The Weekly Consensus

CGBS Presenter Profile: thirteen lune

Paul Alexander

We are excitedly counting down the months and weeks until the return of the Consensus Great Brands Show (CGBS), which will take place September 13th, at the New York Times TimesCenter in Manhattan (CGBS Website). CGBS is returning for the 10th time, after a pause for COVID, and we are bringing the show back bigger and better than ever. With the date of the CGBS approaching, we are using this space each week to profile a different company that will be taking the stage in September. We hope our weekly previews underscore our growing anticipation for this year’s show and give you a head start on learning about these dynamic brands and entrepreneurs.


thirteen lune

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) groups make up over 40% of the U.S. population and are projected to grow faster than the White population through 2060. However, these consumers have historically been underserved in certain consumer categories. The issue is particularly clear in Beauty and Personal Care, where the skin and haircare needs of BIPOC consumers are poorly addressed. Adding to the racial inequity in the category, BIPOC founded and owned businesses have historically struggled to obtain funding and strategic partnerships. Thankfully, a small group of up and coming brands and companies are improving inclusivity and representation in the category. One such mission-driven (and fast-growing) company will be presenting at the CGBS in September: thirteen lune.

thirteen lune is an inclusive beauty retail and brand development platform that pledges that 90% of the brands it carries are and always will be BIPOC-founded. The result is better representation for diverse beauty founders and consumers, and an innovative product assortment offering solutions for all skin and hair.

Launched in 2021 by cofounders Nyakio Grieco and Patrick Herning, thirteen lune has three main lines of business: retail curation in shop-in-shops, direct-to-consumer (DTC), and owned brands. The company has grown most quickly through its shop-in-shops – JCPenney tapped thirteen lune to create and curate inclusive thirteen lune-branded shop-in-shops in 600 JCPenney Beauty stores shortly after Sephora pulled out of the department store. thirteen lune sees other opportunities for international expansion in short order. The company also sells DTC via its own website ( and a Los Angeles flagship store. Lastly, thirteen lune uses data from its retail partnerships to launch its own brands to address trending categories and whitespaces in the market. These owned brands enjoy guaranteed distribution at retail partners and can also be sold at wholesale to other retailers. The company has one owned brand, Relevant, in the market, and others in the works.

Beyond attracting the attention of consumers and retailers, thirteen lune has also garnered coverage and accolades from industry groups and media, including Good Morning America, Womenswear Daily, Cosmetic Executive Women, Inc., and Fashionista, among many.

Ultimately, thirteen lune is working to become the global face of inclusive beauty, helping consumers and founders across numerous countries and building its own portfolio of inclusive brands. Hear the company’s founders tell thirteen lune’s story in their own words at the CGBS in September.

Headlines of the Week

Overstock swings in with stalking horse bid for Bed Bath & Beyond IP

Overstock is scheduled to lay out 10% of its stalking horse bid for Bed Bath & Beyond’s assets within 24 hours. The home furnishings e-commerce specialist is offering $21.5 million in cash, according to a new bankruptcy court filing. The bid also covers a break-up fee equal to 2% of the purchase price of $21.5 million. The list of assets Overstock is bidding on include: Bed Bath & Beyond’s IP, including the rights to collect royalties and other proceeds and payments in connection the business; Bed Bath & Beyond’s internet properties and mobile platform; Bed Bath & Beyond’s business data; Ad advertising and marketing materials, samples, artwork, photography, images, videos, etc. The deadline for parties to object to Overstock’s designation as the stalking horse bidder is June 20 at 9 a.m. ET.

Rockport Company files for bankruptcy, to sell assets; CEO exits

The Rockport Company is on the selling block — again. The 50-year-old footwear brand has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it looks to “restructure its assets for the benefit of all stakeholders and to better position the brand for future growth opportunities.” Rockport also intends to file a motion seeking authorization to pursue an auction and sale process under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The proposed bidding procedures, if approved by the court, would require interested parties to submit binding offers to acquire Rockport’s assets.  The company said it has entered into negotiations with a potential purchaser, “who has significant experience in the industry,” to serve as a stalking horse bidder. Gregg Ribatt has resigned as CEO, but will be available to assist in an orderly transition. Joseph Marchese of PKF Clear Thinking has been appointed chief restructuring officer of Rockport. Rockport previously filed for bankruptcy in May 2019 with an eye to being acquired. Most of its assets were sold in August of that year for $150 million to an affiliate of Charlesbank Capital Partners, which was the only bidder for the company.  Rockport closed all its stores and shifted its focus to e-commerce and wholesale channels.



Apparel & Footwear

Stitch Fix taps Macy’s digital chief as CEO

Matt Baer has left his post as Macy’s chief customer and digital officer to become CEO of Stitch Fix and a member of its board, effective June 26, the apparel box e-retailer said Wednesday.  He replaces Founder Katrina Lake, who returned to the top post in January with plans to stay in the role for six months. She remains on the board as executive chair, per a company press release. Baer oversaw digital growth strategies at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, as well as programs to deepen customer relationships at Macy’s. His initiatives included Macy’s third-party marketplace, media network and livestream shopping. Previously, he was vice president of e-commerce at Earlier this year, Lake returned to helm the company in the interim upon the abrupt departure of Elizabeth Spaulding. In a quest for growth, Spaulding had created a purchasing option that allowed Stitch Fix customers to buy directly from its site, a move that disrupted its original model. In the past several months the company has walked that back, restoring an emphasis on its stylist-led box service and focusing on profitability over growth.

Chico’s promotes company veteran to CFO post

Chico’s FAS has named a new chief financial officer, effective June 24. David Oliver, currently the apparel brand’s chief accounting officer, will take over from Patrick Guido, who has resigned to accept a position at another company, according to a company press release. Guido’s last day will be June 23. Guido joined Chico’s in 2021, months after the retailer brought on a new merchandise manager and a chief digital officer. He is leaving for a position that puts him closer to his family, according to the release. Oliver, who takes over the position in a little more than a week, already has experience running Chico’s financial operations. He served as interim CFO from February 2020 until Guido’s appointment in 2021. Oliver is a decade-long veteran of Chico’s, having joined in 2012, and has held a series of financial leadership roles at the brand. Before Chico’s, he held finance roles at grocer Supervalu, the Arden Group and The Vons Companies.

Kontoor CEO Scott Baxter on How VF Spin-off Set Lee and Wrangler Free

Fashion’s instant love of the next new thing — from the latest brand to the buzziest tech — comes with a big blindspot. The tried and true is often forgotten or left behind. For Lee and Wrangler, it wasn’t so much a case of being left behind, instead they were dislodged from their longtime home at VF Corp. in a spin-off just over four years ago. To listen to Scott Baxter, who navigated the two jeans businesses and their parent company Kontoor Brands Inc. through the spin-off and the pandemic, the split proved to be just what Lee and Wrangler needed. Baxter, who had overseen the businesses at VF, said that under the previous corporate structure, Lee and Wrangler were set up to be “cash cows” while newer additions Vans and The North Face were built up with investments. So the brands came into the pandemic in catch up mode and Baxter & Co. set about modernizing them — keeping the brands’ “authentic” Western vibes and heritage, but adding in snappier marketing, higher-end “halo” product and more digital savvy. Those efforts are clear at Wrangler, the larger of the two brands with global revenues of $1.8 billion in 2022. While Kontoor’s revenues between 2019 and 2022 rose just 3.2 percent to $2.6 billion, profitability has taken a turn for the better with the new approach. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization jumped 17.9 percent to $402 million as the debt load from the spin-off was also paid down.

Next considers £500m sale of Reiss

Next is reportedly considering the sale of its 51% stake in Reiss, in a deal worth over £500 million. The retail giant is in talks over an auction of the business, with a raft of unknown buyers already circulating, Sky News reported. Next originally acquired 25% of the fashion retailer in May 2021 from Warburg Pincus, and later increased its stake to 51% in August last year. However, if a sale is completed, Warburg Pincus can expect over double its investment, after it acquired Reiss in 2016 worth £260 million. At the time of its initial investment in Reiss, which has 60 stores across the UK, Next CEO Simon Wolfson said: “Reiss is an outstanding brand with enormous potential and a first-class management team. “We are excited to see what can be achieved through the combination of Reiss’s exceptional product, marketing and brand-building skills with Next’s Total Platform infrastructure.”



Athletic & Sporting Goods

Fanatics Acquires Latin American Wholesaler

Fanatics completed the acquisition of Fexpro, a wholesaler of licensed sports and branded apparel in Latin America.  Headquartered in Panama with a presence across Latin America, Fexpro is a preferred licensee for several major U.S. sports leagues in the region, including the NFL, NBA and MLB. The business also works with international soccer clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and sportswear brand Umbro.  Fanatics’ addition of Fexpro strengthens the organization’s capabilities and footprint across Latin America. Fexpro joins the Fanatics Brands division within Fanatics Commerce. The company’s 100-plus employees will continue to report to CEO Alberto Bassan, who will report to Joe Monahan, global president of Fanatics Brands.

Golf Rounds Played Climb In April

Rounds of golf played in April 2023 were up 7.8 percent on a national level year-over-year and up 3.1 percent for the first four months of 2023, according to Golf Datatech.  By region, in April, the most significant gains were seen in East North Central, up 40.1 percent; Mid-Atlantic, up 33.0 percent; West North Central, up 22.6 percent; Mountain, increased 2.1 percent; and South Central, up 0.8 percent.  Declining regions in April included New England, down 18.5 percent; Pacific, down 2.3 percent and the South Atlantic, down by 0.6 percent.  The pace of golf rounds played continues to normalize after receiving a surge during the earlier stages of the pandemic. Golf rounds played were down 3.7 percent in 2022, grew 5.5 percent in 2021 and jumped 13.9 percent in 2020.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

Sephora Unveils its First Store of the Future in Shanghai

Sephora launched its first Store of the Future in China.  The new store merges innovative digital touchpoints and technology to deliver hyper-personalized services.  “The Store of the Future in Shanghai showcases our obsession for experiential retail, where consumers get to enjoy a curated and on-trend beauty offer, tailored and personalized services and classes, as well as digital touchpoints used to unlock consumer journeys within the store,” shared Alia Gogi, President of Sephora Asia.  Sephora currently has roughly 3,000 points of sale across 36 markets and is strategically focused on accelerating its global footprint, boosting its global merchandising team last summer when Global Chief Merchandising Officer, Artemis Patrick gave up her North American duties to build a global team. Many emerging beauty brands in North America are leveraging this new focus to fast-track global expansion.

Oddity valued at $1.5 billion in stock sale

Oran Holtzman, the controlling stockholder of American-Israeli beauty brand Il Makiage, and L Catterton, sold 7% of the stock of ODDITY, Il Makiage and SpoiledChild’s parent company, for $100 million.  The company’s value in the transaction was estimated at $1.5 billion. The buyers were Michael Dell’s investment fund and Billie Gifford, a European investment fund.  The group’s revenues since the beginning of 2023 reflect a major increase and are expected to reach around $500 million by the end of 2023. In 2022, its revenues amounted to $370 million; in 2021, revenues stood at $260 million; in 2020, they were at $135 million; in 2019, $70 million; and in 2018, $25 million.  Il Makiage has its headquarters in New York, a research and development center in Tel Aviv, and a biotechnology laboratory in Boston. The company employs approximately 300 workers, with its technological divisions employing around 40% of the company’s workers.

Combe to acquire Astroglide

Combe, Inc. has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the Astroglide brand and its parent company, BioFilm, from the Wray Family. Invented by rocket scientist Daniel X. Wray, ASTROGLIDE® is now the #2 brand in the personal lubricant category and is also the fastest growing established brand with double-digit compounded growth over the last five years.  Combe expects to partner with the BioFilm management team and leverage BioFilm’s operating platform to continue driving Astroglide’s expansion and growth in the U.S. and internationally.  Transaction details were not disclosed.

VSS Capital Partners Announces Investment in Olympus Cosmetic Group

VSS Capital Partners (“VSS”), a private investment firm investing in the healthcare, education, and business services industries, announced that it has made a growth capital investment in Olympus Cosmetic Group (“the Company” or “Olympus”), a newly formed platform providing comprehensive cosmetic surgery, dermatological treatments and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Financial terms of the private transaction were not disclosed.  Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Olympus’ credentialed doctors specialize in providing a complete range of face lift, abdominoplasty, breast augmentation, breast lift, liposuction, injectables, non-surgical aesthetic treatments and body contouring, among others, from state-of-the-art facilities.

Salonkee raises €28m Series B to power its European expansion

Led by PeakSpan Capital, a growth-stage B2B software-focused investment firm with offices in New York and Silicon Valley, Salonkee’s Series B was also joined by existing investors Fortino Capital, Newion Partners, Expon Capital, and LBAN. As the European salon market has long lagged behind the US in terms of software solutions, Salonkee has succeeded to reverse the trend.  Based in Luxembourg, Salonkee has currently 110 employees across offices in Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. The company exported its solution to more than 4000 salons, managing more than 20 million appointments, and has grown revenue and customer count over 100% annually since inception.


Discounters & Department Stores

Ollie’s raises outlook, plans to open 45 new stores in 2023

Net sales at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet rose nearly 13% in Q1 to $459 million. Comparable store sales for the quarter also rose 4.5%, up from a prior year decline of about 17%. Ollie’s said its first-quarter operating income rose nearly 125% to $38.5 million from $17 million, while gross profit increased 26% to $178.6 million. Inventory decreased 3.7% to $498 million, down from $517 million a year ago. As Ollie’s store footprint approaches 500, with 45 new stores planned to open this year, CEO John Swygert said the retailer might add more direct sourcing to supplement its core closeout merchandising model. While there are no current issues with closeout merchandise sourcing, “we will make the appropriate adjustment” to more direct sourcing if necessary, Swygert said.

Westfield is handing over the keys to San Francisco Centre mall

After more than two decades operating San Francisco Centre, Westfield is handing over the mall’s keys to its lender, a spokesperson for shopping center operator Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield said by email. Annual sales at the mall plummeted from $455 million in 2019 to $298 million in 2022, per the email. In that time, sales at Westfield’s Valley Fair mall in nearby San Jose rose 66% and the company’s overall U.S. flagship sales rose 23%. Also in that time, foot traffic declined 43% to 5.6 million visits from 9.7 million, while the U.S. portfolio saw a 98% recovery. Occupancy also fell some 55% — including the recent closures of Nordstrom and Banana Republic — while the portfolio averages about 93%, the spokesperson said.



Emerging Consumer Companies

Ten Thousand raises $21.5 million in funding and forms partnership with Life Time

Men’s activewear brand Ten Thousand has raised $21.5 million in a Series A round and formed a partnership with Life Time, a top North American fitness club operator and events organizer. The funding was led by Provenance, with participation from Fernbrook and Alfa. Ten Thousand was founded in 2017 by former professional soccer player Keith Nowak and aims to be the next great athletic brand. The company has also signed a three-year partnership with Life Time Athletic Country Clubs to be the exclusive men’s training apparel brand of Life Time’s Dynamic Personal Training team and its Studio, GTX, Alpha and Ultra Fit classes.

Lalo raises $10.1 million Series A

Baby and toddler brand Lalo has raised $10.1 million in a series A funding round led by Spin Master Ventures, with participation from Babylist, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35V and ILIA Beauty Founder Sasha Plavsic’s Untold Holdings. The funds will be used to drive product innovation, increase brand reach and enhance the customer experience. Lalo plans to unveil several new products in the coming year and expand its footprint in both domestic and international markets. Since its inception in 2019, Lalo has distinguished itself in the crowded baby and toddler space with its design-forward, multifunctional products that grow with families.

Gorgie raises $6.5 million in pre-seed funding

Wellness beverage brand Gorgie has raised $6.5 million in pre-seed funding to expand its team and focus on retail expansion, distribution, marketing and product innovation. The brand, created by Lively founder Michelle Cordeiro Grant, raised the funds from investors including Gelmart International CEO Yossi Nasser, Briogeo founder and CEO Nancy Twine, and entrepreneur Jason Cohen. Gorgie’s line of sparkling and caffeinated beverages launched earlier this year and is aimed at consumers who want drinks that provide more nutritional or health benefits. The brand is available in over 650 retail stores, including Whole Foods and Sprouts Farmers Market.

Sol Reader launches with its distraction-free reading device

Sol Reader has raised $5 million in seed funding for its glasses-like device that blocks out distractions while reading. The Sol Reader, which costs $350, has a pair of side-lit, e-ink displays and a diopter adjustment for glasses and contacts wearers. The device has 64MB of storage and a full battery lasts around 25 hours. The company is currently shipping an advanced copy to a small number of early access testers, with no word on when full production batches will start shipping.



Food & Beverage

Unilever bulks up premium ice cream with Yasso purchase

Unilever entered into an agreement to buy frozen Greek yogurt brand Yasso for an undisclosed amount. The deal is slated to close in the third quarter.  The purchase of Yasso, known for its low calorie frozen treats, brings another premium brand to Unilever’s Ice Cream Business Group, which is aiming to increase high quality brands and offerings.  As more consumers are looking for healthier ways to indulge, a brand like Yasso, with treats containing fewer than 150 calories, brings an on-trend way to do that.

Pernod Ricard to Buy Majority Stake in Canada’s Ace Beverage

Pernod Ricard SA agreed to buy a majority stake in Canada’s Ace Beverage Group as the maker of Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey looks to boost its position in the growing category of pre-mixed cocktails.  Pernod’s Canadian affiliate Corby Spirit and Wine will acquire a 90% stake in closely held Ace at an enterprise value of C$165 million ($123 million), Ace’s flagship brand Cottage Springs is the leading pre-mixed cocktail brand in Ontario, with products that include Cottage Springs Vodka Soda and Tequila Soda. The segment, which includes hard seltzers, is expected to grow by 8% between 2022 and 2026, an increase of $11.6 billion across major markets, according to analysis firm IWSR.  Canada has been one of the fastest growing markets for canned cocktails, with annual growth of more than 20% between 2016 and 2021, according to Pernod. Ace will benefit from Corby’s distribution network.

Cultured meat startup Higher Steaks nabs $30M and rebrands as Uncommon

U.K.-based cultivated meat startup Higher Steaks has raised $30 million in a Series A round of funding and revealed that it’s changing its name to Uncommon.  Founded out of Cambridge in 2017, Uncommon is one of countless companies pushing to make cultured “lab-grown” meat a reality in kitchens and restaurants around the globe, covering everything from synthetic sausages and bogus burgers to pseudo-seafood. Uncommon, for its part, is mostly focused on the $250 billion global pork market, developing bacon and pork belly products.  Uncommon’s round was led by London-based Balderton Capital and New York’s Lowercarbon Capital, with participation from a number institutional and angel investors including OpenAI’s Sam Altman and his brother Max, as well as Redalpine, East Alpha, Miray Zaki and Sebastiano Castiglioni. The company said that it plans to use its fresh cash injection to scale up production and kickstart its regulatory approval process in Europe and Singapore, while keeping a “close eye” on the U.S. market.



Grocery & Restaurants

Cava prices IPO at $22 per share, above stated range

Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant chain Cava priced its initial public offering at $22 per share, above a previously stated range, the company said Wednesday. Cava said it sold 14.4 million shares, which at a price of $22 per share, raises nearly $318 million. The company on Monday raised its pricing expectations to a range of $19 to $20 per share. At $22 per share, the company is valued at roughly $2.45 billion, based on an outstanding share count of more than 111 million shares. Shares are expected to debut on the public markets Thursday and trade under the stock symbol CAVA. Cava, founded in 2006, opened its first location in 2011 and now operates more than 260 restaurants. It has drawn frequent comparison to Chipotle Mexican Grill for its build-your-own-entree style of dining. Last year, Cava reported net sales of $564.1 million, up 12.8% from the year prior.

Kroger’s first-quarter earnings lack punch

Wall Street was hoping Kroger would raise expectations in 2023, but the Cincinnati-based grocer stood firm on its original projections following modest first quarter growth. Total sales during the opening months of the year were $45.2 billion, a slight increase compared to Q1 2022 ($44.6 billion). Sales were up 3.5% year-over-year. Kroger’s Q1 operating profit was almost $1.5 billion and its adjusted EPS stood at $1.51 billion for the quarter. Both lower supply chain costs, as well as Kroger’s decision to source products closer to its distribution centers contributed to the company’s overall sound sales figures in Q1. Digital sales rose 15% and delivery sales went up 30%. In late May, the grocer said it was expanding its ecommerce network in Northern Kentucky with the addition of 2,000 square feet of space that will serve as a home delivery spoke site to its existing automated Ocado hub facility in Monroe, Ohio. For the rest of the year, Kroger still expects identical sales growth to fall within the 1-2% range with underlying growth of 2.5-3.5%. Adjusted operating profit could be as high as $5.2 billion and capital expenditures are expected to be between $3.4 billion and $3.6 billion.

Home & Road

Instant Brands files for bankruptcy

Instant Brands, the parent company of Instant Pot, Pyrex, CorningWare, Chicago Cutlery and other big household names, has filed for Chapter 11 protection, citing unsustainable debt and other macro-economic challenges. The company has received $132.5 million in new debtor-in-possession financing from its existing lenders that, combined with cash from ongoing operations, is expected to support the business, subject to court approval, the company said. The first hearing will be held June 13, at 3 p.m. CT in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. In addition, the company has begun ancillary proceedings in Canada under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) seeking recognition of the U.S. Chapter 11 proceedings in Canada.

Furniture remains off 2022 pace in May but bucks recent trends

While furniture and home furnishings sales in May weren’t at the level of 2022, the category showed signs for optimism in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s latest advance monthly estimates. For the month, furniture and home furnishings stores picked up $11.209 billion in adjusted sales, down 6.4% compared with May 2022’s $11.974 billion. However, the May figure represented a 0.4% increase vs. April’s $11.165 billion. While that gain is likely due to Memorial Day weekend sales, it reverses three consecutive months of sales declines. Year-to-date, furniture and home furnishings sales are at $55.63 billion, down 2.9% compared with 2022. The overall retail snapshot showed adjusted May sales of $686.573 billion, up 1.6% from $675.722 billion in May 2022 and 0.3% from April’s $684.213 billion. Building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers showed the strongest May, up 2.2% month-to-month while motor vehicle and parts dealers reported a 1.4% increase. Those were the only categories that grew more than a percentage point. Conversely, gas station sales declined 2.6% while miscellaneous store retailers were off April’s pace by a point.

Jewelry & Luxury

De Beers’ Tracr Appoints Wesley Tucker as CEO

Wesley Tucker has been promoted to CEO of Tracr, De Beers’ blockchain-based diamond-tracing tool, which it just opened up to the larger trade. Tucker came to De Beers in January 2021 as head of digital transformation, working on Tracr as well as several other strategic initiatives within the company.

U.S. Crackdown on Russian Diamonds Expected to Start Jan. 1

It’s clear: Stronger sanctions on Russian diamonds are coming—probably after the new year. At the recent JCK show in Las Vegas, Brad Brooks-Rubin, special adviser on sanctions to the U.S. State Department (and a veteran of the Responsible Jewellery Council and GIA), and Skander Nasra, diplomatic adviser to the prime minister of Belgium, met with diamond industry members and groups to discuss ratcheting up restrictions on Russian diamonds. (Current U.S. rules allow the import of Russian-mined gems if polished elsewhere.)

Sylva & Cie Opens Dallas Shop-in-Shop

Sylva & Cie devotees now have a dedicated space to experience the jewelry in person. Coming off the Couture show in Las Vegas, the Los Angeles-based jewelry brand has announced its first shop-in-shop at luxury fashion retailer Stanley Korshak. The Dallas store, which has carried Sylva & Cie for well over a decade and counts it as one of its top-selling fine jewelry brands, recently underwent a $5 million renovation.


Office & Leisure

RazerStore gaming shops to open at Simon malls

The triple-headed snake is now lurking in five Simon malls, its eyes out for gamers. RazerStore and its serpentine trademark have opened at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, The Florida Mall in Orland, Dadeland Mall in Miami, The Domain in Austin, and King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. Each RazerStore offers premium gaming hardware and gear, said by Razer to be “created for gamers by gamers.” Visitors can shop for games and compete against each other using the latest technologies from Razer’s expansive catalog of products. RazerStores will feature five exclusive zones dedicated to pro-gaming setups, streamers, console gamers, digital creators, and apparel, as well as a demo station where shoppers can unbox and share videos of their latest purchase with friends. Razer also plans to offer regular esports and gaming events at its stores in concert with local collegiate organizations. Founded in 2005, Razer is dual headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and Singapore, with regional headquarters in Hamburg and Shanghai. It has 19 offices worldwide and is recognized as one of the leading brands for gamers in the United States, Europe, and China.

World’s largest indoor Harry Potter theme park opens in Tokyo

The world’s largest indoor Harry Potter theme park opened Friday in Tokyo, welcoming fans hoping to immerse themselves in the fantasy world of the blockbuster movie series. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo — The Making of Harry Potter features a set of the Hogwarts wizardry school and is the second theme park based on the film series after one in Britain that has drawn over 17 million visitors since its establishment in 2012. An opening ceremony was held with Tom Felton, the British actor who played Harry Potter’s rival Draco Malfoy in the films, and other guests “casting a spell” with local children as they took part in the ribbon-cutting. Among the visitors, Ayaka Murayama, a 26-year-old office worker from Tokyo, came dressed in a robe and carrying a wand and one of the Harry Potter novels by British author J.K. Rowling on which the films are based. Besides the attractions, visitors can also experience afternoon tea and other typical British fare such as fish and chips and roast beef at the theme park’s restaurants and cafes, as well as beverages inspired by the novels and films. The park, located in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, was built on the 30,000-square meter site of what was one of the largest amusement parks in the capital.

Technology & Internet

FTC files to block Microsoft-Activision as Deadline Approaches

The Federal Trade Commission applied for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction seeking to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard before the deal’s July 18 deadline. The FTC said it fears that should Microsoft be allowed to buy Activision, Microsoft would have the power to “withhold or degrade” Activision’s gaming products, through price, game quality, experience on competitors’ offerings or “withholding content from competitors entirely.” In other words, the FTC is worried that Microsoft could withhold popular games from Activision Blizzard’s library from launching on other game consoles, like those sold by Sony. Or it could charge more for games that launch on other consoles. Call of Duty is one title that has come up and, while it’s currently available across platforms and Microsoft has promised to continue to sell that series of games broadly, regulators fear that Microsoft could have the power to hold those or similarly popular future titles for Xbox, taking buyers away from Sony and other console makers. If the parties were allowed to merge before the case made its way through an administrative proceeding, the FTC argued that “reestablishing the status quo would be difficult, if not impossible.” The injunction request comes as the deadline for the deal was coming down to the wire.


Livestream shopping booms as small businesses hit social media

Last year, Anthony Velez, CEO of Bagriculture, a small business selling pre-owned designer handbags, made up to $100,000 a month across his seven brick-and-mortar stores in New York City. This year, business is much different: Velez has closed all of his physical locations, but he’s generating up to $100,000 a day. The secret to his success, he told CNBC, has been diving into the world of livestream shopping. Livestream shopping started on social media in China, and according to Coresight Research, has grown into a $512 billion market. That market size might explain why some major platforms are rushing to grab a piece of the action here in the U.S. In its most recent quarterly report, Coresight Research, which tracks the livestreaming e-commerce industry globally, projected that U.S. livestream sales would reach $32 billion by the end of 2023. However, CEO Deborah Weinswig told CNBC the firm has since revised that projection. The original estimate was set early this year, she said, and didn’t fully take into account South Korean internet giant Naver’s acquisition of Poshmark. At the time, TikTok Shops, a way for users to buy products within the app without having to go to a separate e-commerce store, was also still getting its footing. Now, “we believe that livestreaming sales in the U.S. could easily reach $50 billion this year,” Weinswig said. The firm also estimates livestream shopping will account for more than 5% of total e-commerce sales in the U.S. by 2026.


Finance & Economy

Inflation rose at a 4% annual rate in May, the lowest in 2 years

The inflation rate cooled in May to its lowest annual rate in more than two years, likely taking pressure off the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates, the Labor Department reported.  The consumer price index, which measures changes in a multitude of goods and services, increased just 0.1% for the month, bringing the annual level down to 4% from 4.9% in April. That 12-month increase was the smallest since March 2021, when inflation was just beginning to rise to what would become the highest in 41 years.  Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the picture wasn’t as optimistic.  So-called core inflation rose 0.4% on the month and was still up 5.3% from a year ago, indicating that while price pressures have eased somewhat, consumers are still under fire.


US Retail Sales Unexpectedly Rise in Sign of Consumer Resilience

US retail sales unexpectedly rose in May, showcasing resilient consumer demand in the face of mounting economic challenges.  The value of retail purchases climbed 0.3% after a 0.4% gain in April, Commerce Department data showed. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales were up 0.4%. The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.  The overall figure beat all but one estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Sales at 10 out of 13 retail categories advanced last month, in part reflecting greater spending on cars — which were widely expected to drop. While the figures came in stronger than expected, they still show moderating consumer demand from the past year. Americans have kept spending even against a backdrop of elevated prices and higher interest rates, supported by a still-vibrant job market and pent-up savings.

Retail Market Breathes A Sigh Of Relief As West Coast Ports Deal Reached

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) announced a tentative agreement on a new six-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports. Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su assisted in the agreement; the parties did not release details of the deal, and it is subject to ratification by both parties.  “We are pleased to have reached an agreement recognizing the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce in keeping our ports operating,” said PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Willie Adams in a joint statement. “We are also pleased to turn our full attention back to the operation of the West Coast Ports.”  The parties have been negotiating since the labor contract expired in July 2022.