We are excitedly counting down the weeks until the Consensus Great Brands Show (CGBS), which will take place September 25th, at the New York Times TimesCenter in Manhattan – http://greatbrandsshow.com/. With the date of the CGBS approaching, we are using this space each week to profile different companies that will be taking the stage. As we strive to assemble the most compelling slate of participating companies yet in the history of this event, we hope our weekly previews underscore our growing anticipation for this year’s show and give you a head start on learning about these dynamic brands and entrepreneurs.
One unmistakable mega-trend in the modern consumer economy is a growing focus on health, wellness, and fitness. This trend is prompting legacy brands and retailers to adapt their product offerings, but it is also creating an opening for new companies in the space. Two such on-trend companies will be presenting from the CGBS on 9/25: EverybodyFights and Fitness Cubed.
There are no better-conditioned athletes than boxers, and there is no more exciting, up-and-coming boxing-inspired gym chain than EverybodyFights. Founded by former professional boxer and member of boxing royalty, George Foreman III, EverybodyFights delivers an authentic boxing-training experience that appeals to mainstream consumers.
Founded in 2013 and based in Boston, EverybodyFights’s seven locations throughout the Northeast combine the grit of boxing with the luxury of a fitness boutique. EBF has four company-owned locations: two in Boston, one in New York City, and a recently opened Philadelphia location that was just named best new gym in Philly. In addition to the company-owned locations, there are three franchise locations in Chicago, Atlanta, and Lexington, KY.
George and his training staff have created a carefully designed workout program that provides a complete fitness journey that inspires both newcomers and boxing enthusiasts. Whether it is the heavy bag training, circuit training, cardio workouts or yoga, EverybodyFights’s gyms offer a wide variety of different classes that keeps sessions fresh and its clientele engaged.
Throughout its almost six years of operating history, EBF gyms have proven profitable across a variety of gym formats and sizes. With compelling gym economics, a carefully crafted brand, and a large and loyal customer base, EBF is poised for continued growth in both company-owned and franchise locations.
The wellness needs of the country’s and world’s largest demographic is unmet. Currently, fitness companies help fit people get fitter. Fitness Cubed is the first company creating a global fitness brand to solve wellness problems experienced by inactive people or those who are less mobile.
Health trends have been widely reported: the population is aging (senior citizens will soon outnumber children), obesity is increasing (72% of adults are overweight, 40% are obese), sedentariness is increasing (79% of adults don’t meet physical activity guidelines), arthritis rates are increasing (the leading cause of disability), and diabetes rates are increasing (100 million people have pre-diabetes or diabetes).
Founded by three University of Chicago classmates and backed by an experienced product development team, Fitness Cubed is addressing these urgent needs by bringing commercial grade engineering to at-home and at-office wellness/fitness for the first time. The company targets cohorts they consider Senior Striders, Busy Workers and Rehab Rockstars, who need products that are easily accessible and approachable.
The company launched its first product in late 2015, a best-in-class mini-elliptical that can be used at home or at office under the brand “Cubii”. With largely a Direct-to-Consumer model, Cubii is the bestselling and highest rated elliptical product on Amazon regardless of size. Cubii also sells through QVC and HSN and has seen significant international success in Germany and the UK. With product pricing ranging from $250 to $400, the company has already sold 200,000 units with substantial margins.
Fitness Cubed has also launched Apps to provide connectivity and feedback relating to the Cubii. The company will soon expand into product categories targeting core strength and balance and extend distribution to retail partners and the clinical markets. As it grows, Fitness Cubed will help more people discover happiness, well-being and balance by providing innovative products that are inclusive, clinically effective, and beautifully designed.
Headlines of the Week
Walmart announced it will end the sale of handgun ammunition, a decision that comes as the retail giant faced pressure to curb gun and ammunition sales in the wake of a shooting at its store in El Paso, Texas. In an open letter to Walmart associates, CEO Doug McMillon said that the store plans to discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition and no longer sell handgun ammunition. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer will also no longer sell handguns at its stores in Alaska, marking a complete exit from the handgun market. Additionally, Walmart is asking its customers to no longer openly carry guns in its stores or in Sam’s Clubs where open carry is allowed under state law.
Apparel & Footwear
Tapestry on Wednesday announced that Board Chairman Jide Zeitlin was named CEO, replacing Victor Luis effective immediately. Luis is leaving the company and its board, and Zeitlin remains as chairman. Board member Susan Kropf has been named lead independent director. Zeitlin has more than 30 years of global financial and operational experience and has been on Tapestry’s board for more than a decade. The shift comes after a letdown at the company’s Kate Spade brand in its most recent quarter. The fortunes at Tapestry have been dependent on a turning point at the Kate Spade brand that has failed to materialize. The company renamed itself two years ago in light of its acquisitions of Stuart Weitzman in 2015 and Kate Spade in 2017, which meant running a stable of brands beyond Coach.
Premium shoemaker Cole Haan, currently owned by private equity, is preparing for an initial public offering, following robust sales and profit growth. “Our management team is confident in the opportunities we have created for the Cole Haan brand and our business globally,” Chief Executive Officer Jack Boys said in a statement. “Based on the momentum we have generated in the business and the opportunities we believe are before Cole Haan, we have determined that now is the time to prepare for an initial public offering of the company’s shares.” The company is in the process of starting discussions with investment banks. Timing of a possible offering wasn’t disclosed. Cole Haan, acquired in 2013 by private equity firm Apax Partners from Nike Inc., boosted revenue 14% to $687 million in the fiscal year that ended June 1. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization jumped 56% to $95.3 million.
La Perla, the indebted Italian lingerie brand owned by Lars Windhorst’s investment company, will list its shares on the Paris stock exchange to help access capital at a difficult time. La Perla, which has stores in London’s Sloane Street and St. Tropez, won’t raise any funds through the move, but the listing “will increase La Perla’s visibility and enhance access to capital,” according to Chief Executive Officer Pascal Perrier. The company aims for a market capitalization of 473 million euros ($520 million). Known for its $300 bras and $600 nightgowns, as well as dressing the likes of model Kendall Jenner, La Perla has struggled to turn buzz into profit. The company incurred operating losses of 71 million euros on 86 million euros in revenue in 2018, according to a prospectus for the listing. Net financial debt was 103 million euros.
In January, Aerie threw an intimate dinner at a cozy New York City restaurant to celebrate its latest class of Role Models, something that it’s turned into an annual tradition. It was a big night for the lingerie brand, especially for Global Brand President Jennifer Foyle, who first took Aerie’s campaigns photoshop-free five years ago. Foyle had been at Aerie since 2010 and was drawn to the opportunity that the nascent intimate apparel side of the business presented to her. She saw a chance to reach a different customer than the more established, sexed-up lingerie brands had been courting previously, so she says she hit the reset button at Aerie, tweaking the platform and firming up the creative and marketing teams. Still, though, something felt like it was missing.
#AerieReal was officially born with an unretouched ad campaign that went live in April 2014.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
The Chicago company could close 27 to 37 locations as CEO Marcus Lemonis says he needs to focus more on RVs. Camping World is moving away from its strategy of acquiring outdoor retail stores to create business synergies with its existing RV outlets. That would represent a roughly 22 percent elimination of Camping World’s total outlets, with 165 locations currently able to sell or service RVs.
Lululemon reported second quarter earnings that topped analysts’ expectations, sending the athletic apparel retailer’s shares up as much as 5% in after-hours trading. The company also hiked its full-year outlook. CEO Calvin McDonald said in a statement he sees “significant runway” ahead, as Lululemon continues to push into new categories. Sales for its men’s business, which has been a key growth driver, climbed 35%, outperforming the growth of its women’s apparel. Revenue in North America was up 21%.
There’s been a changing of the guard at Duluth Trading Company. The men’s and women’s casual clothing and workwear brand announced that Stephanie Pugliese has resigned as president, CEO and board member. Less than 24 hours after Duluth Trading revealed that Pugliese had left, Under Armour announced that it had appointed Pugliese as president, North America. At Under Armour, Pugliese will lead the company’s home market, which has been struggling amid increased competition from the likes of Nike, Lululemon and Adidas.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
The nation’s largest beauty retailer is not letting a miss on Wall Street expectations dampen its store opening/refresh program. Ulta Beauty plans to open 80 approximately new stores, execute approximately 20 remodel or relocation projects and complete approximately 270 store refreshes by the end of fiscal 2019. The retailer is maintaining these objectives even in the face of coming up short of analyst predictions for second-quarter net sales, adjusted earnings per share, and same-store sales. Ulta reported second-quarter net sales of $1.67 billion, up 12% from $1.49 billion the same quarter a year earlier but short of an expected $1.68 billion. Net income totaled $161.2 million, up 8% from $148.3 million. Adjusted earnings per share of $2.76 missed projections of $2.80, while a 6.2% increase in same-store sales did not meet estimates of a 6.6% rise.
Experienced Capital is expanding its beauty portfolio with the acquisition of a 41 percent stake in French beauty retail business and product line Oh My Cream. The deal is the first under ECP’s second fund, which raised 70 million euros in a first round in July and has a target of 150 million euros, the French investment firm said in a statement. Investment fund Eutopia, a shareholder in OMC since 2016, is also reinvesting alongside ECP. Other terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Founded in 2012 by Juliette Lévy, Oh My Cream began by selling niche brands such as Joëlle Ciocco, Dermalogica, Ren, Grown and Tata Harper online and through a network of concept stores, going on to introduce its own clean beauty skin-care line in 2017.
Discounters & Department Stores
The CFO position at Neiman Marcus Group has been rattled by a revolving door, at a time when the company’s debt level has frustrated its turnaround. Adam Orvos arrived last April to take over from chief accounting officer Dale Stapleton, who had temporarily stepped into the role last year when then-interim chief financial officer and chief operating officer Michael Fung left after a mere seven months. Fung himself had taken over from Donald Grimes, who had only been in the role for 17 months.
A Coresight survey echoes previous research indicating that consumers will continue shopping in-stores, even as they increasingly shop on Amazon. A 2019 Shopkick survey found that 55% of Gen Z shoppers will do most of their shopping in-store, and 54% of Boomers will do the same. For brick-and-mortar retailers, the results present a mixed bag. On the one hand, Amazon could take a substantial share of consumers away from large American retailers like Target and Walmart. On the other hand, the majority of shoppers expect to shop in-store. It’s also worth noting that Walmart still has a fighting chance against Amazon; the Coresight survey results show that 78.9% of shoppers expect to buy gifts at Walmart compared to 78.6% who plan to shop at Amazon.
Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos said in a statement that the retailer’s top- and bottom-line growth were driven by execution on category management, merchandise “innovation,” store operations, cost control and progress on the discounter’s strategic initiatives. Growth in sales of the consumables, seasonal and home categories pushed up Dollar General’s comps, though that growth was partially offset by a decline in comparable apparel sales, the company said. Profits were up despite $31 million related to what the company described as “significant legal expenses” around wage, hour and consumer litigation.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Boll & Branch, the digitally-native home goods business, announced a $100 million investment from the Flagship Buyout Fund of L Catterton. The capital will help the company expand its retail and wholesale businesses and support the continued success of its direct-to-consumer business. Boll & Branch has developed a distinctive supply chain with high levels of control and traceability, enabling the company to offer consumers luxury bedding products made from ethically-sourced materials at accessible price points.
Atoms, a New York-based footwear brand, raised $8.1 million in Series A funding. Initialized Capital led the round, and was joined by investors including Kleiner Perkins, Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin, Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novograts, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, TED curator Chris Anderson, and the rapper Chamillionaire. The company will use the funding to invest in further development of its shoes, and to expand its retail and marketing presence.
Grocery & Restaurants
It’s never been a secret that a nutritious diet influences general health. In decades past, however, most consumers took a reactionary approach to health needs, seeking medicine to treat specific conditions and only changing their dietary habits when faced with a direct threat to their well-being. Now, a growing proactive health movement is driving consumers to treat food as a means to prevent, manage and possibly even reverse certain conditions. Nielson said around 80% of consumers have adopted a “food as medicine” approach to eating, and The NPD Group found a quarter of U.S. adults are actively trying to manage their health through food.
Landry’s LLC has made a $37.2 million stalking horse bid for Restaurants Unlimited and affiliates in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, but bidding remains open through Sept. 16. Restaurants Unlimited operates 35 fine-dining and polished casual restaurants in six states. Four entities filed for bankruptcy: RUI Holding Corp., RU Corp., Restaurants Unlimited Inc. and Restaurants Unlimited Texas Inc., all 100% owned by Sun Capital subsidiary Sun RUI LLC, based in Boca Raton, Fla. RUI runs restaurants under the names of Clinkerdagger, Cutters Crabhouse, Fondi Pizzeria, Henry’s Tavern, Horatio’s, Kincaid’s Maggie Bluffs, Manzana, Newport Seafood Grill, Palisade, Palomino, Portland City Grill, Portland Seafood Company, Scott’s Bar and Grill, Simon & Seafort’s, Skate’s on the Bay, Stanford’s and Stanley & Seafort’s.
Tyson Foods, Inc., through its venture capital arm Tyson Ventures, has invested in New Wave Foods, San Francisco, a manufacturer of plant-based shellfish. Terms of the investment were not announced. New Wave Foods’ first product iteration is a plant-based shrimp alternative made with seaweed and plant protein. It contains all eight essential amino acids that are found in meats and seafood, according to the company, and it is lower in calories and salt than real shrimp. The company plans to have a shrimp alternative product ready for sale in food service by early 2020.
Brinker International Inc. has completed the earlier-announced acquisition of 116 Chili’s Grill & Bar restaurants from its 14-year franchisee, ERJ Dining, the casual-dining company said Thursday. The Dallas-based company said most of the restaurants are in the Midwest and generate about $300 million in annual revenue. About 24% of the Chili’s system, or 298 units, was franchised at the end of Brinker’s most recent fiscal year on June 26, and this deal reduced that to about 15%, the company said in year-end federal filings. Over the past year, Brinker had purchased three Chili’s previously owned and operated by franchisees.
Home & Road
Bed Bath & Beyond detailed several short- and long-term initiatives as part of ongoing efforts to transform its namesake brand. In a letter to shareholders, the struggling retailer said a “rapid refresh” of nearly 160 Bed Bath & Beyond stores is underway in advance of the upcoming holiday season. The company expect the “multi-million-dollar investment” to favorably impact the in-store shopping experience over the short term. Bed Bath & Beyond also promised to close underperforming stores during the next couple of years to take advantage of its heavy lease expiration cadence. In addition, the chain is embarking on an “aggressive reduction” of up to $1 billion in inventory during the next 18 months, including removing excess aged inventory from its stores ahead of the 2019 holiday season. The retailer also said “substantial progress” has been made in its search for a permanent CEO, with an announcement due in the coming weeks.
Best Buy had mixed results in the second quarter of fiscal 2020 and is preparing for the impact of upcoming Chinese tariffs. Quarterly enterprise revenue equaled $9.54 billion, up 2% from $9.37 billion but short of analyst estimates of $9.6 billion. Same-store sales rose 1.6%, missing predictions of 2.1% growth. Adjusted earnings per share (EPS) beat the Street at $1.08 per share, compared to estimates of $0.99 per share. In providing guidance for the third quarter and full fiscal year 2020, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said the consumer electronics retailer tried to factor in the negative effect of a 15% tariff on Chinese imports starting Sept. 1 will have on core products including TVs, smartwatches and headphones. Another 15% tariff on Chinese imports scheduled to take effect Dec. 15 will impact products the retailer sells including computing, mobile phones and gaming consoles.
A 100-store specialty retailer with a 134-year heritage is rolling out a new retail banner. Jonesboro, Ark.-based E.C. Barton & Company has opened Barton’s Home Improvement, which will slowly replace Barton’s Bargain Outlet and Surplus Warehouse brands. The new brand was developed following more than a year research. “The pilot of the new brand is based on strengthening who we already are today,” said Kevin Pierce, chief operating officer for E.C. Barton & Company. “Our objective is to make it clear to our customers that we specialize in flooring, cabinetry, plumbing and millwork; offering high-quality products at the guaranteed lowest price. The changes we are making are based on improving the experience for our customers, while ensuring they know who we are and what we offer.”
At Home Group Inc., the home décor superstore, posted a net sales increase of 18.7% to $342.3 million for the second quarter ended July 28, while comparable store sales decreased 0.4% primarily due to poor weather conditions across much of the country early in the quarter. In the second quarter, gross profit increased 3.1% to $100.4 million from $97.4 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2019. Net income was $10.4 million, with adjusting earnings of 18 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $10.1 million, or a loss of 16 cents a share in the second quarter of fiscal 2019. Adjusted net income was $11.4 million compared to a recast $20.6 million in Q2 2019. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations, with the average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research for adjusted earnings of 15 cents per share.
Jewelry & Luxury
Tiffany on Wednesday reported quarterly earnings that easily topped analysts’ expectations, but revenue fell short as protests in Hong Kong disrupted the luxury jeweler’s sales, and tourists spent less across the U.S. It also maintained its previously lowered outlook for the full year. Its shares were falling more than 1.5% in early trading after initially spiking more than 5% on the news. “With the tough comparison to last year’s strong performance in the first half behind us, and in spite of the headwinds of weak demand from foreign tourists, currency exchange rate pressures and continuing business disruptions in Hong Kong, we are actively managing what is in our control and positioning our brand to win,” CEO Alessandro Bogliolo said in a statement.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s will soon be offered not only to would-be Holly Golightlys in New York City, but also to their counterparts in Asia. Tiffany & Co. plans to open two more Blue Box Cafés, at its Shanghai flagship and at a store in Hong Kong, chief executive officer Alessandro Bogliolo announced during a conference call following its second quarter financial results, as transcribed by SeekingAlpha. Those are the first permanent cafés it has opened since it debuted its first-ever restaurant at its New York City flagship in 2017.
Jerry Ehrenwald, who has headed the North American division of the International Gemological Institute (IGI) since 1991, is leaving the lab to launch a trading platform for created diamonds. He will be succeeded by Avi Levy. Levy has three decades of diamond industry experience, encompassing everything from sourcing to product development to brand strategy to actually cutting stones—a skill he learned from his father.
World Diamond Council (WDC) executive director Marie-Chantal Kaninda has left the group after heading it for two years. In a statement on the WDC site, Kaninda said her resignation, which was effective Aug. 31, stemmed from a “new opportunity [that] has presented itself, and at this stage of my career I feel that I must seize it.” The news comes shortly after Kaninda was named one of Africa’s 100 most influential women in the May edition of Forbes Afrique.
Office & Leisure
Jakks Pacific Inc., a toymaker exploring a sale amid a steep slide in its share price, has received a takeover offer from the owner of rival Jazwares Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. Alleghany Corp., Jazwares’ parent company, made an offer this week to buy Jakks Pacific for 85 cents a share, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. The offer values the Santa Monica-based company at about $27.7 million, based on its outstanding share count. No decision has been made, and Alleghany could opt to not proceed with its bid, they said. The discussions come as toymakers look to pair up to gain scale and diversify in the wake of the industry-upending bankruptcy last year of Toys R US Inc.
It’s Friday night and The Uncommons in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village is running at full tilt. Seated shoulder to shoulder, people fill the room with the sounds of Magic: The Gathering, the 26-year-old collectible card game owned by Hasbro, the world’s most valuable toy company. In total, some 38 million people have played Magic since its release in 1993, and in 2017, the game accounted for an estimated $500 million in sales, according to KeyBanc Capital Markets. “We’ve always been a management team that’s taken the longer view,” says the 56-year-old Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, who joined the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based company in 2000 as the head of toys and games, and took over as CEO in 2008. “Any moves we make in the future, it’s with an eye to where the consumer and audience is going to be in three to five years, not three to five weeks.” Goldner has built his career both by carefully stewarding old franchises like Magic and Dungeons & Dragons and by turning toys like My Little Pony and Transformers into television and movie stars.
There was some good news from arts and crafts retailer Michaels after it reported positive comparable stores sales in its second quarter. Company sales for the quarter were $1.03 billion, down from $1.05 billion in last year’s Q2. The decline was due to the closure of its Pat Catan’s banner in the previous financial year, partially offset by 11 net additional Michaels stores and same-store growth of 0.3%. Tariffs continue to be a concern. If the latest (List 4) round of China tariffs are fully implemented, Michaels estimated they could impact between $400-$500 worth of annual product spend, but are unlikely to be felt by the company until the 2020 financial year. Mitigation efforts have included bringing inventory purchases forward, renegotiating terms with vendors, price increases and shifting some production out of China, but it is still too early to say what the overall tariff impact could be.
Technology & Internet
Stitch Fix, the publicly traded online personal styling service, expanded its tech portfolio with the purchase of digital wardrobe startup, Finery. Finery uses patented technology to scan users’ e-receipts for purchases. The information then auto-populates to digitize a virtual wardrobe that can be accessed by users on their phones to assemble outfit options and to keep track of what a user owns.
Tucked away in a fulfillment center about an hour’s drive from New York City, Best Buy is using dozens of robots to sort through boxes of iPads, HP laptops, Beats by Dre headphones, DVDs, video games and more to ship to shoppers’ homes. The thousands of bins overflowing with goods have traditionally been picked by hand, requiring the tedious work of Best Buy’s warehouse workers. An average worker could track more than seven miles by foot in a single day just searching for items. But new technology at three facilities in Los Angeles, Chicago and Piscataway, New Jersey do the heavy lifting now. There’s much talk about the shipping wars between big-box retailers Walmart and Target and e-commerce giant Amazon. But Best Buy has likewise been chipping away at its delivery strategy for the past few years.
Finance & Economy
Company payrolls surged by 195,000 in August, well above Wall Street estimates and at a time when fears have been growing about a looming recession, according to a report from ADP and Moody’s Analytics. The numbers come amid speculation that the decade-long economic expansion is coming to an end. The New York Federal Reserve puts the chance of a recession at 39% in the next 12 months, the highest level since the Great Recession that ended in mid-2009.
Federal Reserve officials are weighing two competing forces in the U.S. economy: the resilience of the consumer versus the fallout from uncertainty around trade disputes and weaker global growth. “The consumer is now carrying all of the weight, or much of the weight, for growth going forward,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams told reporters after giving a speech in New York. As threats from U.S.-China trade tensions have chilled business confidence and investment, consumers have been the main drivers of growth.
After holding steady two weeks ago, mortgage interest rates resumed their retreat last week, but that did not boost mortgage demand. Mortgage application volume decreased 3.1% for the week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Volume was 62% higher compared with the same week a year ago, when interest rates were substantially higher and refinance activity was extremely low.