community education. The Yankees and their Legends Hospitality operation (a food, beverage, and stadium operations partnership with the Dallas Cowboys) have launched a new program geared towards healthy eating outside of the stadium. Education regarding healthy eating and food choices will be led by Legends Senior Executive Chef Matt Gibson. Matt will provide nutritional lessons to the New York Community highlighting label misconceptions, the dangers of poor long-term eating habits and the proper way to select foods that fuel the body in a healthy manner.
Healthy food options at sports venues have attracted excitement and attention, and are now available at most major sports venues. Caryn Sullivan, a former executive with nearly 20 years of experience in sports and entertainment largely at Disney & ESPN and the Minnesota Timberwolves, has cataloged healthy options across MLB on her website, Pretty Wellness: https://prettywellness.com/ballparks/.
In a time where everything seems to be changing, food is no different. Consumers want healthier options, even at places where unhealthy food has traditionally been a part of the experience. While healthy food options at the ballpark may not be as noticeable as a star player or a home run, they are also worth rooting for.
Headlines of the Week
Chinese fast fashion e-commerce startup Shein is weighing a funding round at a valuation of about $100 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. The online retailer is in talks with potential investors including General Atlantic to raise about $1 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. Achieving the $100 billion mark would make it the third most valuable startup in the world, after ByteDance Ltd. and SpaceX, according to data provider CB Insights. Shein responded last May to media reports on its fundraising and whether it would go public, saying in a statement that it was valued at several billion dollars and it had no plan for an initial public offering in the short term. Deliberations are ongoing and details such as the size of the fundraising and valuation could still change, the people said. Shein has become a juggernaut thanks to a combination of supply-chain savvy, data-driven clothing design, and tax loopholes in the U.S. and China that came to the fore during the trade war. Last year it overtook Amazon.com Inc. in downloads of shopping apps on U.S. stores.
Farfetch and Neiman Marcus Group on Tuesday announced a global strategic partnership that has the luxury online marketplace making a minority common equity investment of up to $200 million in the legacy department store company, which runs its namesake banner as well as Bergdorf Goodman. The partnership’s first project will be to re-platform Bergdorf Goodman’s website and mobile application using Farfetch Platform Solutions, to expand its global capabilities and services, according to a press release. Both Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus will join the Farfetch Marketplace as a partner, “adding participating brands in key global geographies,” per the release.
Apparel & Footwear
The traditional licensing model is so…1999. The days of brand owners just signing licensees for different categories and waiting for the royalty checks to roll in is no longer the best way to build a business. Neil Fiske, chief executive officer of Marquee Brands, referred to that outdated strategy as Marquee 1.0. But since joining the company in September 2020 as its first CEO, Fiske has been working to create Marquee 2.0, a new operating model that centers around building the brands within its portfolio rather than simply owning them. Marquee manages a portfolio with $3 billion in retail sales including Martha Stewart, BCBG Max Azria, Ben Sherman, Dakine, Sur La Table, Body Glove, Emeril Lagasse, Motherhood Maternity, A Pea in the Pod and Bruno Magli. On April 18, Fiske will officially welcome an apparel industry veteran with a track record in digital, business and brand building to help him achieve his goal to create a more modern Marquee. That executive is Heath Golden, the former president and CEO of Hampshire Group and the current executive vice president, chief financial and strategy officer for Randa Apparel & Accessories.
A 14-year company veteran has taken the helm of Zappos.com on a permanent basis. Scott Schaefer, who has been acting CEO since December 2021, was named to the position on a permanent basis. Prior to that, he served as VP of finance for Zappos, which was preceded by multiple positions with financial, operational and strategic scopes at the company. The company called him “a passionate sneakerhead.” Before joining the online footwear and accessories retailer in 2008, Schaefer held finance-related roles at Davenport Wealth Management and Ernst & Young. Schafer was named acting CEO at Zappos after Kedar Deshpande resigned at the end of 2021. Deshpande, previously Zappos COO, took over as CEO in August 2020, shortly after the retirement of longtime company leader and innovator Tony Hsieh, who served as CEO of Zappos from 2000 until 2020. Hsieh died at 46 in November 2020 after sustaining injuries in a house fire.
Ted Baker has launched a formal sale process after rejecting a series of unsolicited bids from the US private equity firm Sycamore Partners and an unnamed third party. Last month, Ted Baker received two non-binding proposals from Sycamore Partners, a group that previously owned the British shoe shop chains Kurt Geiger and Nine West but both were rejected because the retailer felt they “significantly undervalued” the business. The second proposal, which was rejected last week, valued Ted Baker at £253.8m. The retailer has now received an “improved proposal” from Sycamore, as well as a bid from a third party interested in the company however, Ted Baker did not disclose the value of either of the fresh bids for the business. Shares jumped by more than 12% when news of the third proposal was revealed, though Ted Baker did not identify the other party said to have shown interest in a takeover. The sale process allows talks with interested bidders to take place on a confidential basis.
The days appear numbered for Chicago’s first mall, once the core of the Miracle Mile on North Michigan Avenue. Unable to fill a 300,000-sq.-ft. space left vacant by Macy’s, Brookfield Properties has given up its attempt to save Water Tower Place, the first indoor mall built in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reported that the vacated Macy’s was the largest vacancy on North Michigan Avenue “in a generation.” Today, an estimated quarter of retail space on the town’s vaunted “Miracle Mile” lies vacant, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Target had been in talks to take over the Macy’s space last year, but never pulled the trigger. Other Water Tower Place stores that closed in recent years included Abercrombie & Fitch, Vera Bradley, and the Foodlife food hall operated by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. The mall, which opened in 1975, now becomes the property of its lender, a unit of MetLife Insurance. Brookfield owed some $300 million in debt on the property, much greater than its current estimated worth, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Aqua-Leisure Recreation, LLC announced the acquisition of Longwood, FL-based INYO Pool Products, LLC, a direct-to-consumer brand of swimming pool supply, repair and maintenance products. The acquisition of INYO Pool enhances Aqua-Leisure’s aquatic recreational brands, including Airhead, Aqua, Dolfino, Sportsstuff, SwimSchool, and Yukon Charlie’s, including INYO’s Pureline products, and expands its platform by increasing omnichannel distribution, and sales with new cross-selling opportunities. The INYO acquisition is the second add-on acquisition for Aqua-Leisure since Blackford Capital acquired the company in January 2021 and comes four months after Aqua-Leisure acquired Airhead Sports Group.
Trading house Itochu will buy a majority stake in U.S. sportswear company Under Armour’s exclusive Japanese distributor, Nikkei has learned, as it pursues a larger foothold in a market expected to grow. Itochu has agreed to acquire shares in the distributor, Dome, held by the founder and the company’s other executives. Itochu is expected to own about 70% of Dome after the transactions are complete, with Under Armour retaining its roughly 30% stake. Itochu and Under Armour will manage the business in Japan together, using the product development and manufacturing networks of Itochu’s group companies and suppliers. They aim to boost sales at the roughly 30 directly managed outlets as well as e-commerce.
Berkeley-based Flexia, developer of the first truly smart and connected Pilates reformer, has announced a $4M Seed round led by ADvantage, an early stage VC fund investing in tech companies shaping the future of sports, fitness, health and gaming. Other strategic investors in the round include Phoenix Capital Ventures, Techstars, and Calm Ventures. Equipped with multiple sensors, the Flexia Reformer uses AI to provide real-time feedback and personalized recommendations to help users reach their fitness and wellbeing goals. The reformer is complemented with a dedicated online studio enabling users to stream content from a variety of renowned Pilates Instructors.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Puig saw revenues increase 68% year-on-year in 2021 to hit €2,585m. This marks a 27% increase on the company’s results before the Covid-19 pandemic, which Puig bosses say has had a “temporary impact” on business. The growth was supported by the incorporation of the Derma and Charlotte Tilbury businesses, as well as the recovery of key regions such as EMEA and growth in both China and the US. However, the company’s travel retail business continued to struggle in the face of ongoing travel uncertainty. A report published with the figures said: “Travel retail suffered major constraints due to year-round travel restrictions.” Puig saw “substantial recovery” across its wider business, with a 41% increase in sales in beauty and fragrance, driven by strong performances from Phantom by Paco Rabanne and Scandal pour Homme from Jean Paul Gauliter, especially in EMEA.
Model Winnie Harlow founded Cay Skin with the belief that sunscreen is essential. Growing up in Jamaica with vitiligo was the backstory for the idea behind Cay Skin. The brand was incubated by utilizing the company’s proprietary AI technology, which analyzed millions of retail data signals and beauty trends to develop a brand that fit both Harlow’s vision and to meet market needs. The platform also analyzes consumer product reviews and translates those insights into recommendations for formulations and packaging. The brand’s initial launch consists of four products including a range of sunscreens and skincare products formulated to keep all skin tones and types protected. Cay Skin raised a $4.1 million seed round, bringing the brand’s total funding to $6.5 million. Investors include Duggal’s Female Founders Fund, True Beauty Ventures, New Money Ventures, Air Venture Partners, and Silas Venture Partners.
A major drugstore chain is reportedly the latest retailer to turn to robotic automation, in an effort to boost prescription-filling efficiency. According to CNBC, Walgreens is currently operating an automated micro-fulfillment center in the Dallas area, specifically focused on rapid fulfillment of customer prescription orders. Micro-fulfillment centers use robotic technology to automate tasks such as picking and packing, reducing the need for manual labor and also enabling more inventory to fit into a smaller space. Walgreens told CNBC that each robot in its micro-fulfillment center can fill about 300 prescriptions per hour, or the typical amount of orders an in-store Walgreens pharmacy can fill in a day. The company expects to open 22 pharmacy micro-fulfillment centers across the U.S. by 2025, by which point as much as half of its total prescription volume could be automatically filled. Human pharmacists will continue manually filling prescription orders that involve controlled substances and/or are time-sensitive. CNBC reports that chief Walgreens rival CVS is also using micro-fulfillment for some prescription orders.
Discounters & Department Stores
Walmart raised pay for long-haul truck drivers, offering salaries of up to $110,000 in the first year, with the ability to earn more based on tenure and location, the company announced Thursday. The largest U.S. retailer also launched a three-month training program for supply chain associates in Delaware and Texas to earn commercial driver’s licenses and become Walmart drivers, according to the post on the company website. “The average salary for a long haul driver is $56,491 a year,” the company said, citing Glassdoor. “Walmart’s starting wage can nearly double that.”
A federal bankruptcy judge ordered mediation in ongoing litigation between creditors to Sears Holdings, which has been stuck in bankruptcy limbo for more than three years, and the company’s former head, Eddie Lampert. Creditors seeking repayment on years-old claims have alleged that Lampert and his hedge fund ESL Investments transferred billions of dollars in assets to Lampert during his years at the helm of Sears Holdings. “The defendants’ motions to dismiss remain pending, and ESL continues to believe that plaintiffs’ claims are contrary to both the law and the facts,” a spokesperson for ESL said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to the mediation, but remain prepared to defend ourselves in court if a reasonable resolution cannot be achieved.”
The shakeup continues at Nordstrom’s off-price unit. Rack President Geevy Thomas is retiring after 39 years at the company, Nordstrom said Monday. Jamie Nordstrom, previously president of stores, has taken on the newly created role of chief stores officer and will assume oversight of the business, supported by recently appointed executives Nancy Mair, Kelley Wotton-Gantner and Stacy Lippa. The department store is making other changes as well. Nordstrom Chief Marketing Officer Scott Meden is retiring after 37 years there, according to a company press release. Ken Worzel, most recently serving as Nordstrom’s chief operating officer, is taking on the newly created role of chief customer officer, per the release. He will be responsible for customer strategy across all touchpoints and oversee e-commerce, digital operations, marketing, credit and the Nordy Club loyalty program.
Macy’s will open a fulfillment center in central North Carolina to serve its growing omnichannel business, the retailer announced last week. The 1.4 million-square-foot facility, set to open in 2024, will have automated direct-to-consumer fulfillment capacity and will employ nearly 2,800 employees when fully operational, according to the press release. The facility, in China Grove, will provide significant support for the company’s omnichannel capabilities; when fully operational it will account for nearly 30% of Macy’s digital supply chain capacity, nationwide.
Emerging Consumer Companies
The Honest Kitchen, the pioneer in human-grade pet food, announced a $150 million minority investment by Monarch Alternative Capital LP (“Monarch”), a leading investment firm with approximately $9.5 billion of assets under management, through a new convertible preferred instrument. Monarch will partner with founder Lucy Postins, as well as existing equity investors Alliance Consumer Growth and White Road Investments to help drive the future growth of the company. With over 170 offerings available, pet owners can shop The Honest Kitchen via Amazon and Chewy, as well as over 6,000 retail locations, including independent pet supply stores and Petco, Pet Supplies Plus, Sprouts and select Whole Foods. The investment will be used for continued focus on increased manufacturing capacity and expanded marketing and product innovations, as well as Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) initiatives.
Conceive, led by former Andreessen Horowitz investor Lauren Berson, raised a $3.7 million seed. The round was led by Kindred Ventures with participation from Founder Collective, Great Oaks, and over thirty angels. The cap table is majority female, and 42% of investors identify as BIPOC. Conceive’s eight-week “trying to conceive” program looks different for someone experiencing IVF for the first time or a person just beginning to talk about having a family. Users are paired with a curriculum and coach that fits their needs, looking at factors like geographic location, how long they’ve been trying, and diversity. The program costs $549 and some scholarships are available. Berson explained she intentionally is starting with the direct-to-consumer route because she didn’t want to just serve folks who were “lucky enough to work with an employer who” offered fertility benefits.
Wisewell, the sustainability-driven clean water technology company developing high quality, easily accessible drinking water solutions, announced the close of its $2M pre-seed funding round today bringing total funding to $2.6M to date. The round was led by BECO Capital. Wisewell targets consumers seeking the highest quality clean drinking water with its installation-free machine – just plug it in and fill the tank with tap water. Its proprietary Full Spectrum Filtration technology efficiently removes harmful forever chemicals, microplastics, and other contaminants using three filters and UV light, whereas most traditional filtration systems use one filter and omit the UV light sterilization process. A Wisewell costs $699 per unit, plus $180 for an annual subscription for filters.
Food & Beverage
Beverage maker Keurig Dr. Pepper announced a management transition plan that will see CFO Ozan Dokmecioglu take over as CEO from Bob Gamgort, who is set to move into the role of Executive Chairman for two years. The change will become effective July 29, 2022. According to his company biography, Dokmecioglu served as CFO at Keurig Green Mountain beginning in 2016, before the company’s 2018 merger with Snapple Dr Pepper. He has previously served as Vice President Finance, CFO North America at The Kellogg Company. As CEO, Dokmecioglu will “lead the execution of the Company’s strategy and ensure continued operational excellence.” Meanwhile, Gamgort, as Executive Chairman, will “lead the Board of Directors and oversee the deployment of KDP’s significant discretionary cash flow.” The process for recruiting a new CFO is underway, the company added.
Coffee wholesaler Westrock announced it is merging with Riverview Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), to go public in a transaction that values the combined company at just over $1 billion. Upon the closing of the transaction, expected to happen by the end of Q3 2022, the combined company will be named Westrock Coffee Company and is expected to be listed on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol “WEST.” The merger will deliver around $500 million in gross cash proceeds, with half coming from $250 million in common stock PIPE commitments, including $60 million from R. Brad Martin, NFC Investments and the other Riverview Acquisition Corp. founders, as well as $25 million from Westrock’s founders, and $78 million each from HF Capital, the Haslam family investment office, and funds managed by Southeastern Asset Management. Wells Fargo has committed to financing Westrock to the tune of a $150 million long-term loan and a further $150 million revolving loan commitment. All of Westrock Coffee’s existing shareholders will roll 100% of their shares into the new company and will hold approximately 53% of the shares of the combined company on closing.
Indoor farming was a $79.3 billion market in 2021, according to PitchBook, which expects the segment to expand at a 14.4% compound annual growth rate to hit $155.6 billion by 2026. The indoor farming space, including growers and providers of growing systems, raised a total of $1.6 billion through 70 deals in 2021, marking a more than 36% increase year over year, according to PitchBook. The bulk of this funding — or $1.3 billion — went to indoor growers, which raised 25% more year over year. As controlled environment agriculture players raise massive funding rounds and invest in technology to boost their production and cost efficiencies, the segment has tremendous potential to gain even more traction — if it can get a handle on its sizable startup costs.
Mid-Day Squares, a maker of functional chocolate bars, has raised $10 million in Series C funding led by Siddhi Capital. Described by its founders as a modern-day Hershey Co., the startup offers organic, plant-based bars formulated with hemp protein, sacha inchi protein, pumpkin seeds, dates, yacon syrup, maca powder and pink salt, topped with a layer of raw dark chocolate. Varieties include fudge, almond crunch and peanut butter. Products are available throughout Canada and the United States, including Sprouts Farmers Market nationwide and Whole Foods Market in select regions. Mid-Day Squares is on track to generate $17 million in revenue this year and $36 million next year. The new capital will support expanded retail distribution and construction of a manufacturing facility in the United States.
Grocery & Restaurants
Dave & Buster’s Entertainment, Inc. announced Wednesday an agreement to acquire Dallas-based family entertainment company and bowling chain, Main Event, for $835 million from Ardent Leisure Group Limited and RedBird Capital Partners. Upon closing of the deal, Main Event CEO Chris Morris will be named CEO of Dave & Buster’s after a seven-month search for the head of the company following Brian Jenkins’ retirement last year. Main Event eatertainment company currently has 50 locations and is known for its bowling alleys, laser tag, and virtual reality games, as well as a sports bar-style menu. Chris Morris has been in his role of president and CEO of Main Event since 2018, during which time he expanded the brand’s footprint by 30%. Before that, he was president of California Pizza Kitchen and has previously held executive leadership positions with On the Border and CEC Entertainment.
Mastercard completed on Monday its acquisition of Dynamic Yield from McDonald’s Corp. Purchase, N.Y.-based Mastercard had agreed to buy Dynamic Yield, a personalization platform and decision engine company, from Chicago-based McDonald’s in December. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. McDonald’s had acquired Dynamic Yield in March 2019. Dynamic Yield has integrated its decision technology into McDonald’s drive-thrus and ordering kiosks in several markets around the world. With teams in Tel Aviv, New York City and around the world, Dynamic Yield helps more than 400 brands deliver personalized consumer experiences through individualized product recommendations, offers and content based on a range of factors, including past purchases, page views and customer affinity profile information.
Home & Road
Bassett Furniture reported $117.9 million in Q1 sales, a $16 million increase over the same period in 2021. Wholesale sales rose $13.2 million to $83.5 million, a 19% increase. Retail rose $3.7 million to $64.1 million, a 6.1% increase. “Although incoming wholesale orders remained relatively strong for our first quarter of 2022, we began to make progress in reducing the enormous backlog that has ballooned during the eighteen months of the pandemic that preceded the start of our fiscal year,” said Chairman and CEO Robert H. Spilman Jr. Incoming wholesale orders were down 6.8% compared with 2021 “but remained robust in comparison with the past few years.” About 90% of that decline came in the company’s Club Level motion segment, where there’s still a large backlog and where container prices have really been felt. Domestic upholstery and outdoor furniture sales grew compared with 2021, the company said. Wood orders declined slightly, particularly with imported wood products that the company says have been susceptible to COVID-related factory shutdowns in Vietnam.
Before interior designer Cheryl Luckett started her career in home furnishings, she was a registered dietician, and she remembers when the concept of “wellness” first hit the scene many years ago. She also saw that concept evolve from a focus on food and exercise to a more holistic understanding of overall well-being. The quest for optimal health and wellness, a drive that began several years ago and accelerated during the pandemic, has now become centered on and in the home. It’s about “the way we live and the importance we put on our home to support the way we live,” said Luckett, a self-described homebody. “Eyes have been opened, and I’m hoping that doesn’t change.” According to The NPD Group, a market research firm, nearly two years after the pandemic hit the U.S. retail sales of products in health and wellness categories continue to match peak growth rates. That includes products like air purifier filters, massaging appliances, free-weight equipment and sound machines.
Jewelry & Luxury
One big conversation at last week’s Shoptalk conference of retail and tech leaders focused on luxury recommerce and how to offer a branded luxury experience with pre-loved items. It’s not lost on the brands themselves that embracing recommerce is their biggest opportunity to capture and retain more Millennial and Gen Z consumers. These consumers demand more sustainable shopping options; however, the luxury brands have been slow to catch up with these new consumers and have given away recommerce market share to third party platforms such as The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, and ThredUp.
From Gucci’s 10,000-square-foot store on the site of a former pencil factory in SoHo to Hermes’ two-story flagship in a New Jersey mega-mall, America hearts luxury. And that’s a good thing for the industry, because with Shanghai in lockdown and European demand potentially hurt by the war in Ukraine, the U.S. once again is picking up the bling baton. In 2021, luxury growth was led by the U.S., not China. Soaring stock markets and cryptocurrencies boosted wealth, while stimulus checks encouraged many more shoppers to dip their toes into top end waters. And the wealthy didn’t just splurge on Dior bags and Cartier jewelry. They also led art buying, according to the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report. That helped the overall market exceed its pre-pandemic levels.
Shinola, a luxury goods retailer based in Detroit, and Marchon Eyewear Inc., a global manufacturer and distributor of eyewear and sunglasses, have entered into an exclusive long-term global licensing agreement. “Marchon is thrilled to partner with Shinola, a distinct brand that will fit well into our portfolio,” says Nicola Zotta, president and CEO of Marchon Eyewear. “We look forward to offering new eyewear styles that will complement our Flexon technology and stand out to customers who are looking for frames designed with expert, quality craftsmanship.” New sun and optical collections designed under the partnership will roll out in the US and Canada beginning in fall of 2022. Eyewear styles will be designed with a classic yet modern approach, all constructed with Flexon materials. Flexon, one of Marchon’s proprietary brands, offers durable, lightweight eyewear styles designed with technologically advanced materials, allowing the frames to be flexed, bent, or twisted and returned to their original shape.
Office & Leisure
Mattel Inc top-selling toys like Mega Bloks will now be made in Mexico, as the U.S. toymaker becomes the latest company to move its supply chain closer to home. Mattel announced in mid-March it had spent around a billion pesos, or $50 million, to expand a plant in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, which is now the company’s largest plant, overtaking other hubs in China, Vietnam and Malaysia. The plant in Monterrey, close to the U.S. border, sprawls across 200,000 square meters (2.25 million square feet), employing close to 3,500 workers. “Being able to have product close to your consumer and not having to transport it from Asia, that’s going to be more profitable and more competitive when you take costs into account,” Mattel’s Latin America managing director, Gabriel Galvan, told Reuters. The expansion was first pitched in 2020, Galvan said. Mattel closed two factories in Asia in 2019 and more recently shuttered a plant in Canada and another in Mexico ahead of expansion of the mega-factory.
As it heads toward a board vote, Hasbro is moving ahead with its own nominees over those picked by activist investor Alta Fox, board chairman Rich Stoddart said in a letter to investors. Stoddart also rejected the idea put forward by the hedge fund of spinning off its Wizards of the Coast gaming subsidiary, which owns Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. In his letter, Stoddart said that a spinoff of the unit would be “unlikely to create value, is contrary to Hasbro’s strategy, and would negatively impact the benefits Wizards realizes today from Hasbro’s Brand Blueprint.” Last October, representatives with Alta Fox first reached out to Hasbro requesting a call to discuss the toy and gaming company’s business. Within days they met with the investor relations team to discuss a spinoff of Wizards of the Coast, a move that the hedge fund has estimated could be worth $100 per share to investors. Wizards of the Coast also produced the company’s new CEO, Chris Cocks, who served as president and chief operating officer of the gaming subsidiary until his appointment as company chief this year. Since taking over, Cocks has been pulled into the fight with Alta Fox, which owns 2.5% of Hasbro’s stock, over Wizards of the Coast as well as the company’s future.
Technology & Internet
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has abandoned his plans to join the board of Twitter, his social network of choice. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced publicly Sunday that Musk remains the largest shareholder of Twitter, and the company will remain open to his input. Musk informed Twitter on Saturday morning that he would not, in fact, take the board seat. In premarket trade Monday, Twitter’s stock briefly tumbled more than 8% to less than $43 a share before recovering slightly. At 8 a.m. ET, it was down 2.66% and trading at $45 a share. Musk’s appointment would have started Saturday, “contingent on a background check and formal acceptance,” according to Agrawal. The Twitter CEO did not say whether Musk gave specific reasons for changing his mind about taking on the new obligation.
JD.com’s billionaire founder Richard Liu has stepped down as chief executive of the Chinese e-commerce giant, joining a slew of high-profile tech bosses who have relinquished their roles at the companies they started. That comes as Beijing continues to tighten regulation on its domestic technology sector and scrutinize the business practices of companies. Xu Lei, the president of JD.com, will take over as CEO and join the company’s board of directors, with immediate effect. It is the second management reshuffle for JD.com in the last seven months. In September, Xu was appointed president after leaving his role as head of JD.com’s retail business. Liu will remain as chairman of the company’s board.
Finance & Economy
The labor market tightened further last week, with initial jobless claims falling to their lowest level in more than 53 years, the Labor Department reported. Initial filings for unemployment dropped to 166,000, well below the Dow Jones estimate of 200,000 and 5,000 under the previous week’s total, which was revised sharply lower. Last week’s total was the lowest since November 1968. The numbers nevertheless reflect a jobs market that is subject to a severe worker shortage. There are about 5 million more employment openings than there are available workers, a situation that has driven up wages and contributed to spiraling inflation.
Consumers aren’t doing what they say they would do — and that’s a good thing for the U.S. economy and stocks, at least for now. There’s a lingering disconnect between how consumers feel about their finances and rising inflation and how they’re actually behaving, more specifically, spending. New proprietary data from the Bank of America Institute showed that spending on the bank’s credit and debit cards rose 11% year-over-year in March, and card spending per household was up 6.7% on an annual basis. The “hard data” reflects actual purchases as opposed to planned purchases (or lack thereof). And though some of this increase may reflect rising prices, the firm suggested purchase volume was still holding up.