The Big Story

Consumers and Companies Embracing the Great Outdoors

Consensus

With COVID-19 driving interest in outdoor activities, consumer preferences have shifted. Concerns for safety and shutdowns of many indoor fitness and recreation outlets during the pandemic led people outside. This has resulted in higher participation on two fronts – consumers who were not participants before COVID are now trying new activities, and consumer who were participants before are often engaging in more.

A 2021 report commissioned by the Outdoor Foundation, entitled the Outdoor Participation Trends Report, estimates that 53% of Americans ages six and older participated in outdoor recreation at least once. The report also estimates that 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor activities than in the previous year. Both of these numbers are the highest on record. The most popular outdoor activity – running – saw 21% of Americans, or 64 million people, participate. This was followed by hiking (19%), fishing (18%), biking (17%), and backpacking and camping (16%).

The enthusiasm for outdoor programs and recreation means that people are buying gear or equipment for the first time, or they’re buying more of it. For many companies with products catering to the outdoors, this has led to more business, the chance to acquire new customers, and the opportunity to strengthen the connection with existing ones. It’s also making companies examine their priorities. Many brands are benefiting, or hope to be, and are revamping elements of their core business to take advantage. This is sparking new retail concepts, influencing product offerings, and changing distribution strategies.

Dick’s, the national sporting goods retailer, is launching a new store concept called Public Lands. While Public Lands has been under development since before COVID, it has received increased attention since. Dick’s plans to open the first Public Lands concept in a former 50,000-square-foot Field & Stream location in Pennsylvania in September, 2021. A second location in Columbus, Ohio, is slated to open soon after.

Wilson, the sporting goods company with roots dating back to 1913, is taking the opportunity of COVID to open its first store. The store will be located in Chicago, where the company was founded, and will feature sports equipment and apparel and unique offerings. Wilson intends to further its direct-to-consumer efforts with new stores in New York, Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai. The company introduced a sportswear line earlier in the year in its pursuit of becoming more of a lifestyle brand. The experiential retail concept takes it a step further and builds upon its past success with pop-up stores at sporting events like the Super Bowl, College World Series and the US Open.

Companies catering to outdoor sports and recreation have also worked to enter new channels and tackle new opportunities. Clorox, the conglomerate behind some of the world’s most widely recognized brands, accelerated its direct-to-consumer plans, including plans for Brita, maker of the ubiquitous water filtration systems. Clorox began selling Brita products, including its on-the-go bottles and systems, online earlier this year. The company, founded in 1966, had relied on the wholesale channel for the majority of its revenue.

While there may be some question of permanence of consumers’ elevated interest in the outdoors and sports, interest is high for now, consumers are engaged, and brands are looking to capitalize long-term.

 

 

 

 

 

Headlines of the Week

Marriott CEO: Leisure travel is roaring back

The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for hotel giant Marriott appears to be gathering speed this summer.  “We just went through the fourth of July weekend, and our occupancy was through the roof. And maybe the most encouraging thing for us is we saw real pricing power,” Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano told Yahoo Finance Live. In many markets, demand is back to pre-COVID levels in terms of leisure, he said. Hotel industry research outfit STR said revenue per available room (RevPar) for U.S. hotels rose 5.7% from June 27 to July 3, compared to comparable 2019 levels. On this same comparison, average daily rates (ADR) increased 5.8% to $135.55.  Among the top 25 markets tracked by STR, Phoenix and Detroit saw double-digit increases in occupancy versus 2019 (14% and 13.1%, respectively). Miami notched a 35% surge in average daily rates.

 

Kate Hudson’s Fabletics Hires Banks for IPO

Kate Hudson is joining the sprint — to Wall Street. The Fabletics activewear brand, which the actor cofounded with Adam Goldenberg and Don Ressler, co-chief executive officers of TechStyle Fashion Group, has hired big-named banks for an initial public offering. Fabletics is working with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Barclays and Bank of America and plans to raise around $500 million in an offering, WWD confirmed. Such an offering could value the brand at more than $5 billion. The brand, founded in 2013, has long been talked about as an IPO contender, positioned in the still-attractive athleisure category at accessible prices and with some celebrity cachet. Fabletics appears to be one of those brands that powered through last year despite the pandemic. In October, the company revealed a multiyear deal with Hydrow, a $2,300 rowing machine with connected features.

 

Apparel & Footwear

‘L Brands’ name to disappear as board approves company split

L Brands’ board has officially approved the spinoff of its Victoria’s Secret banner into a standalone, publicly traded company housing the Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Pink and Victoria’s Secret Beauty brands. With the new company, dubbed Victoria’s Secret & Co., separated off, L Brands plans to change its name to Bath & Body Works Inc., reflecting the banner that will carry the remaining company.  L Brands expects the name change and spinoff — via a distribution of Victoria’s Secret stock to L Brands shareholders — to become effective Aug. 2.  Had a pandemic not occurred last year, Victoria’s Secret and L Brands would most likely have been on a different path right now. Instead, the banner is severing ties with L Brands entirely after a series of transformations at both the banner and its parent. Not least among them was the departure of Les Wexner, who founded and for generations led the company that became L Brands. Acquired in 1982, Victoria’s Secret came to define the lingerie category — until it didn’t, anymore — and was perhaps the most visible among L Brands’ brands.

 

Retail brands including Rebecca Minkoff begin renting clothes without a subscription

In a bid for more customers, some apparel brands are starting to rent their clothes — without a monthly subscription. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff recently became the first to offer a “borrow” option on her website, powered by rental technology platform CaaStle. Customers can wear the item as many times as they like during the rental period and have the option to buy it at an adjusted price. Subscriptions, on the other hand, generally have a set monthly fee for a certain number of items from the retailer. While some brands have subscriptions just for their clothes, companies like Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix offer a multitude of designers. “We envision the ‘borrow’ button being ubiquitous across anyone who sells clothing,” said Christine Hunsicker, founder and CEO of CaaStle, which also provides rental-based subscription services to the likes of Banana Republic, Express and Destination Maternity.

Chico’s is having a moment with Gen Z and millennials

If there’s one thing that current fashion is telling us, it’s to expect the unexpected. Over the last few months, Chico’s has seen a shift in the demographics engaging with its content. Millennials and Gen Zers have been discovering the retailer, once considered the domain of middle-aged women. Younger shoppers are proudly tagging the brand in looks featuring both thrifted vintage Chico’s, as well as new finds. Chico’s is excited by its newfound popularity, of course. Kimberly Grabel, svp of marketing, noted that, thanks to the “quality of the garments…they last a long time, so there’s an after-market for a lot of the products we sell.” As a result, the brand has seen its products passed down across generations, a fact it embraces.

Calypso St. Barth Relaunches as Direct-to-consumer Brand

Calypso St. Barth, a resort lifestyle brand that exited the business in 2017, is about to make a comeback as a direct-to-consumer brand. Founded in 1992, Calypso St. Barth established itself as a year-round destination for luxury resortwear and accessories, but fell on hard times and in 2017 liquidated all of its $15 million in inventory across its 16 store locations before shuttering all remaining doors permanently. This was a month after a group of creditors forced the brand into Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Calypso’s intellectual property assets, such as its business name and web address, were not part of the bankruptcy sale and remained with its owner, Solera Capital, a private equity firm, which bought the brand from Calypso founder Christiane Celle in 2007. At that time the brand was operating about 30 stores and nearing $60 million in sales. Now the brand is being overseen by president M. Oliver Regan and the creative team is the one behind sustainable surf and swimwear lifestyle brand Ansea, a sibling firm.

 

Athletic & Sporting Goods

Eddie Bauer launches gear rental program

Joining others in the outdoors space, Eddie Bauer has launched a rental gear program via Arrive Outdoor. The program ships rental gear and apparel directly to consumers within the contiguous U.S., including to a home, a hotel or a FedEx location. Shoppers reserve the gear online, get it shipped to them and then return it to a FedEx location using a free return label. Eddie Bauer Gear Rental, as the service is called, is an attempt to make outdoor activities more accessible, the company said. In particular, for consumers who live in urban areas or have smaller living spaces, and for those who either can’t afford to buy the gear they need or don’t want to spend the money on premium products for one trip.  For Eddie Bauer, it’s a way to open up its premium outdoor offerings to a larger subset of customers.

 

Outside acquires Pinkbike, CyclingTips, and Trailforks

Outside, the fast-growing media company that is parent to Bicycle Retailer and an array of outdoor sports media titles, is bolstering its presence in cycling by announcing the acquisition of Canada-based Pinkbike; Pinkbike’s mountain bike mapping app, TrailForks; and CyclingTips, which Pinkbike acquired in 2019. In the bike world, Outside already owns the VeloNews, Peloton, Beta, Triathlete media titles, the VeloPress book publishing company, and the Roll Massif event company. In February, the company (then known as Pocket Outdoor Media) acquired Outside magazine and related properties and rebranded as Outside.

LeBron James’s SpringHill Discussing Possible Sale

SpringHill Co., the entertainment company backed by NBA star LeBron James, is talking to Nike Inc. and other potential bidders about a sale, according to a person familiar with the situation.  The discussions are at an early stage, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Previous reports said the company could fetch as much as $750 million in a deal. The move followed interest from suitors, said the person, and it’s part of a broader scramble to acquire content at a time when streaming services face soaring demand for programming.  James, 36, formed SpringHill Co. last year with longtime business partner Maverick Carter after raising $100 million.

 

Bally’s Corp. buys AVP beach volleyball tour

Bally’s Corp. acquired the Association of Volleyball Professionals, the top American beach volleyball tour, and said it plans to broadcast AVP content on the Bally’s Regional Sports Networks.  The casino and sports betting company said in a statement the deal creates “a significant opportunity for the company to gamify and incorporate interactive content into beach volleyball, which, in turn, will drive traffic to Bally’s platforms and promote customer acquisition.”  First formed in 1983, the AVP is the foremost beach volleyball tour in the United States. But it declared bankruptcy in 2010, and held only one event the next year after emerging from bankruptcy.  Sun bought it the tour in 2012, with the hopes of capitalizing on U.S. Olympic success. In 2020, the AVP planned eight events before shutting down in the pandemic and returning with a three-event bubble.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

Pharmavite acquires Uqora, furthering its commitment to the women’s health market

Pharmavite (West Hills, CA), the makers of Nature Made vitamins and supplements, has acquired Uqora (San Diego, CA), a leading urinary tract health brand. The acquisition is part of Pharmavite’s ongoing commitment to provide innovative, science-based solutions to the women’s health market. Urinary tract health is particularly relevant to the women’s health space because women are disproportionately impacted by urinary tract infections (UTIs). While Nature Made does offer products to women such as prenatal vitamins and multivitamins for women at different life stages, the Pharmavite’s commitment to dedicated women’s health solutions began in earnest with the launch of Equelle, a clinically validated dietary supplement for menopause symptom relief.

Hair removal chain European Wax Center files for a $100 million IPO

European Wax Center, a franchised chain of hair removal salons, filed on Tuesday with the SEC to raise up to $100 million. European Wax Center states that it is the largest and fastest-growing franchisor and operator of out-of-home waxing services in the US by number of centers and system-wide sales. The company delivered over 21 million waxing services in 2019 and over 13 million waxing services in 2020 across its network. As of March 27, 2021, the company had centers in 808 locations (803 of which are franchised) across 44 states.

The Nue Co. Raises $25M in Series B Funding, With Plans for Expansion and Beauty

The Nue Co. — the growing wellness brand — has raised $25 million in a series B funding round, led by Pamoja Capital, WWD has learned exclusively. “When you launch a business, initially, raising capital is really hard, but I’ve always had a really clear idea of the types of investors that we wanted to get involved,” said founder Jules Miller, who runs the company with husband and chief operating officer Charlie Gower. As The Nue Co. looks forward — experiencing 500 percent growth in the last 24 months while maintaining an impressive repeat purchase rate of 70 percent — the funds will go toward improving the direct-to-consumer experience with tech and personalization on thenueco.com to further grow consumer subscriptions (largely Millennials).

Discounters & Department Stores

Dollar General plans to hire 50K new employees amid blazing store growth

Dollar General plans to hire up to 50,000 new employees by Labor Day, according to a press release. The company is looking for additional staff for its stores, distribution centers, trucking fleet and store support center. The hiring blitz comes as the dollar store retailer plans 1,050 new stores for fiscal 2021.

In quest for Gen Z attention, Nordstrom takes minority stake in Topshop

Nordstrom has acquired a minority interest in the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands, “setting the stage” for a wider strategic partnership with the brands’ new owner, U.K. apparel e-retailer Asos, the companies said. Nordstrom has been the exclusive U.S. distributor of Topshop and Topman since 2012, per an emailed press release. With the brands’ stand-alone stores closed, many after a 2019 restructuring, Nordstrom will be their only brick-and-mortar presence worldwide and will “have the exclusive multi-channel retail rights for Topshop and Topman in all of North America.” The companies are also in discussions about how to showcase “a handful of Asos brands for Nordstrom customers.” Starting this fall, Asos customers will be able to pick up their orders at Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack stores.

Brookfield Properties opens AR ad inventory across 100-plus shopping malls

Brookfield Properties is partnering with The Aria Network to offer augmented reality (AR) ad inventory throughout its shopping centers nationwide, according to an announcement emailed to Retail Dive’s sister publication Marketing Dive. The deal gives Aria exclusive rights to Brookfield Properties’ virtual air space, which covers more than 150 million square feet in 100-plus locations across 42 states, per the announcement. Aria will use the space to create AR opportunities for brands to advertise their content, which consumers will be able to access via their mobile phones. Through the partnership, Brookfield Properties is hoping to appeal to tenants, brands and guests of its shopping centers by creating “phygital” — a blend of physical and digital — advertising experiences. The move sees in-person shopping integrating AR to better compete as online shopping grows.

Walmart partners with Justice amid back-to-school frenzy

Walmart announced Thursday that it formed a new partnership with tween brand Justice, just as back-to-school shopping season closes in. Through the collaboration, over 140 items from Justice’s assortment — including clothing, accessories, bedding and backpacks — are now available on Walmart.com and in 2,400 Walmart locations nationwide, according to a press release. Shoes and pet accessories will be launched in September, Walmart said. New products from Justice will be released seasonally. Staying true to its reputation of offering affordable prices to consumers, prices for Justice products at Walmart start at $8 for leggings, $13 for tie-dye sweatshirts and joggers, and $18 for oversized hoodies. “It’s the same designs and quality girls know and love, now more accessible than ever,” Denise Incandela, executive vice president of apparel and private brands at Walmart U.S., wrote in the announcement.

 

Emerging Consumer Companies

Popshop Live raises $100 million

Live streaming shopping platform Popshop Live has raised $100 million in a Series A funding round. Led by Benchmark, the funding round also included notable individual investors like Sophia Amoruso, Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner. The funding will be used to support growth, including key hires. Popshop Live joins a growing roster of livestream shopping platforms raising venture capital and acquiring talent. Livestream startups like ShopShops, Whatnot and Talkshoplive have raised millions in funding this year.

Warby Parker to open more stores

As Warby Parker heads toward becoming a public company, the co-founders of the eyewear brand valued at $3 billion are pitching a growth strategy centered on stores. Warby Parker plans to greatly expand its store fleet of about 140, with another three dozen locations opening by the end of this year. Warby Parker’s new slate of stores will have trained eye doctors, just like about 80 of its current locations. That, along with it becoming a covered provider on more vision insurance plans, may help boost its contacts business.

Casper partners with Bed Bath & Beyond on shop-in-shops

Bed Bath & Beyond and Casper Sleep announced a new national partnership that brings Casper’s sleep offerings to Bed Bath & Beyond® customers through the Bed Bath & Beyond website and mobile app, and in select Bed Bath & Beyond stores. As part of the partnership, Casper will open its first, one-of-a-kind branded shop-in shop at Bed Bath & Beyond’s newly designed flagship store in New York City. Casper will create immersive in-store shopping experiences of its award-winning suite of sleep offerings to Bed Bath & Beyond customers, including the Casper Cooling Collection™ – a new line of innovative cooling products developed with the brand’s solutions to minimize nighttime overheating. In addition to the flagship store located at 620 6th Avenue in New York City, Bed Bath & Beyond’s store in the city’s Tribeca neighborhood and in Bridgewater, New Jersey, allow customers to experience Casper in-person.

 

 

Grocery & Restaurants

Morrisons attracts bids from three US private equity groups

Morrisons has become a takeover target for three major American private equity groups amid strong investor appetite for UK assets that could spark a bidding war for Britain’s fourth biggest supermarket chain. In a statement on Saturday, Morrisons said that its board would recommend a sale to investors led by SoftBank-backed Fortress Investment Group that values the company at £6.3 billion ($8.7 billion). The announcement comes just two weeks after the grocery retailer rejected a separate bid from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, which valued it at £5.5 billion ($7.6 billion). The private equity group declined to comment Monday on whether it intends to table a second offer. But the action may soon heat up. Apollo Global Management confirmed that it too is mulling a bid for Morrisons. “There can be no certainty that any offer will be made,” the company said in a statement on Monday, adding that it has not yet approached the Morrisons board.

Krispy Kreme stock rises to $21 a share in IPO

Krispy Kreme Inc. priced its initial public offering at $17 a share, down from an earlier projected range of $21 to $24 a share, as it began trading Thursday on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. It closed Thursday at $21 a share, more than 23% above its midday debut. The Charlotte, N.C.-based doughnut brand said Wednesday it planned to sell 29 million shares, raising about $500 million. The number of shares was increased from earlier stated plans, but the amount raised was short of the more than $600 million projected earlier in the month. Shares were traded under the ticker symbol “DNUT.” Krispy Kreme, which was owned by food- and consumer-goods focused investment firm JAB Holdings, had said in earlier Securities and Exchange Commission filings that it planned to use part of the IPO proceeds to pay down debt and buy back shares. JAB indicated it would hold about 78% of the Krispy Kreme shares after the offering. Krispy Kreme also owns the Insomnia Cookies delivery brand. It is a return to the public markets for the company. Krispy Kreme was a publicly traded company from 2000 to 2016, when JAB took the company private in a $1.35 billion deal.

Home & Road

Titan Home Improvement Announces Acquisition of Home Smart Industries

Titan Home Improvement (“Titan”), based in Coral Gables, Fla., has announced the acquisition of Home Smart Industries (“Home Smart”), a Pennsylvania-based specialty bath and shower remodeling company with a 20-year history of serving homeowners throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. As a certified Kohler dealer, Home Smart is backed by the bathroom industry’s most recognizable brand. The deal was consummated on June 30. Home Smart marks Titan’s fifth acquisition since the latter was founded in 2019, demonstrating the tech-enabled direct-to-consumer home improvement services network’s commitment to acquiring best-in-class operators and enabling them to benefit from the resources provided by the Titan platform. This expansion into several key Northeast markets also grows the Titan footprint from 11 to 16 states. Titan began its portfolio with the acquisition of Florida-based FHIA Remodeling in 2019, followed by the acquisitions of Statewide Remodeling, Mad City Windows and Baths, Paradise Home Improvement, and now Home Smart.

Bassett Furniture Inds. reports 12% increase in quarterly dividend

Bassett Furniture’s board of directors has reported a 12% increase in its quarterly dividend, which brings the amount to 14 cents per share of outstanding common stock. This is payable on Aug. 27 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Aug. 13. In addition, the board has raised the company’s existing share repurchase authorization back to an original limit of $20 million, an increase of $16 million. The company also said that its wholesale orders for the fiscal month of June 2021 rose 25% compared with June 2020 and rose 39% from June 2019. Wholesale shipments rose 55% over June 2020 and rose 21% over June 2019, signaling a return to pre-pandemic performance and growth.

Jewelry & Luxury

Brosway Italia Enlists Former Alex and Ani CEO in U.S. Push

Jewelry brand Brosway Italia has enlisted Giovanni Feroce, Alex and Ani’s first CEO, as a strategic consultant as part of an aggressive push into the United States. The CEO of the U.S. division is Beatrice Beleggia, daughter of founder Lanfranco Beleggia, who founded the brand’s parent company, Bros Manifatture, in 1979. Feroce, who heads GF Strategic Consulting, predicted with his standard bravado that Brosway will be a “top 5 brand in the United States within the next 36 months.

Why Is De Beers Suddenly Buying Rough At Auction?

For the last 20 years, ever since it gave up its worldwide buying offices, De Beers has been far more of a rough seller than a rough buyer. And yet, the diamond giant, in association with sightholder Diacore, recently made its second big fancy colored rough purchase in the course of a year. On July 12, Petra Diamonds sold a 39.34 ct. Type IIb blue diamond recovered at the Cullinan diamond mine in April to a partnership between De Beers and Diacore, for $40.2 million, or $1.02 million a carat. Giving this purchase a certain layer of irony, De Beers sold the Cullinan mine to Petra in 2007.

How Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands cracked 1 million followers on TikTok

Less than a year after launching its TikTok channel last September, Louis Vuitton surpassed 1 million followers at the beginning of July. Its contemporaries Gucci and Dior both hit a million in the last year, as well, thanks to a steady stream of content posted on the brands’ own accounts. These high luxury brands routinely get millions of views and likes on each post. Twelve of the last 15 videos Louis Vuitton posted on TikTok have more than 1 million views. A July 6 video featuring K-pop band BTS has more than 15 million views. The success that big luxury brands are having on TikTok far exceeds that of more affordable brands. Some non-luxury brands like Shein and Fashion Nova have more than a million followers, but Aeropostale, Gap, American Eagle and H&M have 5,000-300,000 followers.

Luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana to launch NFT collection

Luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana will launch a non-fungible token (NFT) collection in partnership with digital marketplace UNXD. The collection is called Genesi and will be promoted at Dolce & Gabbana’s upcoming shows Alta Moda, Alta Sartoria, and Alta Goilleria. Luxury brands have been playing with NFTs for a while. Gucci was one of the first to partner with a platform to develop 3D clothing as NFTs and many others confirmed to Vogue that they were in the process of completing NFT deals. Despite these claims, as yet, few high end fashion names have entered the NFT space. One way to integrate luxury names in the digital world is through gaming partnerships. Digital fashion became popular with the rise of esports, as brands looked for ways to put their product on the video screen. Louis Vuitton released a digital fashion line with League of Legends.

 

Office & Leisure

Vestar Capital Partners to Make Majority Investment in PetHonesty

Vestar Capital Partners, a leading U.S. middle-market private equity firm, recently announced that it has agreed to make a majority investment in PetHonesty, a trusted leader in premium pet health products providing high-quality, innovative pet supplements. PetHonesty co-founders Ben and Camille Arneberg will retain a significant minority stake in PetHonesty, and Arneberg will continue to serve as CEO. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Founded in 2018, PetHonesty is a highly differentiated brand known for its strong focus on product innovation and premium ingredients backed by nutritional science. PetHonesty’s products are formulated to help address a range of common pet ailments, including mobility, digestion and allergies, providing a healthy supplement to traditional pet diets. Based in Austin, Texas, with a second office in New York City, PetHonesty sells its products direct to consumers via its website as well as through partners such as Amazon and Chewy.

$73,499-Per-Guest World Cruise Sells Out In Less Than 3 Hours

Now, that’s a long — and expensive — trip. A 132-night “world cruise” sold out in under three hours, despite pandemic worries that have hobbled the cruise industry and steep prices that start at $73,499 per guest — and range up to $199,999 per person for a master suite. Regent Seven Seas Cruises released the fares for sale at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday. By 11 a.m., all the spots had been snapped up by people eager to spend more than four months on a cruise ship. The strong interest may be a positive sign for the cruise industry as it tries to rebound from the pandemic. The epic round-trip cruise will depart from Miami in January 2024. The company also has round-the-world cruises slated for 2022 and 2023, but it says the tickets for its 2024 trip sold out faster than for any other year.

Technology & Internet

CPSC sues Amazon for selling dangerous products

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission says Amazon is selling hazardous products to its customers. The federal safety watchdog is suing Amazon to stop. Among the products cited in the suit are carbon monoxide detectors that fail to alarm, numerous children’s pajamas that could catch fire and nearly 400,000 hair dryers that could electrocute people if dropped in water. The action is another sign of a far more aggressive stance by the CPSC this year. In the past the agency has often pulled its punches rather than push a court fight with companies it believes sell dangerous products. The products cited are not sold directly by Amazon — they’re sold by third parties using Amazon’s platform. Many of those companies that sold the dangerous products cited by CPSC are foreign, and the CPSC has limited ability to force a recall of their products if they are found to be hazardous. The CPSC said cracking down on Amazon is the only way to keep consumers safe from these products.

 

Apple removes Fakespot from App Store after Amazon complains

Apple has removed Fakespot, a well-known app for detecting fake product reviews, from its App Store after Amazon complained the app provided misleading information and potential security risks. Fakespot’s app works by analyzing the credibility of an Amazon listing’s reviews and gives it a grade of A through F. It then provides shoppers with recommendations for products with high customer satisfaction. Amazon said it reported Fakespot to Apple for investigation after it grew concerned that a redesigned version of the app confused consumers by displaying Amazon’s website in the app with Fakespot code and content overlaid on top of it. Amazon said it doesn’t allow applications to do this. By Friday afternoon, following a review from Apple, the app was no longer available on the App Store.

 

Finance & Economy

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly rise in June

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly increased in June as demand for goods remained strong even as spending is shifting back to services, bolstering expectations that economic growth accelerated in the second quarter.  Retail sales rebounded 0.6% last month, the Commerce Department said. Data for May was revised down to show sales falling 1.7% instead of declining 1.3% as previously reported.  Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales dropping 0.4%. But shortages of motor vehicles because of a global semiconductor supply squeeze, which is undercutting production, are hampering sales of automobiles.  Sales of some household appliances have also been impacted by the chip shortage.

 

Americans’ Debt Soars to $14.64 Trillion in Borrowing Binge

Americans are officially borrowing more than they ever have.  Consumer debt soared to $14.64 trillion in the first three months of the year — even as credit card balances notched their second biggest decline on record. That’s because Americans are still sitting on an-ever increasing mountain of student loans and ultra-low interest rates spurred the housing market to new heights.  The amount of outstanding auto loans also reached a record as consumers shied away from public transit and clamored to purchase personal vehicles, despite soaring used car prices.

Prices keep soaring: Inflation rockets to a 13-year high

Prices keep rising in the United States, putting a squeeze on American consumers’ wallets. That trend got worse in June.  The consumer price index, the nation’s key inflation measure, jumped 0.9% in June, the largest one-month increase in 13 years. Over the last 12 months, prices were up 5.4%, the biggest jump in annual inflation in nearly 13 years.  Much of the rise in prices is due to gasoline prices, which are far above last summer’s levels. The pandemic caused a sharp drop in driving and the price of oil. But travel is back — and so is demand for gas and oil. Gas prices rose 45.1% compared to a year earlier.  Food prices are up 2.4% in the last 12 months, but prices for dining out rose 4.2%. Restaurants are having trouble attracting help as they try to reopen, which has led to higher wages. That increased cost is getting passed onto customers.