It was not long ago that families sat around the Thanksgiving dinner table discussing what they would do next: leisurely enjoy a second round of pumpkin pie, or race to Walmart to line up for the 12:00am Black Friday sale to score a deeply discounted flat-screen TV. Then, Amazon exerted its influence by providing the consumer the opportunity to have it both ways: enjoy the second helping and score the TV from home by shopping on-line.
Now Amazon is again trying to change consumer behavior regarding Holiday shopping. Why wait until late November to get the lowest prices of the season? For the second straight year, Amazon is building off of the two-day summertime Prime Day sale to host “Prime Big Deal Days” for two days in October, the 10th and 11th.
However, the competition cannot sit idly by and allow Amazon to have the first share of consumers’ finite Holiday spending. This is particularly true in 2023 when early Holiday sales forecasts are a bit Scrooge-like. Within one day of Amazon’s announcement, both Walmart and Target announced their own pre-Holiday sales events. Further, they are determined to better Amazon at least in terms of timing. Target’s “Circle Week” will run from October 1st through 7th while Walmart will host “Walmart Deals – Holiday Kick-off” from October 9th through 12th. Best Buy also announced early Holiday promotions that will take place in October, and it is expected that the likes of Macy’s, Kohl’s and JCPenney will soon follow. Bain has commented to retailers, “Get an early lead – shopping starts earlier and customers could run out of budget.”
Originally, Amazon launched Prime Day in July 2015 as a celebration of its 20th year in business. It evolved into a summer sales event created to drive incremental revenues for Amazon and its marketplace sellers before the Holiday season. In that first year, Prime Day sales totaled $900 million. For the next five years, sales exploded as they grew between 50% and 80% per year. Naturally, it is more difficult to grow a very large revenue base as quickly, and consequently sales growth has moderated to 7% to 9% the last three years. Nonetheless, 2023 Prime Day sales were an astounding $12.9 billion this July compared to $900 million just eight years ago. Amazon reported that its top-selling categories included home goods, fashion, beauty and Amazon-branded devices.
Retailers are positioning Holiday sales much earlier this year as a difficult economy with high inflation has dampened consumer spending. Mastercard has observed that this environment has driven a “get the customer early” strategy. While Holiday sales grew 7.6% last year, early forecasters are more bearish this year. Deloitte predicts sales will increase between 3.5% and 4.6%, and Mastercard agrees, as it forecasts sales growth of 3.7%. Bain believes sales will come in only 3.0% higher, which would be the slowest growth since 2018.
So get ready. There are 90 days to shop until Christmas. However, there are only 5 days until the Christmas sales.
Apparel & Footwear
Mike Ashley, the high street billionaire, is in talks to sell the online clothing label Missguided to Shein, the giant Chinese-founded online fashion player. Sky News has learnt that the two sides are in detailed negotiations about a deal, which would represent Shein’s first acquisition of a British fashion brand. City sources said that Shein and Frasers had been in discussions for several weeks about a transaction, and it was unclear how soon it might be announced or whether there was a risk of it falling apart. One added that the deal was likely to encompass Missguided’s brand and other intellectual property, with its head office retained by Mr Ashley’s company. If completed, it would be a big step – albeit for a modest financial outlay – for Shein, which was founded in China and was valued until recently at more than $100bn (£81bn). At that point, it was worth more than H&M and Zara’s parent company, Inditex, combined. A more recent funding round, which took place earlier this year, is reported to have valued Shein at about $66bn (£53bn).
HanesBrands is taking a hard look at Champion — putting a for sale sign on the struggling active brand. As it explores “strategic options for the global Champion business,” the intimates giant said its board would “consider a broad range of alternatives to maximize shareholder value” including “a potential sale or other strategic transaction.” The brand could also remain part of HanesBrands, which has been taking heat from activist investor Barington Capital Group, which has a long history in fashion, mixing it up with L Brands, Avon Products, The Jones Group and Warnaco, among others. James Mitarotonda, Barington’s chairman, hit the HanesBrand with a broadside last month, saying the company needed to focus on “cash generation and debt reduction” and that “management’s largely ineffective response to recent market challenges is responsible for the company’s rapidly deteriorating results.” Champion’s first-half sales fell by 14 percent, with a 25 percent decline in the U.S. — a big drag for HanesBrands, which overall saw sales for the six months drop 8.5 percent to $2.8 billion. Stephen Bratspies, the Walmart veteran who HanesBrands tapped as chief executive officer in 2020, told analysts last month that Champion was being positioned for the future but that only some of the efforts were “translating to financial results” thus far.
Stitch Fix on Monday said that Q4 net revenue fell 22% year over year to $375.8 million, with full fiscal year revenue down 21% to $1.6 billion. Its number of active clients fell 13% year over year, with net revenue per active client down 9%. Cost-cutting measures have paid off, though, as Q4 net loss narrowed 70% to $28.7 million and full-year net loss narrowed 17% to $172 million. After evaluating its U.K. business, the company has decided to shutter that operation. That will be complete some time in the first quarter. Stitch Fix is operating in a tough environment for staging a comeback. After a period of renewed sales as consumers ventured out after COVID-19 vaccines became available, spending on apparel has ebbed since the end of last year. Under financial pressure due to inflation and rising costs, many consumers are holding back or turning to off-price retailers or resale. Several analysts have warned that the resumption of student loan payments will hit apparel retailers especially hard.
Women’s apparel retailer Soft Surroundings last week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas’s Houston Division. The company will close all 44 stores, according to court documents. Rival Coldwater Creek is buying the company’s remaining assets and will continue to sell the brand’s apparel and accessories online and via catalogs, according to a press release and court documents. Soft Surroundings has about 646 employees. Some 450 work at its retail stores, 140 at its headquarters, 15 at its call center and 50 at its former distribution center in Mexico, Missouri. The company has secured $18 million in debtor-in-possession financing from liquidation consultancy Gordon Brothers to enable business continuity. Soft Surroundings never had a large footprint, though its locations, found in 24 states, span the country. Early in the pandemic, the company was running 80 stores. Court documents show the retailer struggled to recover from lost sales and market changes during and after the height of the disease outbreak. Excess inventory from stores that ended up being permanently closed spurred promotional prices that hurt margins, and the retailer’s liquidity steadily eroded.
Katie Sturino, an entrepreneur, author and body acceptance advocate, has been appointed global brand ambassador for Dia & Co. She has been a customer and supporter of Dia and 11 Honorè and Dia’s cofounders Nadia Boujarwah and Lydia Gilbert. In her role, Sturino will appear in Dia’s fall 2023 campaign, create content for the website and social media platforms, and style clients via digital initiatives. Sturino is also the founder of Megababe, a beauty brand offering non-toxic, solution-oriented products that help women feel more comfortable in their own skin. She also models for Swimsuits for All. For years, Sturino has been raising awareness for size inclusivity and empowering women of all sizes to find their confidence and celebrate their style through her personal platform. Boujarwah said fashion has become more inclusive, but mid- and plus-size shoppers still have a “fragmented and frustrating” experience. The platform has brought 250 brands and 10,000 different styles on board.
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Nike ranked as the world’s most valuable apparel brand for the ninth consecutive year, according to Brand Finance’s 2023 Annual Apparel 50 Report. Other brands in the active lifestyle space that made the Top 50 included Adidas, at #5; Lululemon, #16; Puma, #19; Anta, #26; Under Armour, #27; The North Face, #28; Moncler, #29; Skechers, #32; Fila, #34; Li Ning, #42; and New Balance, #50. Nike’s brand value was down 6 percent to $31.3 billion. Brand Finance said Nike’s decline was driven by slower revenue growth than in 2022, notably in China. That said, Nike saw strong sales in the U.S. and Europe and retains the brand strength needed to rebound in brand value.
U.K.-based JD Sports Fashion reported total revenue of £4.78 billion ($5.91 billion) for the first half of its fiscal year ended July 29, up 8.3 percent year-over-year. JD said organic growth in its North America business was up 15 percent with the three largest segments—Finish Line/JD, DTLR and Shoe Palace—delivering between 13 percent and 17 percent organic sales growth. JD Sports did note that first-quarter sales were stronger than Q2 in North America as it believes the first quarter benefitted significantly from better stock availability. Sales in June were slow, partly due to a lower level of new product releases, but sales picked up in July and have continued to improve since then. Gross margins in North America in the first half were down versus last year due mainly to a more normalized promotional environment but operating profit grew 12 percent. Companywide, the retailer’s sports fashion business globally achieved revenue of £4.51 billion over the period, up 9 percent on the corresponding period last year.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
L Catterton has acquired a minority stake in luxury Californian skin care brand Eighth Day. The LVMH-backed private equity firm’s investment is via Elevate Beauty, its early-stage platform. Eighth Day was launched in 2018 by Dr Antony Nakhla, a reconstructive and skin cancer surgeon, and wound healing expert. Products from the brand are infused with Peptide-Rich Plasma, a patent-pending, biologically active blend of ingredients. And its hero product is The Regenerative Serum, which addresses ten visible signs of ageing to refine skin’s texture for healthier, more youthful-looking skin. L Catterton’s investment marks the first time the brand has received external funding. The Business of Fashion reported that the capital will be used for global expansion, product innovation and to grow Eighth Day’s executive team. Nakhla will also step back from his current CEO role in coming months.
L Catterton, a consumer-focused investment firm, has acquired a significant minority stake in Maria Nila, a Swedish sustainable professional hair care brand. With impressive growth in recent years, Maria Nila’s 100% vegan, climate compensated and award-winning hair care products have expanded to all corners of Europe and U.S in just five years. By partnering with L Catterton, Maria Nila aims to accelerate this growth even further by expanding the brand, product portfolio and sales channels on a global level. Marcus Wikström, the son of Maria Nila’s founders, will continue to lead the company and remain as CEO. L Catterton has significant experience investing globally in beauty and fashion brands. Current and past investments in the space include, GANNI, Elemis, The Honest Company, bliss, Etro, Beauty Industry Group and TULA, among many others. This partnership will allow Maria Nila to leverage L Catterton’s deep investment expertise, category knowledge, consumer insights, and strategic relationships in the beauty sector.
Estée Lauder made its first investment in a C-beauty brand, making a minority investment in the Chinese clean beauty brand Code Mint. Code Mint was founded in 2021 by fashion blogger and reality star Grace Chow to make clean beauty a mainstream concept in China. After leveraging her 11 million+ fans on Weibo for collaborations with beauty brands, she launched her own brand. The range consists of face masks, foundations, lipsticks, eye shadow palettes, and cleansers positioned as toxin-free and sensitive skin–friendly. The brand sold out in one day when it launched on Weibo. Recognizing the limitations of influencer brands and the nascent Chinese clean beauty market, Code Mint will leverage Estée Lauder’s R&D capabilities with the aim of becoming a category leader.
Discounters & Department Stores
Continuing its pet products and services push, Walmart is opening its first Pet Services Center in Dallas, Georgia, the retailer announced Wednesday. The company is piloting the pet services concept at this location before possibly expanding it to other stores. The center will offer pet services such as vaccines, wellness exams, minor medical services, baths, teeth cleaning, ear cleaning and nail trims, and will also have a self-service dog wash. PetIQ will provide veterinary and grooming services at the center, which will be performed by qualified professionals. The company also said it plans to add an online Pet Pharmacy experience to its website and mobile app. The retailer currently has in-store vet clinics at more than 65 stores across the country. The new pet center in Dallas, Georgia, will have a separate entrance, per the press release.
Shortly after Amazon announced its fall Prime member sale, which takes place Oct. 10 to Oct. 12, several major retailers have introduced their own deals. Walmart on Monday announced Walmart Deals – Holiday Kickoff, which will run from Oct. 9 through Oct. 12 and feature online deals on electronics, home, fashion and toys. The event “will jumpstart the entire season of savings at Walmart,” a company spokesperson told Retail Dive via email. Target on Tuesday also announced the return of Target Circle Week from Oct. 1 through Oct. 7. Target said it plans to offer “deep discounts on thousands of items,” and Target Circle members can get up to 40% off. And Best Buy on Tuesday announced its holiday sneak peek. The electronics retailer said its holiday deals this year will include a 48-hour flash sale starting Oct. 10 that will feature deals on TVs, laptops, headphones and smartwatches.
Target on Tuesday announced plans to hire nearly 100,000 seasonal employees, which is the same number the retailer has aimed for in the past few years. The big-box retailer already employs more than 400,000 people, according to an announcement on its holiday hiring plans. Macy’s on Monday released its own hiring plans, aiming to fill more than 38,000 full- and part-time positions this season. That’s down from the 41,000 last year, though the department store said its hiring plans are “consistent with open positions in 2022.” Applications at Target will be available online starting Wednesday. Macy’s will accept applications online as well as at two nationwide in-person hiring events this fall.
Emerging Consumer Companies
GOODLES raises $13 million in Series A funding round
GOODLES, a noodle brand known for its modern and nutritious mac and cheese and pasta products, has raised $13 million in a Series A funding round led by consumer investment firm L Catterton. Since its launch in late 2021, GOODLES has experienced significant growth, selling out its initial four mac and cheese flavors within two weeks and achieving a 33X growth in 2022. The brand has sold seven billion noodles, introduced 12 SKUs, and expanded into the pasta category. GOODLES has also partnered with charitable organizations to fight food insecurity, donating over 350,000 servings. The brand has gained a strong following, with customers expressing enthusiasm through various means such as Halloween costumes, user-generated advertisements, and brand tattoos. With the new funding, GOODLES plans to strengthen its executive team and increase production capacity to meet growing consumer demand.
Fitness brand Bala launches at Target
Fitness brand Bala is launching its products at Target stores nationwide. Bala is best known for its Bala Bangles, a modern version of ankle weights from the 80s. Bala co-founder Natalie Holloway stated that being in Target has always been part of the brand’s long-term plan as they focus on expanding their customer base and product assortment. Bala redesigned its packaging in 2021 to be more eye-catching and educational, with a QR code that directs customers to content on their website. The brand expects this retail launch to drive new customer acquisition and brand awareness nationwide.
Bird acquires Spin, becomes largest micromobility operator in North America
Bird, a leader in environmentally friendly electric transportation, has acquired shared electric bike and scooter operator Spin from TIER Mobility for $19 million. This acquisition makes Bird the largest micromobility operator in North America by market share. Spin, headquartered in San Francisco, has a strong presence in over 50 cities and university campuses, with minimal overlap with Bird’s existing footprint. The acquisition increases Bird’s geographical footprint and solidifies its position as the leading micromobility operator in North America. Bird plans to leverage this leadership position to expand its operations in profitable cities such as Baltimore, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C., as well as major university campuses. The acquisition brings Bird a fleet of over 60,000 vehicles, including new state-of-the-art vehicles. Spin will continue to operate independently in many cities. The transaction is expected to have upwards of $20 million in synergies and be immediately accretive to earnings for Bird.
Food & Beverage
Keurig Dr Pepper said Tim Cofer will join the beverage maker as its chief operating officer on Nov. 6 before transitioning to CEO in the second quarter of 2024. Bob Gamgort, the company’s current CEO, will serve as executive chairman after the transition. Cofer, currently the CEO of Central Garden & Pet, previously spent more than 25 years with Mondelēz International and its predecessor company, Kraft Foods. He held responsibilities across several product categories, including coffee, chocolate and packaged food.
Snack brand LesserEvil has closed a roughly $19 million capital raise, as it seeks to bet big on single-serve snacking and automation. Of the total raise, $13.5 million will go towards offering early investors liquidity while $5.5 million will go to the company as a primary transaction. With the company hitting breakeven about six years ago, Charles Coristine, president and CEO of LesserEvil told NOSH “We didn’t need the money.” “We just aren’t sure when we are going to fundraise again and this may potentially be the last time we raise [capital].” As part of the deal, new investor Aria Growth Partners took a “significant” minority stake in the company, Coristine said, while existing investors Touch Capital and Invest Eco also took part in the round, which closed earlier this year. Coristine said this is the third time the company has used a funding event to cash out earlier investors and bring new institutional capital on board. With each of these raises, however, the company’s valuation has also gone up. This year’s round comes in at a valuation roughly 40% higher than LesserEvil’s last round, less than a year ago.
The median VC deal size in the food tech category declined for the first time in seven years to $3 million in the second quarter of 2023, a 12.4% decline from 2022, according to a PitchBook report. The decline in the average deal size contrasted with an increase in the number of investments. There were 268 deals in the second quarter, up 13.1% quarter over quarter, the report said. The increase in deal count for the quarter may indicate a return of investment activity after a pause due to the Silicon Valley Bank closure in March, the report said. However, the increase may “reflect a new, more careful paradigm at play,” particularly within the emerging fermented protein category.
Mondelēz International has quietly wound down Dirt Kitchen and CaPao, a pair of brands created by the snacking giant’s SnackFutures arm, a company spokesperson said in an email to Food Dive. Mondelēz started phasing out the brands at the end of 2022. SnackFutures created five of its own brands, but Dirt Kitchen and CaPao were the only ones that were commercialized or sold at retail in the U.S. Dirt Kitchen made dried fruit and vegetable snacks, while CaPao combined upcycled cacao fruit with oats and puffed quinoa into portable snack squares. A third brand NoCOe, a sustainable aperitif cracker, was only sold in France. The decision to cease production of these snacks comes as SnackFutures has shifted its focus to investing in startup companies that Mondelēz could potentially acquire.
Grocery & Restaurants
McDonald’s franchisees who add new restaurants will soon have to pay higher royalty fees. The fast-food giant is raising those fees from 4% to 5%, starting Jan. 1. It’s the first time in nearly three decades that McDonald’s is hiking its royalty fees. The change will not affect existing franchisees who are maintaining their current footprint or who buy a franchised location from another operator. It will also not apply to rebuilt existing locations or restaurants transferred between family members. However, the higher rate will affect new franchisees, buyers of company-owned restaurants, relocated restaurants and other scenarios that involve the franchisor. “While we created the industry we now lead, we must continue to redefine what success looks like and position ourselves for long-term success to ensure the value of our brand remains as strong as ever,” McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger said in a message to U.S. franchisees.
Sushi specialist The Snowfox Group has been acquired by Japanese foodservice giant Zensho for US$621m (£495m). It’s a ringing endorsement for CEO Richard Hodgson and his team, who have transformed the Yo Sushi owner from a 70-restaurant UK-only business, into a multi-channel, multi-national operation, with over 3,000 sushi kiosks in UK, US and Canadian supermarkets, including 400 Yo outlets in Tesco and Asda. And for Snowfox owner Mayfair Equity Partners, which acquired Yo in 2015 for £81m, it represents a remarkable return – especially given the decimation of restaurant chains in the pandemic, including a CVA to downsize the Yo Sushi owner’s UK restaurant arm in 2020. Zensho, one of Japan’s leading food groups and the number one foodservice company in Japan by sales, said Snowfox was the ideal partner to grow its global food presence.
Chick-fil-A announced this week it will open in the United Kingdom in 2025. The company is targeting five stores in the market in the first two years and plans to invest over $100 million to expand there within the next 10 years. The company is eyeing ambitious international growth, including stores across Europe and Asia, supported by a $1 billion investment. Plans currently call for five international markets by 2030, with the UK market housing the first permanent store outside of North America. CEO Andrew Cathy told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year that Chick-fil-A has plenty of room to grow in the U.S., but that an international presence is necessary as the family-owned business charts its future. “We feel like it’s time to continue to innovate and try [to] test how we will do in international markets so that we can learn,” Cathy told the publication. Chick-fil-A’s international strategy comes as the chain barrels toward $19 billion in annual sales, third behind just McDonald’s and Starbucks.
Home & Road
The aftermath of the pandemic has ushered in a remarkable resurgence in brick-and-mortar retail, breathing new life into physical stores and reigniting in-person shopping. According to Colliers U.S. Retailer Foot Traffic Analysis, foot traffic surged by 3.5% in July and core sales growing by 3.8% during the month of June. In a separate Fall 2023 retail report, Colliers reported that 49% of U.S. retailers plan to expand their footprint over the next five years, with 52.2% of housewares and home furnishing retailers planning on expanding their space. This resurgence, however, has not been equally distributed across all retail sub-sectors. While the overall retail industry celebrates strong growth, furniture retailers continue to struggle amid high interest rates and soaring housing prices. The inherent link between the housing market and furniture sales has become more pronounced, causing a decline in visits to furniture stores. As mortgage rates climb and housing sales stagnate, potential buyers have less disposable income and their willingness to make non-essential purchases for their homes has dampened.
What happens when one of the biggest retailers in the US decides that an entire product category needs to move away from fossil fuels in five short years? The retailer in question is Home Depot, which last June set a deadline of 2028 to transition 85% of its outdoor lawn equipment category to battery-operated. That means the vast majority of leaf blowers, chainsaws, and lawn mowers would have to say goodbye to the combustion engine for good to continue selling in Home Depot. On the surface, this might sound simple: A major retailer drew a line in the sand, and now manufacturers can either play along or lose a coveted spot on its shelves. In reality, losing that shelf space isn’t a very palatable option for most product makers, as the big-box chain commands nearly one-fifth of the US home improvement market.
Although posting a decline in revenue, Steelcase’s second quarter earnings were well ahead of expectations, causing its share price to surge 19%. The office furniture giant reported second quarter revenue of $854.6 million, a modest decline from last year’s $863.3 million. The company attributed the decline to lower volume, offset in part by higher pricing. Orders fell 7% in the Americas primarily on the project side of the business, partially offset by double-digit growth in continuing business. Earnings per share rose 35% compared with the prior year, which the company attributed to strong improvement in gross margin. Total liquidity strengthened by $115 million. The company has improved its outlook significantly, with it predicting a strong return-to-office push. Earnings per share projections rose from 80 cents to 90 cents per share. The company’s earnings per share were 56 cents last year.
Hayneedle.com, a 20-year-old online seller of furniture and home furnishings and part of Walmart’s retail holdings, has transitioned to become part of the walmart.com website. A posting on the Hayneedle.com website thanks people for being part of the Hayneedle community, saying: “We’ve spent the past 20 years helping people bring their dream homes to life. As part of that mission, we’re making an exciting change.” The website then directs visitors to Walmart.com/hayneedle, which lists products under the living room, kitchen and dining, bedroom, office and outdoor furniture categories. Hayneedle’s website said visitors to the new landing page will find “your favorite Hayneedle products and discover even more furniture and décor to love.”
Jewelry & Luxury
Direct-to-consumer jewelry brand Mejuri launched a new app and loyalty program — dubbed Mejuri+ — on Thursday, according to details emailed to Retail Dive. The free membership program offers access to exclusive product drops, priority sale access, free shipping every Monday, a birthday gift and more. Additionally, the brand plans to open five new brick-and-mortar stores by the end of the year, with locations in London; Miami; Nashville, Tennessee; its second store in San Francisco; and its third in Los Angeles. The company’s total store count will then reach 29.
Luxury-goods makers face a choppy near-term outlook, according to Jefferies and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts, though that’s where the similarities in their opinions end. While Jefferies’ James Grzinic assumed coverage with only two buy ratings and below-average estimates for 2024, Goldman’s Louise Singlehurst said she sees industry growth outperforming the long-term average over the next couple of years. Weak Chinese demand remains a headwind for the luxury sector, with Jefferies highlighting both “the lack of recovery in Chinese aspirational spend” and also uncertainty over the pace at which pandemic-hit Chinese mass tourism may recover. Goldman in contrast is more focused on broader global trends. “We think the bigger debate is whether we are entering a prolonged period of lower growth or a phase where growth can outperform the long-term average,” Goldman analysts led by Singlehurst wrote. “We believe more in the latter.”
Saks, the premier digital platform for luxury fashion, has unveiled insights from its latest Saks Luxury Pulse survey fielded in late July, finding that 58% of luxury consumers plan to spend the same or more on luxury in the next three months. This is an increase from 53% in the prior Saks Luxury Pulse fielded in late April, and represents the first increase in luxury spending plans since the survey began tracking this in May 2022. This quarterly survey helps to deepen Saks’ understanding of its customers and their evolving sentiments towards shopping, spending and fashion, reinforcing the company’s position as the leading expert on the luxury consumer.
With the launch of a new TikTok Collective and the new “speed-dating”-style events it’s hosting in the four fashion capitals, TikTok aims to offer brands unique content opportunities around Fashion Month. Since the start of Fashion Month, in New York, TikTok has been buzzing with fashion month content. Since September 7, the hashtag #TikTokFashion has garnered over 1.2 billion views. For its part, Burberry live-streamed its catwalk from London’s Highbury Fields on TikTok, with over 160,000 people tuning in. Even though the brand has 20 million followers on Instagram, only 7,000 people watched the brand’s Instagram livestream of the show. Meanwhile, Tory Burch posted a variety TikTok content around its September 11 New York Fashion Week show. The brand posted over 70 times during the week, including day-in-the-life posts and behind-the-scenes videos from its show. Some of the videos have already amassed over 500,000 views.
Office & Leisure
Two years after announcing voice chat was coming to Roblox, the gaming company has acquired a voice tech startup, Speechly, offering voice chat moderation, real-time transcription and Voice API that lets companies add AI voice technology and voice interfaces to their products and experiences. The Helsinki, Finland-based startup Speechly was founded in 2016 with the mission of enabling better computer voice interactions and communication between people online, resulting in the creation of its real-time voice moderation tech that helps reduce toxic behavior in online communities. According to its own study, nearly 70% of gamers have used voice chat at least once. But of those, 72% said they’ve experienced a toxic incident. Roblox, meanwhile, has been expanding into voice chat-based interactions, initially by allowing developers to add voice to their games and other experiences. Instead of text bubbles that appeared over the avatar’s heads, players would be able to naturally talk to one another in real time. More recently, the company announced avatar-based voice calls with facial motion tracking, which lets Roblox users connect in a virtual space and chat live. The latter is part of Roblox’s broader efforts to cater to its aging user base by offering content and experiences for users ages 17 and up.
A 35-year-old preschool toy brand is making its brick-and-mortar debut just in time for holiday shopping. Mellisa & Doug store will open its first ever physical store on October 6, at The Westchester, an upscale shopping mall in White Plains, N.Y. The 1,600-sq.-ft. space will feature a curated selection of the brand’s top-selling toys across categories, including pretend play sets, learning toys, baby and toddler products, puzzles and arts & crafts. The company said the store will be designed to bring the brand to life in innovative ways and give consumers a closeup experience of its attention to detail and quality as well as the play value of its toys. Visitors can also expect small engaging moments throughout, including a spot where kids can measure how many “scoops of ice cream” tall they are, as well as exclusive take-home activities. Recognized by parents as the #1 preschool brand for wooden and sustainable toys, Melissa & Doug is committed to its vision of making timeless, sustainable toys for a thriving and inclusive world.
Consumers aren’t letting any economic concerns get in the way of celebrating Halloween this year. Total Halloween spending is expected to reach a record $12.2 billion, topping last year’s record of $10.6 billion and also exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. A record number of people (73%) will participate in Halloween-related activities this year, up from 69% in 2022. Per-person spending is also up as consumers plan to spend a record $108.24 each, up from the previous record of $102.74 in 2021. The greatest increase in spending came from costumes, which are more popular than ever. Sixty-nine percent of those celebrating Halloween plan to buy costumes, up from 67% last year and the highest in the survey’s history. Total spending on costumes is expected to reach a record $4.1 billion, up from $3.6 billion in 2022. Discount stores (40%) remain the leading destination to buy Halloween items, followed by specialty Halloween/costume stores (39%) and online (32%). While specialty Halloween and costume shops have always been a top destination for Halloween items, more consumers plan to shop at these stores this year than in the past.
Technology & Internet
Instacart, the grocery-delivery company that saw its business boom during the pandemic, priced its long-awaited IPO at $30 a share on Monday, and will become the first notable venture-backed tech company to hit the U.S. public market since December 2021. The offering came in at the top end of the expected range of $28 to $30 a share, and values Instacart at about $10 billion on a fully diluted basis. The stock is set to debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Tuesday under ticker symbol “CART.” The 11-year-old company, which delivers groceries from chains including Kroger, Costco and Wegmans, had to drop its stock price dramatically to make it appealing for public market investors. In early 2021, at the height of the Covid pandemic, Instacart raised money at a $39 billion valuation, or $125 a share, from prominent venture firms like Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, along with big asset managers Fidelity and T. Rowe Price. Instacart has sacrificed growth for profitability, proving in the process that its business model can generate earnings. At $10 billion, Instacart will be valued at about 3.5 times annual revenue.
Amazon said Tuesday it is hiring 250,000 employees in the U.S. to help manage the holiday rush. It’s also bumping the average hourly pay for warehouse and delivery workers. Amazon typically boosts its headcount around the peak holiday shopping season, bringing on hordes of temporary workers so it can better keep up with the surge in demand. The holiday hiring number is a significant step up from previous years. Last year, the company said it would bring on 150,000 people to staff up for the holidays. The hires will include full-time, part-time and seasonal warehouse and delivery employees, Amazon said. Hourly wages for those roles will range between $17 and $28, and the company is offering sign-on bonuses worth $1,000 to $3,000 in some locations. The company said warehouse and delivery employees will now make $20.50 an hour on average, up from $19 an hour. Amazon announced the delivery driver wage hikes last week at its conference for members of its contracted delivery partner program. Amazon has gradually raised the average starting pay for its frontline workforce in recent years amid growing labor tensions.
Finance & Economy
U.S. Treasury yields continued their march higher, reaching multiyear highs, as investors digested the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision and forward guidance along with new unemployment data. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was up by around 13 basis points at 4.482%, hitting a fresh 2007 high in the session. The 2-year Treasury was more than 8 basis points higher to 5.197%, hovering around levels last reached in 2006. Yields on the 5-year note and 30-year bond also touched their highest levels since 2007 and 2011, respectively.
The U.S. Federal Reserve held interest rates steady but stiffened a hawkish monetary policy stance that its officials increasingly believe can succeed in lowering inflation without wrecking the economy or leading to large job losses. The Fed’s benchmark overnight interest rate may still be lifted one more time this year to a peak 5.50%-5.75% range, according to updated quarterly projections released by the U.S. central bank, and rates kept significantly tighter through 2024 than previously expected.