For Hallmark Channel viewers, Christmas in July is a thing. And at least some of us are beginning to think that Christmas shopping in July should be a thing too. Import logistics issues have dogged the U.S. for months now. It started with shipping capacity shortages for goods sourced from Asia, which has resulted in container freight costs that have doubled, tripled or more versus last year – if importers can even find available containers. Coupled with supplier delays in Asia and around the world due to the lingering impacts of COVID-19, sellers have struggled to procure enough product to satisfy U.S. consumers’ demand, while attempting to pass along cost increases. Some have even delayed shipments until later in the year under the expectation that container costs will temper, but that has not yet been the case.
On the domestic side, during its second quarter earnings call last week, UPS issued a warning about shipping capacity during the peak 2021 holiday season. CEO Carol Tomé predicts that package delivery demand during the holiday season may exceed capacity by 5 million pieces per day, which is down from an estimated daily capacity shortage of 7 million pieces in holiday 2020. UPS and FedEx have already announced surcharge increases will be in effect even before peak, despite adding capacity now. However, their actions don’t appear to be enough to make sure the items you order in November and December are under the tree by Christmas morning.
Somewhat nascent but building momentum as an alternative to Fedex and UPS is Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) solution. The MCF program is a delivery service for those companies not currently selling via Amazon. Industry observers have long predicted Amazon might add third party volume to its in-house warehousing and shipment network. Amazon now has more than 110 fulfillment centers in 24 states throughout the U.S., allowing it to shorten its Prime loyalty program delivery guarantee from two days to one day. However, in order to utilize the service, sellers must store product at an Amazon warehouse, and, of course, its sales and customer data become available to Amazon as a result.
Unlike the 2020 holiday season when UPS and FedEx instituted both peak surcharges and volume limitations with almost no warning, retailers and consumers alike now have a bit more time to plan for holiday 2021. We know of one seller that started discussions and negotiations with Fedex about holiday 2021 shipments back in in January. Assuming the U.S. does not experience another wave of retail store shutdowns as a result of a new COVID-19 surge, we consumers should also have more options on where to buy gifts this holiday season. But consumers should get ready soon for promotions encouraging early holiday buying, driven to a large degree by concern around potential supply chain and shipping disruptions. All considered, maybe Christmas in July isn’t too early.
Headlines of the Week
The U.S. arm of apparel maker and brand owner Global Brands Group filed for Chapter 11 with plans to sell off key assets. The company has a $17.3 million stalking horse bid for its Aquatalia brand. GBG USA is also looking to sell “a substantial portion of its remaining assets” in bankruptcy, including Ely & Walker, Airband, MagnaReady, Yarrow, B New York and Juniper unltd. The bankruptcy comes after the company sold off assets and inventory related to the Frye and Spyder brands. The brands’ owner, Authentic Brands, recently reassigned those licenses to new operating partners amid Global Brands’ financial turmoil. As GBG USA’s own chief financial officer put it, the company entered bankruptcy “running on fumes” after COVID-19 hit apparel sales around the world. The company’s parent was once part of the Li & Fung supply chain conglomerate until it was spun off into its own company in 2014 that, until recently, traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange. It both owns its own brands, and makes and sources products under licenses for other brand owners. Among the brands GBG USA owns are those the company is trying to sell in bankruptcy, while it licenses the All Saints, Le Tigre, Capezio and Saga brands. The company also makes private label products, including a footwear brand for Macy’s.
Amazon shares fell more than 7% in extended trading on Thursday after the company reported its first revenue miss in three years and gave weak third-quarter guidance. Amazon’s revenue grew by 27% year over year to $113.08 billion. That’s a significant slowdown from the second quarter of 2020, when sales skyrocketed 41% year over year. On a call with reporters, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky blamed tough year-over-year comparisons to its business during Covid-19 lockdowns. In mid-May of last year, Amazon saw growth rates jump to between 35% to 45%, he said. “We’re starting to lap that and that’s why you see some of the growth rate coming down,” Olsavsky said, adding that Amazon expects to see slower growth continue for the next few quarters. Olsavsky said in a call with investors that Amazon is in the midst of a multiyear investment cycle, which includes spending heavily to increase warehouse capacity across the country.
Apparel & Footwear
ThredUp has agreed to acquire Bulgaria-based secondhand apparel company Remix Global AD for $28.5 million, plus $6.5 million in restricted stock units that will vest over four years, the company said Monday. Like ThredUp, Remix runs a consumer-facing site and has also developed efficient systems, which ThredUp in a press release compared to its own operating platform. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter, subject to customary conditions. Remix will operate as an independent business unit under the ThredUp umbrella, led by Remix CEO Lyubomir Klenov, who will also lead ThredUp’s European expansion, according to the release. Amazon isn’t the only retailer with a lucrative side gig. ThredUp is making a name for itself not just as a used clothing e-retailer but also as a logistical services provider for other retailers hoping to take part in the expanding resale market. As ThredUp noted in its release Monday, its tie-up with Remix comes after it clinched deals to provide Vera Bradley, Farfetch, LG, and Madewell with its resale service logistics.
Gap’s Athleta announced Wednesday it is launching AthletaWell, a digital platform that will offer workout content and supervised spaces for women to chat about topics ranging from mental health to body positivity. The service, which will be a benefit of its loyalty program, allows Athleta to tap the power of the endorsement deals it has made with marquee names like Olympic athletes Simone Biles and Allyson Felix, while building a deeper relationship with its customers. Both women will appear on AthletaWell at some point, the company said. AthletaWell’s debut comes as the athleisure market is seeing explosive growth. With consumers increasingly embracing comfort, the category swelled to account for 33% of apparel sales last year, according to Maria Rugolo, an analyst at market researcher NPD Group. In 2019, activewear sales made up 27% of total apparel sales, NPD said. The growth has drawn new players, making it more competitive than ever. In addition to behemoths like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, smaller labels such as Vuori, Outdoor Voices, Alo Yoga and Nobull have joined the fray.
Tapestry is the latest retailer to add incentives to attract and retain employees amid the ongoing labor crunch. The parent company of Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, Tapestry said that it will raise wages for all its U.S. employees to at least $15 an hour, beginning September 5. In addition, global store employees and managers will receive a one-time appreciation bonus of $500 and $1,000, respectively. Employees who don’t participate in Tapestry’s annual incentive plan and were employed as of Marcy 31, 2021, are eligible to receive the bonus. Tapestry also made new environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments, including tying 10% of global leadership’s annual incentive compensation to equity, inclusion and diversity goals beginning in fiscal 2022. The company will also give all employees one paid volunteer day per year in order to surpass its goal of 100,000 volunteer service hours by 2025. In addition, Tapestry pledged to buy 100% renewable electricity in its stores, offices and fulfillment centers by 2025.
A majority stake in Earth Origins, which owns the trademark for Earth Shoes, a staple of the ’70s, has been purchased by Windsong Global LLC and Hilco Brands. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Earth, which has a 50-year-plus history of manufacturing comfort footwear, is the latest investment made by Windsong’s current platform. In October 2020, the brand purchased the Swims brand and it also owns Daytona Apparel Group, a sock, underwear and loungewear brand; Lilah B, a beauty brand; the Robeez children’s brand, and others in the health and wellness sector. It is also rumored to be the stalking horse for the Aquatalia footwear brand owned by the struggling Global Brands Group. Windsong’s investment in Earth Origins marks the end of the company’s long history of family ownership. The business started when Michel Meynard emigrated from France to the U.S. in 1965 and began selling machinery to shoe factories in New England. In 2002, the company acquired the trademark for Earth footwear and renamed the company Earth Brands.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Golf simulator brand Full Swing has been acquired by the investment company Bruin Capital. Former majority owner North Castle Partners will remain a minority shareholder. The company was sold for $160 million, according to Sportico. Full Swing uses a patented dual-tracking technology to provide insight into a golfer’s swing. A camera above the hitting area locates the ball, then captures club speed, path, face angle and ball spin. The simulator uses either infrared lightwaves or line scan technology to measure the ball’s speed, launch angle and direction as it passes through the infrared light. The company plans to release its new Full Swing KIT later this year; it was designed in collaboration with Tiger Woods. The new simulator will feature a 1080p camera to capture swing video, as well as machine-learning-enhanced radar to give golfers instantaneous feedback, either at home or on the course.
Core, a mental wellness company that developed an app to train proper meditation techniques, has been purchased by the recovery brand Hyperice. Core’s main product, the Core Trainer, is a sensor-enabled device that users hold while meditating, giving them data on their heart-rate variability and guiding them through breathing techniques using vibrations and lights. The data gathered by Core Trainer is then logged so users can compare performance to a baseline. Hyperice—which has recently partnered with teams and leagues such as the Los Angeles Lakers, the PGA Tour, and U.S. Soccer—is entering the mental wellness space at a critical time, with superstars like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles pulling out of competitions while citing mental health concerns.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Sephora has signed an agreement with Palamon Capital Partners and other shareholders to acquire Feelunique, a major online prestige beauty retailer in the United Kingdom. In the wake of a recent partnership with Germany’s Zalando, Sephora continues to strengthen its online business and aims further expansion on the British market. The acquisition, which is subject to clearance by anti-trust authorities, is expected to be closed during the 2nd semester of 2021, according to Sephora. The amount of the transaction has not been disclosed, however British media have mentioned a total amount of 132 million pounds sterling (about 154 million euros).
MyGlamm, a direct-to-consumer beauty brand in India that sells most of its products through its own website, app and retail touch points, said it has raised $71.3 million in a financing round as the Mumbai-headquartered firm looks to scale its business across the South Asian market. The startup had raised $23.5 million in its four-times subscribed Series C financing round from Amazon, Ascent Capital and Wipro in March this year. On Monday, it said it has added an additional $47.8 million as part of the round — which is now closed.
Discounters & Department Stores
UK department store Selfridges has been put up for sale by its owners, the Weston family, giving the luxury retail space a £4 billion price tag. The wealthy Canadian family stated last month that it was considering a sale after having been approached by a potential buyer, with the Westons now having appointed advisors from Credit Suisse to oversee an auction. The family is reportedly sending out information memorandums to an elite group of buyers in the next few weeks, with the assets including Selfridges’ four UK stores in London, Manchester and Birmingham, as well as Brand Thomas in Ireland and De Bijenforf in the Netherlands.
As consumers continue to shop across online and physical stores, Walmart will soon offer the pickup and delivery capabilities it has developed to thousands of small and mid-sized businesses. To offer the service bundle, the retailer entered a strategic partnership with Adobe, according to Walmart’s press release Wednesday. Through Adobe Commerce, retailers and brands can use Walmart’s cloud-based services to access Walmart Marketplace (where 2-day shipping is available), online and in-store fulfillment as well as pickup capabilities.
Dollar General is bringing its Popshelf concept to the discounter’s larger-format DG Market stores with two shop-in-shops added this month, according to a press release. The stores, both in Tennessee, are the first to incorporate Popshelf into other Dollar General formats. It comes after Dollar General launched the concept, which has higher prices and a higher-income target customer, last year. The company plans to open around 25 combination stores in 2021. That is on top of the 50 stand-alone Popshelf stores Dollar General plans to open this year.
Walmart has announced a new partnership with tween clothing brand Justice, bringing its line of trendy designs to Walmart.com and in 2,400 Walmart stores. Justice closed its brick-and-mortar stores last year, but now with the brand’s return inside thousands of the nation’s top retailer locations, parents and kids can plan a back-to-school wardrobe. According to a company release, the new Justice collection will include more than 140 items across tween fashion, jewelry and accessories, bedding and bath, backpacks, stationery, skateboards and even tech accessories.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Queenly, a resale marketplace for formalwear, announced that it has grown its seed round to $6.3 million in a financing round led by Andreessen Horowitz. The funding brings Queenly’s total capital raised to date at $7.1 million. Queenly sees itself as a “StockX” for formalwear, but has its own hold on the resale market for luxury goods. The startup gets consumers to list their used dresses – whether it be from weddings, proms, or pageants – on the platform to sell at a discounted price to others. Sellers then make about 80% of the listed price when a dress is sold, while buyers get a unique dress that wouldn’t have been worn again anyways. Queenly graduated from Y Combinator in 2021.
Spinn, the hardware-enabled coffee marketplace, announced a $20 million funding round led by Spark Capital, with Amazon’s Alexa Fund, Bar 9 Ventures and existing investors participating. The funding will enable SPINN to accelerate growth, further develop its patented brewing technologies, and complete delivery of outstanding pre-orders. Spinn uses centrifugal force to make a cup of coffee and is the only company in the world that spins fresh ground coffee. Spinn does not use pods or filters and is a sustainable solution.
Grocery & Restaurants
The once unstoppable growth of hard seltzer has gone flat. That warning is coming from Boston Beer, the creator of Truly Hard Seltzer, which said that popularity of the low-calorie drink has faded. Boston Beer founder Jim Koch said that the “hard seltzer category and overall beer industry were softer than we had anticipated.” He added that the seemingly endless arrival of new seltzer brands is causing “consumer confusion” and fewer people are trying the once-hot beverage. Shares plummeted 25% in afternoon trading after the company’s second-quarter earnings came in below analysts’ expectations. Boston Beer has regularly beat analysts’ earnings expectations in recent years because of Truly’s sales strength, so the weak earnings came as a bit of a shock. CEO Dave Burwick said in a statement that the company “overestimated the growth of the hard seltzer category in the second quarter and the demand for Truly, which negatively impacted our volume and earnings for the quarter and our estimates for the remainder of the year.” Truly’s slipping sales comes off the heels of its largest-ever marketing campaign, featuring pop star Dua Lipa. The company enlisted her star power to compete with White Claw, the perennial market leader in the spiked seltzer category. Together, the two brands capture about 75% of the hard-seltzer market, according to Nielsen.
Bond Bakery Brands Ltd., a stakeholder-focused investment platform accelerating the growth of bakery companies, has initiated an investment in Coco Bakery Inc. Headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., Coco Bakery makes French macaron and premium sweet goods for distribution to retail and foodservice customers across North America. “Coco Bakery is a leader in a segment of strategic importance to us and expands our production footprint into the Ontario market,” said Nicolas Mulroney, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Bond Bakery. “Coco Bakery’s founders have built a strong reputation within the industry, and we are very excited to invest in the company’s growth in Canada and the United States.”
Home & Road
Tesla showrooms have been a staple of many high-end shopping malls, but that could be changing. The electric car maker is shuttering a number of stores in favor of less-expensive locations, according to a report from Electrek. The decision would mark another shift in Telsa’s retail strategy, which has wavered in recent years. It would also be another blow to America’s mall owners, which have struggled to hang on to tenants and fill vacant store fronts.
BBQ Holding, LLC, a leading specialty e-commerce platform for higher-end BBQ grills, grilling accessories and outdoor living products for both homeowners and professional builders, and Velocity Acquisition Corp., a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, announced today they have entered into a definitive business combination agreement that will result in BBQGuys becoming a publicly listed company on NASDAQ under the new ticker symbol “BBQG”. The transaction values the Company, which generated revenue of $264 million in 2020, at a pro forma equity value of approximately $963 million and an enterprise value of approximately $839 million.
Jewelry & Luxury
De Beers’ recovery has been fueled by “remarkably strong” demand for diamonds in the United States, CEO Bruce Cleaver tells JCK. “The best and strongest recovery is in the United States, far more than China,” he says. “The good news is the natural diamond category is remarkably resilient.” Cleaver notes larger, higher-value goods have done particularly well. He credits the upswing to the recently passed economic stimulus package, effective marketing, and consumers not spending on travel. But he says there is not a perfect correlation for the latter, as Chinese tourists often purchase jewelry on trips.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will start reviewing its Green Guides next year, and its Jewelry Guides in 2028, the agency announced in the Federal Register earlier this month. The Green Guides cover environmental claims and instruct marketers on how to discuss topics like sustainability, recycling, and carbon offsets. In 2019, the FTC sent warning letters to eight lab-grown diamond and simulant companies, advising them that their advertising did not comply with the Green Guides. In particular, the FTC objected to “general environmental benefit claims,” like “eco-friendly” and “sustainable,” which it said lacked clear definitions.
Tiffany & Co. is embracing the slogan “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany,” and moms don’t seem to be pleased. It’s clear the famed retailer, which was purchased by LVMH earlier this year, has high hopes for the slogan—which, we should note, closely resembles the famous tagline “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.” Tiffany has posted videos on Instagram of people putting up “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany” posters, and it has repeated the slogan on Twitter, added it to its website, and touted it on its Facebook page.
French luxury group Kering has reported Q2 sales of €4.16bn, beating analyst expectations of €3.8bn, marking an 11 percent rise comparable to 2019. H12021 consolidated revenue was up 54.1 percent from 2020, and 8.4 percent from 2019 on a comparable basis. Sales generated in directly operated stores, accounting for around 80 percent of the company’s total sales in H12021, were driven by ‘excellent momentum’ in North America and the Asia Pacific region, with overall comparable sales, including e-commerce, being up 11.2 percent from 2019. E-commerce represented 14 percent of total sales in the first half of 2021. Gucci reported Q2 sales of €2.3bn, up 82 percent from 2020 when lockdowns were in place, and an increase of 1 percent from the comparable period of 2019.
Office & Leisure
Toymaker Hasbro wowed Wall Street by easily blowing past expectations for second quarter earnings and revenue, but the company could find itself knocked off its game in the second half of the year due to cost increases, shipping backlogs, and supply chain headaches. Hasbro’s Chairman and CEO, Brian Goldner, said that while the company faces “meaningful” supply chain and cost pressures, he is confident Hasbro will close out the year with double-digit revenue growth, and that the “holidays should be very good” due to new entertainment releases and toy launches. But the playing field will be significantly rougher than previous holiday seasons. Ocean freight shipping costs are expected to be four times higher last year, as manufacturers in all industries vie for shipping containers, according to Deborah Thomas, Hasbro’s chief financial officer. That may hurt gross margins, but price increases Hasbro is instituting should ease the pressure on margins, Thomas said.
Evil Geniuses, one of the first professional e-sports teams, will announce that China’s Fosun Sports Group is taking a minority stake in the business, valuing the squad of elite video gamers at more than $250 million. The team, which was founded in 1999, well before e-sports became a billion-dollar industry, is also partnering with the English Premier League soccer club Wolverhampton Wanderers. That venture is aimed at tapping Asian markets, where the “Wolves” have training facilities, as well as at cross-promoting the teams to each other’s fan bases. DealBook spoke with Nicole LaPointe Jameson, who took over as C.E.O. of Evil Geniuses two years ago after its sale to the private equity firm Peak6. That deal came three years after Evil Genius’s players bought back the company from Amazon’s Twitch, leaving it rudderless and struggling in competitions. LaPointe Jameson, 27, has also had to navigate the sometimes toxic culture of video gaming, including claims of harassment and racism by players on the team she runs. Since she took over, Evil Geniuses has expanded into more games, notably League of Legends, and has hired a more diverse set of influencers to attract attention to its players (and sell merchandise and sponsorships).
GameStop Corp. is changing the name of the 4,000 stores it operates in Canada. The video game retailer said it will change the name of its EB Games stores in Canada and the online store to the GameStop brand by the end of 2021. GameStop acquired Electronic Boutique Holdings Corp., the owner of EB Games, in 2005 for more than $1 billion. “This decision follows our receipt of feedback from our valued customers and stockholders,” the company said in a statement. EB Games has approximately 4,000 locations in Canada. The rebranding comes as GameStop continues its efforts to turn around its business and focus on e-commerce. In June, the company shored up its top leadership with the appointment of two former Amazon executives, naming Matt Furlong as CEO and Mike Recupero as CFO. Activist shareholder Ryan Cohen, co-founder of Chewy, was named chairman.
A new entertainment concept that combines tech-infused mini-golf with food and drink and whose creators include the co-founders of Topgolf is plotting its U.S. expansion. Puttshack will open a 26,000-sq.-ft. location at Brookfield Properties’ The Shops at Houston Center, in the heart of downtown Houston. Expected to open in late 2022, the Houston Puttshack joins the fledgling company’s growing list of upcoming locations, including Oak Brook, Ill., opening this fall; and Miami and Boston, which are expected soon after; and Nashville, opening in 2021. Additional locations are expected to be announced for 2022. Puttshack made its U.S. debut in April 2021, at The Interlock, a new mixed-use development in Atlanta. The company started out in the U.K., where it operates three locations. Puttshack features four custom-made, tech-driven, “highly competitive” mini-golf courses, powered by the brand’s patented technology that keeps score as customers play. The venue also offers food and a full bar, with an upscale nightclub vibe.
Technology & Internet
Apple reported strong fiscal third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, demolishing Wall Street expectations. Every one of Apple’s major product lines grew over 12% on an annual basis. Overall, Apple’s sales were up 36% from the June quarter last year. iPhone sales increased nearly 50% on an annual basis. Apple stock was down over 2% in extended trading. It dropped on Tuesday after Apple warned on its earnings call that growth in the September quarter would not be as strong as June’s. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a call with analysts that Apple is seeing supply constraints related to “silicon” (a common term for computer chips) that would affect the company’s iPhone and iPad sales in the September quarter. Apple’s quarter ending in June is typically one of its slowest of the year, but the company has benefitted from work-at-home and remote schooling trends that have boosted sales of its premium computers.
Canadian e-commerce juggernaut Shopify reported its second-quarter financial performance. In the second quarter of 2021, Shopify reported revenues of $1.12 billion, up 57% on a year-over-year basis. The company’s subscription products grew 70% to $334.2 million, while its volume-driven merchant services drove their own top line up 52% to $785.2 million. The rest of Shopify’s quarter is a series of huge figures. In the second three-month period of 2021, the company posted gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $42.2 billion, up 40% compared to the year-ago period. That was more than a billion dollars ahead of expectations. And the company’s monthly recurring revenue (MRR) grew 67% to $95.1 million in the quarter.
Finance & Economy
The U.S. economy rose at a disappointing rate in the second quarter in a sign that the U.S. has escaped the shackles of the Covid-19 pandemic but still has more work to do, the Commerce Department reported. Gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced during the April-to-June period, accelerated 6.4% on an annualized basis. That was slightly stronger than the 6.3% gain in the first quarter, which was revised down slightly. While that would have been strong prior to the pandemic, the gain was considerably less than the 8.4% Dow Jones estimate. The gain also was a yardstick for how far the economy has come from the shutdowns imposed during the early days of the pandemic, when government across the country halted large swaths of economic activity to combat the Covid-19 spread.
Americans maintained their relatively upbeat attitude in July, according to a survey, bucking expectations for a decline as the US economy recovers from the Covid-19 crisis. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose to 129.1 this month from 128.9 in June, despite expectations among analysts that it would decline by about five points. That was the highest level for the index since February, fueled by positive views of the current economic situation. while consumers also maintained their relatively optimistic outlook for the future, according to the report. Despite surging prices in many parts of the economy, expectations for average inflation 12 months in the future dipped to 6.6 percent, indicating consumers may believe the increases have reached their peak.