The Big Story

Reduce, Reuse, Resale

Daniel Safdeye

The past year has been extremely challenging for certain sectors of the consumer economy, including physical retail and the apparel industry. However, as overall clothing sales struggled last year, the resale market for clothing saw strong growth. Thredup, a resale platform that allows consumers to buy and sell secondhand apparel and footwear, estimated in its 2021 Resale Report that the resale market will grow 69% from 2019 to 2021 and hit $64 Billion by 2024. What is the reason for this growth? Is it because younger consumers can’t afford to keep up with fast- or high-fashion? Or that vintage looks are trending right now? Might it be related to increasing awareness of the negative impact that the production of new clothing has on the environment? It appears the answer may be yes on all counts.

The resale market is where second-hand, thrift, and vintage goods are bought and sold. Resale companies can offer their products exclusively online, as Stockx, an online marketplace that facilitates auctions between buyers and sellers, does. Or, resale businesses can employ a mix of online and brick-and-mortar stores, as Rebag, a platform on which customers can buy and sell luxury designer handbags, does. In addition, the resale market includes independent thrift and vintage stores that have no presence online.

In addition to spanning ecommerce and physical retail channels, there is diversity across resale business models. Depop, an online marketplace platform designed to allow people to sell clothes and other items remotely, works on a peer-to-peer model, where the site works only as a marketplace and authenticator. Another way to sell second-hand clothes is through a consignment model, such as The Real Real, an online marketplace for consigned luxury goods, which specializes in curating and authenticating a full range of previously owned luxury clothing, footwear, and accessories. In this model, the company works as an authenticator, but also sets prices.

Consumers fueling resale’s growth appear to have different but sometimes overlapping motivations for buying secondhand. First, many resale buyers want to buy luxury goods in a more affordable way. Second, some secondhand shoppers want products that no one else has (e.g., a rare 2000s limited edition Louis Vuitton Bag). A third motivation that many resale buyers share is a concern about the environment. According to McKinsey’s 2019 State of Fashion report, environmental sustainability has become a significant priority for young consumers, with nine in ten Gen Z consumers saying that companies have a responsibility to address environmental issues. This is prompting many to buy secondhand items instead of newly produced clothing and footwear.

From companies’ perspectives, certain brands share the same concern about environmental sustainability and are now creating secondhand platforms to give consumers more resale options. But there can also be economic motivations for companies to enter resale. For instance, Gucci has partnered with The Real Real to start an ecommerce site for its own secondhand goods and consignors. This allows Gucci to access new customers that might otherwise not be able to afford the brand. Selling secondhand items that are in good condition also signals high quality and durability to consumers, which can bolster pricing power for the brands’ new items.

It will be interesting to see what comes next for the resale market. From economic to environmental factors, there are a number of trends spurring its growth, and they aren’t short term in nature. While the pandemic changed the way that many consumers shop (at least temporarily), people’s gravitation toward resale appears to be one behavior change that is likely to endure.

Headlines of the Week

Rent the Runway confidentially files for U.S. IPO

Rent the Runway has confidentially filed paperwork with U.S. regulators for an initial public offering (IPO), as it looks to cash in on the booming market for rental clothes and second-hand apparel. The online clothing rental firm said the number of shares on offer and the target price range for its IPO had not yet been determined. Founded in 2009, New York-based Rent the Runway allows customers to rent clothes and shop second-hand merchandise from over 750 designer brands. It raised funds last year at a valuation of $750 million, below its previous valuation of $1 billion, Bloomberg News reported in June. Demand for second-hand clothes has jumped in recent months as customers become increasingly conscious about their carbon footprint, boosting revenues at subscription-based styling service Stitch Fix and online resale shop ThredUp. Denim maker Levi Strauss has also entered the used clothing market, while Etsy last month announced the acquisition of Gen Z-focused fashion resale firm Depop for $1.63 billion.


Herman Miller Completes $1.8 billion acquisition of Knoll, unveils new company name

When thinking of what to call the firm once Herman Miller Inc. combined with longtime competitor Knoll Inc., company leaders decided to keep it simple. Tuesday was the first day for newly named MillerKnoll, after Herman Miller on Monday completed its $1.8 billion acquisition of Knoll, the storied Montgomery County furniture and textile designer and manufacturer. Herman Miller and Knoll, along with their legacy brands, will continue as distinct brands as part of MillerKnoll.



Apparel & Footwear

Crocs reports record revenue, raises full-year guidance amid strong demand

Crocs reported second-quarter earnings that beat on the top and bottom-line Thursday, raising its full-year revenue guidance amid strong global demand. During the second quarter, Croc’s net income grew to $319.0 million, or $4.93 per share, compared to $56.6 million, or 83 cents per share, from a year earlier. Excluding one-time adjustments, the company earned $2.23 a share, beating the $1.60 that analysts surveyed were anticipating. Crocs’ direct-to-consumer sales grew 78.6% compared to last year, and 86.4% compared to 2019, representing 52% of second-quarter revenues. The shoemaker’s sales boomed during the pandemic as consumers sought more comfortable footwear. The company had also said it plans to experiment with new designs that build on its clogs and release more sandals. Croc’s sandals sales were up 17% in the first quarter.

A More Demure Victoria’s Secret Hitting Wall Street

Martin Waters is bringing Victoria’s Secret to the big dance on Wall Street with an especially tricky two-step. The chief executive officer reintroduced the brand to investors and analysts with a presentation on Monday, setting up the retailer’s Aug. 3 spin off, when Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works will officially be established as independent companies, which will effectively break up what had been L Brands Inc. CEOs pitching their companies to investors usually lead with growth — and Waters certainly pointed to all kinds of opportunities to expand both mind share and market share — but he started with something of a corporate mea culpa, addressing head-on the formerly sex-obsessed brand’s missteps. He made his debut with an admission: “We got it wrong. We lost relevance with the modern woman,” Waters said. “And she told us very clearly to change our focus from how people look to how people feel, from being about what he wants to being about what she wants and to support her in her narrative, in whatever way that she chooses.”

Looking to Empower Women in Footwear, Kassia Davis Buys PF Flyers From New Balance, Her Family Business

Kassia Davis, the daughter of New Balance chairman and majority owner Jim Davis, has acquired heritage brand PF Flyers from New Balance. The younger Davis will serve as executive chairwoman, and is actively seeking a CEO to lead the brand. New Balance previously owned and manufactured PF Flyers, which was founded in 1937. The brand will relaunch in September with a collection of classic styles including the “Center Hi” for $68, the “Center Lo” for $58, and the “Sandlot” for $78. PF Flyers will be operated by Davis’ holding company Kassia Designs, LLC. Davis did not disclose any figures regarding the valuation for PF Flyers, but said she is aiming to create a billion-dollar brand. Davis left New Balance in 2019 after nearly 10 years at the company. In May of 2020, she founded KADA, a sustainable apparel brand for women. Though she’s no longer working at New Balance, her acquisition of PF Flyers means the classic brand will stay within the Davis family.

Activist Legion Partners Loses Bid to Revamp Genesco Board

The activist investor seeking to revamp the board of Genesco Inc. failed in its efforts as all nine directors from the company’s slate were elected. Based on a preliminary count at the annual general meeting, investors voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of Genesco’s candidates, the company said Tuesday in a statement. The results “reflect the support we have received from shareholders in response to the decisive actions Genesco has taken to grow and strengthen our business and bring on leaders who can effectively oversee and execute on our strategy,” Matthew Diamond, the company’s lead independent director, said in the statement. Legion Partners Asset Management had nominated four directors to the board of Genesco, the owner of footwear retailers such as Journeys and Johnston & Murphy. The activist investor had argued the company was in need of operational improvements and a more independent board after years of underperformance.

Adaptive fashion is catching on

In the last few years, fashion has made some small but crucial strides in inclusivity. It’s not quite so unusual as it was a decade ago to see diverse skin tones on the runway or mainstream brands selling an extended size range. Now, the industry is starting to focus on adaptive fashion, or fashion designed for people with disabilities. In the last three months, brands and retailers from Erdem to JCPenney have rolled out new collections and lines designed with disabled people in mind. A billion people globally, 15% of the population, have some sort of disability. Alex Waldman, creative director at Universal Standard, said all that’s needed is the forethought to predict what small changes can make clothes more accessible. In March, Waldman worked with Erdem designer Erdem Moralıoğlu on a denim collection, infusing it with some accessibility-focused concepts like closures that can be fastened with one hand.


Athletic & Sporting Goods

Centre Partners’ MacNeill Pride Group Acquires Klymit

MacNeill Pride Group, a global designer and manufacturer of outdoor products and sporting goods, has acquired Klymit, an outdoor gear designer. MPG is a portfolio company of Centre Partners.  The deal follows MPG’s recent acquisitions of GCI Outdoor, a designer of outdoor recreation equipment, including portable camping chairs, camp kitchens, waterside chairs and recliners and other outdoor gear, and Orca, a supplier of coolers, drinkware and other outdoor accessories.

CityRow raises $12M for connected rowing machines and studios

Founded in 2014 as an in-person rowing studio, CityRow was relatively early to adopt the at-home connected model. The New York-based company launched a digital platform in 2018, two years before the pandemic completely transformed the way many of us work out. Of course, things have been trending that way a while, but 2020 accelerated home fitness in ways few thought possible.  CityRow says it experienced a 375% revenue growth last year, largely on the strength of rowing machine sales and platform subscriptions. Today, it’s announcing that it has raised a $12 million Series A, led by JW Asset Management, with help from Sol Global and K2. The company says it has a number of plans for the money, but first and foremost is the addition of livestreaming classes to its current on-demand content selection.

Nike could run out of sneakers made in Vietnam due to COVID-19 spike

Nike could run out of sneakers made in Vietnam due to a halt in production at multiple suppliers as the coronavirus pandemic worsens globally, according to a new analysis from Panjiva, the supply chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.  The report comes just after Nike’s suppliers in Vietnam, Chang Shin Vietnam Co. and Pou Chen Corp., recently stopped production due to rapidly growing COVID-19 infections in the region.  Nike said that contract factories in Vietnam make up roughly 50% of total Nike branded footwear in fiscal 2020.  Panjiva data shows that products made in Vietnam account for 49% of U.S. seaborne imports linked to Nike and its products in the second quarter of 2021. Nike imports from Vietnam are led by footwear, which makes up 82% of shipments in the 12 months to June 30.

Cosmetics & Pharmacy

Bluemercury names Maly Bernstein new CEO

With the departure of Bluemercury co-founder Marla Beck, Macy’s has named a new CEO to lead the beauty business. Maly Bernstein will take over as CEO effective Sept. 13, according to a company press release. Bernstein will oversee the growth and strategy of Bluemercury, including digital and stores. She will report to the CEO of Bloomingdale’s, Tony Spring. Bernstein joins Bluemercury from CVS Health, where she was vice president of e-commerce. She also served as vice president of beauty and personal care at CVS, and prior to that, worked in McKinsey & Co’s retail and consumer practice.

Ieva Group takes over Boudoir du Regard

Ieva Group, one of the three companies of the Franco-Lebanese entrepreneur Jean-Michel Karam, has just bought the Boudoir du Regard from its founders, for an undisclosed amount. With its turnover of 5 million euros and its 20 stores, the beauty brand specializing in eyebrow restructuring, micropigmentation eyelash extensions and others, is considered the second French player in this highly fragmented market. However, it did not withstand the health crisis and its leader, Florence Temim, had recently requested the opening of judicial reorganization proceedings with the commercial court of Nanterre. The conciliation was however quickly settled, while already, at the end of 2020, Jean-Michel Karam had drafted a letter of intent to purchase and launched a series of audits.


Discounters & Department Stores

J.C. Penney launches beauty concept featuring Thirteen Lune

Joining other retailers in curating beauty selections, J.C. Penney announced J.C. Penney Beauty, an in-store and online beauty hub that will feature a mix of mass, masstige and prestige products. To kick off the venture, the retailer is featuring Thirteen Lune as J.C. Penney Beauty’s flagship brand, according to company information emailed to Retail Dive. J.C. Penney Beauty will launch at select store locations and on its website in October, with a nationwide store rollout beginning in fall 2022 and an expansion continuing through 2023. It will feature more than 30 beauty brands created by founders of color and allies across skincare, hair and other product categories. J.C. Penney Beauty will integrate with its salon business, per the announcement.

‘There’s nothing like it out there’: Dollar General’s Popshelf aims to create and conquer a new market

Last year was not a banner one for launching new retail concepts. Many in the industry put their efforts into building out their e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities as the pandemic raged across the country. Dollar General was among the small, hardy group that launched new store concepts in 2020. Its first store under the Popshelf banner opened in Tennessee last October and didn’t get many visits from media or financial analysts. The first analyst who did take a look at the store in person called it the best new concept he has seen in nearly two decades.

Macy’s debuts private label apparel brand, And Now This

In the middle of revamping its merchandise strategy, Macy’s last week debuted a new private label apparel brand, And Now This. The brand is touted as offering “trend-forward pieces at affordable price points.” And Now This operates in the ready-to-wear and men’s categories, for “the fashion-forward, contemporary dresser,” the department store said in a press release. Products include “effortlessly wearable elevated basics and sophisticated pieces” and are aimed at consumers’ everyday lives. The private label is available on Macy’s e-commerce site and also in select stores, with launch parties in New York City, Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in late July.



Emerging Consumer Companies

Little Spoon raises $44 million

Little Spoon, the New York-based baby food company, announced a $44 million round of Series B funding led by Valor Equity Partners, with participation from Kairos HQ. The new financing gives Little Spoon $73 million in total funding since it was founded in 2017. The subscription-based service delivers meals from its Babyblends line of organic purees, and Plates, a healthy toddler and kid’s meals line. Babyblends costs less than $3 per meal, while Plates is less than $5 per meal. It also provides vitamins and natural remedies under its Booster line.

Pangaea, premium personal care brand, raises $68 million

Pangaea, a Los Angeles-based company creating premium men’s personal care brands, including skincare and grooming brands Lumin and Meridian, raised $53 million from global investment group Eurazeo. The investment is part of a larger $68 million round that includes $15 million in Series B funding from a group of backers including Unilever Ventures and GPO Fund and existing investors Base10 Partners and Gradient Ventures. This brings the company’s total funds raised to $87 million since the company was founded in 2018. Though headquartered in Los Angeles, the company is remote, with more than 300 employees across its major hubs in LA, Lagos, Nigeria, Singapore and Europe. The company is cash flow positive, and the new funding will enable Pangaea to round out leadership roles and invest in additional product categories, new brands and potentially licensing its proprietary software.


Obé Fitness, digital fitness brand, raises $15 million

Obé Fitness, the New York-based online workout platform, raised $15 million. Investors include Gap-owned Athleta, WW International (Weight Watchers), Samsung Electronic Co.’s Samsung Next, Cavu Venture Partners, Wheelhouse Entertainment, and Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment. The $15 million fundraising round, values for the five-year-old company are approximately $190 million. Obé – which stands for Our Body Electric – is a subscription-based online streaming workout platform that features 22 live daily fitness classes and more than 6,000 on-demand classes. Obé (pronounced “obey”) offers workouts for all fitness levels with a wide variety of options, including barre, strength, cardio, Pilates, yoga, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and sculpting, among others.


Grocery & Restaurants

Just Salad wins first-ever restaurant investment from circular economy specialist Closed Loop Partners

Just Salad said Tuesday it has completed the largest capital raise in the company’s 15-year history including an investment from Closed Loop Partners and returning investor Panda Restaurant Group. The amount of the investment was not disclosed. But for Closed Loop Partners, it marks the first investment in a restaurant. The New York-based investment firm is known for its support of businesses that are working to bring to scale “closed-loop” or zero-waste systems. Just Salad has been a leader in developing a reusable bowl program that fosters loyalty and reduces reliance on single-use plastic packaging. The 47-unit chain is also one of the first to show the carbon impact of dishes on its menu to encourage sustainable eating on the go. Specifically, the investment will go towards increasing the geographic footprint of Just Salad, investing in technology and continuing the investment in sustainability, the company said. The New York City-based chain plans to double its size with the investment and expand to new markets. Currently Just Salad operates in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Dubai.


Paine Schwartz Partners buys cold-pressed juice brand Suja Life

Private equity firm Paine Schwartz Partners has acquired Californian cold-pressed, organic beverage brand Suja Life from Goldman Sachs Asset Management and co-investors. The deal – which was made for an undisclosed sum – comes after a record-breaking year for Suja Life in both revenue and profit and its new ownership will reportedly enable the brand’s next phase of growth. Shortly after launching in 2012, Suja claims it became the nation’s leading organic, cold-pressed juice brand. Made using high pressure processing, the brand’s portfolio includes cold pressed juices, functional shots and sparkling juices, which are available at major grocery and natural food stores nationwide.


Clearlake Capital to acquire BakeMark

Private equity firm Clearlake Capital Group, LP has signed an agreement to acquire BakeMark USA, LLC from Pamplona Capital Management. Based in Pico Rivera, Calif., BakeMark provides distribution services through a network of 29 distribution centers and 5 manufacturing facilities across the United States and Canada. BakeMark offers a diversified line of products, ingredients and supplies to the food industry under brands that include Westco, Multifoods, Trigal Dorado, Best Brands, BakeQwik, BakeSense, C’est Vivant and Sprinkelina. BakeMark has approximately 1,000 employees across North America. For BakeMark, the transaction would mark the second time it has changed hands in four years. In 2017, Pamplona Capital Management acquired BakeMark from CSM Bakery Solutions.

Home & Road

Hellman & Friedman Completes Tender Offer for Outstanding Shares of At Home

Funds affiliated with Hellman & Friedman (“H&F”), a premier global private equity firm, today announced that Ambience Merger Sub Inc. (the “Purchaser”), an entity affiliated with H&F, has successfully completed its cash tender offer to purchase all of the outstanding shares of common stock of At Home Group Inc. (“At Home”) (NYSE: Home). The tender offer expired at 5:00 p.m. (New York City time) on July 22, 2021. As of the final expiration of the tender offer, 39,002,798 shares had been validly tendered and not validly withdrawn from the tender offer, representing approximately 59.3% of the aggregate voting power of At Home’s outstanding shares of common stock. All such shares have been accepted for payment in accordance with the terms of the tender offer, and the Purchaser expects to promptly pay for such shares.

Furniture store retail slides as overall picture stabilizes

Furniture store sales continued to slump slightly in June according to the Department of Commerce’s advance monthly report on retail sales. However, the overall retail picture looks to be stabilizing somewhat. Advanced estimates released July 16 show furniture and home furnishings store sales at $11.83 billion for the month, down 3.6% when compared with May’s revised figure of $12.27 billion. That decline was the sharpest among categories measured by the DOC. Still, July’s sales were leaps and bounds ahead of where they were a year ago, as they rose 17.1% over the $10.1 billion in sales for June 2020.

Sleep Number sales up 70% in Q2

Reporting on its second quarter ended July 3, Sleep Number Corp. showed a net sales increase of 70% over the 2020 quarter and an increase of 36% of the same period in 2019. The company also reported a strong increase in demand. “Our differentiated sleep solutions have driven 18% average demand growth over the past 12 quarters including further acceleration in the second quarter,” said Shelly Ibach, president and CEO. “Robust consumer demand for Sleep Number 360 smart beds exceeded our expectations, while near-term supply constraints limited delivered net sales in June and July.”

Jewelry & Luxury

Forevermark, De Beers Retail Chain Now Under One CEO

Céline Assimon, who currently heads De Beers’ retail chain, De Beers Jewelers, will also now oversee the company’s Forevermark brand. Assimon replaces Nancy Liu, who was appointed Forevermark CEO in 2019. Liu, a 13-year De Beers veteran, will remain with the company until Sept. 21. In May, De Beers announced that Forevermark would be rebranded as De Beers Forevermark, and that it was bringing both brands into the same division. According to a company statement, this move was the latest evolution in a “one De Beers” strategy.

LVMH to acquire majority stake in Off-White

LVMH and Virgil Abloh on Tuesday announced that the luxury conglomerate will acquire a majority stake in Off-White LLC, the trademark owner of Off-White, according to a company press release. LVMH will own a 60% interest in the trademark, while Abloh, who founded Off-White in 2013, will retain a 40% interest and continue on as creative director of the brand. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close within 60 days. Abloh has been the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection since 2018 and will also continue in that role.


Amazon Just Added 9 New Brands to Its Luxury Stores

Amazon continues its strides toward fashion victory with the announcement that its Luxury Stores are adding even more emerging and established brands to the roster this week. The campaign accompanying the news is attention-worthy, too, starring Paloma Elsesser, Georgia May Jagger, and Luka Sabbat, and with Tyler Mitchell shooting and directing. The first-name-only talent trio is rounded out by new faces Dylan Christensen and Tiffany Guo, as well as Black Sand Surf, a California-based surf and arts collective that focuses on promoting messages of social justice. The resulting images are on-par with the glossiest of fashion editorials.


Office & Leisure

Toy Association Lobbies U.S. Government to Prioritize Shipping Crisis

The Toy Association continues to urge the U.S. government to take swift action in response to the ongoing shipping crisis. In letters submitted to the House Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard, Maritime and Transportation and additional members of Congress in July, The Toy Association underscored the significant negative impacts that shipping delays, increased costs and container shortages have caused its members and the greater toy community. The Toy Association outlined how — with 85 percent of toys sold in the U.S. being manufactured overseas — these disruptions are jeopardizing the U.S. toy industry’s business operations and in turn the industry’s positive U.S. economic impact of $97.2 billion annually, $13.1 billion in state and federal tax revenue generated each year and 623,067 U.S. jobs. “With our members, many of whom are small businesses, reporting a 500 percent increase on containers, along with increased trucking and air freight rates and rail surcharges, absorbing these costs has become extremely challenging,” said Leigh Moyers, director of federal government affairs at The Toy Association.

Netflix to dive into video games with ad-free mobile gaming at no extra cost

Netflix confirmed Tuesday that it’ll expand into video games, starting with ad-free games for mobile devices like phones and tablets available on its existing service at no added cost to subscribers. In its biggest expansion into a new kind of entertainment since it started streaming in 2007 and released its first original show in 2012, Netflix sketched out broad ambitions for gaming, indicating it ultimately envisions pursuing console games for Xbox and PlayStation too.  Netflix was clear about one thing its gaming won’t be, at least not at first: a new way to charge you money.  “We’re a one-product company,” co-CEO Reed Hastings said Tuesday during a discussion of the company’s second-quarter earnings. That product, he noted, is an all-in-one subscription that will include games.  The move into gaming widens Netflix from its bedrock business of TV shows and movies as the world’s biggest subscription video service. The global market for video games was estimated to be worth nearly $178 billion last year and is expected to eclipse $200 billion in 2023.

The inside story of how a ‘band of misfits’ saved Lego

When executives at toymaker Lego first learned that adults were buying large quantities of their interlocking plastic bricks and getting together to build Lego creations of their own, “they thought it was very strange,” says Paal Smith-Meyer. “Before the late 1990s, the company didn’t think their adult fans had value,” says Smith-Meyer, who held a variety of senior posts at Lego from 2000 to 2014. “Leadership actually thought [adults] were detracting from the brand.” Thanks to a handful of employees who worked to change attitudes inside the company, Lego is no longer embarrassed by its adult fans. Gone are the days when labels on Lego boxes stated that the contents were appropriate only for boys ages 7 to 12. The bygone slogans “Just Imagine…” and “Play On” have been eclipsed by Lego’s newest marketing motto: “Adults Welcome.” Even superstar athletes and entertainers like Ed Sheeran, Dwight Howard, and David Beckham boast openly about their affinity for Lego building sets.

Technology & Internet

Ecommerce tech startup Fabric raises $100 million

Fabric, a startup specializing in e-commerce platform development, raised $100 million in new funding as the pandemic puts a renewed focus on companies’ digital capabilities. The round was led by Stripes, a New York-based private equity firm, and included new investors B Capital Group and Greycroft. Seattle-based Fabric is now valued at $850 million, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The startup allows companies to customize their websites with digital storefronts and back-end technology to facilitate online transactions. CEO Faisal Masud said the coronavirus pandemic, which drove a surge in ecommerce demand, crystallized the importance of having robust digital technology, but many companies don’t have sufficient resources or engineering talent to improve their websites.


Amazon’s battle against product recalls is on

A U.S. safety regulator’s decision last week to sue Inc. could bring clarity to a question that has long befuddled courts and state legislatures nationwide: Who is responsible when a product bought from the world’s largest online retailer hurts or kills someone? In recent years, dozens of people who say they were harmed by products, such as exploding hoverboards, defective batteries or faulty dog collars, have sued Amazon for compensation. The company argues it’s not liable, pointing instead to the third-party sellers that technically sold the items and are sometimes based overseas beyond the reach of U.S. jurisprudence. Several courts have agreed with Amazon, citing product liability laws that never contemplated online shopping or digital middlemen. But last week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission sued Amazon, seeking to compel the company to participate in formal recalls of dozens of defective products sold by merchants on its sprawling marketplace. The regulator is also seeking what would be a precedent-setting ruling that Amazon is a distributor of consumer products under federal law, a designation that would subject the company to future mandatory recalls on behalf of its sellers. Declaring Amazon a distributor would upend a commonplace tech industry defense deployed by companies from Facebook to Google, which claim they aren’t responsible for what’s said, posted or sold on their platforms.


Finance & Economy

U.S. jobless claims show surprise gain, well above expectations

Weekly jobless claims unexpectedly moved higher last week despite hopes that the U.S. labor market is poised for a strong recovery heading into the fall.  The total was the highest weekly count since May 15 and comes amid expectations that the jobs picture will improve markedly as enhanced unemployment benefits end and companies get more aggressive about filling vacant positions.   On the positive side, continuing claims, which run a week behind the headline number, declined by 126,000 to 3.24 million, a fresh pandemic low. The total was last higher on March 14, 2020, just after the Covid-19 pandemic declaration and as governments across the U.S. ordered businesses to close, sending more than 22 million to the unemployment line.

It’s official: The Covid recession lasted just two months, the shortest in U.S. history

The Covid-19 recession is in the books as one of the deepest — but also the shortest — in U.S. history, the official documenter of economic cycles said.  According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the contraction lasted just two months, from February 2020 to the following April.  Though the drop featured a staggering 31.4% GDP plunge in the second quarter of the pandemic-scarred year, it also saw a massive snapback the following period, with previously unheard of policy stimulus boosting output by 33.4%.  The pandemic recession was unique in a number of ways, not least how fast the contraction happened and how ferocious the recovery was.  Conventionally, a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, which this recession met after the first quarter in 2020 fell 5%. But the NBER noted that in normal times, a recession lasts “more than a few months.”

Home prices hit another record high in June

Home sales inched slightly higher in June as the inventory of available homes to buy increased, but home prices still remained on a tear, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors.  Consistently low inventory has pushed prices higher over the past year. The median price for an existing home in June hit an all-time high of $363,300, up 23% over last year. That marks 112 straight months of year-over-year gains.  The sales of existing homes — which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — rose 1.4% from May to June, breaking four consecutive months of declines. Home sales were up 23% from a year ago — although that comparison is skewed because some regions of the US were still shut down in June of last year due to the pandemic.

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