Last Monday, my colleague wrote a piece in this space about the challenges faced by traditional malls and how mall operators are responding to COVID-19 called “The End of the Mall as We Know It?” One particular news item that broke in the subsequent days made that title seem nearly clairvoyant. The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon and Simon Property Group are in talks to convert empty department stores into Amazon fulfillment centers. Simon malls have a total of 63 J.C. Penney and 11 Sears stores, although it is unknown how many stores Amazon may be looking to fill. The decline of malls and the success of ecommerce are two trends that existed prior to COVID-19 but that have only been accelerated by the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, shopping center operators were racing to fill empty or struggling anchors with experiential retail, entertainment, and restaurants. Today, virtually all of those models are inoperable under current public health policies. As the Amazon/Simon report shows, one solution could be to pivot to repurpose empty mall space for ecommerce distribution fulfillment. If that move became a trend, it truly would change the mall as we know it.
Before we get to a wholesale reshaping of the purpose and use of malls, however, we should ask, does this make sense? Does it make sense for malls to invite the one competitor that has grown the most at their expense to be under their roofs? Fulfillment centers with no other use wouldn’t drive much traffic to the shopping center at all (other than the workers in the warehouse, who might head into the mall over lunch or after work). Secondly, such a move could irk other tenants that view Amazon as the enemy. However, Amazon would be a stable tenant, and it could be a traffic driver depending on what services the new anchor boxes offer. Consider that Kohl’s now processes Amazon returns free of charge just for the foot traffic that service drives. Lastly, and most pressing, do malls currently have better options for these spaces?
For Amazon, one could argue that the ecommerce giant is doing just fine without making this move. Fueled in part by pandemic-related brick and mortar shutdowns, second quarter product sales for Amazon this year rose to $50.2 billion, up from $35.9 billion a year ago. However, setting up fulfillment centers in vacant shopping center anchors would have its merits. First, it could enable even faster shipping to customers, as many malls are located in populous (and often affluent) communities, and near major roads and highways. This could be especially valuable to Amazon as it tries to make one-day shipping standard for its Prime program. Second, if fulfillment centers are also equipped to take returns and allow customers to pick up packages, it may be a positive for convenience and customer service. Lastly, depending on what services the new Amazon anchors offer (especially if, in addition to fulfilling online orders, these locations offer some form of on-site shopping), opening up more physical locations could be a competitive move against brick and mortar players such as Walmart and Target.
If Simon Property Group and Amazon do come to an agreement, it would only happen in a small subset of the country’s malls (at least at first), and the change wouldn’t happen overnight as much work would need to be done to convert the spaces into fulfillment centers. However, even the fact that Simon is entertaining these discussions underscores the traditional mall’s struggles and the needed and likely impending transformation in its future. The mall as we know it will be different in the future. But as a result, it is ensuring that it will still have a place in the future.
Headlines of the Week
With a bankruptcy court’s approval Wednesday of its purchase of Lucky Brand, Sparc Group, the 50-50 partnership of Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands Group, has successfully snapped up yet another bankrupt retailer, according to court documents. Sparc added Lucky Brand to its stable for a price that includes $140.1 million in cash as well as other components. That came the same day Brooks Brothers asked the same court to approve its own sale to Sparc after the Simon-ABG venture sweetened its offer by $20 million to $325 million. The Sparc overture accompany`ed Lucky’s Chapter 11 filing last month in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Simon and ABG have now worked together for four years and several deals to shore up ailing retailers by acquiring them, and have given that partnership a name. While Simon CEO David Simon has long touted the companies’ 2016 purchase of Aeropostale as a success, leading them to a similar investment in Forever 21 last year, it also remains to be seen how lucrative the ownership play proves to be as it expands.
Sur La Table has avoided liquidation. The nearly 50-year-old kitchenware retailer, which filed for bankruptcy in July and said it would close over 50 of its 121 stores, has been sold for nearly $89 million to a joint venture between e-commerce investment firm CSC Generation and Marquee Brands LLC. The sale, which is still subject to bankruptcy court approval, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. According to court documents, the joint venture plans to keep at least 50 Sur La Table stores open. The joint venture was named the highest bidder at a bankruptcy auction last week, topping an opening big by Fortress Investment Group, according to court documents. Prior to the Fortress bid, it appeared that Sur La Table was headed to liquidation. Similar to many other retailers that have cited the pandemic in filing for bankruptcy, Sur La Table was struggling before the current crisis amid heavy competition from Amazon and other online players, along with such traditional chains as Target. While its in-store cooking classes have been a big hit, retail sales had been on a downward track, according to reports.
Apparel & Footwear
Brooks Brothers on Tuesday said it’s asking a bankruptcy judge to approve the sale of “the vast majority” of its global business operations and intellectual property to Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands Group, after the companies upped their initial stalking horse bid by $20 million to $325 million. As part of the agreement, the commercial property developer and the brand conglomerate, which have formed a “50-50 joint venture” called “Sparc Group,” have committed to keeping open at least 125 Brooks Brothers stores, according to a Brooks Brothers press release. It’s become something of a habit for Simon and ABG. The two companies (with mall owner Brookfield) partnered to scoop up Aeropostale in 2016 and Forever 21 last year. As “Sparc,” in addition to their bid for Brooks Brothers, they have bid on Lucky Brand and are reportedly mulling a takeover of J.C. Penney, all in bankruptcy at the moment. And both Sparc entities would gain from the deal: Simon can preserve leases that may have otherwise gone by the wayside, as leases often do during the Chapter 11 process, and ABG adds yet another iconic brand to its portfolio.
Tapestry registered big losses last year, but managed to turn in better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, reassuring Wall Street. The fashion house — parent company to the Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman brands — narrowly beat analyst expectations last quarter, while still logging a $652 million loss for the year. Tapestry isn’t providing forward-looking guidance, but expects to save approximately $200 million in gross run-rate expenses during the next fiscal year by way of cost-saving initiatives. Changes to the company’s operating model, for example, resulted in reduced selling, general and administrative expenses, including a 20 percent decline in the company’s corporate headcount cost and effective expense management. But there were a few bright spots. The retailer said e-commerce sales tripled during the quarter, compared with the same time last year. Tapestry attracted nearly 1 million new customers across all three brands in North America by way of its digital channels during the quarter.
Women’s clothing online retailer Modcloth is 18 years old, but this year marks a new beginning for the brand, known for retro fashions inspired by vintage thrift shop treasures. “We call it a re-startup,” Chris Schreiber, said chief operating officer of Modcloth. Private investment firm Go Global Retail acquired the brand in January, launching the third chapter of Modcloth’s story. The company was born in 2002 in co-founder Susan Gregg Koger’s dorm room at Carnegie Mellon University. She and co-founder Eric Koger (then her boyfriend and later her husband) began selling vintage thrift store finds from Susan’s closet, then worked with independent designers to develop its own collections. By 2012, according to the company, it had annual sales of $100 million and was growing year over year at a rate of 40%.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Reebok’s partnership landscape will soon look quite different. In June, Reebok revealed to FN that its deal with CrossFit was coming to an end this year and it would not look to strike a new one. The athletic brand said this in an email statement after CrossFit’s then CEO Greg Glassman made an insensitive remark about George Floyd on Twitter. And in July, the UFC stated combat sports apparel and accessory brand Venum will become its new exclusive global outfitting and apparel partner next year after its existing partnership with Reebok expires in March 2021. Reebok signed a six-year sponsorship deal with UFC in December 2014.
With each day that passes, the prospect of a college football season in 2020 becomes less likely. With action on the gridiron this year still uncertain and a cancelation a possibility, athletic giants involved with major college programs — specifically Nike, Adidas and Under Armour — are sure to sustain massive financial blows. “The potential impact [of no college football season] could be felt on jersey sales, team apparel, licensed products, the loss of revenue that certain retailers and brands could see from a diminished interest because there are no games,” National Sporting Goods Association director of communications and team dealer division Marty Maciaszek told FN.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Perrigo is growing its global brand portfolio with its latest acquisition. The Dublin-based OTC and private-label powerhouse is acquiring Eastern European OTC skin care and hair loss treatment brands Emolium, Iwostin and Loxon from Sanofi for roughly $23 million. “We continue to prioritize opportunities that build on our self-care transformation and seek bolt-on assets that support our five growth pillars,” said Perrigo CEO Murray Kessler. “We are pleased to add these margin enhancing assets to strengthen our international self-care portfolio and deliver value for our shareholders.” Svend Andersen, Perrigo’s executive vice president and president of consumer self-care international, said that the time is right for Perrigo to assert itself in the European self-care marketplace. In the past three years, he said his business unit has exited or divested several businesses outside of its strategy, rationalized more than two-thirds of its SKUs and brought more manufacturing in house.
Therabody, formerly known as Theragun, announced that tennis champion and entrepreneur Maria Sharapova has made an investment in the company while also joining Therabody as a member of its Advisory Board. “Throughout my career, as both an athlete and entrepreneur, it’s been important to me to work with brands and partners that have great potential and can have a positive impact,” said Sharapova. “Since Therabody’s launch, they have continued to demonstrate they are on the cutting-edge of combining technology, fitness and wellness, and bringing more balance to people’s lives. I’m thrilled to join the team as they continue their mission to transform and revolutionize the tech wellness space.” After retiring from professional tennis in February 2020 as a five-time Grand Slam title winner, Sharapova has been investing in health and wellness companies. Sharapova’s involvement as an advisor includes working with Therabody on its product offerings, advising on initiatives from concept to execution as well as supporting the company’s continuing expansion in the European and Asian markets.
Discounters & Department Stores
Two of J.C. Penney Co. ’s largest landlords have emerged as the leading contenders to acquire the department-store chain’s retail business out of bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter. Simon Property Group Inc., the biggest mall owner in the U.S. by number of malls, and Brookfield Property Partners LP, another big shopping center owner, have joined together and are in advanced talks to purchase Penney’s retail operations, people familiar with the matter said. In recent days, the pair have eclipsed other interested bidders, according to the people. Penney reviewed a competing offer from private-equity firm Sycamore Partners that carried a slightly higher price tag, some of the people said. But Simon and Brookfield offered certain concessions over lease agreements that Penney and its lenders viewed as delivering better value, the same people said.
Walmart has partnered with Instacart to offer same-day delivery to customers in select U.S. markets, an Instacart spokesperson confirmed to Retail Dive. During the pilot, Instacart will offer delivery from Walmart stores in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in three California markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Instacart will deliver groceries, alcohol, household essentials and more from Walmart in as little as an hour. This is the first time Walmart’s main U.S. stores have offered Instacart delivery. The retailer’s Canadian division offers service through Instacart, and Sam’s Club has offered Instacart delivery since 2018.
Stein Mart entered Chapter 11 Wednesday for the simplest of reasons: It was out of money to operate, or was about to be. And the reasoning isn’t that much more complicated. After years of revenue declines, losses and efforts to sell itself to a savior, the company was bruised multiple times by the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t expect any retail bankruptcies to not mention the pandemic for the foreseeable future. But Stein Mart was directly hurt in multiple ways that ultimately led it to bankruptcy and likely liquidation.
The story of Neiman Marcus and MyTheresa follows broader storylines in the retail industry. From a single fashion store in Munich, MyTheresa became a global luxury e-commerce force that shipped to 120 countries by the time Neiman’s bought it in 2014. Since then, its revenue and value have more than doubled while the legacy retailer struggled. The e-commerce banner has been called Neiman’s “crown jewel” by creditors who have waged legal warfare on the company ever since MyTheresa’s place in Neiman’s corporate organizational chart was reshuffled by the retailer’s private equity owners.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Franklin Templeton is in talks to invest in shoemaker Allbirds Inc. at a premium to its $1.4 billion valuation in 2018, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown, the San Francisco-based company posted around $190 million in net revenue last year, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The talks are ongoing and funding terms might still change. Allbirds, which last year called out Amazon.com Inc. for allegedly copying its $95 sneakers made from fine merino wool, raised funds from investors including T. Rowe Price and Fidelity in 2018. Its best-known shoes made from wool fleece became a Silicon Valley staple after their 2016 launch.
Public Goods, the New York based brand selling essential consumer goods across grocery, household, and personal care, today announced that it has received a $15 million investment from L Catterton. Launched in 2017, Public Goods offers members, through a $59 annual membership, access to high-quality essential products that are well-designed, eco-friendly, and at competitive price points. The company also announced its first ever retail distribution at CVS Pharmacy, which will increase accessibility of its products at 2,000 locations nationwide. It expects to launch a new product category for pets later this month.
Glossier announced that it would not reopen its three stores for the remainder of the year and “possibly for the duration of the pandemic.” It also announced that it would lay off its retail employees, who were furloughed in June. Reopening has been made more difficult for beauty brands like Glossier that focus on high-touch service and sampling. In a company blog post, founder Emily Weiss noted that Glossier was not yet ready to give up on physical retail altogether.
Lick Home, the newly launched direct to consumer home decor brand, launched during lockdown, announced today it has raised £3m in funding. The round was led by Felix Capital, which has backed global digital lifestyle platforms such as Farfetch, Peloton, goop and Deliveroo. The funds will support the brand’s foray into the home interior market, where it intends to begin with durable paints, artisan wallpaper, and decorating tools and supplies.
Grocery & Restaurants
FAT Brands — global franchising company and owner of Fatburger, Hurricane Grill & Wings and Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses — announced its intention to acquire Los Angeles-based burger chain Johnny Rockets from private equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc. for approximately $25 million. The deal, which is expected to go though in September will bring the total number of FAT Brands franchised and company-owned restaurants to 700 internationally, with annual sales of $700 million. This is not the only casual burger chain FAT Brands has acquired recently. In 2019, the company bought Fall Hills, Va.-based Elevation Burger for $10 million.
Meat alternative manufacturer Impossible Foods has closed on $200 million in additional funding. The investment will be used to continue expanding R&D, product development and international operations, according to the company. With the latest round, Impossible Foods has raised approximately $1.5 billion in capital. Coatue Management, LLC, New York, led the series G equity round. Existing investors include Mirae Asset Global Investments and Temasek. The investment comes on the heels of the introduction of the Impossible Sausage in January. Since then, the new product is available in more than 22,000 restaurants, according to the company. Burger King became the first restaurant to introduce the Impossible Sausage in June when it launched the Impossible Croissan’wich in all 7,500 locations in the United States. A week later, Starbucks launched the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich in all 15,000 Starbucks nationwide.
Punch Bowl Social’s CEO and founder Robert Thompson has resigned from the “eatertainment” concept, which has struggled amid restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus prompting the Denver-based company to permanently close four locations. Thompson told Nation’s Restaurant News that he is leaving the company he founded to form an incubator holding company that will focus on building projects geared towards millennials and Gen Z. “It’s worth noting that someone is going to buy this company through some type of asset cleanse or whether its foreclosure or something else,” he said. The Denver-based casual-dining chain features a variety of games — Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, bowling, ping-pong — as well as eclectic decor that blends Victorian, mountain lodge and mid-century modern influences. At the onset of the crisis, Cracker Barrel Country Old Country Store Inc. announced that the company would be divesting from Punch Bowl Social. The about-face came less than a year after Cracker Barrel announced its acquisition of a $140 million non-controlling stake of Punch Bowl Social in July 2019.
Home & Road
Casper Sleep said its revenues for its second quarter, ended June 30, increased 15.7%. Direct-to-consumer revenue increased 5% to $81 million “despite very modest owned-store sales.” Retail partnership revenue increased 61.1%, the company said. Casper said its net loss improved $2.7 million to $24.2 million. Gross profit increased 22.2% to $57.1 million, with a gross margin of 51.8%, up 280 basis points. The company said its adjusted EBITDA improved by $11.2 million or 50% to a loss of $11.4 million. “We achieved record e-commerce revenues in Q2 while making significant progress toward profitability, which is well ahead of our expectations,” said Philip Krim, Casper’s CEO. “Our adaptable multi-channel business has allowed us to continue to meet the needs of more consumers and capture market share in a challenging environment.”
Havertys said its written business for the last two months of its quarter ended June 30 was up 13.9%. Clarence H. Smith, chairman, president and CEO, said the second quarter “was like no other in our country’s or Havertys’ history,” but he added that “optimism for our future and the opportunities for growth endure.” He said the company reopened its stores in May “with team members ready to serve customers eager to refresh their homes. Our written business for the last two months of the quarter was up 13.9%, and written comparable store business was up 17.5% compared to the same periods in 2019. Our customers want their homes to reflect their style and be a comfortable, happy place. Our wide merchandise selection, custom options, and free design service assists them in that endeavor.”
Mohawk Industries’ net sales dropped 20.7% in Q2 for a total of $2.05 billion, while its net earnings fell 123.8% for a loss of $48.3 million, compared to the same period in 2019. For the six months ended June 27, net sales for the company decreased 13.8% for a total of $4.3 billion from the prior year period, while its net earnings tumbled 80.8% for a total of $62.3 million, the flooring giant reported. “Though sales trends have improved significantly since government restrictions were lifted, the current environment is the most unpredictable in the history of our business,” said Jeff Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO. “During the quarter, all of our businesses were dramatically impacted, with most of our customers and facilities operating either in a limited capacity or completely shut down for some time.” After being “severely impacted” in April due to the pandemic, its rug business began to come back as retailers reopened, with home centers and mass merchants rebounding first, said Chris Wellborn, president and COO, and president, global ceramic, during a conference call with analysts Friday.
Jewelry & Luxury
It’s not an easy job to please today’s young luxury consumers, especially in a fast-paced and heavily digitized market like China, where brands are required to quickly adapt to new trends while still struggling to overcome essential cultural barriers. With the country expected to account for nearly 50 per cent of the global luxury market by 2025 and the only signs of post-pandemic recovery for the luxury industry coming from the Chinese market, it has become even more imperative for brands to tap into the consumption habits and preferences of young Chinese spenders.
The Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA) grading lab will now print its standard color and clarity grades on its lab-grown diamond reports—a change from how it’s noted lab-grown diamond grades for the last 14 years. GIA chief executive officer and president Susan Jacques announced the move at the end of a JCK Talks webinar at JCK Virtual 2020 on Tuesday.
Bergio International, Inc., a leading designer, manufacturer and retail outlet for the Bergio Brand of designer jewelry, including exquisite collections of rings, necklaces, earrings, and other fine accessories, is pleased to announce that is has come to an agreement with one of its largest debtors to settle its outstanding convertible debt.
Office & Leisure
AMC is finally reopening its theaters, and guests will need to spend just 15 cents to get in. The world’s largest movie theater chain will reopen more than 100 US theaters on August 20, the company said on Thursday. In order to commemorate its centennial, AMC is offering “movies in 2020 at 1920 prices” on opening day. That’s 15 cents a ticket. AMC closed all of its theaters in the US in March as the pandemic took hold, and the reopening has been delayed several times. AMC added that it expects to open two-thirds of its more than 600 US theater locations by the time Christopher Nolan’s thriller “Tenet” hits theaters on September 3. AMC’s other US theaters will open “only after authorized to do so by state and local officials,” according to the company. AMC said that it’s implementing new safety and health measures to help keep moviegoers safe and curb the spread of coronavirus. That includes requiring all guests to wear masks, lowering theater capacity and upgrading ventilation systems.
Spirit Halloween remains “passionate” about Halloween even as questions mount about how it will be celebrated this year amid the pandemic. The nation’s largest specialty Halloween retailer said it has spent months preparing to safely open more than 1,400 locations in strip centers and malls nationwide. To ensure the safety of employees and customers, Spirit Halloween has teamed up with environmental infection protection experts Lighthouse, which created a science-based model for retail stores built on research, development and successful use in more than 500 hospitals. “Together we’re bringing a rigorous regimen of disinfection and cleaning standards to all Spirit Halloween stores,” Spirit Halloween stated. Spirit Halloween stores will start opening this month. As part of its in-store safety measures, Spirit Halloween will require that all customers and employees wear protective face coverings. It also has placed social distancing markers and hand sanitizer stations at the entry of all stores, installed plastic shields around all registers, and increased disinfecting of high-touch surface areas and employee screenings.
Skillshare CEO Matt Cooper said 2020 has been a year of rapid growth — even before the pandemic forced large swaths of the population to stay home and turn to online learning for entertainment and enrichment. Cooper (who became CEO in 2017) says that the company decided last year to “focus on our strength,” leading to a “brand relaunch” in January 2020 to emphasize the richness of its creativity-themed content. At the same time, Cooper said the company defines creativity very broadly, with classes divided into categories like animation, design, illustration, photography, filmmaking and writing. “It’s not Bob Ross,” he said. “And I love Bob Ross, but that’s a very narrow definition of creativity. Creativity can come in lots of different forms — art, design, journaling, creative writing, it can be culinary, it can be crafts.” But of course the pandemic also meant that, as Cooper put it, “A lot more people had a lot more free time at home and were looking for a constructive way to spend it.” In fact, the company said that since its rebranding, new membership sign-ups have tripled, with existing members watching three times the number of lessons.
The magic is back at Disney World, but for fewer hours a day. After lower-than-expected attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic, Disney is scaling back operating hours at the Magic Kingdom and several other Florida theme parks. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom will all lose an hour or two per day starting Sept. 8. The COVID-19 surge in Florida has resulted in more cancellations and fewer visitors than the company anticipated, with the park operating at lower capacity, Disney executives announced last week in an earnings webcast. After being closed for nearly four months, Disney World reopened in July with restricted capacity and safety protocols such as mandatory masks and temperature checks upon arrival. But parks have experienced a falloff in visitors from out of state amid steep declines in long-distance travel.
Technology & Internet
Amazon is reportedly in talks with Simon Property Group to convert some vacant Sears and J.C. Penney locations into Amazon fulfillment centers, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The report indicated it’s unclear how many of the stores inside Simon malls are under consideration. The deal, if it materializes, is expected to boost Amazon’s last-mile delivery capabilities with fulfillment center space, closer to customers.
The Kroger Co. is getting into the online marketplace business. This fall, Kroger plans to go live with a digital marketplace of third-party sellers through a partnership with e-commerce provider Mirakl, which specializes in B2C and B2B e-marketplaces. Kroger said Tuesday that, under the move, its Kroger Ship direct-to-customer platform will extend its ship-to-home assortment beyond groceries to a range of other categories, including natural and organic products, international food, specialty items, housewares and toys. Initially, more than 50,000 items will be available to customers, the Cincinnati-based retailer said. Launched in August 2018, Kroger Ship currently enables consumers to order from a selection of center-store groceries, pantry items and household essentials — including Kroger own-brand products — at ship.kroger.com and have them delivered to their door. An extension of the Ship service into a broader e-commerce marketplace would turn up the competitive heat on big retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco Wholesale, given Kroger’s data, analytics and media muscle and its national scale.
Apple is working on a subscription-based fitness app that could rival virtual offerings provided by Peloton and Nike, according to reports. Bloomberg wrote, “The company is also developing a new subscription for virtual fitness classes that can be used via an app for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, the people said. That service will be offered in a higher-end bundle with the rest of Apple’s services. Codenamed “Seymour,” the workout package would rival virtual classes offered by companies including Peloton Interactive Inc. and Nike Inc., according to the people.” According to MacRumors, the “app will offer a wide range of activity types, including indoor running, cycling, rowing, stretching, core training, strength training, outdoor walking, dance, and yoga. The app is designed to let users download guided fitness-related videos that will walk them through various workouts and activities. Apple Watch appears to be used in the app to track progress through each workout routine, similar to how Apple Watch can track existing fitness activities through the Activity app.”
Finance & Economy
First-time claims for unemployment insurance last week fell below 1 million for the first time since March 21 in a sign that the labor market is continuing its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Jobless claims had totaled above 1 million for 20 consecutive weeks as the U.S. economy went into lockdown to contain Covid-19. The last time the total was below that number was March 14, with 282,000, just as the pandemic declaration first hit.
The cost of many goods and services such as gas, automobiles, clothing and airfare rose in July in a rebound from pandemic lows, but inflation is still barely visible in the wake of a coronavirus-induced recession that sapped demand throughout the economy. The cost of living had declined from March through May during the height of the crisis. The increase in consumer prices over the past 12 months, meanwhile, rose to 1% from 0.6% in June. Just seven months ago, at the start of 2020, the yearly pace of inflation had climbed to as high as 2.5%.