The Big Story

Finally! Now What?

Billy Busko

Last week a New York Time’s headline read, “Momentous: New York and California Open.”  After sixteen or so very dark COVID months, the light is beginning to shine from coast to coast. And prognosticators are suddenly recalibrating their assumptions to come up with new and improved forecasts.

In February, the National Retail Federation projected that retail sales would grow 6.5% to 8.2% this year over last year.  This was when there was significant uncertainty around all of consumer spending, vaccine distribution, virus infection rates, and additional fiscal stimulus. In the meantime, May marked the eighth consecutive month of total retail sales growth. Further, approximately 54% of all Americans have received at least one vaccine shot while 45% are fully vaccinated. Lastly, the American Rescue Plan was enacted.

Emboldened by such interim developments, the NRF just dramatically increased its forecast, calling for growth of 10.5% to 13.5%, which would total $4.44 trillion to $4.56 trillion of retail sales. If these expectations become a reality, this year would result in the greatest annual growth since Ronald Reagan was in office nearly forty years ago.

The NRF commented, “The economy and consumer spending have proven to be much more resilient than originally forecasted. The amount of both fiscal and monetary policy intervention has lifted personal income and filled the well of income that was lost last year, creating an overabundance of purchasing power.”  With a bit of a cautionary note, the NRF added, “While there are downside risks related to worker shortages, an overheating economy, tax increases and over-regulation, overall households are healthier, and consumers are demonstrating their ability and willingness to spend.”

Interestingly, the NRF did not revise upward its original forecast for e-commerce sales, which are expected to increase between 18% to 23% over last year, reaching between $1.09 trillion and $1.13 trillion. Thus, all of the additional growth in the overall revised forecast is coming from brick-and-mortar sales.

It is too early in the calendar for prognosticators to predict Holiday sales, but estimates for the second largest spending season, Back-to-school, are also coming in bullish. As students prepare to return to the physical classroom, MasterCard predicts that Back-to-school sales will increase 5.5% over last year and 6.7% over pre-COVID 2019. Not surprisingly, as people dress to see others again, the apparel category is expected to see the greatest growth, a whopping 78.2% increase over last year and an 11.3% increase compared to 2019. Relatedly, department store sales are expected to increase 25.3% over last year and 9.5% over 2019.

Most timely, the NRF expects Father’s Day spending to set a record this year at $20.1 billion, surpassing last year’s record of $17.0 billion. But mothers are not to be outdone.  Mother’s Day spending this year set a retail sales record of $28 billion.

Whether it is pent-up demand or retail therapy, the light at the end of the tunnel is at the cash register.




Headline of the Week

Online retailer Boxed to go public

Online bulk-products retailer plans to become a public company via a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Seven Oaks Acquisition Corp. New York-based Boxed and Seven Oaks said Monday that the merger carries a pro forma combined equity value of about $900 million. Plans call for the merged company to be called Boxed Inc., listed in the United States under a new ticker symbol, and be led by current Boxed co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Chieh Huang as CEO, with Seven Oaks Chairman and CEO Gary Matthews serving as chairman. Also with the transaction, Boxed plans to monetize its proprietary, end-to-end e-commerce technology via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. Founded in 2013, online-only retailer Boxed provides warehouse club-style shopping — including groceries, pantry items, household staples, health and beauty aids, office supplies, and a variety of organic and green products — through its website and mobile app.



Apparel & Footwear

Is the Victoria’s Secret Angels rebrand too little, too late?

For anyone who’s followed the brand (or even just visited a mall or been spammed by its catalogues), the first images that come to mind are likely to be giant, “sexy” padded bras, boudoir photo shoots, and of course, the Victoria’s Secret Angels—the Barbie-esque models hired by the company to embody the ideal VS woman. Now, the New York Times reports that the Angels are no more—and that Victoria’s Secret is undergoing a massive rebranding that includes replacing them with the “VS Collective,” a group of women that includes “Megan Rapinoe, the 35-year-old pink-haired soccer star and gender equity campaigner; Eileen Gu, a 17-year-old Chinese American freestyle skier and soon-to-be Olympian; the 29-year-old biracial model and inclusivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, who was the rare size 14 woman on the cover of Vogue; and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a 38-year-old Indian actor and tech investor.” So, led by a new team, which includes CMO Martha Pease, Victoria’s Secret is hoping to leave that legacy behind. The big question: will it work?

GBG Will Use Proceeds from Sale of Korean Unit to Continue Operating

Global Brands Group has completed the sale of its Spyder division in South Korea to a private equity firm and will use the $19.5 million raised to help it continue to operate as it negotiates with lenders over mounting past-due debts. On Thursday morning, the Hong Kong-based company said that while the initial plan was to use the proceeds from the sale of Global Brands Group Korea Ltd. to repay part of its existing bank debt, the situation has changed. Global Brands Group had previously reported a net loss after tax of $120 million for the six months ended Sept. 30, 2020, with assets of $899 million. Included in those figures were loans of $373 million and trade payables of $627 million, which were past due at that time. Now, with interest, the amount owed to trade creditors is $851 million.  As a result, the company reiterated Thursday what it had said in the past that these debts “may cast significant doubt about the group’s ability to continue as a going concern.” It added that it has “been pursuing a number of measures to generate adequate financing and operating cash flows” in order to continue operating.

Dr. Martens says brand’s strength helped it during pandemic

Dr. Martens, the classic British boot brand that listed its shares in January, said it had shown its resilience during the coronavirus crisis, delivering annual revenue growth of 15% despite multiple lockdowns which shuttered stores. “We think there’s lots to like about Dr. Martens, apart from the valuation,” said analysts at Peel Hunt. In its annual financial results, the group also reported exceptional costs of 80.5 million pounds related to the IPO. Dr Martens sold 12.7 million pairs of “Docs” or “DMs” in the year to March 31, up from 11.1 million in the previous year. Chief Executive Kenny Wilson said the increase during a pandemic illustrated the brand’s strength. “In tough times consumers turn to products that they trust, that they know are going to be credible in their wardrobes for years to come,” he told Reuters.

Centric Brands Adds Pastourelle to Portfolio

Centric Brands LLC, a leading lifestyle brand collective, announced today the acquisition of Pastourelle, a portfolio of girls’ clothing brands, including Pippa & Julie and Mia & Mimi. “As we continue to strategically focus on the growth of our Kids division under the leadership of Steve Pinkow, we are fortunate to welcome the Pastourelle team to Centric Brands.,” said Jason Rabin, CEO of the Company. Centric Brands is a leading player in the Kids marketplace for clothing, accessories, and beauty, with licenses for leading brands including Under Armour, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and character properties, including those from Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon, and Universal. For the last two decades, Pastourelle has been a market-leader in girls’ apparel. In addition to the Pippa & Julie and Mia & Mimi brands, Pastourelle has extensive expertise in brand collaborations and licenses including Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks/Trolls, Badgley Mischka and Laura Ashley, and private label.



Athletic & Sporting Goods

RedBird Capital wants to sell its stake in NFL, MLB players’ union firm

Private investment firm RedBird Capital wants to unload its 40% stake in OneTeam Partners, a firm mainly run by the National Football League Players Association, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.  RedBird founder, Gerry Cardinale, invested in OneTeam in 2019. Wall Street bankers are floating its enterprise value is up to $2 billion. The Athletic first reported the company was seeking to sell.  Two of the individuals who discussed the matter believe the $2 billion figure is undervalued, but if correct, RedBird’s stake increased to roughly $800 million in less than two years. Chatter in sports business circles suggests the firm surpassed its goal and is ready to cash out. OneTeam started with $125 million in funding, according to Crunchbase.  But potential buyers of RedBird’s stake should keep in mind that OneTeam is a risky enterprise filled with union politics.

Decathlon To Open First Store In Western Canada

Decathlon, the largest worldwide sporting goods chain, is expanding to Western Canada with its first store in Calgary.  The 70,000-square-foot store and distribution center will occupy the second floor of the former Sears store at Southcentre Mall. The location will be the first Decathlon sports location in Canada west of Ontario.  The company said that the store would have “an automated warehouse to service e-commerce deliveries in Western Canada and one of the country’s largest selections of Decathlon products for more than 65 sports. The French chain has eight stores in Canada. Currently, there are five Decathlon Canada stores in Quebec, one in Nova Scotia and two in Ontario. Upcoming openings include locations in Brampton and Toronto.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan taps into beauty tech by backing Fresha, the leading salon and spa booking platform

Huda Kattan, founder of self-made cosmetics empire Huda Beauty and chairwoman of HB Investments, shared the inspiration behind her investment in Fresha, the world’s top beauty and wellness booking system. Huda’s recent backing of the company marks a powerful joining of forces between the beauty industry’s leading technology platform and one of the world’s most successful beauty entrepreneurs. The recent investment was part of a larger $100 million financing for Fresha, led by New York-based growth equity firm General Atlantic, backers of tech giants such as Facebook, Snap and Airbnb. Huda Kattan participated through HB Investments, the private investment office of the founders of Huda Beauty, of which Huda Kattan is Chairwoman and her sister, Mona Kattan, is the President. “Fresha is a win-win solution for both customers and service-based businesses. It’s supercharging businesses by allowing them to manage, track and grow in the fastest way possible, all subscription-free. For customers, it’s a simple and easy platform to discover and book services. The potential for this platform is limitless,” says Mona Kattan.

Bellevue-Based Startup Zenoti Receives $80M Investment; Valuation Reaches $1.5B

Zenoti, a cloud-based software for beauty, wellness, and fitness industries, has received an additional $80 million investment less than six months after its Series D funding round. “As consumers across the globe continue to prioritize self-care, we believe the company is well-positioned for strong growth,” said Arun Agarwal, managing director at TPG, in a statement. The investment comes from TPG Capital, a global private investment firm that has previously invested in leading technology companies such as Airbnb and Uber. Zenoti plans to use $200 million for mergers and acquisitions, continuing its success after achieving 100 percent year-over-year growth in 2020.

Buff City Soap Lands Growth Funding from General Atlantic

Founded in 2013 and franchising since 2018, Buff City Soap’s mission is to create plant-based products free of harsh chemicals and detergents. The company has experienced rapid growth as consumers are drawn to its differentiated, high-quality offering of soap, laundry, bath, and body products, which are handcrafted daily in each store’s Soap Makery.  The business currently has more than 100 stores across 20 states in the US and has significant expansion planned for 2021 and beyond. “Partnering with General Atlantic will help accelerate Buff City Soap’s scale and unit expansion across the U.S.,” said Wayne Moore, Managing Partner at Crux Capital. “During our ownership, Buff City Soap has more than quadrupled in size and has the potential to redefine a category of retail. We are more excited than ever about our growth potential.”


Discounters & Department Stores

Neiman Marcus appoints fashion and lifestyle director

In its second big announcement this week, Neiman Marcus stated that Lisa Aiken has been appointed to the newly created role of fashion and lifestyle director, according to a press release sent to Retail Dive. Aiken previously served as the fashion and buying director at Moda Operandi and also held positions at Net-a-Porter and MyTheresa — the latter a luxury e-commerce company once owned by Neiman Marcus. Aiken will head up the Fashion and Lifestyle Office and work to identify emerging brands, discover trends and services in fashion and lifestyle, and collaborate with brands to expand exclusive partnerships. She will begin Aug. 9 and report to Neiman Marcus Group president and chief merchandising officer Lana Todorovich.

Neiman Marcus Group launches $500M tech investment spree

Neiman Marcus Group is embarking on a series of digital and tech investments, totaling some $500 million over the next three years, starting with plans to acquire cloud-based software-as-a-service platform Stylyze. Terms of any deal, expected to close later this year, were not disclosed. Founded by two women in the interior design field and based in Seattle, Stylyze offers “enterprise solutions to the home and fashion retail verticals,” according to its website. In addition to Neiman Marcus, which said it first partnered with Stylyze three years ago, the platform works with Target, and Zulily, among others. Neiman said it can afford these plans thanks to “renewed financial flexibility,” derived from last year’s bankruptcy restructuring and subsequent debt refinancing. At April’s end, its outstanding debt was $1.1 billion, down from $5.1 billion a year ago. The company has liquidity of more than $850 million, up from $132 million a year ago, with no borrowings against a $900 million revolver, per its release.

Target unveils remodeled stores

Target is beginning to check off a major item on its to-do list: upgrading stores. The retailer unveiled photos of its store updates last week as part of its promise in March to invest $4 billion annually in remodels, new stores and improvements in online fulfillment. In 2021, Target is giving 150 locations a “major glow-up,” according to a press release. The updates include modern fixtures, enhanced experiences and the latest updates in health and safety protocols (such as contactless bathroom fixtures and hand sanitizing stations). The latest remodeled stores are part of the 800 locations that Target has upgraded over the last four years since Target began planning its brick-and-mortar revamp, the retailer said.

Hudson’s Bay partners with Forever 21

In a move aimed at attracting more millennial and Gen Z shoppers, Hudson’s Bay on Friday announced a partnership with Forever 21, where the fast-fashion retailer will have full-line collections available at select Hudson’s Bay locations. Forever 21 products will also be available via Hudson’s Bay’s marketplace,, according to a company press release. The offering is currently available at two physical locations, with an expansion expected throughout stores in Canada. Hudson’s Bay is the exclusive third-party retail partner to Forever 21 in Canada, according to the company.

Walmart invests in DroneUp

Walmart is making a strategic investment in drone services startup DroneUp after partnering with the firm to launch hundreds of deliveries from stores in a pilot program, according to Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner. With the investment, the company is launching its first official drone operation with DroneUp from a store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Furner said the DroneUp investment was part of Walmart’s work toward “developing a scalable last-mile delivery solution.” Furner added that “[c]onducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach.”



Emerging Consumer Companies

Kindra, menopause essentials brand, raises $4.5 million

Kindra, a Los Angeles-based modern wellness brand for menopause essentials, announced today that it closed a $4.5 million seed funding round. The round was led by the Female Founders Fund with participation from Primetime Partners, Anne and Susan Wojcicki, Katie Couric Media, The Community Fund, and H Ventures. The new capital will be used to drive the continued growth and expansion of Kindra. The brand aspires to be a leader in scientifically formulated, estrogen-free, and plant-powered menopause essentials, and a trusted go-to for reliable information and a supportive community.

Underground Cellar, San Francisco-based online wine marketplace, raises $12.5 Series A

Underground Cellar, the San Francisco-based wine company, announced that it raised $12.5M to complete its Series A. The round was led by Accomplice, with participation from Golden Ventures and Bling Capital. Underground Cellar is a leading wine e-commerce company that uses gamification and upgrades instead of discounts. The company features new wine deals every day on its homepage at


RIND, maker of upcycled fruit snacks, raises $6.1 million

RIND Snacks, a four-year old brand that produces upcycled dried fruit snacks, announced that it has raised $6.1 million in a Series A round of funding. The round was led by Valor Siren Ventures, with participation from an existing investor Melitas Ventures. This brings the company’s total funding to $8.4 million. This most recent round of funding will be used to increase production capacity and expand RIND’s team. RIND’s chewy dried fruit snacks are made from fruit that would have otherwise be wasted and wind up in the landfill. The peels of the fruits are left on, which are also typically discarded. The company estimates that it has prevented about 120,000 pounds of edible fruit peels from being discarded in 2020. Later this year, RIND will also be launching crunchy dried fruit chips and the company has also hinted at making roasted vegetable snacks (including the peel) in the future.



Grocery & Restaurants

Kroger lifts annual forecasts with online grocery sales booming

Kroger raised its forecast for annual profit on Thursday, betting that its quick pickup and delivery services will encourage Americans to order groceries online even as they dine out again. The company’s focus on private labels, use of robots to more quickly stock and dispatch goods through a partnership with Ocado and tie-ups with third parties for deliveries are expected to help Kroger sustain the rapid online sales growth seen since 2019. First-quarter digital sales jumped 16% at Kroger, even as and big-box rivals Walmart and Target doubled down on grocery. “The customers continue to like to shop online … When they shop (online and in stores), our retention rate is incredibly high,” Chief Executive Officer William McMullen said on a post-earnings call. The company expects at-home food consumption to soften as reopenings gather pace, even as customers shop more frequently after a year of consolidated trips.


JAB Holding’s JDE Peet’s to acquire Campos Coffee
JAB Holding’s coffee division, JDE Peet’s, announced Wednesday the company’s intention to acquire Australian coffee chain, Campos Coffee. “The Campos team have built an incredible brand and network across Australia, delivering award winning and consistently outstanding coffee to their customers,” JDE Peet’s Australia and New Zealand general manager, Albert Moncau, said in a statement. “The business is a perfect fit for us and we look forward to welcoming the Campos team to our world of coffee and tea, learning from each other’s expertise and building on their award winning coffee experience.” Campos Coffee has more than 600 cafes globally, and also has a direct-to-consumer and retail business. The chain opened its first U.S. location in Salt Lake City in 2018, but has since announced the closure of its North America branch at the end of June 2021 due to pandemic-related challenges.

Home & Road

La-Z-Boy hits record Q4 sales with 41.4% increase

La-Z-Boy Inc. brought in a 41.4% year-over-year increase in sales for its fourth quarter ended April 24, turning in a record fourth quarter and helping to bring up its numbers for the fiscal year by nearly 2%. “In an extremely difficult year marked by the pandemic-related macroeconomic uncertainty and supply chain disruption, we delivered strong results,” said Melinda Wittington, president and CEO, adding, “For the fiscal 2021 full year, we delivered consolidated non-GAAP operating margin of 9%, generated $310 million in cash from operations and returned $61 million to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends.”

DOC: Home furnishings sales decline for May, following pattern for all retail

While furniture and home furnishings sales dipped slightly in May, which mimicked the overall retail picture for the month, the category remained one of the strongest performers for 2021 in the Department of Commerce’s advance monthly report on retail sales. Overall, the DOC reported retail and food services total came in at $620.2 billion in May, which represents a 1.3% dip from April’s $628.7 billion total. For the year, the full retail picture sits at $2.91 trillion, up 23.9% from the same time frame in 2020. Retail’s three-month period from March to May is 11.9% higher than the preceding three-month period.

At Home amends sale terms

At Home Group Inc. will receive another dollar per share in a restated merger agreement with private equity firm Hellman & Friedman LLC. In May 2021, the fast-growing, value home-décor retailer initially agreed to be acquired by Hellman & Friedman for $36 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $2.8 billion. However, CAS, the largest shareholder of At Home with a 17% stake, then sent a letter to the board outlining its opposition to the proposed deal. CAS said that the share price “grossly undervalues the company and deprives stockholders of anything resembling a fair premium.”

Jewelry & Luxury

Diamond Jewelry Sales on Fire, According to NDC

Diamond jewelry sales rose by about 30% in the last three months—February through May—versus 2019, according to the Natural Diamond Council (NDC). Perhaps less surprisingly, sales were nearly three times over last year, when the country was in the throes of the COVID-19 lockdown. NDC CEO David Kellie says the sales numbers come from a mix of proprietary, public, and subscription sources. He notes they roughly track with the latest results from Signet Jewelers, in which comps rose 27.2% from the same quarter two years ago, as well as results from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which saw jewelry sales rise an amazing 44.7% over two years ago in May.

To Enjoy a Luxury Watch, You Don’t Really Need to Own It

As the famous slogan has it, you never actually own a Patek Philippe. And if forecasts are right, you never will. Instead, you’ll be happy to rent one. It’s early days, but there are signs that a new luxury watch rental market led by the brands is coming. According to the market research company Bain & Company, rentals could account for 10 percent of luxury brand revenues by 2030. Now, it says, is the time for brands to engage with subscription culture and “generation rent,” a growing number of young people less inclined to spend money on high-priced luxury goods. “Something is changing in the way consumers think about and interact with luxury products,” said Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner at Bain and co-author of LuxCo 2030: A Vision of Sustainable Luxury. “The willingness of the younger generation to embrace renting and secondhand is very high. The shift from owning to having an experience is super strong.”

Google, LVMH unveil ‘AI partnership’ for luxury online shopping

French luxury goods giant LVMH signed a deal to use Google’s AI to help sell products from brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany — and top spenders will have custom-tailored online shopping experiences, the companies said Wednesday. Google’s AI and machine learning tech will also help the company forecast demand for products and optimize store inventories, according to the companies. The partnership will run for at least five years, LVMH spokesman Mickael Soria told the Post. Soria declined to disclose the value of the deal.

Luxury blockchain consortium from LVMH, Prada, Cartier appoints leader

Aura Blockchain Consortium, the global luxury blockchain founded by LVMH, Prada and Cartier, has announced the appointment of Daniela Ott as its General Secretary. Ott will report directly to the Consortium’s Board of Directors. Ott spent 13 years of her career at Kering, latterly as CEO of the Tomas Maier fashion house and previously as director of strategy at its Gucci and Balenciaga brands. She also holds a doctorate in consumer behavior. “I am thrilled to join Aura Blockchain Consortium, a visionary collaboration initiated by LVMH, Prada Group and Cartier, to drive change in the luxury industry by addressing the shared challenges of communicating authenticity, responsible sourcing and sustainability in a secure digital format,” said Daniela Ott.


Office & Leisure

Staples parts with CEO as it plots Office Depot takeover

Staples CEO Alexander Douglas is stepping down by mutual agreement with the company, according to a press release. Executive Chairman John Lederer, who is also a senior adviser with Staples’ private equity owner Sycamore Partners, will take over as interim CEO following Douglas’s departure. The leadership changes are effective June 18. Staples has begun a search for a permanent replacement for Douglas, a former Coca-Cola executive who joined the office supplies retailer in 2018.  The CEO transition comes as Staples is attempting to acquire the retail arm of ODP Corporation, the parent company of Office Depot.

Ellucian, McGraw Hill acquired in private-equity deals

Education vendors Ellucian and McGraw-Hill changed hands this week in a series of private-equity deals as the edtech market continues to grow. McGraw-Hill, a leading provider of textbooks and other learning resources and textbooks to both K-12 schools and higher education, was purchased by Platinum Equity for $4.5 billion from its previous owner, Apollo Funds, according to a news release Wednesday. The higher education software provider Ellucian, meanwhile, was acquired Monday by Blackstone and Vista Equity Partners. A sale price was not disclosed. McGraw-Hill expanded its digital presence during the COVID-19 pandemic, with its open online learning platform showing 4.5 million paid activations in fiscal year 2020. Ellucian has more than 2,700 college and university clients using its enterprise-planning software, which handles services like advising, financial aid and data and analytics.

Technology & Internet

Shopify expands its one-click checkout, Shop Pay, to any merchant on Facebook or Google

E-commerce platform Shopify announced its one-click checkout service known as Shop Pay will become available to any U.S. merchant that sells on Facebook or Google — even if they don’t use Shopify’s software to power their online stores. That makes Shop Pay the first Shopify product offered to non-Shopify merchants, the company notes. First introduced at its developer conference in 2017, Shop Pay is similar to other instant checkout solutions that offer an easier way to pay online by reducing the number of fields a customer has to fill out during the checkout process. The service remembers and encrypts the customer’s information, so consumers can check out with just a tap when shopping online and, as of recently, even pay for purchases in installments, thanks to a partnership with Affirm. For consumers, the advantage of using Shop Pay over a traditional checkout, beyond the speed, is its integration with Shopify’s mobile app, Shop, which organizes and tracks your online orders across merchants, including Amazon, so you can see when orders are arriving or quickly ask questions and manage returns. To date, the Shop app has tracked more than 430 million orders, the company says.


Amazon details new warehouse robots, ‘Ernie’ and ‘Bert’

Amazon warehouse workers could soon be joined by a couple new co-workers: Ernie and Bert. Those are the names of the new robots Amazon is testing with the goal of reducing strenuous movements for workers. While the introduction of robots to the workplace often raises questions about whether human jobs will be replaced, Amazon argues they simply allow workers to focus on tasks that most need their attention while minimizing their potential for injury. Amazon said it’s added over a million jobs around the world since it began using robotics in its facilities in 2012. Amazon described in a blog post Sunday four robots it’s testing to move items across its fulfillment centers and closer to workers. Ernie helps remove items from a robotic shelf so employees don’t have to. The process doesn’t save time, Amazon said in the post, but testing has so far indicated it could make work safer for employees. Bert is one of Amazon’s first Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), made to navigate facilities independently, even while workers are moving around. Unlike other robots, Bert would not need to remain in a restricted space, meaning workers could ask it to take items across a facility. Amazon said Bert could eventually move heavier items.


Heads up, Big Tech: Lina Khan, Amazon’s antitrust adversary, will chair FTC

Watch out, Amazon and other tech giants. The White House has picked Lina Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Khan, 32, was confirmed by the Senate earlier Tuesday as commissioner. Axios and The Washington Post then reported that she will not only be a commissioner but the FTC’s chair. It’s a big deal because of Khan’s stance on antitrust and what it signals about President Biden’s progressive outlook on the issue. It comes amid the federal government’s ongoing scrutiny over the power of Big Tech, which is taking heat on a wide range of issues including alleged monopolistic behavior and privacy abuses. Last week federal lawmakers introduced five bills that collectively seek to change the way large tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook do business and dominate their respective marketplaces. Khan is an associate professor of law at Columbia Law School and an antitrust expert. She gained national attention while still in law school when Yale Law Review published her article, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” In it, Khan argued that the so-called “consumer welfare standard” —  in which regulators look narrowly at prices to determine whether a company has behaved monopolistically — is insufficient for the digital economy. Khan believes that a company like Amazon can abuse its market power, even if it uses that power to lower prices for consumers, rather than raising them.


Finance & Economy

The Fed moves up its timeline for rate hikes as inflation rises

The Federal Reserve considerably raised its expectations for inflation this year and brought forward the time frame on when it will next raise interest rates.  However, the central bank gave no indication as to when it will begin cutting back on its aggressive bond-buying program, though Fed Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that officials discussed the issue at the meeting.  Though the Fed raised its headline inflation expectation to 3.4%, a full percentage point higher than the March projection, the post-meeting statement stood by its position that inflation pressures are “transitory.” The raised expectations come amid the biggest rise in consumer prices in about 13 years.


U.S. retail sales take step back as spending pivots to services, trend remains strong

U.S. retail sales dropped more than expected in May, with spending rotating back to services from goods as vaccinations allow Americans to travel and engage in other activities that had been restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Despite last month’s decline reported by the Commerce Department on Tuesday, the trend in retail sales remains strong. Sales in April were revised sharply up and are well above their pre-pandemic level, keeping intact expectations of double-digit growth in both consumer spending and the economy this quarter.